29 April 2022

Welcome

I am a Brisbane-based professional historian with extensive experience in presenting History to the public. This work has included guided tours, exhibitions, books and articles, public talks, newspaper columns, and organising community heritage maintenance projects.

This site contains information about my services, and blog posts about all manner of historical curiosities such as hangings, bunyips, prisons, colonial Queensland, cemeteries, shark attacks, and ghosts.



A Grave Scandal in Ipswich and Goodna

Ipswich General Cemetery (Wikimedia Commons).


Do you have a loved one interred in the Goodna Cemetery or the Ipswich General Cemetery? Did you know that the Goodna Cemetery Trust and the Ipswich City Council are now allowing a small business to charge customers $70 each to play-act 'ghost hunting' on the graves in those cemeteries?

Commercial ghost-hunts are run by people claiming to be 'professional paranormal investigators' (there is no such thing) and charging customers big money to use fake 'ghostometer' gadgets to locate ghosts. None of this has anything to do with science or serious research into the paranormal (which is inconveniently difficult). It is purely a money-making exercise, and it could be argued that the practice borders on fraud as there are obvious ethical concerns with charging customers to use devices for which there is no evidence that they do what they are advertised to do. This article in The Atlantic provides a good explainer on 'The Broken Technology of Ghost Hunting'.

Any device said to be able to detect ghosts has as much scientific validity as 'X-Ray Specs'.


It seems inconceivable that organisations tasked with managing cemeteries, and who sell grave plots to bereaved people, actually allow those same resting places to be exploited in such a ghoulish manner. I haven't found a single other authority in the rest of Australia (or even the world) that allows cemeteries under their control to be used in this way. And apart from a couple of local authorities in Queensland, there aren't even any who allow 'ghost tours' in their cemeteries ('ghost TOURS' are guided tours featuring ghost stories, while with 'ghost HUNTS' the aim is to 'find' spirits).

One of the groups involved in this venture is Pariah Paranormal, who market themselves as 'paranormal investigators' but their main focus seems to be running commercial ghost hunts in various places around southeast Queensland.* One of those places is the historical Wolston House. Just the other week I was talking to a postgrad heritage student who walked out of one of their ghost hunts there, dismayed at the way the old house had been decorated like a cheap horror-movie set, and how one of the hosts was apparently dressed as something like the grim reaper as they talked about how much they 'respected' the history of the place. I fail to understand how the Queensland National Trust - who manage Wolston House - allow this demeaning and unethical exploitation of an important heritage place. 

The legal structure of Pariah Paranormal is also something of a mystery. They have no ABN in that name, and are not registered as a non-profit group. Maybe someone else can shed some light on this.

Their partner in all this is Ghost Tours Pty Ltd, whose record in this field includes being BANNED from doing similar hunts in Brisbane cemeteries and Boggo Road Gaol after the relevant authorities deemed those activities to be too disrespectful. Ghost Tours had previously partnered in similar ventures with a group called 'Queensland Paranormal Investigators', who received intense criticism from people other than myself (see the article 'Ghost Hunts, Charlatans, and ‘Psychopathic Liars’).

A factor in banning ghost hunting at Boggo Road was having customers trying to find spirits in cellblocks where Aboriginal people had committed suicide or died by other means, all within living memory. This lack of cultural respect is also apparent at Goodna Cemetery, where there are numerous graves of recently-deceased Aboriginal, Pasifika, and Vietnamese people. Social media posts about a recent ghost hunt there showed the group focussing on the grave of a Pasifika person who only died in 2020, with the allegedly 'psychic' guide claiming to have had a chat with his spirit. The photo below shows a couple of fake ghost-detecting gadgets placed on his (obviously well-tended) grave.

Note the small green gadget here labelled as a 'TRAP'. This obviously doesn't work, but are they suggesting they are actually trying to trap a spirit? **

A home-made device marked 'trap'. (Facebook)


Pariah and Ghost Tours try to get up to FIFTY people a time into this space, and if that happens then it is likely that a lot of the other graves in this area would also be used in this way. It raises the question of whose graves they will target in the Ipswich General Cemetery.

How did any of this happen? There are questions that need to be answered as to why the Goodna Cemetery Trust and the Ipswich City Council are apparently the only authorities in the world to allow this misuse of cemeteries they are supposed to be custodians of.

  1. Exactly WHO approved these activities in the cemeteries?
  2. Does that person have any relationship with Pariah Paranormal or Ghost Tours Pty Ltd?
  3. Can the public see the correspondence related to the decisions to grant permission?

Graves have a unique feeling about them as places of remembrance, love and connection. There is a tangible sense that the deceased are 'there'. I've visited graves myself and had a chat with the 'resident', and as someone who spends a lot of my time in cemeteries, I've seen many other people doing the same. Chatting, crying, playing a guitar, singing, praying, just spending time with their loved ones.

What Pariah Paranormal and Ghost Tours are doing is a tawdry, ghoulish misuse of that special feeling, and these activities must be stopped immediately.

How can we make this happen? I will be writing to voice my concerns to the relevant authorities, and I encourage any concerned members of the public to do the same.

Goodna Cemetery Trust
goodnacemetery@yahoo.com.au
0414 264834

Ipswich City Council cemeteries
graham.schultz@ipswich.qld.gov.au 

Mayor Teresa Harding
mayor@ipswich.qld.gov.au
07 3810 6011

Updates

* Pariah Paranormal have since told me that money they raise goes to the sites themselves. 
** This device has now been identified as a home-made 'REM pod'. I'm not sure why it is prominently marked as a 'trap'. These are described here - Ghost Hunting Gadgets: The REM Pod | Skeptical Inquirer - as:

"In closing, this device is an overpriced novelty, much like the repackaged cat toy (ball) I mentioned earlier. The REM Pod provides no useable data, and even if it did, the lack of experimental controls during common use would render any data useless. It’s the thrill of the device lighting up/making noise for “no apparent reason” and “just like on TV” that entices ghost hunters to spend their money on products such as this. Money that would be put to much better use purchasing a book on critical thinking, which is what I would recommend."