Moment in Oddity - McLean Residences Part of Start and End of Civil War
by: Bob Sherfield
Born in May 1814, Wilmer McLean of Virginia is know as the man of which the American Civil War "started in his front yard and ended in his front parlour." When the opening engagement of the First battle of Bull Run took place on July 21, 186,1 Wilmer Mclean’s house, located in William County, just south of Washington DC, was being used as Confederate Brigadier General Beauregard’s headquarters. As the General and his soldiers were preparing to have dinner, a cannonball ripped through the wall of the kitchen, and landed in the fireplace. Of the event, General Beauregard noted in his diary "A comical effect of this artillery fight was the destruction of the dinner of myself and staff by a Federal shell that fell into the fire-place of my headquarters at the McLean House." This shot was part of the opening salvo of what would become the First Battle of Bull Run. McLean had been a Major in the Virginia Militia, but at 47 had retired and was too old to return to active duty at the outbreak of the Civil War, so during the conflict Mclean worked as a sugar broker providing the Confederate Army with this and other supplies run through Union blockades, whilst renting the 1,200 acre plantation to the Confederate forces, who converted the barn to a military hospital, and then a detention centre for Union soldiers. The Second battle of Bull Run in 1862 left his property a shambles. The fact that he was living in an area of Northern Virginia heavy with Union troops, whilst his commercial activities were mostly in Southern Virginia caused his businesses to suffer. This, coupled with a desire to protect his pregnant wife and family and avoid exposing them to any more war, led them, in the spring of 1863, to move 120 miles south to a settlement centred around the Appomattox Court House. Wilmer Mclean may have hoped that this moved would be the end of his involvement with the war, but he would be wrong. In April 1865, as the war drew towards it conclusion, General Robert E Lee was on the verge of surrendering to his Union counterpart Ulysses Grant. In preparation for this, a messenger searching for a suitable location conversed with McLean who offered the use of his own house. On Palm Sunday, April 9th 1865, Lee resplendent in new uniform sat down with a mud spattered and travel weary Grant in the parlour of the property and surrendered. Almost as soon as the ceremony was over, Union officers that were present began to buy the furniture that was in the parlour. The desk on which Grant drafted the surrender document ended up in the possession of a certain General G Custer. By the end of the day, Mclean’s house had been nearly picked clean by souvenir hunters. The fact that the McLeans lived in two different houses that eventually marked the beginning and then the end of the Civil War, certainly is odd!
This Day in History - John Snow Born
by: Jessica Bell
On this day, March 15, in 1813, John Snow, an English physician and epidemiologist, was born in York, England. Dr Snow is known for being a leader in medical hygiene and for the adoption of anesthesia techniques. John Snow was one of the first physicians to study and calculate dosages for the use of ether and chloroform as surgical anesthetics, allowing patients to undergo surgical and obstetric procedures without the distress and pain they would otherwise experience. He designed the apparatus to safely administer ether to the patients and also designed a mask to administer chloroform. He personally administered chloroform to Queen Victoria when she gave birth to the last two of her nine children, Leopold and Beatrice, leading to wider public acceptance of obstetric anesthesia. Dr Snow was also responsible for tracing the source of a cholera outbreak in London in 1854. Dr Snow did not believe that cholera was an airborne disease, which was the theory at the time and instead he examined a public water pump in London based on cholera outbreaks nearby. Once the pump was shut down, the cholera outbreak ceased. Upon further examination it was then learned that the water pump had been dug only 3 feet (0.9 m) from an old cesspit, which had begun to leak fecal bacteria. These findings then played a role which lead to changes in the water and waste systems of London, which also led to similar changes in other cities, and a significant improvement in general public health around the world.
(Suggested and researched by: Jennilee Watt)
Australia is a rugged land and due to the fact that much of the country started as a series of penal colonies, it is no wonder that gaols have become an intregral part of its history. Fremantle is a major port city located in Western Australia, which is the biggest territory in Australia at 2,529,875 square km (976,790 sq ml.) Jennilee Watt is a tour guide in Fremantle and she is going to take us on a journey to three key locations in Fremantle: Round House, Fremantle Gaol and the Lunacy Asylum. There is more to these locations than just a long history in Australia. These locations all seem to have supernatural activity. Join us as we explore some of the highlights of Fremantle in Western Australia!
