Friday, 28 October 2016

A Ghost Tour at Q Station, Manly

Do you believe in ghosts? I do - now! A ghost tour at Q Station,  the old quarantine station at Manly in Sydney's north, will shake the scepticism out of the most ardent non-believer.

It is well after dark. We have had a long, enjoyable dinner at the Boilerhouse Restaurant where, under the guidance of chef Matt Kemp, the food is nothing short of spectacular. Bob, our ghost hunting guide, meets us below the giant stairway which leads to the upper levels of Q Station. Earlier today we were told contestants on The Biggest Loser run up and down these stairs as part of their weight-loss regimes. I wonder how many don't make it - no wonder they say the place is haunted.

Bob believes in ghosts. Today, Q Station may be a modern hotel and conference centre, but not so many years ago it was a place of sickness, despair, desperation - and death. From 1838 until 1984 every migrant ship entering Sydney Harbour was checked for signs of infectious diseases. If any were found, all passengers and crew, the sick and the healthy, were sent straight to the quarantine station where they remained - sometimes for months on end until cleared of any risk of infection. The hospital wards, decontamination facilities and accommodation blocks at Q Station saw epidemics of smallpox, typhus, Spanish flu and bubonic plague. Some patients recovered. Some although unlucky to have been on a ship with the ill never got sick and some, more than 500 in all, died. Tonight it is the dead we hope, or perhaps fear, to meet.

Our first stop is the decontamination block, with its ghastly looking open showers where new arrivals stripped and washed in a burning concoction of water and carbolic soap. Did anyone die here? It doesn't seem to matter. The ghosts come back to re-visit the site of their humiliation. There are ten of us in our little group.  Bob waves us into the building with instructions to leave our lanterns at the door and wait half way down the long, dark, eerie corridor.

The atmosphere feels heavy with the weight of menacing poltergeists. Bob's voice rises and falls with an hypnotic and yet strangely soothing tone as he tells stories of the block's otherworldly inhabitants. A couple of girls in the group let out little nervous spurts of laughter. Another woman, about my age, declares her steadfast belief in the afterlife. I am a cynic - along for the ride. I am open-minded but not a believer in any sense.

Bob warns us not to enter the shower cubicles. I don't know why. I am not sure I want to know but it is too late - I am standing at the open door to a cubicle and there is something behind me, and above me, in the dark. It isn't human - at least not in the living and breathing sense of the word. I feel an overwhelming urge to step to one side, to put the comfort of a wall between me and whatever supernatural force is in the shower  - but I can't. My feet won't move. It is as if I am doomed to be a participant in the night's unnatural drama. Bob's voice continues its melodic hypnosis, the girls giggle again, the presence behind me edges closer - and I await my fate.

The shower block. It looks innocuous during the day but I dare you to visit at night.

Bob switches on his torch and the spell is broken. The tour is moving on. We are given a last chance to walk the long corridors again - alone. No-one takes up the offer. Was I the only one who felt the presence of an 'other'?

Our next stop is the morgue. It is dark again - of course! There is the outline of a human shape laying under a sheet on a concrete slab in the centre of the room. Bob's soporific voice sets the scene once more. He asks for a volunteer to lay a hand on the corpse's chest - just to check it is really dead. One of the men steps forward. There are three men in our group all of them braver, or more foolhardy, than the women. Bob has a trick awaiting us this time - at least I think it was a trick. I won't spoil the surprise by telling you what it was, but just as our volunteer touches the sheet the girls all squeal. Even the men jump backwards. I don't feel the presence of the supernatural in the way I did in the shower block but I am startled nevertheless.


I confess that I had fun editing this photo taken in Q Station's morgue.



Our last port of call is the hospital ward. This is where people recovered - or died. Those who died did so alone. Not even their closest relatives were allowed in to comfort them. No wonder some of the dead were never able to find peace.  Bob asks if any of us feel unusually hot or cold. He tell us this is a sign that there may be ghosts in the room. No one owns up. I feel uncomfortably warm but I'm not saying so. I put it down to having too warm a jacket on - but who knows, perhaps my encounter with the supernatural didn't end in the shower block.

