Haunted places in the Illawarra and South Coast

Stories of ghosts and sightings of the supernatural have filled humans with fear and dread since the beginning of time.

In part one of our spooky series, click through the gallery above to see places across the Illawarra and South Coast rumoured to be home to ghosts. Read below for more details.

Please note: the following are excerpts from archived Illawarra Mercury articles.

The Oxford Tavern, Wollongong

The old Oxford Tavern on Corrimal Street, Wollongong, was said to be haunted by the ghost of Lucy Frances Barrows.

On the night of June 11, 1951, the 53-year-old licensee was murdered in her upstairs living quarters.

She was found battered and strangled in her room.

Three men murdered Mrs Barrows for her diamond jewellery and £50.

The Oxford Tavern, which closed in 2010, was demolished in 2014.

Warrawong Fire Station

In a still from the video, what appears to be a small boy can be seen reflected in a window.

In a still from the video, what appears to be a small boy can be seen reflected in a window.

There’s an honorary fireman at Warrawong Fire Station who has the useful talent of being able to walk through walls. Then there's the little boy who stands watch at the window. But look twice and he's gone.

Both are believed to be ghosts haunting the station, catching firefighters off guard with their spectral appearances.

In 2011, station officer Jason Harvey told the Mercury the first sighting dated back to when the fire station was opened in 1998, and had continued ever since.

The most compelling evidence is 10-year-old video footage showing a boy's reflection on the glass panel of an internal door.

Mount Kembla Hotel

Patrons ordering a pint of Guinness at Mt Kembla Hotel should beware – there may be ghosts on tap.

The section of bar from where the Irish stout is served was the site of the hotel’s coolroom more than 100 years ago, the Illawarra Mercury reported in 2002.

Over a beer with locals, however, you may discover that the coolroom chilled more than the odd ale. Folklore has it that the room was used as a makeshift morgue for victims of the Mt Kembla mine disaster, which killed 96 men and boys and shook the close-knit mining town in 1902.

It’s an unqualified ghost tale, but one which haunted former hotel owner Paul Mack. Mr Mack can recall numerous incidents of mysterious happenings and unexplained noises from the depths of the hotel cellar late at night.

“One night I was turning the beer cooling system off, and someone spoke to me,” he said. “It was just mumbling. I turned around, but no-one was there.

“Another night as my wife and I were leaving I unlocked the front door, and I heard “bye-bye, bye-bye”. My wife and I both heard it and we said “did you hear that?”. We both bolted.”

The Ghost Bridge, Geard’s Hill

The Ghost Bridge under repair circa 1906, where a modern bridge now sits.

The Ghost Bridge under repair circa 1906, where a modern bridge now sits.

Balgownie historian Carol Herben says it’s hard to go past Ghost Bridge when pinpointing sites of spooky significance in the Illawarra.

The bridge was at the foot of Geard’s Hill near where the Princes Highway passes over the freeway.

During the 1830s, the convict stockade was located at the crossroads and Lieutenant Otway was the officer in charge of the men guarding the convict road gang. It seems the lieutenant was fond of liquor.

As legend has it, Lt Otway returned to the stockade after consuming an excessive amount one night. When he refused to comply with regulations, the guards confined him to the barracks.

On April 7, 1836, Lt Otway held his prayer book in one hand and a pistol in the other and took his own life. It was presumed at the time that he was suffering from temporary insanity.

‘‘For the next 40 years or so, Lt Otway was blamed for the manner in which humans and animals became spooked when travelling that stretch of road late at night,’’ Mrs Herben wrote.

‘‘Many a horse would baulk when approaching the bridge. There were stories of travellers who would see a ghostly image standing near the bridge.’’

Amigo’s Restaurant, Wollongong

On the menu at Amigo's Mexican restaurant in Keira St, diners are informed that "an infamous Wollongong murder" was committed upstairs. While the menu isn't forthcoming with more information, it is true. It's known as the Tiki Club murder and it happened in January 1971.

The coffee lounge was a front for a brothel upstairs. According to evidence at the murder trial of Michael McHannigan, the customers could choose a "waitress" at the coffee shop and then follow her upstairs where there were three bedrooms. The brothel was run by Charles Berry, who had hired McHannigan as muscle to fix any problems between the women and clients.

McHannigan was approached by someone higher up the food chain to bump off Berry and take over the business. Soon afterwards, he went upstairs where Berry was sleeping, hit him in the jaw with a hammer and then shot him.

Then, together with an accomplice, fellow brothel employee Peter Soffe, they stuffed Berry's body in the roof.

