Urban myths are told across the world. These thrilling, folkloric-style tales carry dramatic twists that spread quickly through communities and societies. They are told as though they were true stories, but most urban legends are fabricated accounts. In many cases, the same myth is told in different parts of the world, with a few added local flavors. Many urban myths carry a seed of warning or some significant aspect, which causes them to be told across continents and down the generations.Some of the most haunting and interesting urban myths come from Australia. The land of beautiful beaches, coral reefs and vibrant wildlife is also the source of a number of urban myths that are likely to cause a sleepless night or two! Here are nine of the best Australian urban myths.
Coven of King’s Park
The park is a great place to take a long walk or spend a sunny day. But at night, things can be quite different. The 4.06 square kilometer King’s Park, a short distance from Perth’s central business district in western Australia, is believed to be the site of very strange occurrences. One of the creepiest of tales is the one that tells of a coven of devil worshippers that meet at the park to perform their mysterious rites, some of which include creating occult symbols, burning effigies and having orgies right there in the park itself.
The most unseemly of all these is human sacrifice, which came to be linked to reports of missing homeless men. The myth tells of the dangers of sleeping in the park at night, as that’s when one is most likely to become part of the coven’s weird practices. The myth is exactly that, a myth, and has no basis in the truth, but that doesn’t stop people from steering clear of King’s Park after midnight; after all no one wants an encounter with the satanic coven!
Goodna Cemetery’s invisible hands
Cemeteries can be eerie places in themselves; but Brisbane’s Goodna Cemetery has some paranormal surprises in store for visitors. The cemetery was used by an erstwhile asylum and according to the urban myth, the ghosts of the dead wander the place. Visitors to the cemetery are believed to emerge with cuts and scratches, as though they were dragged around.
One account is of a man who managed to escape the ruthless ghostly clutches and leaped into his car; but even with the engine running, the car refused to move. He remained in fear for the entire night until the vehicle finally moved the next morning. When he got out he found deep scratches along the sides of the car, perhaps the marks of the invisible hands that had been holding the vehicle in place. Some adventurous souls and lovers of horror decide to undertake the grim task of driving by Goodna Cemetery at midnight, their cars covered in flour, so they can detect the marks of the ghostly hands. According to the legend, innumerable fingerprints are found imprinted into the flour.
Min Min lights
A bizarre phenomenon is known to occur in eastern Australia’s outback regions. The Min Min lights appear as burning lights in the distance, always remaining away, never inching closer. But at night, they are known to travel alongside vehicles, but again never getting closer. If one tries to reach them, they drift away immediately. Some say the lights will follow if you get out of your car and stalk you during the night. Descriptions of the lights range from fuzzy disc-shaped orbs to lights that change colors from white to red to green. Some report seeing dim lights, while others have seen lights that were bright enough to illuminate the ground beneath them.
To make things stranger, it seems that if the lights catch up with someone, they are never heard from again. The Min Min lights are a documented occurrence and footage is available in the form of videos uploaded to the Internet by locals who claim to have had encounters with them. The name comes from the settlement called Min Min, between Boulia and Winton, where a stockman was the first to see the lights in 1918. There may also be official explanation for the lights; in 2003 it was found that they are a fata morgana – a type of mirage that occurs in certain environments, although debate still continues on their actual nature. An Australian neuroscientist, who claimed to have figured out what caused the phenomenon of the lights, put forth the explanation. Fata Morgana refers to lights that are an inverted mirage of light sources that actually may be far away over the horizon.
Big cats in Sydney
For almost 80 years now, there have been reports of something stalking the western suburbs of Sydney. That something is believed to be a bunch of big cats that kill pets and livestock. In the last twenty years, there have been reports of at least 600 sightings. Inquiries haven’t yielded much, and theories abound about the nature of these creatures. Some believe them to be marsupial cats, a secret species that is yet to be classified. Others feel they are escaped circus animals that have undergone some kind of mutation, resulting in these large feline beasts.
Government reports imply that the sightings lack credibility, but residents swear that there is something ‘evil’ lurking in the wild, just beyond the city. One particularly frightening story is of a teenager who experienced a violent encounter with what he described as ‘panther-like creatures’. Some reports have even come from police officers and pilots who swear they saw giant felines striding through gardens and narrow alleys.
Girl in the white dress
There’s probably a version of this story in every part of the world. The Australian one is of a girl who appears in a white dress at the Wakehurst Parkway near Middle Creek Bridge. So eerie is this urban myth, that the road has been deemed the spookiest in the country. Some believe the girl to be someone called Kelly who appears in people’s vehicles. Those travelling by themselves after midnight are in for a horrifying ride, as she is known to take control of the car. Apparently, she lets go once she is ordered out of the car.