Do you believe in ghosts? I do now!


The Ghost Tours at Q Station Manly


The Q Station has a reputation for being the most haunted place in Sydney. It has various ghost tours ranging from Family Tours for anyone over the age of 8 years to Extreme Ghost Tours and Ghostly Sleepovers for the over 18s. Visitors can even work alongside paranormal investigators on the Paranormal Investigation Nights Tour

Click - here - for information on times, prices and conditions.

My Tip: If you want the full experience, set the mood with dinner and wine at The Boilerhouse Restaurant and listen to Bob with an open mind, then spend the night in a hotel room at Q Station.   You might find the shower block and old hospital aren't the only haunted area. 

Note: David and I stayed as guests of Q Station.

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48 comments:

  1. We did this many moons ago BEFORE it was Q Station...very fun and spooky.

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    1. No way am I going there. It would give me nightmares.

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    2. Haha - I slept like a baby, ghost or no ghost.

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  2. It looks so spooky! I'm not sure I believe in ghosts but I think it would freak me out anyway.

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    1. I am still not sure whether I believe in ghosts but it was great fun nevertheless.

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  3. I have to say I'm quite interested in these gruesome, spooky places! There must have been a lot of misery here though. How horrible to be found to be found to be diseased and sent to quarantine... I don't know if I believe in ghosts but I've had some strange experiences with changing temperatures and weird sensations, so maybe there's something. Interesting post #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. As well as the ghost tour we also did a history tour - more on the blog about that next week. Most people seem to have just accepted their fate. I don't think anyone would want to be the person who brought an epidemic with them to Sydney. The people who it was hardest for, other than those who got sick, were returning soldiers after the First World War. Spanish Flu was a real issue for them. Imagine fighting for years for your country in the most terrible conditions only to be quarantined with Spanish Flu when you arrived home.

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  4. I can tell you are a cynic, Lyn. You won't catch me in a place like this. Even if I knew it's all fake, it would still haunt me during my sleepless nights. Brrrr!!! I'd be horrified. #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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    1. Haha - It certainly didn't feel fake. If anywhere in Sydney is haunted this is it.

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  5. Lyn our relatives who came in 1884 spent time there because of the measles outbreak in the ship they arrived in - you will recall their young daughter died on the voyage.

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    1. Hi anonymous, I was wondering about that when I visited the Q Station. I recall our family story of the young child being buried at sea just outside the heads but I didn't know whether the death was related to an epidemic. One day when you are in Sydney we must have a wander around the Q Station together. It is a fascinating place. You don't have to stay there in order to walk around and visit the museum.

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  6. I am a big skeptic when it comes to ghosts or the supernatural so I would definitely be hesitant to take this tour. However I did feel some eeriness when we toured the Fremantle Prison in WA. This old Quarantine Station certainly would have some interesting stories to tell.

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    1. Eeriness is a good word for it. Honestly, I don't know whether what I felt was a ghost or just the product of the tour guide's hypnotic voice but it certainly was eerie.

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  7. Lyn, did you time this ghost story to coincide with Halloween and all the associated spookiness? I think I would give this tour a go, but I'd be very wary walking around and probably feel more relaxed once the tour is over. I am a fence sitter regarding the supernatural. Kind of have to see it to believe it.

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    1. The timing was just coincidental but it did work out well. David and I took a train toward the city last night in Sydney and there were people everywhere in Halloween costumes. It was great fun to see.

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  8. Adding it to the list! My list keeps growing...not getting any shorter!
    Great story!

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  9. I used to be skeptic. If there are such things as ghosts how come we haven't all seen them. But then I had an encounter similar to you shower scene. Very interesting. Let's just say that now I'm not so sure. Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!

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    1. Yesterday I discover that one branch of my family was quarantined at the Q Station during the 1880s. At least one of them died, just before reaching Sydney. Perhaps it was a long lost relative who was with me in the shower block. I'm keeping an open mind about it.

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  10. I almost got goose bumps just reading this....my hubby would love it. Me....I'm not so sure now!

