I’ve always loved ghost stories. I was ten when I watched The Sixth Sense with my mum. Far too young to see bodies hung from the rafters and a boy terrorised by malevolent spirits, but these scenes stuck with me, fascinating me.
When I was an edgy teen, Dad would take me on weekend trips to country NSW towns, remote locations the rest of the country had forgotten. His idea of family fun was subjecting his three girls and wife to whale museums, trinket (/junk) markets and most memorable of all, ghost tours.
Even if one of us was scared and the rest of us were uninterested, we were expected to go. The man had secured the Groupon.
Strangely enough, Dad would act skeptical about the ghost sightings and tales recounted on the tour, even though he booked the damn thing, but I enjoyed it, revelling in the mystery of it all.
The week before Tim the Yowie Man’s ghost tour of the National Film and Sound Archive, I asked myself: Would I be frightened? If I saw a ghost, is there a chance I could potentially find it sexy? Soon enough, it was the night of the tour and I was ready for answers.
After the tour group assembled in the bar for a drop of liquid courage, Tim the Yowie Man met us in the archive’s theatrette, rocking his signature soft neutrals and hat.
Already I was haunted by the notion of having a sharp personal dress code, would I ever find my forever garb? But it was not the time. Ghosts. Here for the ghosts.
We launched right into the spooks by learning about the history of the archive. It was formerly the Australian Institute of Anatomy between the years 1931-1985, housing a morgue and hundreds of human specimens, some suspected to have been acquired in less than ethical ways.
Today, it’s regarded as one of Australia’s most haunted sites.
We passed through the library and offices of the building – where one woman on the tour felt nauseous because she got the creeps – and continued down to the eeriest part of the archive, the former morgue.
All the while, the tale of an unsolved Australian murder set the scene.
Like most Millennials, I’m vile and find true crime tales intriguing. While I blame it on all those artfully produced podcasts and docu-series, it was just as fascinating hearing about true crime from the Canberra folklorist.
I routinely checked the electromagnetic meter that I volunteered to carry at the start of the tour in a bid to have more in common with Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters. It didn't budge, so I go off my hound-like instincts, spittle pooling in my jowls as I sniffed the cold air.
Already in a spooked state from binge-reading horror tales on Reddit all week, I thought I’d be likely to encounter a member of the spirit world, and perhaps open that third eye everyone keeps talking about.
No such luck. In my mind, I continuously kept count of the group, ensuring the number never went above 20 because of a ghostly figure joining the pack. Throughout the night there were no strange gusts of air, no soft cackles in my ear.
I was strangely disappointed that I didn’t acquire at least one apparition to call friend, but I was happy the tour didn’t resort to corny tricks to get people’s hackles up.
The dark, sketchy past of the former Institute of Anatomy paired with Mr Yowie Man’s engaging storytelling and historical commentary meant the night felt more like an interactive true crime series than a ghost tour. And that’s why I’d go again.