Halloween in Australia: Creepy, macabre stories about the history of Darling Harbor

Australia has imported a lot of cultural ingredients from the US over the years, from Coca-Cola to The Simpsons, but Halloween has never quite taken the plunge.

Maybe the Australian climate is too benign in October for people to feel properly chilled, 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 is certainly not because we lack gruesome or macabre stories to swap.

Halloween has never really taken off in Australia. (Getty)
The New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – clearly the scariest of all government agencies – has decided to enter the spirit of the scary season with a spine tingling array of things to see and do in Darling Harbor this weekend.

“We’ve been cutting lots of fun and funny things out in Darling Harbor this Halloween,” said NSW Placemaking CEO Anita Mitchell.

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

This artist’s rendering shows some of the giant super-selfie wallpapers on display this weekend in Tumbalong Park. (NSW Government)

“And around the corner from the harbor, there will be lots of creepy offerings to get your fangs watering.”

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

In January 1866, workers in the Sydney Council made a gruesome discovery while excavating a street where the town hall stands today – two unmarked coffins.

They were located close to the site of an ancient cemetery, but these coffins were clearly buried outside the Holy Land.

Attempts to discover the identities of the corpses led people to a shocking story.

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

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

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

With the help of an accomplice, they had split Clode’s head in two with an ax when he came to recover a debt, and then buried his body in a sawmill behind Jones’ home.

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

Pyrmont Bridge seemed as busy in 1897 as it is now. (Included)

Thousands cross the listed Pyrmont Bridge every day. But some of them are unlikely to worry about the possibility of an ice-related death.

In 1897 – and on Valentine’s Day, no less – 50-year-old Thomas Risk was responsible for opening and closing the bridge to allow ships to pass below.

He was about to close the gate when an ice truck driver tried to pass through and knocked Risk to the ground – and into the bridge mechanisms, where Risk was crushed to death.

The great excavation

The Rocks: Spooky past in Sydney’s old town revealed

Check out the full archive here.

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