7 Melbourne locations with dark histories
Check out the (paranormal) spirits at these historic pubs, bars, alleys and theatres, dubbed the most haunted in Melbourne.
When it comes to paranormal activity, Melbourne’s CBD has no shortage of ghost stories. From the murderous to the macabre, the city’s past is peppered with spine-tingling tales, guaranteed to give you all the chills.
If you’re looking for a thriller night, these Melbourne pubs, bars and eerie alleys are famed for their tales from the crypt. If you believe in ghosts, this is where you’re most likely to find them.
Young & Jackson Hotel
Young & Jackson is one of Melbourne’s oldest pubs and has long been the subject of ghost stories and supposed supernatural happenings.
According to reports, in the late 19th century, several women were murdered near the beleaguered pub and, since then, many men have described seeing a beautiful woman lingering around its front doors, with many believing her to be the ghost of one of the slain victims.
“It is said there is a female prostitute who haunts just outside Young & Jackson,” says Ben Oliver, owner of Melbourne-based walking tour company, Drinking History Tours. “Apparently when she raises her neck you can see how she was murdered.”
The Mitre Tavern
This bustling inn located in one of the city’s oldest buildings might be a favourite for knock-off drinks among the nine-to-five crew, but those visiting after dark are often treated to spirits of a different kind. “The Mitre is said to be haunted by the ghost of a lady named Connie Waugh, who was having an affair with Sir Rupert Clarke,” Ben says. “He was from an upper-class establishment and Connie, who was an actress, came from a working class.”
Back then, Ben says, it was quite scandalous for a man of his stature to be having an affair with a lower-class lady.
“People say you are able to see her ghost near the top balcony of the Mitre Tavern.”
Move over street art; there’s a frightening new reason people are flocking to Melbourne’s iconic laneway. The ghost of Frederick Bailey Deeming, who many people believe to be the notorious serial killer ‘Jack the Ripper’, is rumoured to roam the alley at night.
“Frederick Bailey Deeming is probably one of Melbourne’s most interesting ghost stories, just by virtue of his connection to Jack the Ripper,” Ben says. “Although the real Jack the Ripper was never [formally] identified, there is a lot of history that suggests [Frederick Bailey] was actually in Whitechapel around the time of the murders and that the style of his murders was quite similar to those of Jack the Ripper.”
The Hotel Windsor might be synonymous with high teas, but this regal hotel is also said to have a celebrity poltergeist. The voice of famed operatic soprano Dame Nellie Melba, who is rumoured to have stayed at the hotel in the early 20th century, is said to be heard singing through the corridors.
“When Nellie Melba was in town, she used to stay at the Windsor and apparently this is where she used to have her male callers,” Ben explains.
Though it might be a good ghost story, Ben says he’s done his research and he’s not convinced it has any merit.
Queen Victoria Market
Have you ever wondered what lies beneath the city’s famed building? Well, stories say buried under the Queen Victoria Market’s car park are about 9,000 bodies.
“The Queen Victoria Market is the site of Melbourne’s second graveyard,” Ben says. “When it eventually closed down, they didn’t exhume all the bodies; they were left in situ and the market was just built right over the top.”
Over the years, there have been countless ghost sightings, with people saying if you listen closely, you can “hear the moaning of the undesirables.”
As well as the groans of the damned, Ben says the market is also believed to be haunted by the two men who were the first to be hanged in Melbourne in 1842.
“They were hanged for murdering a couple of settlers down at the Mornington Peninsula,” Ben says. “Their spirits are said to haunt the Queen Victoria Market.”
Back in ye olde days, before Netflix and colour TV, one of the favourite pastimes of many Melburnians was a tradition called ‘Playing the Ghost’, or ‘ghost hoaxing’.
“People would get dressed up in Halloween-style costumes and go around scaring people in the street,” Ben says.
“Some of the costumes were quite elaborate – there’s one crazy story of a bloke who used to get dressed up in a full knight’s costume with ‘prepare to meet thy doom’ written on his chest plate.” Back then, Ben says, it was an acceptable way for young men to do silly things without being recognised. The tradition allegedly went on until around the start of the first World War, when many were called off to fight in the trenches.
If you’re ever at the Princess Theatre on opening night, cast your eyes over to seat B28.
In the late 19th century, there was a famous British actor and operatic singer named Frederick Federici, who arrived in Australia in 1887 to play the Mephistopheles (the devil) in Gounod’s famous opera, Faust.
“It was his final scene and, while he was being lowered down into hell, he had a heart attack as the curtains closed,” Ben says. “He was pronounced dead backstage.”
There have been a number of sightings of Federici at the theatre over the years, with many believing that you can see him giving a nod of approval or a scowl during performances.
“On opening night, seat B28 is always left unsold and if the ghost of Federici appears it is said to be good luck.”
Basically any original pub in Melbourne
Melbourne is home to myriad historic pubs and watering holes. But what many people may not know is the history behind them. “Melbourne didn’t get a city morgue until the 1870s,” Ben says. “For a good 30 to 40 years, there wasn’t a centralised place to store the dead so when someone died, they used the local pub as a makeshift morgue.”
The next time you’re playing a game of pool at your local city tavern, spare a though for those who may have been stored there. “Some pubs had refrigeration, and some didn’t,” Ben says. “If they didn’t, sometimes men would be placed on the billiard table until someone could come to get them.”