Ghost of Old Railway pub
LONG after the last beer has been poured and the doors to the Old Railway Hotel have been locked for the night, a mysterious woman appears to keep a shadowy vigil.
Dressed in a pale blue frock, she wanders the upstairs corridor, peering down through the winding staircase as her winsome whispers and mysterious murmurings echo through the dark night.
Fascinated by stories told by patrons of the much-loved watering hole, I decided to spend a night at the hotel - to find out for myself whether the tales of haunting apparitions of a woman in blue were true.
I was alone in the empty hall - but, there was a sense of someone present that made me cast a sweeping glance from one end of the hall to the other.
Nope - I was utterly alone. With heavy, purposeful strides I walked into the dark - throwing open doors in defiant scepticism - scanning each empty room as I went. Nothing out of the ordinary here - I thought, moving from one room to the next. I came to the second last room on the lefthand side.
Placing my hand on the iron door knob, I noticed it was a little colder than the others.
"The air-con must be on…" I thought … trying to rationalise the chill that had just run like a current of electricity down the centre of my spine. I opened the door - and caught a glimpse of a shadow in the corner of my eye.
"Oh ... sorry," I murmured instinctively, thinking I'd burst in on a guest.
Looking again, I saw the room was empty. "I've talked myself into this," I thought, shaking my head to get the shadowy image out of it. It wasn't until I was walking away from the door - and cast a backward glance, that I picked up my pace. Second on the left, facing west.
And I got the hell out of there. Earlier on hotel patron Pete McGahan had stared at me with wide eyes as he explained in precise and vivid detail about the night he met the lady in the blue dress.
"I was moving to Mackay and didn't have anywhere to stay - this was back in 2010," he explained. "So I booked into one of the rooms here.
"The first night I was here, I walked into the room after having a few drinks and instantly had the feeling as if I wasn't alone. The feeling was so strong that it made me take a good look around the room. I put it down to having a few too many and went to bed."
He was just drifting off to sleep when he was awakened by the feeling of something pushing against his chest.
"It woke me up. The feeling was so strong that I couldn't move to sit up. When I looked up, there was a woman sitting on my bed with her hands leaning on my chest.
"It wasn't an ominous feeling though. I didn't feel as if she wanted to hurt me. I don't remember being scared - I just wondered to myself "geez … how much have I had to drink?" But the figure of this woman didn't move, even when I tried to snap myself out of it."
Pete says eventually the woman, who he says appeared in a light blue dress - "like the colour of those old nurses' uniforms from a long time ago" - seemed to vanish.
"I had the feeling she wanted help, like she wanted to ask me something. I got up, looked around the room and then into the corridor. When I looked down the hallway, I could see a shadow - but there was no one there." After his surreal encounter, Pete vowed not to drink before heading to bed the following night.
"No more vodka for me, I thought to myself." On the second night of his stay, he headed to bed sober as a judge.
"And the same thing happened. I was almost asleep - and then, there she was. I can remember feeling as if she was asking me for something and it was urgent. I didn't say anything at all to her - but I felt as if we'd had a conversation. My heart was going like a freight train."
Pete stayed for a third night, then moved into his own place.
"I didn't see her after I left the hotel. That was almost three years ago - and I've never experienced anything like it since."
"So, which room did you stay in?" I asked. "The second on the left, facing west," he said.