8 Urban Legends of NSW

Emma Ryan — 26 July 2019

These weird and wacky tales are not for the faint hearted.

1. Monte Cristo Homestead, Junee

Said to be the most haunted house in Australia, Monte Cristo Homestead was built in 1884 by the wealthy Crawley family in the small town of Junee near Wagga Wagga.

The house has a dark history involving a murdered stable boy, a ‘suicidal’ pregnant maid, a mentally ill person chained up for 30 years, a baby killed when dropped down the stairs (the maid holding it claimed something unseen pushed her) and plenty of alleged infidelity between Mr Crawley and the maids.

Today the homestead is run as a bed and breakfast complete with ghost tour, and reports of ‘encounters’ are frequent. Some guests even leave in the middle of the night, too afraid to stay until morning. The ghost of Mr and Mrs Crawley are commonly sighted, cold pockets reported and an unknown force preventing people from ascending certain stairs experienced. Would you be brave enough to spend the night?

2. The Panthers of Emmaville, Richmond and the Blue Mountains

What do the Blue Mountains, Richmond and the tiny New England town of Emmaville have in common? Rogue panthers on the loose, of course!

Throughout the past hundred years residents in each location have claimed to see a very large black cat, bigger than a German shepherd dog. Of course, many people have been skeptical, but those who claim to have witnessed the mysterious animal remain adamant.

There has been other evidence that has left cynics lost for words, too. Half eaten sheep carcasses strung up high in tree branches, for example. There are a number of theories explaining the felines, from American navy ship mascots set free to independent zoos and circuses with lax animal security.

So frequent have the sightings been in the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury in the last two decades, the NSW Government even conducted an official investigation in 2008. It concluded nothing, but the reported sightings continue.

3. The Ghost of Victoria Pass

If this tale of convicts, drunkards, threesomes and murder and doesn’t catch your attention, nothing will.

The perilous Victoria Pass over the Blue Mountains near Lithgow was constructed by convict labour in the 1830s. Many workers died building the sturdy stone bridges between the ravines, some of which still form part of the road today.

In the 1840s a young woman named Caroline James, from an unstable family of drunks, married a man named William Collits, the black sheep of a respectable family that owned the local tavern. But previous to her marriage Caroline had relations with her sister’s husband James Walsh and, scandalously, after her marriage she strayed from William to take up residence with her accommodating sister in a ménage-a-trois situation. When it looked like Caroline and William might reconcile, a jealous Walsh bludgeoned his lover to death with a stone beside the road at Victoria Pass. And although he always denied the crime, he was hanged for it.

For many years after, travellers reported their horses would become restless as they approached the bridge, then the figure of a young woman dressed entirely in black would suddenly appear in front of them. As suddenly as she appeared the spectre would be gone, leaving travellers anxious to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the scene of their harrowing experience. 

These days, on particularly cold nights when black ice plagues the mountain road forcing truck drivers to slow to a crawl, sightings of a lady in black have been reported along the old convict-built pass.

4. Min Min Lights

A mysterious phenomenon exclusive to the outback, Min Min lights are commonly reported mysterious light forms that hover just over the horizon, moving around and even following cars as they drive. Some witnesses say they assume the lights are headlights of oncoming cars or perhaps houses, but the ‘oncoming cars’ never arrive and the ‘houses’ do not recede with distance.

There are a number of theories explaining Min Min lights ranging from Aboriginal spirits to bioluminescence, but the dominant theory is that they’re a type of mirage called Fata Morgana. Occurring on flat areas with dramatic temperature variance (like oceans and deserts), Fata Morgana is a phenomenon in which light is refracted to distort objects and display them sometimes hundreds of kilometers away.

Whatever you believe, the sight of an erratic, unexplained light dancing through a dark, lonely outback night is enough to give anyone the willies.

