Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An Errie Picton Adventure

'Picnic at Hanging Rock' is one of my favourite films. I first watched the 1975 Peter Weir classic when I was a teenager, in the midst of my obsession with Victorian era dress and literature. The supposedly true story of three young girls who wandered off into the rocks of Mount Macedon in Victoria in the early 20th century still captivates me. The Romantic in me can’t help admiring the adventure, mystery and elegant fashions featured in this film. Naturally, my nostalgia for the film, combines with a long-held wish to make a trek into a mysterious, rural area à la Miranda. However, I would like to be seen again after my Romantic explorations.

With this ethereal film and desires for adventure in mind, I set off with two friends for some regional exploration – floral dresses and sun hats in tow. Firstly, I really should clarify. When I say that I set off, it was more that I was kindly (but firmly) asked by my two car-less friends to drive them to the town of Picton. While the prospect of antique shops, country cakes and quaint houses was appealing, there was a much more serious impetuous for our leisurely excursion: ghosts. Picton is about an hour outside of Sydney, and is thought to be one of Australia’s most haunted towns. My two friends Jane and Tara have a passion for the ghosts that lurk around Australia’s old towns, and I have an interest in all things old and historical. Clearly, it was to be a day of hard work and research, with plenty of delicious treats to keep us on the go.

With this in mind, we set off on a Picton adventure throwing caution to the wind as Miranda and her friends did when they climbed Hanging Rock. After receiving some friendly and informative advice from the Wollondilly information centre we formed our ghost-hunting plan. Speaking of the information centre, it is housed in a beautiful Victorian post office with old-fashioned red post-boxes out the front, which I just could not help admiring. It was just the kind of building that was around during the time of 'Picnic at Hanging Rock,' a fact which I felt validated my connection between the two. However, my friends had ghost haunts to research.

Our first point of call was the Redbank Range Tunnel, also called the Mushroom Tunnel. It was used by the military during World War II, and was a railway tunnel in the late 19th century. Sadly, one young girl never made it to the safety alcoves and was killed by an oncoming train. Unfortunately, we did not hear the eerie strains of the ghost, nor see the flashing lights that visitors have reported. On reflection, we did notice a light chill after reading the guide book's eerie accounts of this phenomenon. However, we did meet with an unexpected visitor as we exited the tunnel – a discarded toy giraffe. Was this symbolic of the childhood the ghost of the young girl had left behind? We could but speculate.

After a pub lunch at the George IV Inn, we set our sights on another haunted area: the cemetery. I love going to cemeteries (don’t think I’m too weird). Particularly old ones like the cemetery my friends and I explored in Picton. Gravestones have, throughout history, been sites of elaboration decoration to commemorate fallen loved ones. I love looking at the ornate, sculptural forms and imagining what the people who reside in the graves they support were once like. This area naturally has a reputation for being home to a poltergeist or two that produce mysterious sounds and sights. However, once more the ghosts did not bother the three ladies who roamed their terrain. It was the same story at the local church, which also housed some intriguing gravestone, minus the presence of mysterious ghosts.

We made a final stop at the local stone quarry viaduct (it would be rather nice if my town had one). Here we channelled a Roman and Victorian atmosphere amidst alluring rock faces that were very eerily similar to the ones that Miranda disappeared amidst in 'Picnic at Hanging Rock.' Fear of the unknown amidst the picturesque rocks, and of dirtying our cotton dresses, prevented us from climbing into the thick foliage that surrounded the rock face. Rumours have stated that visitors have heard the splashes of ghosts that drowned in the creek, but all we heard were chirping birds. This idyllic stop off was my favourite part of Picton.

Of course there was much more to explore in Picton, but we three lady explorers decided to return to the safety of Canberra, rather than risk a night in haunted Picton. We did not want to suffer the fate of the young girls from 'Picnic at Hanging Rock,' who were never seen following their adventures. Perhaps our daylight departure explains why we did not come across any ghosts; thirty-degree weather and brilliant sunshine are not the conventional atmosphere for all things mysterious. A mid-winter, evening sojourn into the town may well provide more opportunity to see the ghosts of Picton in full force. However, this would be at our own risk.

You can find out more about the ghosts of Picton by going on a ghost tour. Check out the page about Picton on the Paranormal Australia website:

The Wollondilly Shire also has interesting information about the town, see:

Happy ghost hunting!



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