An Honest to God Ghost Story

Years ago I visited Tasmania, and had the chance to visit an old prison in Port Arthur.  I don’t know if you know this or not, but Australia was founded as a prison colony for the felons and ne’er do wells in England.  They were shipped off to Australia to prisons in very harsh living conditions.  These prisons were nothing like the modern minimum security prisons—the laws prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment were developed based upon the conditions in these prisons.  Think sleeping on cold stone floors, solitary confinement in complete silence for decades where all you have to entertain yourself is your own thoughts, iron shackles, food loaded with vermin, and abuse.  Lots and lots of abuse. 

There was a sign up on the bulletin board at the hostel in Hobart, Tasmania for a night time ghost tour.  I signed up, and the bus came to pick me up just before sunset and drove me out to Port Arthur.  When I got off the bus I joined a tour group, and we were taken by lantern light all over the prison complex.  The walls were in ruins—crumbling stone structures intermixed with old colonial style wooden houses. 

The guide directed us to various sites all over the prison, which was preserved so we could get an idea of what it was like at the time.  We were told stories about occurrences that could not be explained at various locations.  For example, on the porch of the Commandant’s house there were reported sightings of babies that were still born in that house, as they were buried in the soft earth beneath the porch.  In the basement of the doctor’s house, where experiments were performed on prisoners, there were sightings of different things there as well.

The guide had told us a story about how he had to go back to the basement of the doctor’s house to lock up.  There was a heavy wooden door that slid into place, and a large metal shackle to affix onto an oversized padlock.  Sliding the door required both hands.  He slid the door across and felt like he’d been stabbed by giant needles in his shoulder blades.  Of course, he was alone, and he had no way to explain that pain he felt.  He’d never experienced it again after that.

I didn’t expect to actually see a ghost.  But the history and the stories were fascinating.  But then, as we stood in the base of the guard tower, I felt something brush my hair off my shoulder.  My hair was long then, and fell below my shoulders.  I looked down at my hair, and it was resting as it should have on my shoulder.  I turned my attention back to the guide when I felt it again.  A gentle flip of my hair.  We were indoors, there was no breeze.  I felt it again.  Flip.  Flip.  Then the flips came more rapidly.  Flipflipflipflipflip. 

I grabbed my hair and held it in my fist.  It stopped moving.  At this point I was starting to freak out.  Was somebody from the beyond trying to get my attention?  Well, let me tell you, they definitely had it.  I gripped my hair in my fist.  I frantically turned my head back and forth.  Was anyone else seeing this?  Was anyone else as freaked out as I was?  The guide was talking.  I have no idea what he was saying. 

I forced my hair between my fingers and worked them down to the ends.  Maybe if there was some sort of being playing with my hair, I just forced its hand out of my hair.  I slowly opened my hand, wondering if I would see some sort of evidence of this being from the other side.

In the palm of my hand was a moth, which promptly flapped its wings and flew away the moment I unfurled my fingers.  

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

added on 05.02.16

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