The first inhabitants of Australia were the Indigenous Aboriginals
and they arrived around 40,000 to 60,000 years ago. The first
recorded European to visit Western Australia was Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog, who
landed on an island off Cape Inscription on October 25, 1616. That island came to be known as Dirk
Hartog Island. The coastline of Western Australia is very
hard to navigate, which is evidenced by the number of ship wrecks that dot the coastline. For this reason, not many explorers or colonists came to this area for the next 200 years. Western Australia was established as the Swan River Colony on May 2, 1829. It wasn’t until January 1, 1901 that Western Australia became part of the Australian Federation. Western Australia is a little different than the rest of Colonial Australia because the Swan River settlement was intended to be a convict free settlement.
The traditional owners of the land on which Fremantle now stands are the Whadjuk Noongar people, who called the area Walyalup, which translates into ‘the crying place’ or the ‘place of crying’. Fremantle is an important place for the Noongar people as it is a place of meeting, trading and ceremonies. The Round House was the first permanent building erected in the Swan River colony and is the oldest building in Western Australia. It was built in 1830 and opened in 1831 and is situated on a limestone hill, known as Arthur Head. The Round House was used as a prison for colonial and indigenous prisoners until Fremantle Gaol was constructed. It has twelve sides that gives it a rounded appearance, thus the name Round House. It was used until 1886 to house prisoners. Later it was a police station for the Water Police and eventually used for storage for the ports. In 1900, a ceremonial ball drop became a standard part of Round House to help navigators know what time it was. Today, the ceremony is still conducted as a re-enactment.
The first person of European decent executed in Western Australia was executed at the Round House. That prisoner was a 15 year old boy named John Gavin. Gavin was a convict who was transported to Western Australia as a Parkhurst Apprentice aboard the ship "The Shepherd" The ship landed in October of 1843. Parkhurst Apprentices were juvenile prisoners from the Parkhurst Prison who had their prison term transported to either Australian or New Zealand between 1842 and 1852. On arrival the prisoners were sent to be apprenticed for the term of their sentence. Gavin was tried and convicted of the murder of his employer’s son, George Pollard, while he slept. Although Gavin confessed to the murder, he never gave a rational motive. Gavin was hung at public execution outside the Round House on the 6th of April 1844. Because he was such a young man and didn’t weigh a lot, it is said that the executioner had to weight his legs down with chains. A death mask was made and his brain studied before he was buried in the sand hills.
One for the most noted prisoners of the Round House is Yagan, who was an indigenous Australian warrior of the Noongar people. He played a key role in early resistance against British settlement. Yagan is thought to have been in his mid 30’s when the Swan River settlement began. For the first two years, the relationship between the settlers and the Noongar people was quite good. The Noongar people actually thought the setters were the Djanga, the return of the spirits of their descendants. It wasn’t until the settlers started erecting fences to create farming and grazing land that destroyed the land used by the Noongar people as hunting grounds, that they started to figure out that these people were not their ancestors. The Noongar people were denied access to areas which they had hunted for thousands of years and as a result, had to resort to buying cattle and the like from the settlers to survive. The Noongar practice of Firestick farming, where the bush was set alight to not only flush out game but to also encourage the germination of undergrowth to sustain the environment, threatened the farming and housing of the settlers.
Between 1831 and 1832 Yagan and his father lead a number of resistance attacks against white settlers, which led the settlement to declare Yagan an outlaw and to offer a reward of 20 pounds for his capture. He managed to avoid capture until December 1832 and he was taken to the Round House. Yagan was sentenced to death because of the number of settlers who were killed during the resistance. A settler named Robert Lyon was able to save Yagan from death by arguing that he was simply defending his land and thus he should be treated as a prisoner of war. As a form of punishment, Yagan and his men were sent to Carnac Island with John Septimus Roe, who was the Surveyor General of Western Australia. Roe thought he could teach Yagan British customs and convert him to Christianity. The two men did in fact teach each other quite a bit about their individual customs. Roe learned the Noongar language during that time. Yagan and his men escaped back to the mainland after about a month, but they were not pursued.
