Australia’s Most Haunted by M J Steel Collins

In the town of Junee, New South Wales, Australia lies an extravagant Victorian pile called the Monte Cristo Homestead. It has quite a chequered history – from its origins as the grandest home in the area to its fall to, and eventual rescue from, dilapidation, accompanied by a cavalcade of ghosts and strange experiences. Monte Cristo, unsurprisingly, has the reputation as the most haunted house in Australia.

The homestead was built by prosperous farmer Christopher William Crawley between 1884 and 1885. A lot of money was invested in its construction, and it played host to several balls, with golf and tennis played by guests in the grounds .Crawley had been farming in the area for a couple of years when he had the foresight to obtain a licence to build a hotel on land opposite what would eventually become the railway station in Junee. The arrival of the railway was good for Crawley and he soon cashed in on travellers passing through the station. Crawley became a rich man and pillar of the local community. He donated land for the local church and contributed financially to its construction.

Crawley was married to Elizabeth. They are described as a typical, stern Victorian couple, who were quite strict with their servants. The couple had ten children, seven of whom survived into childhood. One son died mysteriously, his cause of death lost somewhere in the midst of time. A baby daughter died after falling from her nanny’s arms on the main staircase of Monte Cristo; the nanny claimed that a strange force seemed to pull the child from her arms. Another daughter died from severe burns after her nightgown caught fire. The surviving children, said to be musically gifted, were privately educated and went on to lead successful lives.

Christopher William Crawley died from blood poisoning caught from an infected neck boil at the age of 69 in 1910. Elizabeth survived him for a further 23 years. She hardly left the homestead in that time, apart from two occasions. A very religious woman, she built her own chapel in an upstairs room. She died in 1933 at the age of 92 from heart failure and appendicitis. The Crawley family left the house in 1948, and in the years that followed, much of its grand facade was destroyed by vandals.

Monte Cristo was eventually saved by Reg Ryan when he purchased it in 1963. A tailor from Wagga Wagga, a city near Junee, he worked hard to buy the property and applied the same work ethic to its restoration back to its original condition. Reg and his wife Olive raised their family in the house. It wasn’t long after they moved in that they realised it might be haunted in a well documented incident.

Three days after the move, Reg and Olive were returning home from a shopping trip, when they saw light pouring from every window of the house as they approached the driveway. Olive wondered if it may have been burglars, but Reg doubted it, as there was no electricity connected to the house. The only light source was a then unlit kerosene lamp and various battery operated lights the family had brought with them. As they drove down the driveway, the lights went back out. The strange event was to repeat itself in 1981, when the Ryans’ son Lawrence arrived home – the rest of the family were out.

Over the years, the Ryans discovered several spooky, eerie things about the house. They established a bed and breakfast, restaurant and ghost tour there and found that certain people reacted in strange ways. Some folk fainted or burst into tears, whilst children are prone to have tantrums by the staircase, where the Crawley’s young daughter died. A council workman once entered the hallway, only to turn heel and walk right back out again. On being questioned, he said he didn’t like the homestead and wouldn’t be back.

One of the most dominant ghosts is believed to be that of Elizabeth Crawley. Her apparition has been seen regularly, mainly by women, while Reg Ryan has heard her footsteps walking the balcony of the second floor. One of her favourite things to do is tell women to get out. One girl was found wandering outside rather than participating in the ghost tour after an elderly lady, thought to be Mrs Crawley’s ghost, told her to leave. The spirit has even ordered Olive Ryan to move out.

Balls are held at Monte Cristo every year, with a Victorian dress code. One year, a woman was leaving after the event when she saw what looked like a woman wearing a Victorian dress walk the balcony. Initially she thought it was another guest, but realised it wasn’t when her car headlights shone through the figure. Some sources state that it was the ghost of Mrs Crawley, but others have it that a maid jumped to her death from the balcony, and that the resulting bloodstain on the stairs below stubbornly refuses to be washed away.

There are a number of child ghosts at the homestead, most of who are believed to be the Crawley children who didn’t make it to adulthood. The ghost of a young stable hand is sometimes seen in the yard outside. He is identified as Morris, who died after his boss cruelly set fire to his bedclothes after not believing Morris was too ill to get out of bed and work. Children visiting the homestead with their family often ask their parents why the other children won’t talk to them or play with them – other children that presumably adults can’t see.

The ghost of Mr Crawley has occasionally been seen, though he isn’t as dominant as that of his wife. One night, a guest staying over in the bed and breakfast woke up to see what appeared to be the ghosts of Mr and Mrs Crawley and the three children…

* Sadly Reg Ryan passed away in July 2014
More information can be found on the official web page of the Monte Cristo Homestead .