dolls

Hauntingly Empty

A few years ago I went on my first Lantern Ghost Tour of a Haunted House. You can read about that adventure at the Altona Homestead, complete with child ghosts and wandering dolls, in A Ghost Of A Fear. A few days ago I went on my second Lantern Ghost Tour of a Haunted House, this time at the Point Cook Homestead

The Point Cook Homestead is a place that my partner and I have visited many times. We’d enjoy a nice cream tea in the cafe and then wander through the main house, admiring the heritage home. We would then walk the grounds, touch base with the farm animals and take a short walk to the nearby beach. Sadly the homestead has been closed to the public for some time now. Happily it’s open again, but only in the evenings and only for an organised ghost tour!

We chose the latest time available, which was a 10.15pm tour. We sat in our car shortly before the tour was due to start and waited for the gate to open, welcoming us into a home we had previously only seen by day. Like a funeral procession, all the cars drove slowly down the driveway until we reached our destination. We parked under towering trees and waited for our guides.

Our guides arrived and warned us to walk only on the path. Memories of fairy tale warnings of what can happen when you stray from the path swirled in my mind. What was waiting for us in the darkened grounds? Nothing but orb spiders spinning their webs. While a mouthful of spider would be pretty terrifying, I was thinking of much scarier things! 

Our first stop was the stables which were once renowned for their racehorses. I wasn’t too interested in this part of the estate but dutifully wandered through with the tour. All I really wanted to do was go into the main house. I couldn’t wait to see what it looked like at night! 

Filled with memories of the antique splendour contained within, I eagerly entered the home. I stood and stared, horrified. It was virtually empty. Most of the furniture was gone. There was no piano, gramophone or old sewing machine. The antique dolls, scary yet compelling, were no longer there. The beautiful heritage home had lost all its spirit and its spirits. I couldn’t imagine ghosts wanting to be here. The house was dead, haunted only by the memories of what once was.

Our guides brought out dowsing rods to commune with the ghosts they say still haunt the homestead. They are mostly child ghosts. A young girl ghost “played” with the dowsing rods as a connection to the spirit world was made. I wasn’t scared. I was sad. I really wish they had left a few dolls there for the ghost children to play with.

play with me

Undeterred I’ve booked a few more ghost tours this year including another stately home and a morgue. I’m getting a little scared thinking about the morgue. 

Corn Dollies For Lammas

Lammas marks the halfway point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox. It is the first of the Harvest Festivals and is usually celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere on February 1st. This year I decided to get into the spirit of Lammas by exploring Corn Dollies.

Corn Dollies are traditionally made for Lammas. They are made from a variety of grains and crafted into an assortment of different shapes. Corn Dollies can be used as good luck charms or as a home for the Spirit of the Grain.

In ancient Pagan culture, the Spirit of the Grain was believed to live in the crops. When the crops were harvested, the Grain Spirit was left homeless. A Corn Dolly was made from the last sheafs of the harvest and offered as a winter home for the Grain Spirit. When the new planting season arrived, the Corn Dolly would be ploughed back into the earth so the Grain Spirit could return to its home amongst the crops. If I can get my crafting act together, I may make a Corn Dolly for next Lammas. 

For this Lammas I used my culinary skills to make edible Cornbread Dollies. I usually make some type of cornbread  for Lammas, so this year I thought I would make sweet cornbread that could be cut into shapes using cookie cutters. In honour of the Grain Spirit, I used gingerbread women and men cookie cutters to make little corn people. They are too cute to eat. Well almost! 🙂

Cornbread Dollies

Special Equipment
Gingerbread women and men cookie cutters

Ingredients
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
60g unsalted butter, melted and lightly cooled
1 cup buttermilk

Instructions
Preheat oven to 200C /400F.
Line a baking pan with baking paper. (I use a 18cmx32cm / 7.5”x13” sized pan).
Mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and honey until combined.
Add the melted butter and buttermilk and beat until combined.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until firm and golden.
Allow to cool slightly before cutting into shapes with your gingerbread people cookie cutters.
If you don’t have gingerbread cookie cutters you can use a knife to cut into shapes.

A Ghost Of A Fear

The first ghost tour I ever attended was a haunted theatre tour of the Arts Centre Melbourne on Friday the 13th in 2016. My second was only a few weeks ago. The reason they have been so few and far between is that I haven’t been able to find the right ones. I’m not interested in tours of prisons, asylums or visiting the streets and haunts of serial killers. When I think of ghosts one thing immediately comes to mind – Haunted Houses!