For a while after this, Yagan was accepted into the colony and was actually given permission to host a Corroboree in Perth. You may remember that term from another Australia podcast. This was a traditional ceremony and dance conducted by the Noongar. The event was documented by the Perth Gazette and they wrote that Yagan was "a master of ceremonies and acquitted himself with infinite grace and dignity." This time of peace between Yagan, the Noongar people and the settlers was not to continue for long and there were a number of attacks committed by both the settlers and the Noongar. In April of 1833, a party of Noongar broke into a store room in Fremantle to steal flour and food, and were shot at by the caretaker Peter Chidlow. Yagan’s brother, Domjum, was shot and later died of his injuries in jail. Yagan was said to have vowed for vengeance for the death of his brother and a party of Noongar that was 50 to 60 strong, ambushed a settlers provision cart and killed two settlers, John and Tom Velvick. Tribal law indicated that vengeance could be sought by killing only one person. So killing two sttelers was seen as wrong. Some historians have stated that the Velvick’s were actually targeted because they had previously attacked and assaulted aboriginals, Chinamen and coloured seamen.
For the killing of the brothers, the Lieutenant Governor Frederick Irwin declared Yagan, his father Midgegooroo and another tribe member, Munday, outlaws. There was a 20 pound ransom for the capture of Midgegooroo and Munday and a 30 pound ransom dead or alive on Yagan. Midgegooroo was captured and executed by firing squad after a very short trial and Munday appealed his conviction. Yagan wasn’t caught for two months, but he was eventually discovered by William and James Keates, who tried to convince Yagan to stay with them so avoid capture but actually planned on killing Yagan for the reward. William Keates shot Yagan, and his brother shot another Noongar named Heegan, who was trying to defend Yagan. James was able to escape but William was killed. Settlers later came upon the three and found Heegan still alive, but badly injured. The settlers killed him. In order to claim the reward, the settlers cut off Yagan’s head and skinned the part of his back that had tribal markings. They kept the skin as a trophy. James Keates did actually claim the reward, but his actions were widely criticized. In fact the Perth Gazette referred to Yagan’s killing as “a wild and treacherous act… it is revolting to hear this lauded as a meritorious deed.” It is said that Keates left the colony shortly thereafter, perhaps in fear of retaliation. In Jennilee's opinion, she doubts very much that the Noongar would have allowed him to live.
To add insult to injury, Yagan's head was preserved by smoking. Governor Irwin traveled to London with the head to give his own opinion of the events that lead to the killings. While in London the head changed hands a number of times, and was known as an “anthropological curiosity.” Eventually, Yagan’s head became part of Thomas Pettigrew’s collection. Pettigrew was known for hosting house parties where he would dissect a number of Egyptian Mummies. Pettigrew had Yagan's head examined and a pamphlet about it made. He then had the head adorned with a feather head piece made from the tail feather of a red tailed black cockatoo. The head then came into the Liverpool Museum collection, although it was never on display. In 1964 the head was buried with that of a Maori head and a Peruvian Mummy, in Everton cemetery. In 1980, the Noongar people began to petition for repatriation of Yagan’s head. They stated “ it is Aboriginal belief that because Yagan’s skeletal remains are incomplete, his spirit is earthbound. The uniting of his head and torso will immediately set his spirit free to continue its eternal journey.” The repatriation of the head took a number of years because of ongoing conflicts, as well as the issue that the rest of the body could not be found. Eventually the head was reburied in a private ceremony attended only by Noongar elders on the 10th of July 2010. The site that was chosen was believed to be near the rest of his body. The burial coincided with the opening of the Yagan Memorial Park.
