The Cannington “Ghost”

In mid-November 1898 a ghost began haunting the Cannington cemetery at midnight on successive nights. The “ghost” was clearly a man and on 13 November concerned residents lodged a report with Perth police. They noted that he appeared to be wearing dark tights, was covered with a white cloth and had “large glaring eyes.

Practical jokers come and go, but the ghost joker seems to go on forever.

Despite the obvious scepticism towards the spectre, some people were believers and were so frightened that they took to keeping their lamps burning all night in order to ward him off.

How seriously the police took the report is not known. They had no luck capturing the ghost and after several more nights of “hauntings” the residents of Cannington decided to take the law into their own hands.

On Saturday, 19 November, eight men waited patiently for the ghost to appear in the cemetery. When the ghost finally emerged one man brandished his revolver and threatened to shoot. The ghost, fearing the weapon, did not move and was successfully captured.


Unfortunately for the ghost he was not handed over to the police and was instead punished at the hands of the men. Choosing to hold a ‘paling circus’ they stood around the man and repeatedly hit him with fence palings until, in the words of The West Australian, “the groans and the moans and the usual dull, hollow sounds were what should be uttered by a properly constituted ghost.

Bruised, bloodied and suffering from his injuries, the ghost was eventually allowed to go back to where he came from. Meanwhile, the men, who perhaps initially congratulated themselves, began to worry about their own punishment lest their identities be revealed.

By all appearances nothing more occurred in relation to the ghost. The identities of the men remained hidden and no one was charged with assault. The ghost’s identity and the motives behind his actions were also not revealed. Having endured a harsh (and unnecessary) lesson he never haunted Cannington again.



Albany’s Gold

King George Sound and Albany circa 1870s. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

On 5 February 1867, an Albany correspondent for The Inquirer and Commercial News wrote a letter with information many people in Western Australia had been waiting to hear for some time.

Gold has been found by a man named Butcher, a short distance from the town. It is in dust, and the Resident Magistrate has prevented any digging near the spot.

With so much at stake it was important that the find was confirmed. Specimens were sent to South Australia for testing however the writer believed the gold was pure and stated that some of it had been smelted by a blacksmith from the P & O Company.

Exciting News

Another Albany writer noted excitedly, “The gold panic is raging.” Many however erred on the side of caution and refused to get their hopes up lest it all ended in nothing.

Likening the discovery of gold in Western Australia to the story of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’, The Herald declared that “We Western Australians have been told so often that neither gold fields, nor any other good thing, can possibly fall to our share, that we have almost accustomed ourselves to believe it, and have sunk into a state of somnolency from which it is difficult to arouse us.

They were also concerned about what a gold rush would do to Western Australia. “…what shall we do?” they questioned. “Are we all to run off, like a parcel of madmen, to the “diggings”?” While they admitted that prosperity would inevitably follow the discovery of gold, they were however filled with fear that people would abandon their jobs and Fremantle would become a desert.

An update in early March 1867 offered very little information. The gold had been discovered near the lighthouse on Crown Land and the Resident Magistrate, Sir Alexander Cockburn-Campbell, continued to prevent any further digging. No one had heard anything about the results of the tests.


By the end of the month there were rumours that the gold was a hoax and on 20 April 1867, it was finally confirmed; the excitement and expectation gave way to disappointment. The Albany gold was fool’s gold.

The gold had been analysed in Victoria and the assayer, H S Severn, of the Union Bank in Melbourne, wrote the letter which dashed everyone’s hopes.


For the original Albany correspondent who first broke the news, hope had not yet been exterminated. People in the town continued to smelt the “yellow metal” but they did so “…on the quiet.” The writer even confirmed that he had seen a nugget which was larger than a sovereign. As far as he was concerned, he was thoroughly convinced of the find.

I have now more confidence that the discovery is bona fide than I had before.

On the other hand, The Herald, perhaps feeling a little smug at having predicted the outcome of Albany’s gold rush, announced the news in a small paragraph and ended with the wise old saying, “…all is not gold that glitters.


The Mysterious Mr Brown

Bill BrownAt 12:40 am on 1 December 1928, a man aged in his 20s was found lying unconscious on a street in Perth. He had severe injuries to his head and was taken to Perth Hospital for treatment. Several days later a trepanning operation was performed and, while it was successful, it may have caused him to develop encephalitis. When the man eventually regained consciousness, he had lost all knowledge of his identity.

The operation, however, though it restored Brown to life, robbed him of some portion of his mental faculties and, from that day, he has been unable to remember any incident which took place before the operation. His life, up to that date, has been a blank to him ever since.

At the time of his admittance to hospital his address was recorded as the Horseshoe Coffee Palace in Perth. Also provided was the name of a friend who lived in Subiaco. Despite police efforts to locate the person, no one by that name was found. The man had no other relatives or friends and he remained in hospital, unidentified, for nearly a year. He was eventually dubbed, William Brown.

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