Australia's most famous poltergeist case

The case of the Guyra Ghost or rather Poltergeist began in April 1921 with "tremendous thumping's" on the walls followed by showers of stones which eventually broke every window in the tiny weather-board cottage just outside Guyra. Nobody could see who or what was creating the mayhem but it was soon noticed the attacks seemed to be focused on 12-year-old Minnie. Stones smashed through her bedroom window and fell on her bed.

Apparently one of the Bowen children confessed to tossing some rocks on the roof to scare a younger sibling, but this didn't seem to account for the extent of the phenomenon, especially as these things kept happening even when the place was surrounded by policemen.

Local residents – many of whom had observed the phenomena at the Bowen's – became quite jittery. Some took to sleeping with loaded guns at hand; one young girl was wounded in the head and several other people narrowly escaped being shot. The local police sergeant, who sat up night after night at the cottage amid the interminable thumps and showers of stones, broke under the strain and was sent away for a 'rest'.

Alarmed at the dangerous situation that was developing, the State government sent a team of detectives from Sydney. They maintained a constant surveillance of the stressed but co-operative Bowen family, interrogated a large number of Guyra residents and organized teams of up to 80 armed volunteers. But, despite a double cordon around the house the mighty thumping continued, "sufficient to shake the cottage to its foundations and audible to watchers a hundred yards from the house." To those outside, the thumping appeared to come from within; to those inside, it seemed to come from outside. 

At its peak, the 'Guyra Ghost' created international interest. One of the people drawn to the remote township by the mystery was a certain Mr Moors, a personal friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who shared his interest in psychic phenomena. Given full access to the house, he removed portions of the roof to create lookout posts and set an elaborate system of traps. 

Completely unimpressed, the 'ghost' continued its maddening mayhem. Moors and his five assistants were completely flummoxed; they couldn't even say for sure whether the walnut-sized stones were thrown from inside or outside the house. But where the foreign expert failed, a local ghost-buster may have partially succeeded.

When Ben Davey of Uralla, a student of spiritualism and theosophy, visited the Bowen household he learned that May, a daughter of Mrs Bowen's by a former marriage, had died about three months earlier. As he told The Sunday Times later, he immediately suspected the spirit of the dead girl was trying to communicate with young Minnie. After a spate of knockings, a tearful Minnie confessed that May had spoken to her, saying "Tell mother not to worry, I'll watch and guard over you all." Then all poltergeist activity ceased ... at least for a while. When, to the despair of all, the thumpings and stone-falls recommenced, Minnie's parents, in desperation, sent her to her grandmother's house in Glen Innes 60 kilometres away. Proof that she really had been the focus of the polt's attention was soon provided it followed her there.

The second house was situated in town, but the wall-shaking thumps were as difficult to explain as ever. Some thumps were heavy enough to dislodge ornaments on a sideboard. When a 200-pound man threw his full weight against the wall next to the sideboard, the ornaments did not even shake. After a time Minnie's parents brought her back to the Guyra cottage. Thereafter, it seems, the strange phenomena simply faded away.

Nowadays, it is hard to find any resident of Guyra who knows much about the story that pushed the little town into the limelight so many years ago. The two houses involved in the mystery still stand, although the Bowen residence has been enlarged and renovated. The current occupants, though a little nervous when they moved in, have never heard a peep out of the 'ghost'.

Twelve-year-old Minnie appears to have been a typical "poltergeist medium" – the kind of troubled adolescent who very often seems to be the focus and possibly the unconscious instigator of some polt attacks. A Sunday Times journalist considered her a rather odd little girl: "Minnie is tall, thin and dark, with peculiar dark, introspective eyes that never seem to miss any movement in a room. When she speaks to you she never smiles and seems to look beyond or through you ... she has a rather uncanny aptitude for anticipating questions, almost before they are asked. "

Minnie Bowen grew up, married and, as Mrs Inks, lived for many years, apparently normally, in Armidale. If she knew more about the 'Guyra Ghost' there is no record of her telling anyone about it in later life. In about 1988 or '89, the elderly, slow-moving lady was run over and killed, just outside Armidale.

