THERE is a musty smell of old bricks at the Old Castlemaine Gaol. It is understandable since the prison was built in the 1850s and operated until 1995.
Reminding yourself of the fact that some of Australia’s worst criminals, serving sentences for some horrible crimes, were housed here during that 140 years adds to the atmosphere for people touring the facility on a Saturday night.
Last Saturday ghost hunting team Forever Haunted led a small group around the Castlemaine institution to impart their knowledge and skills onto a few more potential ghost hunters.
Psychic medium Anthony Kilner led the expedition with investigation team leader Garry Sullivan.
Mr Sullivan is the “sceptic” of the team and helps debunk a lot of the theories put forward about supernatural occurrences.
But rather than waiting for the dramatic moment of a spirit or ghost standing at the top of the stairs, the Forever Haunted team simply collects, collates and analyses data.
There is not leaping to ghostly conclusions, they look for the logical answer before fully believing spirits are stalking the tour.
“We probably have about five or six hours of audio-visual stuff that needs to be sifted through,” Mr Kilner said.
“If something jumps up, we play with it, enhance it and see what it is.”
The investigation last Saturday was to teach the small group of participants how to be ghost investigators.
“It’s not about running tours, it’s about imparting knowledge on how investigations work both spiritually and technically,” Mr Kilner said.
“We want people to come in with no expectation. As investigators we need to be very calm about how we do things.
“What we’re trying to do is disprove absolutely everything around what might be a spirit and that leaves us with something we can’t explain and that can only be from the spirit world.
“We are teaching people how to understand the whole process. It’s not about having a closed mind but looking at what, why or how something is and understanding what or how something has happened.”
Mr Sullivan has the job of keeping the team gelled together.
Armed with suitcase full of trigger objects that are aimed to tempt spirits out of the unknown.
He also has field equipment design to explain any occurring phenomenons.
“I generally use a lot of equipment to quantify the things that happen,” he said. Mr Sullivan still calls himself a sceptic despite having seen a lot of unexplained phenomenon.
He searches every aspect of logic during occurrences and even if he is left with a spiritual answer, won’t say something is or isn’t a ghost.
At the start of the day participants are split into two groups and sent to different parts of the gaol.
Guided by Mr Kilner, Mr Sullivan and the Forever Haunted team, they describe and document any feelings, sensations or thoughts on aspects of the gaol.
Then the groups swap over and go through the same process. The aim is to try to cross reference the information and see if there is any correlation.
“We have two visuals going and within that, the same questions that need to be cross referenced,” Mr Kilner said.
“It’s not just one person who needs to see (or experience) something, it should be seen a second or third time to see if it's same thing.
“It has to make sense, blind faith is wrong. We have to come to the conclusion that it can’t be anything but ‘that’.”
Before going to the Old Castlemaine Gaol, Mr Kilner is uninformed of history, prisoners or information about the historical site.
He tells "sceptic” Mr Sullivan his feelings, names, dates and descriptions from his mind’s eye. Mr Sullivan then does the research to see if anything correlates with history.
“The short answer is you can go through records and a couple of people in the cells found names that were at the gaol,” Mr Kilner said.
“So far from two investigations at Castlemaine Gaol I have had name and descriptions proven correct.
“It will always be my word (against other people’s) but it’s no fun if I do the research beforehand. I like to feel that validation (of being proven right).”
Forever Haunted has only been operating since the start of the year but Mr Kilner and Mr Sullivan have been working together for about five years.
The pair met at another ghost adventure company when Sullivan conducted Mr Kilner’s interview.
It was far from an average job interview with Mr Kilner taken to the Geelong Gaol and asked to tell Mr Sullivan whatever came to mind.
“We went around and talked about what feelings and names I was getting,” Mr Kilner said.
“But what got him the most was in one wing of the Geelong Gaol where I had never been I felt there was a woman beaten by another woman.
“I said ‘this is going to sound weird because this is a men’s prison but I feel like being hit with timber in the stomach and on the back'.
“It turned out the whole wing was segregated in the early days for woman and children from the street.”
Mr Kilner has also toured and had memorable experiences at Ararat and Beechworth asylums as well as international places including Edinburgh Bridge in Scotland.
“I’ve been doing this for a lot of years and have had a few things happen to me and the team members,” he said.
“The thing that stood out for me was the ghost of a girl called Marianne who I met at Barwon Park.
“We were doing a vigil in her bedroom and had people around the bed, when I started playing the flute you could see hand prints and foot prints going into the bed and then moving around on the bed.
It’s not just one person who need to see (or experience) something, it should be seen a second or third time to see if its same thing.
“That was one of the more special ones because it happened more than once and in front of about 15 people.”
Nothing as dramatic or as thrilling as Marianne happened at the Old Castlemaine Gaol last Saturday night but the Forever Haunted team is still checking the tapes.
Forever Haunted can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ForeverHauntedParanatural
To see what happened to the Forever Haunted team at the Old Castlemaine Gaol, watch the Bendigo Advertiser’s video online at www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au