Historian Jack Sim, who has long been researching ghost stories in Ipswich and Brisbane, hosts ghost tours of the Ipswich Cemetery on the last Saturday of each month and has been working with Discover Ipswich on new ghost tours around some of Ipswich’s most haunted sites.
Mr Sim has let us in on some of Ipswich’s most haunted places.
St Mary’s Church
One of the most haunted places in Ipswich is St Mary’s church, where a soul is believed to haunt the building.
Mr Sim said priests that have been stationed at the parish had experienced congregational sounds, loud voices and even the pipe organ playing loud at night when church had been locked up.
A priest who is buried in the St Mary’s cemetery and helped build the St Mary’s we see today is said to linger, his soul still attached to the church he helped build.
When Jack Sim was researching for Haunted Ipswich Volume one he spoke to people that grew up seeing the house built by Ipswich’s coal king Lewis Thomas back in the 1950s. The funny thing was the house called Brynhyfryd was destroyed in 1936.
Mr Thomas was a Welshman who moved to Australia to take advantage of our rich coal deposits. He built a magnificent mansion on Blackstone Hill, now Thomas St. It was often described as a castle and had 49 rooms, three main storeys, a basement, tower and library.
After his death at the house in 1930 the property was purchased by another mining company with the hope of developing the site into a mine. Mr Thomas had no one to pass the property onto, his wife and daughter had proceeded him.
The mining company blew up the property in 1936 only to discover that Mr Thomas had already mined the coal under his home. People that grew up in the 1950s said on cold mornings the shape of the home can be seen in the steam rising from burning coal under the site.
While the house was still standing, after Mr Thomas’ death people said they could see Mr Thomas and his wife standing in the windows.
Ipswich General Cemetery
The ghost stories from Ipswich General Cemetery date right back to when it was first established. One of the great ghost stories of Ipswich is James Ryan, who claimed he was one of the members of the infamous Kelly gang.
Mr Ryan’s remains were buried at the cemetery. While he wasn’t the only person to claim he was part of the Kelly gang, it looked like his story had something that the others didn’t.
Mr Ryan had terrible scars and as it goes under those severe burns to his upper legs and back you could see that there were initials branded into his flesh. It is understood that Ned Kelly’s mother had branded her children and family members so their bodies could be recognised. Mr Ryan had claimed he had escaped the siege of Glenrowan with another member of the gang.
He was decapitated by a coal train coming into Ipswich. He had used to walk the railway lines. Queensland Rail workers used to joke that Ned Kelly’s headless ghost had walked the track near where Mr Ryan died.
The former Challinor Centre
The entire Ipswich USQ campus used to be a mental health centre and housed people with intellectual disabilities dating back to 1878. Within the grounds stands one of the original buildings that housed the criminally insane.
Some of the state’s most notorious criminals were housed there including the Whiskey Au Go Go killer John Stuart who escaped at one time.
There weren’t many ghost stories told while the hospital was in use, but when it was closed security patrols would often tell of weird activity.
The Old Ambulance Station in North Ipswich
Mr Sim said the old ambulance station in North Ipswich is haunted by the former superintendent W.C Tomkins. Mr Tomkins founded the Ipswich brigade in 1901 and lived above the station. He died in the building in 1934.
While it’s not an ambulance station any more people still say they can feel his presence.