Halloween in Australia: Scary and Macabre Stories from Darling Harbor History

Australia has imported a lot of cultural goods from the United States over the years, from Coca-Cola to The Simpsons, but Halloween never really took the plunge.

Maybe the Australian climate is too good in October for people to feel cool, or maybe our chocolate is too tasty to hand out, compared to the drier, milk-free American versions.

But one thing that cannot be disputed is that it’s certainly not because we run out of gruesome or gruesome stories to trade.

Halloween never really caught on in Australia. (Getty)
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – clearly the scariest of all government agencies – has decided to get into the spirit of the spooky season, creating a a multitude of things to see and do in Darling Harbor this weekend.

“We’ve created loads of weird and fun things to do in Darling Harbor this Halloween,” said Anita Mitchell, Managing Director of NSW Placemaking.

“Tumbalong Park will be the place for the best Halloween selfies in town, where we’ll have a giant bat and a carved pumpkin to pose with.

This artist rendering shows some of the giant super-selfie backgrounds that will be in place this weekend at Tumbalong Park. (Government of New South Wales)

“And around the corner on the harbor, there will be plenty of spooky specialties to get your teeth into it.”

WARNING: The following stories contain scenes of blood, death, and blood again. They are best read aloud to other people in a dimly lit room at midnight while invisible tree branches scratch the window.

In January 1866, Sydney City Council employees made a gruesome discovery when they dug a street where the Town Hall now stands – two unmarked coffins.

They were close to the site of an ancient cemetery, but these coffins were clearly buried outside the sacred ground.

Trying to discover the identity of the bodies has led people to a poignant story.

The bodies that had been unearthed were those of two men who had been executed in 1799 for the felony of killing missionary Samuel Clode in the area now known as Darling Square (then known as Brickfields).

Darling Harbor’s colonial past was often bloody. (Provided)

One of the murderers was Private Thomas Jones, after whom Jones Bay and Jones Street in Pyrmont were named.

With the help of an accomplice, they had slit Clode’s head in half with an ax as he came to collect a debt payment, then buried his corpse in a saw behind Jones’ house.

Their terrible crime was discovered and they were hanged for it.

The Pyrmont Bridge seemed just as busy in 1897 as it is now. (Provided)

Thousands of people cross the heritage listed Pyrmont Bridge every day. But any of them are unlikely to be worried about the possibility of an ice cream-related death.

In 1897 – and on Valentine’s Day, no less – Thomas Risk, 50, was in charge of opening and closing the bridge to allow ships to pass underneath.

He was closing the door when an ice cream cart driver tried to pass, knocking Risk down on the ground – and in the mechanisms of the bridge, where Risk was crushed to death.

The great excavation

The Rocks: Sydney’s Old Town’s spooky past revealed

Consult the complete archives here.

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