Discovering the Supernatural in Australia's Most Haunted Pubs

Discovering the Supernatural in Australia's Most Haunted Pubs

Posted 09/06/2024 in General
Australia as we know it was borne from colonial beginnings, built on the back of convict labour. This formed the backbone of the newly emerging civilisation with colonial settlements developing into the nation as we know it today.

Along with colonisation came the inevitable: brew-houses, pop-up pubs in shanties, and later on, grand buildings built to serve as highly regarded (and highly frequented!) drinking-establishments. The backbone of the community, some of these colonial pubs are still standing today, and not surprisingly they have seen many lifetimes worth of events.

From convict colonies to gold rushes, to wartime and beyond, these pubs certainly would have seen their fair share of living, loving - and, inevitably, death. With their longevity and colourful past, it's little wonder that some Australian pubs have earned a notorious reputation for being haunted.

There are many pubs in Australia that perhaps could be called Australia's most haunted pubs, so it's very hard to narrow this down to the handful below. These are establishments and hauntings that have caught our eye, and captured our intrigue. There are many more that border on the malevolent, or are as busy as Burke Street with the plethora of apparitions within their walls. Read on, and prepare to be captivated by the history and nefariousness of Australia's haunted pubs.

Some of Australia's most haunted pubs

The Russell Hotel

The Rocks, NSW

The Russell Boutique Hotel in The Rocks, NSW
The Russell Hotel, located in Sydney, is reputed to be the most haunted hotel in the city, with reports of paranormal activity centered around a resident unnamed sailor ghost. Legend has it that the sailor met a tragic end at the hands of a woman in room number eight, adding a chilling backstory to the hotel's haunted reputation.

Visitors and staff have reported hearing ghostly footsteps echoing through the creaky floors of the building, especially during the quiet hours of the night. There has also been sightings of a ghostly woman in vintage clothing who walks down the stairs then disappears. There have also been reportings of sudden drops in room temperature.

Criterion Hotel

Rockhampton City, QLD

The Criterion Hotel Motel in Rockhampton City, QLD
A pub that has seen varied paranormal activity is the Criterion Hotel in Rockhampton, Queensland. This pub dates back to the 1890s, and reportedly has several active spirits. Legend has it that some of the spirits may be from earlier incarnations of pubs at the same location - the first built in 1858 out of ironbark slabs and a shingle roof, known as 'The Bush Inn', and another being a two storey weatherboard building built in 1862.

A wandering female spirit is said to be a former chambermaid who took her life on the premises in the late 1800s. She has been known to tap people on the shoulder as they sleep and has materialised for some people on the odd occasion.

Craig's Royal Hotel

Ballarat East, VIC

Craig's Royal Hotel in Ballarat East, VIC
Well worth a mention here is Craig's Royal Hotel in Ballarat, Victoria. Built in the 1860's, the hotel is rumoured to be haunted by the former owner, Walter Craig. Craig had a dream about his horse winning the Melbourne Cup months before, only to discover he had passed away in the dream with the jockey wearing a black arm band.

Craig shared the details of the dream with others, and it was also reported in the Melbourne Age. On Cup day, his horse did in fact win, but eerily enough, Craig had died three months prior. The jockey wore a black armband, mirroring Craig's dream. Craig's ghost can be seen from time to time at Craig's Royal Hotel, no doubt keeping an eye on things.

North Kapunda Hotel

Kapunda, SA

North Kapunda Hotel in Kapunda, SA
The North Kapunda Hotel is considered to be one of the most haunted pubs in Australia. Established in 1849 at the peak of the Australian gold rush, it served as a popular gathering spot for miners and locals alike. Over the years, there have been many reports of the sound of unexplained footsteps, objects being moved, and the feeling of a chilling presence in the building.

One of the stories is of a prostitute who was murdered at the hotel when it it was operating as a brothel for a short time. Not long after, her young daughter, Sarah, also died. They both walk the halls and Sarah is said to play pranks on staff and visitors. Sarah's room remains as it was when she died which is a fascinating snapshot in time.