A silent movie was made about the incident in 1921 entitled The Guyra Ghost Mystery. John Cosgrove starred in and directed the film. The Bowens themselves appeared in the picture.


Raymond Bayless, The Enigma of the Poltergeist (1967). Janet and Colin Bord, Modern Mysteries of the World (1989). Frank Cusack, Australian Ghost Stories (date unknown). The Sunday Times, Brisbane (17 & 24 April 1921).




Wraith of the road?


It has been suggested that ghosts of people killed on the road sometimes haunt the location where they died. And that these wraiths of the road warn people of the dangers of treacherous lengths of highway.

Below is an account from "Supernatural Australian Encounters" by Keith Smith." This story has intrigued me for some time.

Strangely, I received a letter only a short time later from Mrs Jean Cook inthe ACT who one could confidently expect never heard of Mrs Alcock. She wrote: My mind goes back ten years when I was living in Port Macquarie and I read about the Ghost of the Bulahdelah Mountains. It was said to be that of a road worker who was killed on the winding Pacific Highway in that area. Several motorists claimed to have seen him and it was thought that "he" helped to prevent road accidents. 

I have also read on the internet about a supposed Ghost Truck in the Bulahdelah area as well. 

If anyone has any more information about these apparent ghosts in the Bulahdelah mountains I would love to hear from you.



Supernatural Australian Encounters book -  by Keith Smith

Tanilba House -1831

Tanilba house was built by Lt William Caswell in 1831 after he received a grant of fifty acres for his services in the British Admiralty. The house was built by convict labour using local stone and some Sydney sandstone transported as ballast in visiting ships. The blocks of stone were cemented together with mortar made from lime obtained by burning oyster shells.

The house has half-metre thick walls, and decorative quoins that define the building edge and outline the door and window openings, high ceilings, archways and large rooms. 

The Caswell's, William and his wife Susan plus their nine children lived in the home for 14 years. Over the last 160 or so years the house has had several owners and is now protected by a permanent preservation order. Other features of the property are a small gaol, stone gazebo and one hundred and seventy year-old olive tree.

Some of the Caswell's difficulties were revealed in the Diaries of Sir Edward Parry who visited them in November 1832 at Tanilba.....

Saturday 17th - In the afternoon I went over with Captain Moffatt and Mr. Stacy to Mr. Caswell's and I certainly never saw so much misery in a family of the same class - one child dead, another dangerously ill, an infant very poorly, and the mother like a walking skeleton - I fear not long for this world. Mr. Stacy is rather apprehensive that the complaint of the children is of a typhoid character.


A Ghost?

Since the 1900's the ghost of a young lady with long brown hair and a floor length dress has been seen in the house. It is believed that this apparition is the ghost of Elizabeth Gray, a governess who had lived in the house in the 1830's. She has been seen looking through the French windows gazing across the bay toward Tahlee where there was the Australian Agricultural Co's settlement of over 300 people, it is believed that Elizabeth longed to be at Tahlee as life at Tanilba was very lonely. Her ghost has also been witnessed at the doorway to the front parlor and sitting on the end of a bed. 


The ghost of Elizabeth Gray has been witnessed staring across the bay towards the AA Co's settlement at Tahlee.

It is believed Elizabeth died at the house of Typhoid in 1838, two of the Caswell's children also died there they are all buried within the grounds. George vine Caswell in 1832 two years and a baby boy only 10 days old in 1833.

Tanilba: is an Aboriginal word that means 'place of white flowers' it is said that once upon a time white flannel flowers were to be seen everywhere in the Tanilba bay area.

The Alkimos

The Alkimos was a merchant shipping vessel which was wrecked on the coast north of Perth, Western Australia, in 1963. It has earned the reputation as a Haunted, Jinxed or Cursed ship due to numerous, unusual events such as inexplicable accidents, recurring badluck and the appearance of an apparitions. 