Fremantle Prison, sometimes referred to as Fremantle Gaol, is a former Australian prison in Fremantle, Western Australia. The six-hectare (15-acre) site includes the prison cellblocks, gatehouse, perimeter walls, cottages, and tunnels. Initially known as the Convict Establishment or The Establishment, it was constructed with the use of convict labour between 1851 and 1859. The prison was transferred to the colonial government in 1886 to use for locally-sentenced prisoners. Punishments varied over the years, with flogging and time in irons eventually replaced by lengthening of sentences and deprivation of visitors or entertainment. More than 40 hangings were carried out at Fremantle Prison, which was Western Australia's only lawful place of execution, between 1888 and 1984. Prominent escapees included Moondyne Joe, as well as John Boyle O'Reilly and six other Fenians in the 19th century, and Brenden Abbott in 1989. There have been various riots and other disturbances throughout the prison's history with major riots causing damage in 1968 and 1988.
Since 1991, Fremantle Prison has been conserved as a recognized heritage site, and various restoration works have been undertaken. New uses have been found for some buildings within the prison, which has also become a significant tourist attraction. The process of obtaining World Heritage listing as part of the Australian Convict Sites submission focused historical interpretation and conservation efforts on the prison's convict era (1850 – 1886), at the expense of its more recent history, including Aboriginal prisoners held there. Fremantle Prison was built on a land grant of about 36 acres (15 ha) from limestone quarried on-site. A 15-foot (4.6 m) tall boundary wall encloses the prison grounds, with a gatehouse in the centre of the western wall, facing The Terrace. Cottages, which housed prison workers and officials, are located outside the wall on either side of the gatehouse. Inside the walls, the parade ground is located east of the gatehouse. Beyond it is the Main Cell Block, which is at the centre of the site and contains two chapels. North of the main block is New Division, and west of that, in the north-western corner, is the former Women's Prison, previously the cookhouse, bakehouse and laundry. The hospital building stands in the north-eastern corner, while the former workshops are located in the south-eastern corner, as well as to the north of the gatehouse. A system of underground tunnels, constructed to provide fresh water from an aquifer, runs under the eastern edge of the site.
Fremantle Prison was partially used as a military prison during both world wars for the detention of military personnel, as well as an internment centre. From 1940 until 1946, it was one of more than 50 military prisons across Australia holding a combined total of more than 12,000 enemy aliens and prisoners of war. Fremantle accommodated up to 400 military prisoners and up to 160 civilian prisoners by October 1945. The World War II takeover necessitated the commissioning of Barton's Mill Prison in 1942. In the convict era, particularly during Hampton's term as Governor, misbehaving prisoners were punished with flogging, solitary confinement, and working in chain gangs at gunpoint. Particularly difficult prisoners were put to work hand pumping groundwater into the prison's reservoir. Known as cranking, it was especially despised by the prisoners. Staff disliked giving the lashings. In 1851, out of a total of 400 lashings ordered, 150 were remitted as the superintendent could not find anyone to undertake the task. The role was so disliked that inducements were offered, including extra pay or improved lodgings.
By the 1880s, punishments also included a restricted diet of bread and water (for a short time span), time in irons, and a lengthening of a prisoner's sentence by a visiting magistrate. The cat o' nine tails, which had been used since the early days of the prison, was abolished during the post-1911 Royal Commission reforms. Flogging was discontinued in the 1940s, with the last incident occurring in 1943. From that decade, punishments were decided by the superintendent after hearing the case against a prisoner, or by a magistrate for grievous violations. Lesser transgressions could result in solitary confinement, or restriction from visitors, education, and concerts. Serious offences were punishable by the cancellation of any remission earned and a bread-and-water diet, normally over a two-week period.
As soon as Fremantle Prison came under local control in 1886, a refractory block with gallows was planned. It was completed in 1888, and first used in 1889 to execute a convicted murderer, Jimmy Long, a Malayan. The gallows room was the only lawful place of execution in Western Australia between 1888 and 1984. At least 43 men and one woman were hanged in this period. Martha Rendell was the only woman to be hanged at the prison, in 1909. Her crimes were heinous. She killed three of her common law husband's children. We'll discuss this further a little later. The last person to be hanged was serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke, executed in 1964. He had commited a series of murders and attempted murders from 1959 to 1963 using both a gun and a knife. He was known as the Night Caller. His defense tried to claim he was schizophrenic, but the court wouldn't hear it. He did seem to have brain damage from abuse and there have been several serial killers that had started their killing after having their brain damaged. Cooke was 33 when he was hanged. When serial killers David and Catherine Birnie were caught there was outcry from the public to have them executed, but they were not. Their crimes are known as the Moorhouse Murders because their house was on that street. They abducted five women, chained them to a bed and David repeatedly raped them. A couple were taken to other locations and murdered while a couple others were killed at the house. The couple was arrested after their final victim escaped. The Fremantle Gaol actually had to build a room for David Birnie in the public places of the prison, the dining area, and laundry etc, because the other inmates hated him so much and wanted him dead.
