Sunday, December 21, 2014

HGB Podcast 17 - Quarantine Station in Australia

Moment in Oddity - Santhara Ritual

Jainism is an Indian religion that practices abstaining from worldly pleasures and believes in non-violence.  it is also a religion that carries on a very odd annual ritual known as Santhara.  Santhara is a ritual several hundred Jains dedicate themselves to each year that requires the participant to fast to death.  It is believed that this practice is the ultimate way to die with good Karma.  This ritual is not only for Jain monks, but for any Jain who decides they want to do this and many of those people are perfectly healthy.  The numbers have been increasing in the last decade.  The participating Jain gradually gives up solid and liquid nourishment as he or she gives up worldly attachments and makes peace with death.  Spectators gather in the last days of those who are practicing Santhara, to support and glorify them and watch them pass out of this life.  The longest any participant has managed to survive is 87 days.  The practice is controversial as many consider it to be suicide.  Regardless of whether one sees the ritual as suicide or not, there is no doubt that such a practice is indeed odd.

This Day in History - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Premieres

On this day, December 21st, in 1937, the Walt Disney Production Company premiered a breakthrough movie that was a huge risk.  Walt Disney gambled everything on this project that took three years to make and cost $1.4 million.  750 artists worked to create the 2 million individual paintings that make up the film.  That movie was the first ever full length animated feature and it was based on a European fairytale.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles to a soldout crowd and 30,000 other people who could not get tickets gathered outside the theater to celebrate the event.  The character of Snow White was developed by animator Hamilton Luske and was voiced by Adriana Caselotti.  A young dancer named Marjorie Celeste Belcher who was also the daughter of another animator, Ernest Belcher, served as a live action model for the artists, so that Snow White would appear on film as life-like as possible.  Snow White was the first Disney princess and she is one of the few fictional characters to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  The dwarfs are the heart of the story and give the film its real character while the Evil Queen sets the precedence for future villains.  The film won a special Academy Award that featured seven little Oscars and its original worldwide gross was $8.5 million.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the highest grossing movie of all time until Gone With the Wind took the title away in 1940.

Quarantine Station in Australia


Quarantine Station is a heritage site located in Manly, which is a suburb of Sydney in Australia, that holds much historical significance for the country.  The place was used as a quarantine station from 1833 until 1983.  There is much more than history to this site though.  This site is reportedly one of the most haunted locations in all of Australia!

The expanse that the Quarantine Station is located on was once an area that Aborigines occupied and had not only used as a living space, but also part of the site was an aboriginal burial ground.  Aborigines are believed to have arrived in Australia around 70,000 years ago.  The first European visitor was a Dutchman by the name of Willem Janszoon and he arrived in 1606.  The Dutch continued throughout the century to explore Australia and they named it "New Holland."  The United Kingdom sent explorers as well and in 1770 Lieutenant James Cook charted the East Coast of Australia and returned to Britain announcing that it would be a good idea to colonize the continent.  The UK did just that, but not in a very favorable way.  They decided to send their cast offs to Australia and so in 1788, the First Fleet arrived in Australia in the area that would become Sydney with a cargo of convicts.  As was the case with explorers to North America, these new residents of Australia brought disease with them and soon the Aborigines found their numbers declining with some clans becoming almost completely extinct.

As is the case with growing immigration, the need to keep disease from entering the land became apparent.  When we say disease, we are talking about diseases like Whooping Cough and Small Pox.  Early on, sick people were contained to ships and not allowed to come to land until they were healthy, but healthy people did enter, many carrying disease.  The government realized that people had to be put through a quarantine period before being allowed to roam about the colonies and so in 1828, this space that had been named Spring Cove at North Head became a place for quarantine.  The site was chosen because of its distance from the center of Sydney and the fact that the area had natural springs.  In 1833, the Quarantine Station was officially opened with 36 tents set up for healthy people to live in while waiting for their quarantine to end.  Sick people were kept on board ships.

In 1838, several buildings were built to replace the tents and stone markers were set up to mark the boundaries of the site.  Quarantines were long and conditions were miserable.  People who died on the ships and in quarantine were buried at the Quarantine Beach.  By 1840, the crowding at the station had become abhorrent with four children to a bed.  A Resident Superintendent was appointed to help work to make the conditions livable.  In 1844, a woman by the name of Louise Ann Meredith wrote in an eyewitness account, "Near the North Head is the quarantine-ground, off which one unlucky vessel was moored when we passed; and on the brow of the cliff a few tombstones indicate the burial-place of those unhappy exiles who die during the time of ordeal, and those whose golden dreams of the far-sought land of promise lead but to a lone and desolate grave on its storm-beaten shore."

In 1847, the station was expanded to include kitchens, bathrooms and a hospital, but the area was still only equipped to handle less than 200 people.  Most ships would arrive with a thousand people.  In the 1850s, the Station was again expanded, but by the 1860s immigration had drastically slowed down and the Station stopped being maintained.  This proved to be disastrous when a smallpox epidemic hit Sydney forcing the quarantine of large numbers of residents in 1881.  A Royal Commission was formed and the Station was drastically upgraded.  At about this same time, medical discoveries informed us that there was a connection between cleanliness and disease and so measures were implemented at the Station to improve cleanliness.