The Alkimos was consturcted in ten days during the haste of WWII she was just one of the 2751 Congress approved American express Liberty ships. Originally named the George M Shriver in Baltimore in 1934. After the war she was later sold to Norwegian Hands and became the Viggo Hansteen, finally and lastly sold to a Greek shipping line she was named the Alkimos. 

During 1944 then named the Viggo Hansteen the Alkimos was headed toward a Russian port when ahead of her 2 other merchant ships were bombed by German Uboats. The Viggo Hansteen was spared from attack but later became stranded on a reef not marked on any maps she spent six hours there, a sitting duck until she broke loose under her own power. 

After nearly two decades on the high seas the Alkimos ran aground at Beagle Rocks south of Geraldton, north of Fremantle Western Australia on a journey from Jakarta to Bunbury. With her propeller badly damaged it was decided that she would be towed back to Fremantle for immediate help and then be towed to Hong Kong for permanent repairs.

The ship was somehow able to refloat itself and steamed under its own power to reach Fremantle.While awaiting repairs at Fremantle in 1963 the Alkimos was mysteriously set ablaze resulting in many thousands of dollars of repairs. When it came time to be towed to Hong Kong the seafaring tug called the Pacific Reserves tow line broke and the Alkimos drifted towards the coast and became beached near Yanchep. 

On February 28 1964 another salvage was attempted the Alkimos was being towed by the Pacific Star when the Pacific Star was placed under arrest for monies owed to a company in Manila . The Pacific Star could no longer legally tow or offer aid to the Alkimos and she was set at anchor between the reefs off Eglington Rocks about 4 kilometers south of Yanchep Beach.

The Pacific Star was then set ablaze whilst in Port awaiting legal proceedings. Over the years the Alkimos had several salvage crews and caretakers living on board as any ship abandoned can be legally towed away by anyone. 

Here is a list of inexplicable, unexplained and ghostly occurrences linked with the Alkimos. 

* During the hasty construction of the ship welders were allegedly sealed between hulls, their ghosts are said to haunt the vessel. 

* An alleged murder, suicide occurred on the ship. * An apparition known as "Harry" has been sighted on the ship by various people. He is said to be seen dressed in rubber boots and a dark grey seaman's coat (oilskins). 

* During salvage operations numerous tools were moved by unseen hands, the men were working on numerous jobs aboard the ship and would find that their tools would mysteriously reappear later. * The Alkimos was bought and sold at least 8 times whilst stranded, each person or persons who purchased the ship inexplicable bad luck befell them from total bankruptcy to life threatening illnesses. Of which seemed to mysteriously disappear once the vessel was re-sold. 

* At night salvage crews would not leave their cabins alone as ghostly footsteps would follow them. Footsteps were heard on ladders when all salvage crews were accounted for. * Cooking smells and noises would emanate from the Galley, but upon investigation the smells and noises would cease. Only to begin again when the galley door was again closed. 

* A married couple took over as caretakers of the ship, misfortune struck again when the lady caretaker took a serious fall she was pregnant at the time. After being rushed to hospital she gave birth to a premature stillborn baby. 

* Herbert Voight, a Perth resident who was a long distance swimmer, it is said his training included swimming across Cockburn Sound towing a plastic baby's bath full of cans of Emu Export Beer. One unfortunate day he disappeared while trying to swim from Cottesloe to Rottnest Island , his skull was found washed up in the wreck of the Alkimos. 

* Cray Fisherman working the area close to the Alkimos have often reported seeing a man in an oilskin coat aboard the ship, some believing he was the local “hermit” taking refuge for free aboard the ship, but subsequent searching of the search have never been able to find anyone living aboard the ship. 

*Ted Snider, a US navy submariner was called in to make preliminary assessments and measurements of the propeller and rudder for explosives. Later Tom Snider with two other men and a pilot flew in an Auster aircraft north bound for Onslow to make inspections on another job, North of Carnavon the Auster crashed killing Tom Snider and all occupants of the aircraft. 