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  11. I've just been on #theweeklypostcard link up hosted by @travelnotesandbeyond commenting on @benandjessadventures and read your comment about this tour. Did you think anything was staged for effect on the tour?

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    1. No. One of the real strengths of the tour was that nothing seemed to be staged. The guide, Bob, was just really, really good at telling stories. He had a melodic, hypnotic voice which made you believe the place was haunted - maybe it was.

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  12. It was a good tour wasn't it. I think Bob was a great guide and had us 'nearly' convinced.

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    1. It turns out that I had relatives who were incarcerated at the Q Station. One died and was buried just outside the Heads before their boat reached Sydney. Perhaps she was the presence I felt.

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  13. This sounded very spooky to me, and I would have been convinced at the end of it! I wouldn't have slept for weeks though. Guess it's something I'll have to do one day now I know it's there!

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    1. Haha - I am so glad I did it. It was such an eye-opener.

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  14. Fun but spooky travel experiences.

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  15. I've always wanted to go up there, the views from North Head are gorgeous so they must be extra good from the Q station. Can you do daytime tours as well as night time ones which, although less spooky, would be better for views?

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    1. The views are stunning but the rooms were built as accommodation for inmates/patients and staff so they don't all take advantage of the great outlook. You can just wander around if you want, you don't have to stay there. You can do a history tour during the day, which we did as well.

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  16. We have done several ghost tours but never really felt or saw anything. Can't say that we wouldn't want to, so it's cool that you did. Happy Halloween.

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    1. This was the first ghost tour we have done. David is the original cynic so they haven't been high on our bucket list but I am absolutely sold now.

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  17. As always, nicely written Lyn. You have the gift. The only ghost tour I've done was at that relic of misery, Port Arthur. Creepy, but (fortunately/unfortunately) no apparitions. Like your Bob, it seems the experience relies heavily on the guide. --Mongo

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    1. Hi Mongo, Great to hear from you. I have been a bit slack on twitter lately. I'm glad you liked the post. D and I are headed to Tasmania in about a month and I have been tossing up whether we should do a ghost tour at Port Arthur. We are staying in Hobart so I am not sure it is worth the drive, late a night.

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  18. It sounds like a fun night out - a little unusual for entertainment. But not sure how I would enjoy dinner in a place that so many have died.

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    1. Haha - I don't think anyone died in the restaurant. At least I hope not.

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  19. I do believe in ghosts, Lyn, but I have absolutely no desire to see one. Thx for adding some spookiness to our Hallowe'en.

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    1. I didn't actually see the ghost, I just felt a presence. I think seeing a ghost would have well and truly freaked me out.

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  20. This ghost tour sounds like fun, albeit a little creepy too. Your shower experience would have unnerved me for the rest of the tour. I'd have stayed pretty close to other people after that.

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    1. For me the shower was the only part of the tour where I really felt there might be something supernatural. I enjoyed the rest of the tour but it wasn't scary. D was with me the whole time. I have no idea how he might have protected me but he would certainly have tried - lol!

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  21. Definitely creepy! I'm not sure how much further I would have gone after the shower stalls. Great processing the on the morgue photo.

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    1. I had a lot of fun with the morgue photo. It was a fairly ordinary shot before I started playing around with it.

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  22. Ooooh, very well timed topic. This sounds like a tour that really delivers, even for cynics. At a Halloween party this weekend, my friend was telling me she went on a ghost tour of the most haunted place in town. Apparently, it was totally lame. Q Station sounds more like what she was hoping for. Thanks for linking up with #WkendTravelInspiration.

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    1. Send your friend to Sydney for a Q Station tour. It was great. The Halloween timing was just a lucky coincidence.

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  23. 3 November 2016 at 19:32
    Interesting story. I went on the ghost tour last weekend. While we were sitting in the hospital quarters on the beds one girl burst into uncountable tears for now apparent reason. It really weirded her and everyone out. One of the strangest places ive been for sure!

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    1. One of our group thought she felt something in the hospital ward too. A lot of people died there so I suppose it is hardly surprising. I hope you enjoyed the tour and weren't too freaked out.

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