The brick buildings that are a part of the Quarantine Station to this day were built in the early 1900s.  The Station was able to accommodate 1,200 people at a time and the Commonwealth government had taken over operations.  Everything was good until the influenza pandemic of 1918.  The facility was overstretched and five of the nursing staff there died of the flu along with many people.  After 1919, things improved once again and only two deaths occurred at the Station after that year.  The Quarantine Station saw less and less use and by the 1970s it was mostly being used to fumigate cargos.

In 1984, the Quarantine Station became part of the Sydney Harbor National Park and a Conference and Functions Center was added.  The National Parks and Wildlife Service maintains the site, but private funding has had to be used to help prevent the Station from falling into complete disrepair.  Quarantine Station now features Q Station, a hotel with magnificent views, suites and cottages.  Weddings and conferences are held here.  There are numerous tours as well that feature history tours and ghost tours and educational programs are offered.

Any location that has been around as long as the Quarantine Station and been the location of not only aboriginal burial grounds, but also the place were numerous deaths have occurred in less than stellar conditions, has the possibility of paranormal activity.  The Station has been featured on numerous TV shows including Ghost Hunters International.  Stories of supernatural activity date back to the start of the Station.  Some of the earliest stories were reported by nurses on night shift who would see ghosts that appeared to be what they described as "Chinamen with long ponytails."  Lights would turned on in unoccupied areas of the hospital as well.  Shadow people have been seen on several occasions.

A young blonde girl's spirit has been experienced by tourists on many occasions.  She reportedly holds people's hands with her icy grip and leads them around the site.  She occasionally is seen hiding in the bushes and will tug on people's clothing.  She has appeared to be so real that some people just assume she is a child taking the tour until no one claims her and guides inform everyone that there were no children booked on the tour.

There are three rundown and overgrown cemeteries on the property with nearly all the headstones gone.  In one cemetery, all that is left is one small headstone surrounded by a black wrought iron fence.  The cemetery is reported to be icy cold even in the summer.  But the cemeteries are not the creepiest location at the Station.  The creepiest area is the Shower Block and many visitors to the spot, including psychics, claim that it is evil.  There is a resident spirit there that seems to have undergone some sort of sexual abuse.  Screams are heard coming from a corner of the Shower Block and light bulbs explode.  The Australian Ghost Hunters Society relays the following tales on their website about the Shower Block:
"One resident gave his family a tour of the shower block, feeling uneasy he encouraged everyone to return back to his residence as dusk was approaching and none of the roads had lights along with most of the buildings. The family however, insisted on seeing the shower block. They entered the building and saw the cable box which contained exposed cables that were hanging out. The building had no electricity and to make sure and prove this the resident flipped the light switch a couple of times.

They all walked down the center aisle and upon reaching the third cubicle, the end door (which was rusted open) suddenly slammed shut. To the surprise of everyone the lights came on and footsteps paced around at the opposite end of the shower block. Do I need to mention that everyone exited the shower block at a fast pace? When they walked out the lights turned off. Decided to have another look they walked in again, once again the lights turned on when approaching the third cubicle.
December 1992 a hen's night went for a tour and when inside the shower block (after being told the above story) the third cubicle shower turned on. The women all screamed and ran out. No one had actually turned the shower on. Two of them dared to go back inside and turn the shower off, once inside a loud banging sound came from the other end of the showers which sounded as if someone was kicking the corrugated iron. They all nearly had a stroke on the spot and ran for it out of there! At the time there was no one else around that could of turned the shower on or created the banging noises and the women were all too terrified to be playing tricks on each other."
  On the blog Ghost and Girl, author Laura reports an experience she had while visiting the Station:
"During a ghost tour at the Station, I experienced the smell of potatoes as we walked towards the second class dining facilities. I wasn't the only one, as a handful of other tour attendees also picked up on the smell, but there were others who couldn't smell anything at all. The tour guide then proceeded to reveal to the group that the smell of potatoes is often picked up by members of tour groups. This event sticks out in my mind due to the fact that at the time, the Quarantine Station did not have a restaurant or accommodation, so there was no obvious explanation for the smell. As the Station is quite isolated, there is little opportunity for contamination from other sites."
Other sounds are heard at times too that range from the sound of keys being dropped to rocks being rolled on the ground to scratching noises.  People are touched and many get that feeling that they are being watched.

Sonia details the following personal experience on her blog Life Love and Hiccups and there is a photo that accompanies this blog post as well you might want to check out:
"In the caretaker's cottage apparently resides the ghost of Sam. According to mediums, Sam is a poltergeist who along with the ability to move things, push and even knock people over and manipulate the temperature from hot to icy cold breezes, Sam is also a cranky soul who doesn't like people nosying around his cottage.

Despite being told this, we still nervously but respectfully wandered around the dark rooms of the caretaker's cottage in the pitch black, ours eyes adjusting to the darkness and our senses on high alert.

Apart from the overwhelming eeriness of the cottage, nothing much happened. Just a few bangs here and there, but nothing that sent me running from the building.

As we left the cottage, I lingered at the entrance with an older couple who were on the tour with us. I was standing across the doorway, pointing my phone into the empty cottage and taking photos, when we distinctively felt a warm breeze pass between us. This was odd in itself given we were standing outside on a hill where it was freezing cold. The three of us commented on it at the same time and nervously laughed it off before moving on to the next building."
The Quarantine Station provided a very needed service many years ago.  The Q Station provides a wonderful service today by giving people a chance to get away from it all for a little rest and relaxation and fine dining.  Is it possible that the Station is still providing a service and accommodations for those that have already departed this plane of existence?  Is the Quarantine Station haunted?  That is for you to decide.

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