Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Literal Ghost Tour

Back in 2000 to about 2003 I was a volunteer at Werribee Mansion, near Melbourne. We used to dress in 1870s style clothes - I had a lovely gown, complete with a bustle! I found this email that I had sent a friend in 2001 -  a fellow volunteer at Werribee Mansion. She in turn published the story in the volunteer newsletter. Being of a pagan sensibility like me, she was very interested and wanted people to hear the tale.
I had saved the email on ye olde fashioned floppy disk and finally got the chance to access the disk around the summer of '08/'09 on a computer that still had the disk drive working...

I thought I'd put it up on here.

July 2001 – Werribee Mansion, Melbourne, Australia. 

Andrew Chirnside, as a
 young man before he became
a posthumous tour guide
and eternal gracious host
Werribee Mansion was built in the 1870s by the Chirnside brothers, Thomas and Andrew, who immigrated all the way from Scotland. Thomas, who loved his cousin Mary, sent his brother Andrew to Scotland to fetch her, and said ‘if she refuses me, marry her yourself.’ That was one way of getting her to come to Australia. Andrew married her (I am not sure if Mary refused Thomas, or Andrew took her for himself - poor Thomas!). Thomas suffered from severe depression all his life. He shot himself in the laundry of the Mansion in 1887. Andrew died three years later.

One Sunday my friends Kath, Craig and Bridie came to Werribee Mansion with me to see the place. That day, they claimed they had experienced the spirits of Thomas Chirnside (died 1887). While their experiences were not pleasant (I am not sure I really believe their stories), I told my friend Tania and her mother Marj, who are both mediums (a family gift). Tania was very interested in coming from Melbourne to visit me in my Mansion costume. I'd told her on the phone two nights earlier of our experience on Sunday, and so being a curious medium, she wanted to come down and check out the place herself.  

The library, with portrait of Andrew, top hat and cane on
the chair, and bookcase on the right, with his favourite
book in it.
I met them at the Gatelodge, and we walked through the garden to the Mansion. First we had lunch in the café, as Marj was hungry. We ate with Ernie, another volunteer and good friend of mine. Then we went into the Mansion. The first room that everyone usually goes into is the library, which is to the left of the front entrance. The 3 of us went in, but after a minute or so, I left and spoke to other guides/friends. I followed a crowd into the library again to find Tania and Marj coming out saying 'We left your friend in there.' I was confused and asked what they were talking about, and they pointed to a portrait of Andrew Chirnside as a young man, Thomas's brother that was on the wall above the fireplace. They said it was his ghost. I asked more. Tania said he was sitting down, 'He's sitting right there...'  There were leather chairs in the room, and Tania could see the spirit of Andrew sitting  in one of the chairs, which had a top hat, coat and cane propped up against it. I asked her what he was doing, her reply was 'Just sitting there.' I asked what he was looking at and she replied 'You!'
I was dressed up in period clothing from 1870s. I didn't mind, nor was I afraid or excited. Tania said he was glad he found someone to talk to - being her as a medium - 'a light in the darkness', as they say. He got up and walked across the room - Marj shuddered, as she felt the room go cold when he did this. He went to his desk, talking about a book he used to often read. We looked in the book case and sure enough, Tania exclaimed that it was the book called Music of the 19th Century. He then came and stood next to Tania, and she could feel the cold of his closeness. Marj again said that the temperature in the room had dropped since he got up and walked around. 

