It was a cold, wet Thursday evening. The rain was pelting down outside. It was the ideal setting to participate in a history ghost tour at Australia’s first shopping mall. During the day Adelaide Arcade in the city’s premier shopping precinct is full of shoppers and diners. When the sun goes down, the arcade grows quiet. The heavy, grey, iron gates are locked and the stage is set for an evening of ghost hunting.
I was fortunate to join one of the tours during this month and found out more about the ghostly figures whom are known to “haunt” the arcade. The tours themselves include researched stories of the people who tragically lost their lives back in the 1800s.
The most well known ghost to inhabit the arcade is that of a caretaker by the name of Francis Cluney. His death resulted from one of the earliest workplace accidents. He is often “seen” walking around the first floor near the site of the boiler room which is where his accident occurred. He was tragically pulled into the generator while investigating a faulty light that powered the Arcade’s chandelier. Of course, there was no superannuation or insurance for workers then, so his wife and five children were left with little.
The boiler room is no longer there and has since been replaced with public amenities and an elevator. However, Mr Cluney does seem to have a fascination with the jewellery store above Gay’s Arcade as most reported sightings of him have occurred there. Even more strange, that section of the arcade did not exist during his time.
Once you finish on the first floor, descend back to the ground floor through the arcade’s museum. Take a moment to browse through items of the past before passing by a piano accordion locked in a glass case opposite the stairs. You can push the button and listen to the old arcade’s anthem. A painter had been working in the arcade early one morning and had his ghost sighting of the Arcade’s resident ghost. As he made his mad escape down through the museum, the accordion suddenly came to life. The sudden blast of music frightened the painter who ran from the Arcade. The painter refused to step inside the Arcade again.
The tour ends in the basement which was then an underground tearoom where people could take a break from their shopping adventure. The original entrance was through the floor by the lamp post in the middle of the arcade. You can feel where the floor dips lower if you step over it.
The tearooms shut in 1969 and the only way in now is through the outside entrance and you can only gain access if you take a history tour of the Arcade. Be careful going down the stairs as they have started to crumble at the sides. Turn on the torches you were given at the start of the evening and enter into a low, pitch black corridor. The most prominent feature in the room, is the old staircase leading up to the tearoom’s original entrance.
There is known to be the ghost of a long boy inheriting the basement following his accidental death. It is alleged he was playing with the knobs on the gas stove after his mother had passed out from her earlier drinking session. While his mother was able to be saved, the young boy, Sidney, could not be. Young Sidney can still be felt roaming the arcade today.
You can read more about the history of the Adelaide Arcade here.