An extension added in the late 1800s is only open to ghost tours as the spirits have been known to cause harm to those who frequent this area.

Hero of Waterloo

Millers Point, NSW

The Hero of Waterloo Hotel in Millers Point, NSW
The Hero of Waterloo has a chilling past, as can be seen by shackles on the walls in the cellar and the entrance to a smuggler's tunnel. The tunnel was used to kidnap and smuggle out drunk sailors to work as crew on whaling boats, earning the publican a bit of money on the side.

As with a lot of Australian pubs from the 1800s, the Hero of Waterloo was build on the location of an even older pub that was build in 1820, the Princess Hotel, and may still have the same cellar. Any lingering spirits may date back to the earlier, long forgotten pub.

There is a wandering female spirit, said to be the wife of one of the publicans who pushed her down the stairs to her death. Chairs are mysteriously arranged around the fire in the dining room, perhaps evidence of a ghostly meeting in the still of night.

Young & Jackson Hotel

Melbourne, VIC

Young and Jacksons in Melbourne, VIC
The Young and Jackson Hotel stands across from the iconic Flinders Street Station in Melbourne. It was established in 1861 as the Princess Bridge Hotel by John Toohey and his brother, who went on to start Tooheys Beer, with their first brew being in 1869. The hotel changed hands in 1875, when it was then renamed to Young & Jackson Hotel. One of its claims to fame is the portrait of a very nude 'Chloe' which has adorned the walls since 1909.

The haunting of the Young & Jackson Hotel lies not in the manifestation of spirits within the hotel itself, but out the front of the building. There have been many reports of a beautiful young female apparition dressed in period clothes leaning against a light out the front of the hotel. As you get closer, the gruesome sight of her throat slit from ear to ear can be seen. It is said that she is most likely one of the local prostitutes from the 1800s who were murdered in the area.

Exploring Australia's haunted pubs

If you're anything like me, reading about these haunted pubs inspires you to visit and explore them in person. This could be a great day out, or even a weekend getaway to explore. Visit the pub, take in a meal and a drink - and soak in the atmosphere. I'm sure the staff will be quite happy to regale you with tales from the pub's colourful history.

If you are looking for a more in-depth experience, from time to time ghost tour operators offer the opportunity to participate in tours or paranormal investigations at some pubs. These tours offer a captivating blend of history lessons and chilling tales from the establishment's mysterious past. Some tours even provide ghost detectors and other paranormal investigator's gadgets to enhance the eerie experience, whirring and buzzing when there are ghosts nearby!

Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, you will no doubt be caught up in the thrill and excitement of a ghost tour through a pub that has stood stoically throughout Australia's illustrious and chequered history. Research the history and ghost stories associated with the pub before your visit to enhance the experience. Even though you will hear some stories from the tour guide, they will probably only be a fraction of the stories there are to tell.

There are several tour operators who specialise in pub ghost tours in Australia, we have provided a few below for you to explore.

If you're planning on joining a ghost tour in a haunted pub, here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of your visit:

  1. Arrive with an open mind and a sense of adventure, as paranormal encounters can be unpredictable. Don't be disappointed if you don't experience any ghostly encounters; sometimes this is the cream on top of what can prove to be a unique and interesting experience.
  2. It can be fun to visit a haunted pub to soak up the atmosphere, but also consider joining a guided ghost tour or participating in a paranormal investigation for a more immersive experience.
  3. Usually tours are conducted in pubs that are operational. Respect the pub's rules and guidelines, as well as the privacy of other patrons.
  4. Be mindful of your surroundings and avoid wandering into restricted areas or disturbing any objects.
  5. Stay alert and trust your instincts if you sense any unusual or unexplained occurrences.
  6. Capture photos or videos discreetly, without disrupting the atmosphere or infringing on others' privacy.
  7. Share your experiences with like-minded enthusiasts, but respect the beliefs of those who may be sceptical.
  8. Enjoy the unique ambiance and history of these haunted pubs, while exercising caution and common sense.
  9. Remember that the paranormal remains a mystery, and embrace the thrill of the unknown.