From the day of sentencing to death, prisoners were kept in a concrete-floored cell in New Division. They were vigilantly observed to prevent them from commiting suicide. With hangings taking place on Monday mornings at 8:00 am, condemned prisoners were woken three hours earlier, and provided with a last meal, shower, and clean clothes. Afterwards, they were handcuffed and moved to a holding or "condemned cell" nearby the gallows, and allowed a couple of sips of brandy to calm their nerves. Shortly before 8:00 am, they were hooded, led up to the execution chamber that could hold as many as eleven witnesses, placed over the trap door with a noose put around their neck and were hanged by dropping through the opening trap door. After medical examination, the deceased was removed for burial.
Prisoners did manage to escape from Fremantle Gaol. One of the most infamous prisoners of the jail was Moondyne Joe, who was famous because he managed to escape from the prison a number of times. Moondyne Joe was born Joseph Bolitho Johns and is consider WA’s best known bushranger. He was transported from England to WA as a convict, his charge being thievery. He spent a number of years in jail in England first and was actually given ticket of leave once he landed in WA for good behavior. This good behavior wouldn't last though and in 1861 he found an unbranded horse and gave it his brand. This was considered stealing and he was imprisoned in Toodyay lock up. That night he broke out and stole a horse along with the local magistrate’s new bridle and saddle. He was caught the next day, but only received 3 years for escaping jail and not 10 for stealing the horse. He had killed the horse and cut off the brand, so there was no evidence. Joe was then convicted of killing a steer belonging to his boss, a crime for which he was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years penal servitude. Joe always protested his innocence to this crime and was determined to not serve out his sentence for a crime he was adamant he didn’t do.
He escaped again while on a work party with another prisoner and they were on the run for a month. During this time they committed a number of crimes, which added more time onto their sentences. After a failed attempt at escaping by breaking his door lock, he managed to escape once more with the idea to run off to South Australia. However, he was captured once again and had an additional 5 years attached to his sentence. This time they were determined to not have him escape. They created a unique cell for him at Fremantle which was considered escape proof. The stone-walled cell was lined with jarrah sleepers and over 1000 nails, and was almost air-proof and light-proof. Moondyne Joe was kept in the cell on a bread and water diet, with only one to two hours of exercise a day. In early 1867, due to his diminishing health, Moondyne Joe was set to work breaking stone in the open air, but rather than permit him to leave the prison, the acting comptroller-general ordered that the stone be brought in and dumped in a corner of the prison yard, where Moondyne Joe worked under the constant supervision of a warder. Governor John Hampton was so confident of the arrangements, he was heard to say to Moondyne Joe: "If you get out again, I'll forgive you". The rock broken by Moondyne Joe was not removed regularly and eventually a pile grew up until it obscured the guard's view of him below the waist. Partially hidden behind the pile of rocks, he occasionally swung his sledgehammer at the limestone wall of the prison. On 7 March 1867, Moondyne Joe escaped through a hole he had made in the prison wall. Despite an extensive manhunt, no sign of him was found, and he would not be recaptured for nearly two years. He did not return to any of his old haunts, and he committed no crimes, so the authorities received very little information about him.
Many convicts were encouraged by Moondyne Joe's audacious escape and a number of escapes were attempted in the following months, so that he was quickly forgotten. A few days before the second anniversary of his escape, Moondyne Joe tried to steal some wine from the cellars at Houghton Winery. By chance, the owner had been helping with a police search and afterwards invited a group of police back to the vineyard for refreshments. When the owner entered the cellar, Moondyne Joe assumed that he was discovered and made a dash for the door into the arms of the police. He was returned to prison and sentenced to an additional 12 months. On March 22, 1869, he was sentenced to an additional four years in irons for breaking and entering. Moondyne Joe made at least one more attempt to escape in February of 1871. He created a key for his cell in the carpenter's workshop, but was unsuccessful.
