Maitland Gaol is said to be the Hunter’s most haunted site, reports Janek Speight, in the first of a series about ghost sightings and the paranormal.
MORE than 150 years of death, brutality and gruesome memories lurk within the walls of Maitland Gaol.
The imposing sandstone compound was once home to some of the country’s most feared criminals and was witness to 16 legal executions and numerous unrecorded deaths.
While it hasn’t hosted inmates for almost 15 years the former maximum-security prison still emits an eerie atmosphere.
Among believers of the paranormal it is thought to be the Hunter’s most haunted site with numerous reports of ghost sightings and other psychic activities.
Linda Snape, founder of Hunter Paranormal Australia, has visited Maitland Gaol many times in the past two years and conducts sleep-ins at the old women’s quarters.
‘‘We’ve had phantom voices caught on digital recorders, there have been a lot of hits on our instruments that pick up electromagnetic fields and we’ve also captured some photos of mysterious mist,’’ she said.
‘‘On one of our investigations a woman was scratched on her back even though there was nothing around her. We caught it on film.’’
The Newcastle Herald spent two hours on a night tour, led by ex-warden Keith Bush, last Saturday night to explore the nooks and crannies that hardened criminals such as backpacker killer Ivan Milat once called home.
Mr Bush, who worked at the correction facility between 1976 and 1993, said he was not a believer in spirits or ghosts but admitted it was a creepy place at night time.
‘‘If there are ghosts, and people say they’re in cemeteries, churches, old buildings, then they would definitely be here,’’ he said.
‘‘A lot of bad things have happened in these walls – murders, rapes, suicides, hangings – and a believer would have to be a hypocrite to say ghosts weren’t here.
‘‘I’ve heard enough rumours of ghosts from others and people on my tour have sworn they’ve experienced something.’’
As warden, he said he cut down six people from suicide hangings and witnessed four or five murders.
As a tour guide he has to walk through the gaol alone to ensure all the doors and gates are locked-up.
‘‘It’s an uncomfortable feeling,’’ he said. ‘‘I haven’t got that tap on the shoulder yet though and I hope I never do.’’
Ms Snape says she is a researcher rather than a ghost hunter and is just as interested in debunking ghost sightings that may be attributed to other factors.
She admitted that Maitland Gaol was a scary place at night even without paranormal activity.
‘‘The history goes back so long and there’s a lot of people that died there,’’ she said. ‘‘A lot of deaths in the gaol actually haven’t been recorded but you can see them in church records.
‘‘I would daresay it’s the most haunted place in the Hunter, there’s always something going on there.’’