Grave diggers, asylum inmates and even the ghost of a cricketer walk the paths of the cemetery this All Hallows’ Eve.
More than 130 people have already registered for tours this evening, with a few latecomers still purchasing tickets at the gate.
It’s still light outside and in the distance you can see the ghostly forms of lost souls walking among the graves.
These ghosts are played by a handful of Bendigo South East College Academy of Creative Arts students, dressed in period clothes or ghastly makeup.
We meet our guide Shoshanna, dressed as a witch, inside the rotunda, built in 1898, and get ready to depart on our Ghosts of Bendigo Past tour. Remembrance Parks Central Victoria runs these tours annually for Halloween. Tonight it’s at the White Hills cemetery.
A ticket guarantees you a spot on the half-hour tour, along with refreshments afterwards in the rotunda.
We’re on the early tour, and find our group small, but by the final excursions tonight, that number swells to about 50 people per tour.
We begin with a brief history of the cemetery, gazetted in 1853, and the oldest managed by Remembrance Parks Central Victoria.
It was first used by the Chinese during the gold rush to bury their dead, but without registrations at the cemetery back then, no records exist of the first person buried here.
Our tour takes us through the weaving paths of the cemetery to learn about some of the notable people buried here.
As we wander to each grave, we’re reminded to be respectful and watch where we place our feet.
The ghost of cricketer Harry Boyle is one who we met on the tour, who recounts his tale of playing in the 1882 Australia v England cricket series. “As a bowler, I relied on the headwork and accuracy of length, I could make the ball do just enough to beat the bat,” he tells us.
We also hear the tale of Chin Gim who spent many years in the Bendigo Benevolent Asylum, miner William Alfred whose body was found in the bush in 1872 and Mollie Lazarus who was buried away from her Jewish husband Samuel.
All proceeds from tonight go towards volunteers’ resources to expand and improve services. Beginning in late November, Remembrance Parks Central Victoria will also launch its “notable graves” self-guided tour. Visit http://rpcv.com.au/ for more information.