I’m not sure what I believe in relation to ghosts but I’m pretty sure I’ve lived in a few haunted houses. One of my childhood homes was a place of terror for me as I was sure the ghosts of the two old women who previously lived there hadn’t quite left the building. They seemed to be having a good time though, as I could hear them laughing most nights.

Another place I lived in was a lovely old home that wasn’t haunted inside. But the moment you went into the backyard you could feel something malevolent. Unfortunately it was such an old home that it didn’t have an indoor toilet. I was living with a group of punks and we were pretty fearless – except when it came to using the toilet in the haunted backyard. I’ll always remember the sound of Doc Martens running down the pathway and the looks of surprised terror on the faces of visitors after using the toilet. It’s no coincidence that we were the fittest punks in our group.

IMG_4553bheritage park, san diego

When I discovered that Lantern Ghost Tours were doing a tour of Altona Homestead, I couldn’t wait to book. I’ve been to the homestead many times during the day. The homestead hosts a monthly Devonshire tea during which you are free to roam the historical home. It’s a beautiful house and I’ve often wondered what it would look like at night. Thanks to the ghost tour, I was about to find out!

The tour started outside the house and was led by a woman in a black cape holding a lantern. We began with a walk to the pier to hear stories of drownings and waterlogged ghosts. We then walked down a few streets with ghostly significance before returning to the house. Our guide opened the door and told us that once we all entered the house she would be locking us in. Awesome! 

After a brief introduction to the history of the homestead and it’s original occupants, we entered a room that I had visited many times before. It has a beautiful bedwarmer on the bed which reminds me of the bedwarmer in Bewitched. After saying hello to the bedwarmer, I turned to see our guide standing in front of a wardrobe. The wardrobe was not originally part of the house but had been brought in from another historic home. It fitted in with the decor and came with an added extra – the ghost of a young boy.

The guide was going to open the wardrobe door and wanted someone to stand in front of it. I had an awful feeling she was going to pick me. Just because I was the only person on the tour who knew about Victorian Death Photography and was dressed in head to toe black, didn’t mean I wanted to stand in front of a wardrobe when the door opened to let out a ghost. But when she pulled out a pair of dowsing rods I couldn’t resit.

IMG_4833a copy 2the haunted wardrobe

As I stood outside the open wardrobe I had a moment of fear. Ghosts are scary, but child ghosts are much scarier. Using my witchcraft training I quickly set protections around myself. I was glad I did as the dowsing rods started moving. I didn’t think I was moving them but was sure there was a rational explanation. Moments after I reached that comforting conclusion, someone on the tour panicked and asked to be let out of the house. The guide left the room to escort her to freedom leaving me with moving dowsing rods, people staring at me and a possible ghost behind me. I was relieved when the guide returned. She explained that the woman had seen something scary in the room and had to leave. Okay – no longer quite so relieved.

The dowsing rods continued turning until they crossed over each other. The guide had a few questions for the ghost and then asked if they would uncross the rods for us. I didn’t know if I was more scared of them uncrossing or not uncrossing. I watched and they slowly began uncrossing. I was told to wipe the rods on my jacket to break the connection which I did very thoroughly. My job done, it was time to continue with the tour, this time as a spectator. 

As we went room by room many tales were told of haunted happenings at the homestead. My favourite was about the dolls. Apparently staff say they keep moving position and moving rooms. One staff member said they once found all the dolls in one room facing the wall. Even the guide thought that could be the work of another staff member with a mischievous sense of humour. But my favourite doll story was about the staff member who came to work and found the dolls scattered about the house. After putting them in the right rooms they heard a knock on the window coming from the courtyard. When they looked out the window there was a doll. That’s the courtyard where we have our Devonshire teas!

IMG_3153banother cup of tea?

The tour ended with a warning from our guide to check our rear view mirrors before we drove off in case something had decided to come home with us. Before getting in the car I dropped my jacket in the back of the car. I didn’t want to bring it into the house that night after wiping dowsing rods on it. I looked at the Moon and asked it to cleanse my jacket overnight. I then hopped into the car and checked all my mirrors.

I’m really excited about our next Devonshire Tea at the homestead. I’m kind of hoping there’ll be a doll sitting at one of the tables.