Eventually in April of 1871, Comptroller General Wakeford heard from Moondyne Joe of Hampton's promise. After verifying with Superintendent Lefroy that those words were spoken, Wakeford informed the current governor, Frederick Weld, of the promise and it was agreed that further punishment would be unfair. Moondyne Joe was given a ticket of leave in May of 1871. To this day, you can visit the cell while on tour, the room itself has a horrible feel, it would not have been a comfortable place to live. The room isn’t considered haunted but the vibe you get from it isn’t pleasant. There is actually a pub in Fremantle named after Moondyne and also a number of books and songs named after him.
The Fremantle Arts Centre is a multi-arts organisation, offering a
program of exhibitions, residencies, art courses and music in a historic
building in the heart of Fremantle, Western Australia. The building was
built using convict labour between 1861 and 1868 and was used as a
psychiatric hospital, initially called the Fremantle Lunatic Asylum, and
later known as the Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The
first mentally ill patients in Western Australia were cared for in
temporary accommodations, including the wreck of the Marquis of
Anglesey, the Round House and the Colonial Hospital, until the asylum
was built. When convict transportation began in 1850, the numbers of
people with mental illnesses in the colony began to increase. Official
care began with the transfer of ten convicts from Perth Gaol to a new
asylum located in Scott's Warehouse (corner of Croke and Cliff Streets)
in November 1857.
The imposing building on the 2.4 hectares (5.9 acres)
site overlooks the harbour city and was the largest public building
constructed by convicts in the State after the Fremantle Goal which had
been built in the 1850s. The design is in the colonial gothic style and
was by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Edmund Henderson, the Comptroller-General
of Convicts in Western Australia, It was built to accommodate 50 people.
Construction began in 1861, under the supervision of James Manning -
Clerk of Works to the Convict Establishment and the Twentieth Company of
Engineers - who provided instruction and technical expertise to the
convict labourers. The building took four years to complete. The first
patients were brought into the asylum in July 1865.
1886, the responsibility for public buildings shifted to the newly
created Public Works Department, under the Superintendent of Public
Works, George Temple-Poole. Poole was responsible for the design of the
north east wing, facing Finnerty Street (completed in 1886) and the
southern wings (completed in 1890 and 1894 respectively). Following the
gold rushes in the 1890s, the Asylum became drastically overcrowded,
forcing a reorganisation of facilities, including the purchase of Whitby
Falls as an asylum farm in 1897. The Asylum continued to operate for
its intended purpose through to the early 1900s when, following two
suspicious deaths which provoked comment from the local press, the
Government set up an enquiry which concluded with a recommendation that
the building "...be demolished as unfit for purpose for which it is now
used." Patients were then moved to alternative locations in the
metropolitan area between 1901 and 1909, including the newly constructed
Claremont Hospital for the Insane.
The building was
used shortly thereafter for housing for homeless women and later as a
midwifery school. Until World War II it was known as the Old Women's
Home. During World War II it became the headquarters for the American
armed services based in Western Australia, who built the asbestos-clad
laundry building on the north-east corner of the site.