5. Old Dubbo Gaol

The Old Dubbo Gaol was built in 1847 as a courthouse lockup, and by 1887 had evolved into a maximum security prison with 13 regular male cells, a padded cell for psychiatric prisoners, two solitary confinement cells, a women’s division, exercise yards, a kitchen and an infirmary, all enclosed behind 12-foot brick walls. Those who had committed robbery, assault and even murder could find themselves within the walls of this Victorian-era prison, where conditions were brutal and treatment was rough.

Eight prisoners were executed on site, hanged for murder with the very ropes and gallows that are still on display today. Two of them, plus a female prisoner who died of exposure during a particularly icy winter, are buried in unmarked graves within the prison grounds, the locations of which are unknown.

With all that suffering and death taking place within its walls, it’s little surprise the gaol is considered horrifically haunted. Ghost tours are run after dark for the brave (or foolish), in which torchlight and candlelight guide the way and an electromagnetic frequency detector is carried to communicate with any unseen presences. Frequent sightings and encounters are reported.

6. The White Lady of Tamworth

In the last part of the 1800s, a woman was murdered by a Chinese gold miner on a little wooden bridge in Tamworth that has since been replaced by the Tamworth City Council. They called her the White Lady, and there were countless reported sightings of her ghost on the bridge in the years that followed.

Not too far away is Tamworth’s infamous King George V Avenue, a straight stretch of road lined with oak tress. A popular illegal drag spot for young drivers, a number of lives have been claimed in car accidents on this road. Other drivers have reported strange occurrences when driving late at night, from blown fuses and other electrical problems to phantom headlights coming towards them.

Some have made the link with the White Lady – could it be she is still haunting this area?

7. The Hawkesbury River Monster

Lurking somewhere in the depths of the Hawkesbury River is Australia’s own Loch Ness Monster, according to ‘cryptozoologist’ Rex Gilroy. Thought to be between 7-24 metres in length, Gilroy claims he and his wife, along with a number of Hawkesbury locals, have seen the creature surface with it’s metre-long reptilian head. Sightings have been recorded as far up the river as Windsor, with a number of sightings closer to the river’s mouth at Broken Bay.

It is thought Aboriginal groups in the region were aware of the creature’s presence in the Hawkesbury River, with ancient cave paintings up to 4000 years old allegedly depicting a 20-foot sea monster. It is said that early settlers to the area were told stories by Aboriginals of women and children being attacked by the ‘moolyewonk’ or ‘mirreeular’, allegedly the Aboriginal names for the monster.

Gilroy’s theory suggests the creature – or creatures, as he believes there’s a breeding population of at least 300 – are surviving members of the prehistoric Cretaceous period. He suggests they generally live and breed offshore deep in the ocean, and make their way up our peaceful waterways to lay their eggs. I don’t know about you, but the idea of an enigmatic giant reptile slinking from the depths of the ocean up the murky Hawkesbury to lay eggs gives me the proper creeps.

8. The Guyra Disturbance

If you think this sounds like something from a horror movie, you’d be right; the Guyra Disturbance was basically a real-life Paranormal Activity. It was April Fool’s Day, 1921 when the trouble started. The Bowen family, whose youngest daughter May had passed away only months prior, were subjected to tremendous thumping and stones thrown at their house a kilometre outside Guyra.

It’s thought the attacks were targeted at one of three Bowen children, 12-year-old Minnie. Rocks would smash through her bedroom window, and she claimed to have been chased through the paddock by a man as he pelted her with stones. A band of 80 volunteers from the town formed a circle around the house night after night, and while the stones stopped the inexplicable thumping could still be heard inside the house. The town was in a panic and a media frenzy ensued, with Minnie at the centre.

An unusual girl by all reports, a journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald described Minnie as “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. She seems to look beyond or through you”. He continued, “she has a rather uncanny aptitude for anticipating questions almost before they are asked, and answering them.”

Minnie was eventually moved to her grandparents place in Glen Innes, but the strange happenings followed her there. She returned to Guyra, and with time the disturbances ceased. It’s thought Minnie went on to marry and live a relatively normal life, but was killed when she run over by a car near Armidale in the late 1980s.

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Outback Travel Adventure Driving Haunted Ghosts New South Wales 2019 NSW Destination