There Berry lay for three days, with McHannigan returning several times to douse the body in aftershave (rumoured to be Brut) to hide the smell. After those four days, he and another man, Ian Williamson, took the body down from the ceiling. He reportedly had to jump on the body to force it through the manhole (later rumours that the body had to be dismembered to fit it through are not confirmed by media coverage of the trial) and drove to Bendalong where he buried Berry.

While McHannigan went to jail, it appears Berry never left the Tiki Club, even though it's now known as Amigo's. In 2009, co-owner Deb Langton said she had seen plenty of evidence that Charlie, as the staff call him, is still around.

She's had the airconditioning and microwaves turn themselves on, bottles move and heard someone say "hello" only to look up and find no-one there.

"Staff have seen someone walk down the stairs and out of the building without anyone being here," Langton says.

The Haunted Bridge, Mt Pleasant Lane

The Haunted Bridge, Mt Pleasant Lane circa 1900. The lane is now part of Cabbage Tree Lane. Picture courtesy of Wollongong City Library and Illawarra Historical Society.

The Haunted Bridge, Mt Pleasant Lane circa 1900. The lane is now part of Cabbage Tree Lane. Picture courtesy of Wollongong City Library and Illawarra Historical Society.

Balgownie historian Carol Herben heard as a child that Cabbage Tree Lane was also referred to as Ghost Lane, with reports the bridge just west of the Vereker Street intersection was haunted by a ghost.

‘‘Residents reported that regularly pigs escaped at night under the bridge from nearby Dawson’s slaughter yard and that was the image people saw at night,’’ she said.

Dunmore House near Kiama

Dunmore House.

Dunmore House.

Dunmore House was built in 1863 on the north side of the Minnamurra River, five kilometres from Kiama.

It is said to be haunted by a man who was murdered and beheaded, his severed head placed on the gate of the property.

In the book The Dions: Bus Pioneers of Wollongong, Barney Dion said he was returning to Wollongong from Kiama one night when he heard someone singing out. Thinking he had hit someone he got out of the bus but saw nothing. After getting back in the bus, he heard the noise again and then saw a man standing in front of the bus with no head and a big sheet over himself. Read the story here.

The stretch of road between Dunmore and Minamurra has been referred to as the ‘murder mile’. Read more on the ghosts of the bloody mile here.

‘Old’ Breakwater Lighthouse, Wollongong 

The old lighthouse at Belmore Basin is said to be haunted, with “anomalies” and “black blobs” detected by Ghost Hunters Wollongong.

The spirit of pilot William Edwards, who drowned in Wollongong Harbour in 1867, is said to keep watch from the light.

Ranelagh House, Robertson

If walls could talk, it might be difficult to shut those at Ranelagh House up.

In 2007, the Mercury reported the 83-year-old house was built for a Melbourne investor at a cost of $92,000. However, that venture, the Hotel Robertson, was not successful and the manor has had stints as a WRAAF base during World War II and seminary.

Vera Menday said many visitors had a connection to the house.

"Everyone around here seems to have some connection and it's amazing thehistory we hear from people who drop in.

"If walls could talk there would be a lot of stories about this place."

But being an old country house, what about the natural inhabitants of those walls - ghosts?

"The Abbey leaders have said it's a place of peace and tranquillity and I think they're right. If there are any ghosts in this house I think they'd enjoy a party."

Applegarth Cottage, Milton

Applegarth Cottage is said to be haunted by Henry Cambage, who lived in the dwelling.

Applegarth Cottage is said to be haunted by Henry Cambage, who lived in the dwelling.

Applegarth Cottage is said to be haunted by Henry Cambage, who lived in the dwelling in the 1800s.

John Cambage had master mason James Poole build him the cottage of 'Applegarth' in 1868. The house is supposedly haunted by Cambage's son Henry.

The ghost house - Windy Gully, Mount Kembla

The Ghost House. Picture: Chilby Photography

The Ghost House. Picture: Chilby Photography

This abandoned house at Windy Gully on the Illawarra escarpment at Mount Kembla is rumoured to be home to many ghosts.

Newton Park, Kembla Grange

According to Wollongong City Council the house was built in 1845 for David Williamson Irving at a cost of $2400.

On April 3, 1968, the Mercury's front page included an article about the "The Ghost of Newton Park".

"For years the story of the ghost has been told among homesteaders in the district,'' the article states.

One theory was that the ghost is the spirit of one of the convicts who built the homestead. The National Trust of Australia offered its own theory that the ghost could be of David Irving's older brother John, who had died on an "ill fated north-west passage expedition which perished within the Arctic Circle".