* Horses riding along the beach refuse to ride past the Alkimos they will not come within 500m of the wreck. * Jack Sue author of the book "Ghost of the Alkimos" suffered from a strange respiratory disease and was not expected to live. For 10 months he was dangerously ill, and during much of this period he was hospitalized in intensive care. 

*Plus numerous curious coincidences of near drownings, boat engines failing and visitors slipping and hurting themselves in and around the Alkimos wreck. 

* A figure wearing oilskins matching "Harry" has been sighted on various occasions by numerous people. As of April 2007 the Alkimos is almost fully disintegrated above the water line to the point where it is no longer visible from the beach. 



Are they good places to find activity?

Very often in the paranormal field you hear of groups investigating graveyards and cemeteries. I myself have been to so many cemeteries I have lost count!

But are cemeteries good places for us to investigate?

Many people associate cemeteries obviously with death, therefore they assume that this associates with life after death as well. But is this the case?

I know if I was dead and I was a spirit the last place that I would want to hang around is a gloomy old cemetery. Id rather find out what friends and family are up to, move around and have a good time!

Ask yourself this before you became an investigator how many times did you visit a cemetery? I bet not a lot really. Why did you? Funerals? A deceased loved ones Birthday? Mothers/Fathers day? Or Christmas time? 

For the most part cemeteries are dead! Pardon the pun. Not very many people go there, maybe a handful of people a day? And why would you? Cemeteries are not the most pleasant of places they are associated negative feelings, Grief, Sadness, Fear and above all the constant reminder that one day we are all going to die!

This kind of low human activity present at a cemetery doesn’t lend itself to the best ingredients for a haunting or spirit activity. As ghosts are usually seen in places where people have lived, worked, spent their spare time. In other words places where people frequent in life. A cemetery really doesn’t fall under this category unless you are a grave digger, undertaker or groundskeeper. 

In my own experience I would have to say that cemeteries are some of the least active places in terms of paranormal goings on. I am not saying however that cemeteries are completely void of activity just they are less active than other places.

The beauty of a cemetery is that they are very convenient and have a spooky atmosphere. They are convenient because they are open to the public and you don’t need special permission to go there. However laws in Australia state that you are not allowed entry into a cemetery between sunset and sunrise!

A spooky atmosphere can be fun in the early days if you are a newbie but after a while this feeling wears off and you are left with the reality of a very quiet and often beautiful burial place. 

I have read that some investigators consider cemeteries vortex locations, a place where spirits can enter and leave our plane or existence and that somehow, human beings have chosen burial grounds subconsciously for this very reason. Interesting theory but study needs to be done to prove or even lend weight to this hypothesis. 

Maybe the emotional states listed above could somehow be catalysts for possible activity at a cemetery who knows. Energies tend to attract like energies. But then are these energies ghosts or spirits?

I have a few Psychic Medium friends that suggest that the feelings people feel at a cemetery are not that of spirits or the people buried there but the "residual emotions" of visitors and mourners. 

I would say most investigators start out in cemeteries as mentioned above because of the easy access. And also a popular held belief that because dead people are there means the spirits of ghosts of dead people are there also. Traditionally we take three days before our loved ones are laid to rest. This is under the belief that it takes this amount of time for a spirit to become accustomed to it new state and move off into the next plane of existence if this is true then cemeteries would be a completely useless place to visit!

Another technique I have heard can lead to some results is to visit a grave on the anniversary of the persons death. Again this need to be tried and tested before any claims can be made.

From an animistic (animism suggests everything has a life force) point of view could the residual energies or energetic code of those buried there still be present? Or vibrating at a much lower rate than when they were alive?


So should we investigate cemeteries? 

In my honest opinion and experience and looking at it from an evidence gathering point of view, cemeteries are not the best places to visit. And since most investigators want to be there at night which is illegal without permission, this makes the whole situation even more difficult. 

They are however good training places easily accessible during the daylight hours to experiment with new techniques and new equipment. Having said that don’t limit yourself only investigating cemeteries there are so many old and interesting houses and buildings that will give you much better results than a sleepy old cemetery.