Rob Willis: haunting stories

Frank Clunes Rolling Down The Lachlan inspired Rob Willis to an interest in bushranger Ben Hall.

Frank Clunes Rolling Down The Lachlan inspired Rob Willis to an interest in bushranger Ben Hall.

I have been cobbling together our Magical Musical Mausoleum Meander, stories, songs, poetry and tunes about some of the wonderful musicians of Forbes who have now gone.

However, by the time you read this it will be over.  It has been a wonderful experience revisiting the memories of my old mates. We certainly have many characters buried in our local cemetery.

Had to duck up to the cemetery a couple of times to check on locations and it reminded me of a story the early Australian author and travel writer, Frank Clune, recounted about our local graveyard … and spooky things.  

Clune, in his early days was a travelling accountant and ranged all over NSW visiting his clients and doing their tax returns.  He also had an interest in history and as this was in the 1930s, had the opportunity to talk to many of the ‘old hands’ and document their stories.

His two notable books about our area are ‘Rolling Down The Lachlan’ and ‘Ben Hall the Bushranger’.  The latter inspired many people, including me as a young lad, to  have a look at our local bushranger history. Clune clearly states that his Hall book is fiction based but it is a cracking yarn, well told with plenty of bush flavour.

Better get back to the ghost stories I suppose, here is one as told as told to Frank Clune in the 1930s.

“On one occasion,” continued the miner, “there was a lot of us boozed at the pub; ‘n’ we was tellin’ ghost-stories, when one ole bloke sez  ‘Ghosts be sugared!’  ‘n’ reckoned  ‘e wasn’t afraid: so we offered  ‘im five quid between us to  ‘ammer a stake into Ben ‘All’s grave!

When ‘e ‘eard that the ole bloke larfed; ‘n’ grabbin’ the kitchen-poker for a stake, pushed off into the rain. It was a hell uv a night, ‘n’  no moon nor stars to steer by; but, wiv seventy years  of funeral experiences, ‘e couldn’t go wrong. Anyway,  ‘e’  ‘ad  ‘is kitchen-poker orl the while; ‘n’, when ‘e come to the spot where ‘All was,  ‘e  sez, ‘Excuse me, Ben!’ and bangs it  ‘ard into the grave.

That was all Sir Garneo; but as soon as  ‘e tried to get up  ‘e felt two  ‘ands behind tryin’ to push  ‘im down again;  on’y this chap was tough;  ‘n’,  workin’ ‘is arms outer the sleeves of  ‘is overcoat, ‘e ran in  ‘is shirt ‘n’ pants, orl the way back to the pub.

Then, after seven or eight rums at our expense ‘e told us the story. Nex’  mornin’, we made a party to the cemetery and found it was  orl dinky di wot the ole bloke ‘ad said: but the funny part is this: when ‘e banged the poker into the grave, it was dark, ‘n’ ‘e banged it through ‘is coat-tails as well … so that directly ‘e started to rise up the coat tugged at ‘is shoulders, till ‘e thought it was Ben!”

Another ghost-yarn gone phut; but Whiskers collected the dough.

Of course this led me into another search of our wonderful National Library of Australia online newspapers in Trove to have a search for more ghost stories and there were a couple of beauties from old editions of The Forbes Advocate.

Lachlansider’s Column: Forbes Advocate November 1947

There’s a ghost in the Forbes locality and not far from the Murder Bridge at that. Quite a number of people are alleged to have seen it but only Mr P J Johannson has been game enough to report it. He reckons he is not psychic, but has become interested enough now to want to know more about ectoplasm and things. Two or three months ago Mr Johannson saw the Forbes Ghost not so very far from the Murder Bridge.

He was out on his bike one night at about 10:15 and after the glare of the lights of a passing car had passed and in the gloom, Mr Johannson clearly saw the figure draped in an old-fashioned rain cloak slowly drifting by.

Lachlansider’s reaction would have been immediate out, not so with Mr Johannson. He followed the shape which he could see through by the way, and called out “Why don’t you answer?” as he followed her about a chain (20 metres). Then the figure disappeared.

Mr Johannson has a theory. It is, that the ghost of murdered people haunt the spot until the murderer has been to book: (justice). Besides there is a nasty draught around here. Incidentally the figure is of a little girl. We will be glad to hear of any other eye witness accounts of local ghosts in order to know where not to go to in future.

Another great story was that of the ghost of Quarry Hill but unfortunately space will not permit us to tell you. Maybe another time, perhaps – Quarry Hill residents, be aware.

Anyone have any ghost stories about Forbes? I would love to hear them.