An ex-cab driver reported that the girl was in a white gown and nun-like headdress. He also claimed she had sad green eyes that were staring back at him. The stretch of the highway has become notorious for being the site of a number of fatal crashes. The girl, ‘Kelly’, if not made to get out of the car, veers off the road, resulting in a crash. Recently, a documentary was made on this highly popular urban legend. But it doesn’t stop there. It seems that the tale was so wretched that several members of the film crew fell ill!
The execution room
This urban myth tells of an upstairs room in Sydney’s Orchard Mills Mafia House where people were routinely executed. The large white mansion is located in greater Sydney and has always been the subject of eerie accounts. People have claimed that the lights flash on and off when the whole house is empty. Shadows have also been spotted flitting behind the curtains. Some say the shadows emerge when there are trespassers, and chase them down with ‘demonic grins’.
The house got its name from the local mafia group that allegedly owned the place. Therefore the bloodshed is believed to have begun during that time when the mafia used the upstairs room for executing informants. It has never been proved that the Orchard Mills Mafia House was indeed owned by the mafia or anyone else with criminal links, but residents prefer to stay away from the place anyway.
Jack the Ripper’s Australian connection
There is an urban myth that says that the infamous unidentified serial killer, Jack the Ripper, may have actually been a man named Frederick Bailey Deeming who sailed off to Australia after he gruesomely murdered his wife and children, and buried them under the kitchen floor, in England. He was a gas fitter by profession who was already on the trail of his next victim just days after the incident, and this had him sailing to Melbourne where he killed her too and disappeared into the Australian wilderness, perhaps on the hunt for his next victim. But he was caught by the authorities and later hanged.
This gave birth to the urban myth of Deeming actually being Jack the Ripper because of the brutality of the murders in both cases. The murders that took place in Whitechapel and Deeming’s deeds have many similarities. Also, the killing spree of Jack the Ripper came to a halt at around the same time Deeming escaped from Britain.
Haunting at Macquarie Fields Station
The Macquarie Fields Station in Sydney’s southwest suburbs is the scene of a spooky haunting. It is said that a faint crying is head after the last train leaves and the platform is empty. Through the night, the crying is known to stop suddenly, only to transform into screams. Some people say they’ve seen a ghostly figure, a young girl who roams the platform, her dress stained with blood spatter. Others have heard her screaming in terror, while still others have seen her simply seated right on the tracks and crying. The scariest part may be that she stares back at people.
There is nothing known as to her identity or her history, but most prefer to keep their distance from the area. Some residents have spoken up and said that they take the same last train to Macquarie Fields at night and have never heard or seen anything out of the ordinary, apart from a deserted station.
The Hanging Rock Mystery
The theories on this one range from an UFO abduction to an accidental time travel incident. A group of schoolgirls visited Hanging Rock one Valentine’s Day in 1900, disappeared and were never heard from again. But as it turns out the story was fabricated by an author, Joan Lindsay in 1967, in a book called ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’. The story even tells of a professor who went missing along with the girls, and the eventual finding of one of the girls. As people read the book, the urban myth developed and other stories were created around the girls’ disappearance.
The author never confirmed whether the story actually happened or not, and deliberately left the book ending open-ended. In fact the final twelve pages of the book, which constitute the last and twelfth chapter, were published after the author’s death. The story places a great deal of emphasis on clocks and time, and this maybe the reason time travel was linked to the mystery.
While most urban myths have no basis in truth and serve mainly to intrigue and excite, a few of them may have their origins in real incidents, such as…
…the partly true account of the burning airman
The urban myth of the burning airman is partly true, since it originates from an actual incident that took place in Canberra. The year 1940 saw a tragedy occur wherein a Lockheed Hudson II bomber lost control and crashed into the wood on the outskirts of the capital city, killing four persons, who were members of the government. The incident became known as the Canberra Air Disaster.
Here’s where the urban myth begins. Years later, residents of Canberra began to relate accounts of mysterious encounters, where strange lights were seen in the woods near the crash site. Some even reported hearing the sound of an airplane followed by a loud crashing sound. Perhaps the spookiest of all accounts came from a teenage girl who said the dead airman had been following her through the forest, still covered in flames. Other stories came about of hideous experiences occurring near the place of the crash. People began to stay away from the woods for fear of bumping into the burning airman.
Are there any urban legends local to where you live? Let us know in the comments!