JANUARY :: We share more of our favourite haunted locations, further frightening experiences, and some possible fascinating evidence of the paranormal.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Favourite Haunts :: Redruth Gaol

[Picture: Redruth Gaol © Ghost & Girl]
"We are born with the dead: See, they return, and bring us with them." - T.S. Eliot, Four Quarters
On the outskirts of an old mining town in South Australia's mid-north, surrounded by fields and guarded by gum-trees, is Redruth Gaol.
Built in the 1850s, Redruth was to be the first rural gaol in South Australia. The gaol had room for the gaolkeeper and his family, the turnkey, and up to thirty prisoners (both male and female).
Common offences resulting in imprisonment included drunkenness, petty vandalism, and debt. Punishment included hard labour.
In 1894, with the closing down of the mine, there was no further need for the town to have its own gaol, so Redruth closed its doors too, and the prisoners were sent to other institutions. However, in 1897, the gaol re-opened as the Redruth Girls Reformatory, and became home for thirty of the worst behaved girls in the State of South Australia. Girls from Kapunda Catholic Girls Reformatory (famous for its wayward priest) were sent here after that home was disbanded in 1909. In 1922, the girls staged a riot and Redruth was forced to close once again.
What actually happened behind its doors as both a gaol and reformatory is open to conjecture, speculation and imagination. However, upon its closure, the reformatory was compared in like to the Parramatta Industrial School for girls in the State of New South Wales, which was infamous for its hard, back-breaking routine, harsh (and sometimes terribly cruel) punishments, and its regular riots.
These days the gaol is controlled and maintained by the National Trust. Access to the gaol is made possible by a daytime history walk, and the occasional night-time ghost tour. It is one of the few South Australian gaols readily open to the public.

[Picture: Redruth Gaol © Ghost & Girl]
But, I hear you ask, is it haunted?

The most common unexplained activity that occurs at Redruth is the sound of heavy footsteps pacing the hardwood floors. Shuffling, movement and voices are sometimes heard from the empty cells as well. Doors open by themselves. The large, wooden gates rattle when there is no wind, and footsteps can be heard on the gravel outside when there is no one visibly about.

So, if it is haunted, who is doing the haunting?

The original gaolkeeper was Thomas Perry, who lived in and managed the gaol for twenty-five years. The prisoners that passed through its doors ranged from drunkards to the more seasoned criminals. The last Matron of the Girls Reformatory was a Miss Bubb, and the girls who called it home were classed as "incorrigibles": Damaged, difficult girls who were believed to be incapable of reform.

The source of the phenomena at Redruth may be any one of these people. Is the gaolkeeper, Mr Perry, still walking the halls, checking on his prisoners in the cells, and securing the gate? Does the Matron, Miss Bubb, remain in charge of her unruly crew of girls, almost 100 years later? Are the prisoners and the girls who were sent to Redruth still roaming its grounds, unable or unwilling to leave?
As a result of personal experience at the gaol, this writer is inclined to believe the reports of ghosts residing within its walls. I have heard the footsteps for myself - clear and unmistakable in the early hours of the morning from a room above, to which the only access door was locked. I've experienced the shuffling and sounds of movement from empty cells, and received a prompt smack on the back of the head (the Matron, perhaps?).

[Picture: Redruth Gaol © Ghost & Girl]
In relation to paranormal investigation, Redruth is still a new, mostly undiscovered location, but one which I believe has the potential to provide some fascinating evidence. As seems to be the thing with old mining towns found the world over, there are many ghost stories and tales of unexplained events here. For the moment, it seems that Redruth is content to spook its visitors with a variety of auditory phenomena, but I am yet to hear of any paranormal events that involve a visual encounter. That doesn't mean it won't happen, of course - in time.
On a perfectly still day, when there appears to be no one else within the gaol aside from oneself, even Redruth's silence seems oppressively ominous.

Want to know more? Try these websites:
The Burra Record: Girls' Reformatory, Redruth (newspaper article from 19 July 1922)
Ragged Schools, Industrial Schools and Reformatories (UK specific, however as a Queen's Colony, UK policy was implemented in South Australia)


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