All three locations are quite haunted. One of the inmates who is said to haunt the Fremantle Prison is the only woman executed at the prison, Martha Rendell. This women makes the evil step mothers of Disney look sweet and caring. She was convicted of murdering her de facto husband's son, Arthur Morris, in 1908. She was also suspected of killing his two daughters, Annie and Olive, by swabbing their throats with hydrochloric acid. Although the children died slow and agonizing deaths, they had been treated by a number of doctors during their illness, only one of whom expressed any doubts about their deaths. Rendell brutally abused Morris' children, once beating Annie so brutally that she could not walk. Arresting officer Inspector Harry Mann said "she delighted in seeing her victims writhe in agony, and from it derived sexual satisfaction". Rendell killed 7-year-old Annie first. Her method was to put something in the child's food that would result in a sore throat. It was alleged that she killed the children by swabbing hydrochloric acid on the backs of their throats, claiming it was medicine. This would inflame the throat until the child could no longer eat, and thus would starve to death. Annie died on 28 July 1907. Dr. Cuthbert issued a certificate stating the cause of death was diphtheria. After killing Annie, she turned her attention on Olive, aged 5. Olive died on 6 October 1907, and again Cuthbert issued a certificate stating the cause of death was diphtheria. In the winter of 1908 Rendell tried the same method on Arthur, the third son and youngest child still alive. Arthur, who was 14, took longer to succumb to the treatment, finally dying on 6 October 1908. Cuthbert asked permission for an autopsy. Rendell said she wanted to be present during the investigation. She stood by as the autopsy was performed, and the doctors found nothing to incriminate her.
In April 1909, she turned her attention to the second son, George. It didn't take long for the second son to complain of a sore throat after drinking a cup of tea. Rendell coated his tonsils with the syrup, frightening the boy, who ran to his mother's place some streets away. Neighbours would enquire as to the boy's whereabouts; however, his father Thomas Morris would state that he did not know. Neighbours went to the police, and inspector Harry Mann conducted inquiries. Mann heard repeated references to the children having their throats painted, and Rendell's apparent indifference to their pain. One neighbour claimed he often peeked in the windows to see Rendell standing in front of the screaming victim, rocking back and forth as if in ecstasy. Mann located George Morris, who had claimed to have run away because his stepmother had killed his siblings and was trying to poison him with spirits of salts (i.e. hydrochloric acid.) Nobody at the time knew what spirits of salt could do so experiments were conducted on animals. The children were exhumed and autopsies revealed the kids had the same problems as the animals. Rendell showed no remorse and gave no motive. Rendell and Thomas Morris were both charged with murder, the former being sentenced to death by hanging. Rendell protested her innocence, maintaining that she was treating the children for diphtheria. Although Thomas Morris was also charged with the murders, he was acquitted; it was believed that, although he had purchased spirits of salts, he had not been aware of the crimes until after the children's deaths. The jury wanted to find him guilty of being an accessory after the fact, but this was not allowed.
Rendell's crimes aroused considerable public outrage at the time; the press portrayed her as a "scarlet woman" and "wicked stepmother". She was hanged at Fremantle Prison on 6 October 1909. She is buried at Fremantle Cemetery, in the same grave where serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke was interred more than half a century afterwards. Martha Rendell was the last woman executed in the state of Western Australia. An illusion appears on one of the prison windows which can only be seen on the outside of the window. From inside, the glass is smooth and even, with no unusual shape or texture. Urban legend has it that this illusion is the portrait of Rendell, who watches over the prison.
ABC in Perth, Australia reported
, "Two separate pairs of women gave independent descriptions of what they
felt when inside a cell that was used to isolate one of the sexual
offenders imprisoned at Fremantle. 'Pressure, like it was warm and it
surrounded you,' one describes before her friend adds, "it was like a
steam cloud condensing in on me." A third recounts she felt, 'a feeling
of cloudiness, and Helen felt like she was being dragged down to the
Jennilee used to run tours of the cemetery and she says it is very haunted. The grave site of Rendell and Cooke, is very creepy and she had an experience there. She says, "I was walking back from the site and I heard some humming. I looked around making sure there was no one around and I saw light one top of the site and it moved across over other graves and then out of site. It wasn’t a light, like a reflection, it was more an orb, but it was purplish colour. The fact that I heard humming is what makes me think it’s related to Rendell, as she was reported to hum and sing to herself in the hours before she was executed. It was definitely one of the more creepy experiences."
The gallows where Rendell and the others were executed, is not a place for the sensitive. The bars on the windows are made from iron and aren’t just there to prevent prisoners from escaping, but also to stop evil spirits from escaping. Jennilee said, "While there on tour in middle school, I found it very hard to be in this room and ended up waiting outside by myself instead of going in. A friend of mine said that she felt someone touching her when they went down stairs and looked up through the dead man’s trap of the gallows. I considered this just her over active imagination, but years later I learned while on tour that women would often be touched in this part of the gallows." Others have heard the tinkling of keys on a ring and the sounds of a scuffle near the gallows.
