GHOSTS IN DARWIN

(Investigator 61, 1998 July)

 Ghosts in Darwin went public around April Fools Day, haunted media personnel, and made headlines around Australia.

Media publicity began April 2 on the front page of the Litchfield Times – a sensationalist, privately owned, weekly newspaper.

The Northern Territory News (NTN) was next. "Riddle of the Haunted House" said the page one headline on April 3. The paper reported that bottles, knives and other objects had flown about the house for six weeks. Exorcism, a Mass and priestly blessing, involving five priests, had failed to expel the spirits. NTN reporters observed smashed windows, flying stones and falling scissors. One priest reportedly said, "... the house it was trashed."  He added that knives and bottles flying around defied the laws of physics.

The Australian Skeptics Association immediately offered $100,000 for proof it wasn't a hoax. In addition Darwin skeptic Brian De Kretser put up his $180,000 house!  A total of  $280,000!

Announced one tenant, "We'll have them in for the night and prove them wrong."

Instead the tenants – Dave Clark, Kirsty Agius, Jill Sommerville, Bernie Clark and Doug Murphy accepted a much smaller offer from Channel Seven!  An exclusive contract signed with Today Tonight meant the skeptics could not get near the place!

Meanwhile, the former owner who had lived in the house for 20 years attributed the haunting to his eviction by the bank in 1993:  "My spirit every night is there. Every night I'm there in my dreams." (NTN April 6)

The TV crew spent April 6-10 at the house with cameras set up in most rooms.  Journalist Greg Quail declared, "We were all skeptics but came out convinced."  "Ghostbusters become believers" announced the Litchfield Times headline on April 16.

Shocked at damage the alleged ghosts had caused, the current owners served the tenants an eviction notice. A security guard hired to patrol the property fled when a knife landed at his feet!

The stories got wierder: pages torn from Bibles by invisible forces; scrabble tiles arranging themselves to spell  "no cameras".

The Today Tonight report was aired nationally on April 20th and 21st  to record viewing audiences.  Balls, supposedly not thrown by any human, were shown bouncing about.  "It's No Hoax" said the page one NTN headline on April 21st.

Many viewers, however, were skeptical. "I phoned Channel Seven after the first program to point out that the tenants were in the house the whole time," said Investigator reader Frank Russo. "They should have been kicked out to prevent mischief in case THEY were the ghosts!"

The second program included new footage which showed a plastic lid mysteriously crashing against a wall and a faint reflection in a glass cabinet!  Magnifying and slowing down the sequence exposed the reflection and the thrower as one of the tenants Kirsty Agius!

The Litchfield Times (April 23) said that the eviction notice had been overturned. It reported that Simon Potter, spokesman for the NorthernTerritory Skeptics, hoped that the skeptics could now at last check the house out. "Fan theory in 'ghost house'" (NTN April 25)  gave Simon Potter's theory that objects placed on, or stuck to, the blades of a ceiling fan would fly off as the speed increased.

The tenants declared, "He's not welcome."  Instead they invited a Mr Healy and Paul Cropper, both "experienced in investigation", to spend the night.  Both concluded the tenants were honest people "with no reason to invent a ghost."  A Sydney Morning Herald journalist also visited and claimed the idea of hoax is "ridiculous". (Litchfield Times April 30; May 7)

Brian De Kretser, however, commented, "These two are no more researchers than the man in the moon. One of them believes in yowies. They will allow anyone in except the skeptics."

On May 3rd the five tenants moved out. The Litchfield Times circulation by that time is said to have doubled!

"Poltergeist House 'difficult to rent'" said the headline on May 14. The reason, according to Mr De Kretser, is: "Over 90% here are believers."

Finally on May 23 Simon Potter, accompanied by a free-lance ghost-buster, examined the haunted house.  "Surprise, surprise," reported Mr De Kretser.  "No ghost. No nothing!"

Unconfirmed estimates say that the Channel Seven contract with the tenants was for $100,000 enough to buy a house for themselves!

(BS)


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