Moments of Permanence

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Yesterday, Post 2 of 2: Photo Post of Doom Jul. 16th, 2009 @ 09:41 pm
Okay. Time to throw pictures at you. These are the highlights of my photos yesterday. Pictures link to their gallery pages which have shot information, and my general gallery has a fair (and ever-growing) number of images I've never posted to my journal.

Part 1: en route to the prison. )

Part 2: The Prison

Fremantle Prison was built by convincts in the mid-19th century. Despite being condemned in 1900 as "unfit for human habitation", a description it frankly deserved, it remained open and in use as the state's maximum-security prison until 1991. The main building is the largest intact convict-built structure in the world; though it narrowly avoided destruction at the time it was closed, it is now listed on state and national heritage registers.

It is amazingly intact. The gallows is still there, with a genuine (but unused) noose hanging from the notched crossbeam. (The notched jarrah crossbeam. For those of you not from around here, jarrah is a hardwood that takes its "hardwood" status seriously. If you try to hammer a nail into jarrah, the nail will break first. Early explorers who stopped in Western Australia and tried to cut down jarrah for timber and masts learned the hard way that this wasn't going to work - their axes were blunted, and the trees were unaffected.

Despite this, the crossbeam from which the noose depends is notched where executions took place.

In slightly less grisly fields of fascinating sites, some of the cells retain artwork on the walls, put there by prisoners; some of the art is seriously beautiful. The "escape-proof" cell built to hold Moondyne Joe is still there - a small room with hardened, studded walls, a tiny, heavily-barred window, where he was kept with an iron collar around his neck, chained to the floor.

He escaped from that particular stint in prison, but not from the cell - he was put to heavy labour, breaking rocks. He let his rubble pile build up high enough to block the guard's sight of him, and broke a hole in the wall, whereupon he remained at large for two years until some amazingly bad luck got him caught again.

Pictures. )
And finally, we get to:

Part 3: The nominally ghost photographs.

Fremantle Prison is, allegedly, one of the most haunted buildings in existence. The torchlight tour is a mixture of ghost stories and the occasional scare, like when the guide has just finished explaining that the mesh overhead is suicide netting, installed in the 20s, to prevent prisoners jumping - or being thrown - from the upper floors.

At which point, far overhead, you hear a man scream, and then something the size and shape of a human body slams into the netting overhead.

It is, of course, a dummy, but many people scream.

Some of the ghost stories are chilling. A couple of them are just kind of sad. A couple are sort of unsurprising, like the tendency of doors to unlock themselves. Some of the guides have quit the night tours because of creepy experiences.

A place that was in active use as a prison for 140 years, a place of violence, where people were executed or just died, often brutally, violence and other bad things happened, and even children were imprisoned, and which looks like every hideous Dickensian nightmare you ever thought of - it's a place that's going to attract a lot of ghost stories.

It isn't a happy place. It's actually kind of horrifying, when you think of how *recently* it was in use - people tend to assume it's been nothing more than history for much longer than it has, because it seems unthinkable that in the modern era such a medieval-seeming place could actually be used to lock up actual human beings, but it's been in use in my lifetime. The first time I went there it had only been closed a couple of years.

So various mediums and so on have also visited the place, and all agree it's haunted, and people take various photos they think show ghosts (our guide has some, which we were encouraged to e-mail her about, and she'll send them to us), and so on, and many stories are told by people who've worked there.

And while I was there I took two photos which are the kind of things that show up on episodes of Supernatural and ghosthunter websites. (The guide was very interested in them - she's into ghosts, I think.)

You know you want to see them, obviously. )

Do I believe it's ghosts? I am putting it in the same category as I put all ghost-related things, which is: I Don't Know. On the one hand, a lot of ghost-related stuff is pure crackpottery and people seeing what they want to see. Virgin Mary In My Toast-type stuff.

On the other hand, not all of it is like that. Some of it is stories from what I can't help but call credible sources. Sometimes it's innocent comments or actions from small children who don't know what the adults are perceiving, or why it's significant.

A cousin of mine was the source of some of these, commenting blandly for some months on the actions of "the man in the dress", who no-one but him could see. The man in the dress would be around - watching, sitting in chairs, that kind of thing. Once my Nanna was brightly informed, after sitting down, that the man in the dress was already sitting there - but it was all right, my cousin assured her, he didn't mind. The adults around him were slightly weirded out, but concluded that my cousin had a really odd imaginary friend.

Some time later, Nanna and a couple of her siblings, I think it was, were looking through photo albums. My cousin was on someone's lap, watching them do this, until suddenly he pointed at a picture and exclaimed that that was the man in the dress!

Or, as was worked out after careful questioning, an uncle in his often-worn dressing gown, the one he died in. Who my cousin had never met, or seen pictures of before that moment.

There are more things in heaven and earth, and all that. I don't know if ghosts are real. I cannot categorically say that they are not, because there is too much I can't quite explain away, but I can't say with certainty that they are, so. Most of the time, I'm not really concerned.

I ain't scared of no ghosts.

Hence, I present the photos with as much relevant information as I can think of. Be as skeptical or as convinced as you choose.

And if you are in Perth, take the torchlight tour at the prison, it's really interesting.

Current Music: the boys playing Fallout 3
Current Location: Destiny; couch

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