People often talk about being touched and poked in the prison. It is not unusual to see shadows and hear footsteps. In fact, one of the stories they tell on the tour is about a guard, when the prison was still in use, who heard footsteps walking along the second story path way. He waited for the person to come into the guard house as that was the only place he could come. After a few moments the guard opened the door to check, only to find no one there. If the person had gone back down he would have heard him on the stair case, but he hadn’t. Apparently this guard didn’t stay working in that prison for long and opted to be transferred.
As would be expected based on previous episodes dealing with asylums, the former Lunacy Asylum is very haunted. American soldiers who were staying there would often tell stories about a phantom kisser, who would kiss their necks and cheeks. They also spoke of disembodied voices and footsteps as well as doors opening on their own. There was a lady who was sent to the asylum by her husband. Their daughter had been kidnapped and was believed dead as she was never found. The woman was said to have gone insane because of the grief. She is thought to haunt the stair case of the building. Women and teenage girls are said to have their skirts pulled as well as their hair. Apparently, she has a thing for red heads as she likes to touch them. Some people who work at the building now claim they have heard a women singing.
Ghost hunters and a psychic did an investigation, (which you can watch on YouTube) and did get some EVP’S which said “ those are chains” when the investigators stood next to a cabinet which had leg chains from the convict era. Anthony Grzella, who is known as the Australian Ghost whisperer, saw a full length apparition while he was conducting this investigation. Anthony said that the ghost wasn’t an inmate but a warden and or nurse who wasn’t very nice. Anthony said he made him feel ill and at unease. Perhaps this was one of the men who was charged with abusing the inmates in the early 20th century, shortly before it was forced closed. Anthony later learnt that the security guards did not like to visit this part of the building as a few guards were pushed down the stair case. The building also has a number of phantom smells. One lady smelt lavender and another a sweet lemon smell. While some people (including Anthony and Jennilee) smelt burning hair and meat. Jennilee said, "When I asked the tour guide what the smell was, he said that some people pick up on the smell of the electric shock treatment done on site. I was actually annoyed at this, I would much rather had smelt the lavender."
Hauntings at the Round House tend to focus on an unknown
woman who was said to have been assaulted at the jail. The room that she
is said to have been assaulted in is the room which a number of people
are said be overcome with a sad or uneasy feeling. There are also a
number of windows in the upstairs of the Round House, all of which are
covered with spider webs, except one. Tour guides tell of the family who
lived in the Round House in the 1890’s. They supposedly had a child who
liked to keep the windows clean. Jennilee said that before she became a tour guide she visited the Round House with her father and younger brother. She said, "I couldn’t
shake the feeling that someone was watching me from the windows. I was
actually so freaked out I made my brother come outside with me. It
wasn’t until years later that I found out the story and I wish I knew
which window it was that freaked me out so."
Another haunting centers
around the young boy mentioned earlier, who had been executed here. He is
said to haunt the shipwreck gallery, rather than the Round House. The ship wreck gallery is a museum and is less then 200m from the Round House
and it is said to be built on top of the boy's unmarked grave. It is thought that John Gavin was actually innocent of his crime. There is
some evidence that the mother of the murdered boy suffered from
postpartum depression. Workers at the museum are said to hear footsteps
and other strange noises, including crying and groaning. Although this
might also be because of the skeleton they have on display, which is the
remains of a man said to be from the mutiny of a ship off the coast. The
tunnels underneath the Round House, created by whalers in the 1800’s, are also said to be haunted and you can take tours of the tunnels.
Fremantle has a deep history and although convicts were not suppose to be a part of that history, they certainly did become part of that history. Have some of them decided to stay on in the afterlife? Have spirits of those locked up in the Asylum decided to stay? Are the Round House, Fremantle Gaol and the Fremantle Lunatic Asylum haunted? That is for you to decide!
Fremantle Tram Ghost Tour: http://www.visitfremantle.com.au/Operators/Fremantle-Tram-Tours-Ghostly-Tour