The Drawing Room, where the ladies sat.
We then next went to the Drawing Room. They liked the room saying it was feminine. Tania said that Andrew had followed us. He commented on how he didn't really care to sit in this room, it was more for the ladies, he preferred the library.
The 4 of us (notice I said 4) then went to the Dining room and Tania and Marj felt that this room was very tranquil. Then in the Morning room (breakfast room) the energy was even nicer. Andrew commented on how he used to sit here facing the window, usually alone, as he was first awake, and he liked to look out into at the garden. But now it is not as he remembered it. 'All the trees are bigger' he'd told Tania, and I realised that by seeing photos from the early Mansion days, that it was different for them, the trees outside newly planted back then. He spoke of having an egg for breakfast, and seeing the chickens in the garden and how they tried to plant roses outside the morning room once, but even he knew that it was a bad spot to grow them.
The Morning Room, where Andrew ate eggs, and
watched chickens in the garden.
Lisa, one of the paid workers there, in a maid outfit, was standing near us when I happened to ask Tania where Andrew was standing right now. She said that he was standing behind me. Lisa had looked behind me and saw a tourist there, and wondered what on earth we were talking about, so I explained to her that this was the late Andrew Chirnside, giving us a tour of sorts. She got excited and asked if she could hang around us a bit, obviously believing us straight away (interesting, as some are usually sceptic :P). Tania announced to Lisa that he was looking at her, being dressed as a servant.
Andrew then walked off round the corner, wanting to show us something, so we followed him to the Kitchen area, which has recently been restored. Christos was giving a tour to about 20 people in the kitchen, but we went down the corridor past the kitchen. Marj stopped in her tracks unable to physically move, and calling Tania's name, clearly distressed. This energy down here was very unpleasant. In the larder, we went in with Andrew and he was saying that bad things happened down here. Tania and Marj could likewise feel it anyway. I don't think we got into any specifics about what went on here though, but moving further down the corridor, they felt the last room, which was locked, had the worst vibes in it, Tania telling us that that was where the deceased were put temporarily. Tania had felt the sad energies of a small girl.
The Saloon, upstairs, where a maid was seen cleaning
Heading back, we walked under the stairs of the Mansion heading to the downstairs bedroom, where Andrew's room was. Christos was walking beside us, and we got tangled in his group, so we decided to go upstairs to avoid crowds. Andrew didn't want to come upstairs with us, so he stood at the bottom, apparently watching us go up. Tania and Marj believed the energy upstairs was a lot lighter than downstairs. Tania saw a servant working in the Saloon, who paid no attention to us. Marj saw a little kid run past her in the corridor, which headed to the restoration display near the back of the mansion. Tania also saw the back of a women in 19th cent costume walking toward the Blue Room (guest bedroom). In there they sensed a very feminine presence, and an opera singer once stayed there. Lisa told us who used to stay - a lady called Violet. 
In another room, symmetrically placed opposite where the Blue Room is, is an empty room with no furniture in it, except for a few plants and chairs and a dressing table. The spirit of a man was in there and he was telling Tania how he looked after sick people - influenza was mentioned, (Andrew had also mentioned it once downstairs) We believe this man was a part of the seminary, who bought the Mansion after the Chirnside’s in the early 20th century, building extra wings for the Seminary and schooling many Catholic priests. Tania said that the chandelier in this room swings sometimes.
The Hall looking at the front door, taken from the stairs.
Andrew met us at the bottom by the left statue.
We went back downstairs and sure enough, Andrew was at the bottom waiting for us, giving Tania a big smile when we came down. We went into his bedroom now, free from crowds and Tania and Marj felt nothing of Mary, Andrew's wife who's hair had caught fire accidently in this room in 1908. She died later in Colac hospital (two hours drive from Mansion, but probably 1 days drive in a horse and carriage!!!) Mary's spirit wasn't here today, if ever.
We then went down the back to the Billiard Room and the Conservatory.  In the Conservatory, Tania was facing the doorway we had walked into. I was watching her. She suddenly smiled and said a joyful 'Hello' to an invisible doorway, and I asked who just walked in. It was Andrew again, he had decided to come down to see us. He began to tell us that he'd liked it in here, but he doesn't recognise half the plants in here now. He pointed out the pot in the middle of the room and said that he didn't know what this plant was and I told him it was a crow's nest fern, although I had no idea if he could hear me. He told us of an old gardener who would come in here with his little trolley and tiny spectacles. (The window has double doors and he said they used to be always open).
Billiard Room
Moving on, we left Andrew and went outside to the Laundry. We hadn't told Marj about where Thomas actually committed suicide in 1887, but after going into one of the rooms to the right of the entrance, it looked like Marj was about to start crying. She's guessed that it was here from the feelings she was getting. A week earlier, where Craig thought that he had killed himself actually was where they placed his body after they found him. Outside they both sensed in amoung the trees behind the laundry, an aboriginal girl who had been hung there, before the mansion had been built.

I can't think of anything else that happened that day, apart from the fact that after Tania and Marj left, I hung out with Julie and Briony who had been upstairs getting fittings for their new outfits, and I told them what had been happening. Tania, Marj and I one point had been in our change room section once and I said to Briony 'Come with us we are hanging out with Andrew Chirnside!' But she thought I meant Ernie. So she missed out. Lisa told Christos and when we were sitting in the drawing room, he charged in and demanded in his European accent to tell me all about it. 'Why didn't you tell me you were getting a tour from a ghost?' he had asked. 'Because you had a tour yourself!' I replied. He often told Briony to shut up so I could tell him about the day without interruptions. It was rather funny. Everyone there that day wishes they were with us on the ‘ghost’ tour Andrew was giving us.

I remember this day clearly when I re-read this. Everything mentioned here was told to me by Tania directly on receiving the information. Believe of it what you will, take it as an interesting read. The tales are consistent with the Mansion life of the 19th century. I have heard of other stories of ghosts in the garden too. I consider this tour was a unique experience. In a way, it belongs to me.

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