Category Archives: Reviews

Books and movies

Spirit encounters or just plain spooky

Spirit encounter at Bakerville café?? Or just a speedy waitress. Picture credit: Sheree Scott

Spirit encounter at Bakerville café?? Or just a speedy waitress. Picture credit: Sheree Scott

Halloween is nearly upon us.

It is that time of the year when the veils between the realms of spirit and matter are thought to be at their thinnest – the time different cultures have determined when wandering spirits more easily make themselves known to the living and seek to leave the Earthly plane for the next stage in their evolution.

It has been my experience that spirits (be that ghosts/entities/energy imprints or thoughts forms) don’t just wait for Halloween (also called All Hallows Eve). They can make themselves known at just about any time. It may be they’re curious, ready for a change or just find someone they resonate with.

The truth is there are subtle vibrations coming to us all the time from the unknown or unseen reality, what people might consider the world of spirit. I’ve been on organised ghost tours of The Rocks in Sydney and Port Arthur in Tasmania – which certainly have their challenges for the “energy sensitive” but I’ve had far more spirit encounters in other “ordinary” places too numerous to mention.

One recent place I visited – whole-heartedly expecting to sense spirits – was Herberton Historical Village, about 90 minutes’ drive inland from Cairns in North Queensland. There are so many buildings and artefacts here from the 1800s onwards that you would well expect to sense a few echoes from the past. Well they were more like shouts. I did make the mistake of entering an old police lock-up building and tuning into the energy first up, followed by the adjoining gun display. The small 2x3m timber structure would have been a hell-hole in the tropical heat and the guns were certainly charged with emotion considering the lawless pioneering and gold mining days.  I couldn’t get out quick enough.

What ensued was an increasingly oppressive heaviness around my head which developed into a shocking headache, aided probably by dehydration as I continued exploring the extensive outdoor museum.

DonThe mechanical shoemaker is creepy.’t be put off, this is a great collection of everyday memorabilia and a wonderful time capsule of the 1900s, back into the 1800s. Just make sure you’re prepared – and don’t visit the jail lock-up first. There’s plenty of good vibes: an old movie projector from 1929; Daisy the 1923 T-Model Ford; a working steam engine built in 1886 from the Ravenshoe Saw Mill; a miner’s cottage, pharmacy, fire engine, sewing machines and radio/music room, the Tin Pannikin Pub and real classrooms from the former Herberton School.

At the other end of the  village museum is a café set out in the original Bakerville Hotel. My timing was perfect here to snap a “ghostly encounter” photo (top photo) – the woman in the picture wasn’t a real ghost, just a very quick waitress who glided into the picture at just the right time. I thought it was impressive.

Piano in the Bakerville café has character

Piano in the Bakerville café has character

They do have a piano here that does play itself which is rather spooky – it’s called the Pianola.

Bushie tends the camp fire at Herberton Historical Village.

Across a swing bridge is a truck and tractor graveyard which is a work in progress, and a place to sit and relax – the Bushie’s Pioneer Camp where you can get billy tea and damper or camp oven stew straight off the fire.

So if you want to go hunting spooks for Halloween – put Herberton Historical Village on your to-do list. You won’t be disappointed.

Can’t get to my spooky stomping ground in North Queensland? I know one book that might get you looking closer to home. In Where Spirits Dwell, real-life spooks in suburbia become almost second nature.

Book Review: Where Spirits Dwell by Karina Machado (publisher Hachette Australia) Where Spirits Dwell

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, journalist Karina Machado has gathered enough anecdotal evidence to show unexplained or paranormal events can happen to the most normal of people. I find something irresistible about a good ghost story and Where Spirits Dwell has them popping up all over the place. Definitely one to read in daylight hours, there’s the spine-tingling cases of a dark presence in the bedroom, where even a dog is scratching to get out of the house, to a dead girl who ate ant poison haunting a young family in Normanton in Australia’s remote north – possibly to stop history repeating.  There are infamous Australian haunted houses like The Abbey in Sydney, that stay in the dreams of past inhabitants, and cases of a loving mother on the other side who just want to care for someone else’s youngsters. Behind the facade of many Sydney homes, Machado finds tales of the bizarre and touching, weaving a descriptive tale of various experiences for a broad introduction to what might well happen to you. There is an intimacy created by snippets of Machado’s own experiences and general musings, which are more for believers and the curious than rigid sceptics.

Prepare to believe. And give yourself a salt scrub under the shower if it all gets too much, and leave a small tray of rock salt beside your bed for the night (remember to flush it down the toilet the next day).

It works for me.

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Mental – what is normal anyway?

There are two great movies out this month that are poignant and a great laugh, both challenging what is “normal” and “acceptable” behaviour. PJ Hogan’s Mental is a brilliant comedy about a family in crisis and a hitch-hiker who thinks destiny brought them together for her own reasons. Challenging the stigma of mental health, how we see ourselves and compare ourselves to others doesn’t sound funny, but in the hands of PJ Hogan (Murial’s Wedding) it surely is. It was even more poignant hearing that it was based on his own family and upbringing in Queensland/Tweed Heads in the 1980s – something I can relate well to.

The TV shorts don’t do it justice. The cast is impressive – Toni Collette, Rebecca Gibney, Anthony La Paglia – many of whom contacted PJ to get the roles despite the low budget.

The French film, The Intouchables, brings together a quadraplegic millionaire (Francois Cluzet) and an unemployed ex-con (Omar Sy), who becomes his carer. It is a touching tale of trust, friendship and acceptance with comic disregard for “acceptable” behaviour. Don’t let the subtitles put you off this one – it has had justifiably huge success overseas – nine weeks at number 1 in Germany, second-highest grossing film in French box office history.

It is also based on a true story – which adds to the honesty and humour between the two individuals who, on the surface, would seem worlds apart.