Australia has imported a lot of cultural commodities from the US over the years, from Coca-Cola to The Simpsons, but Halloween has never quite made the leap.
Maybe the Australian climate is too benign in October for people to feel properly chilled, or maybe our chocolate is too tasty to hand out, compared to the dryer, milk-less US versions.
But one thing that can’t be contested is that it certainly isn’t because we lack for gruesome or macabre stories to swap .
The New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – clearly the scariest of all government bodies – has decided to get into the spirit of the spooky season, spruiking a spine-tingling swathe of things to see and do in Darling Harbour this weekend.
“We’ve carved out loads of freaky and fun things do in Darling Harbour this Halloween,” NSW Placemaking chief executive Anita Mitchell said.
“Tumbalong Park will be the perfect place for the best Halloween selfies in town, where we will have a giant bat and a carved pumpkin to pose with.
“And around the corner on the Harbour there will be plenty of spooky specials to get your fangs watering.”
And just in case you need something to talk about while enjoying a brain shot or a Jack Skellington ice cream dessert, they went ahead and compiled a list of Darling Harbour’s scariest, saddest, eeriest or just plain gruesome-est historical stories. Here are a couple of our favourites.
WARNING: The following stories contain scenes of blood, death and blood again. They are best read aloud to other people in a dimly-lit room at midnight while unseen tree branches scratch at the window.
THE MYSTERY COFFINS
In January 1866, Sydney Council workers made a grisly discovery while excavating a street where Town Hall stands today – two unmarked coffins.
They were close to the site of an old cemetery, but these coffins were clearly buried outside the hallowed ground.
Attempting to discover the identity of the bodies led people to a harrowing story.
The corpses that had been dug up were those of two men who had been executed in 1799 for the crime of killing missionary Samuel Clode in the area now known as Darling Square (then known as The Brickfields).
One of the murderers was soldier Thomas Jones, after whom Jones Bay and Jones Street in Pyrmont were named.
Aided by an accomplice, they had split Clode’s head in two with an axe when he came to collect payment of a debt, then buried his corpse in a sawpit behind Jones’ home.
Their terrible crime was discovered, and they were hanged for it.
DEATH BY ICE CREAM
Thousands walk across the heritage-listed Pyrmont Bridge every day. But it’s unlikely any of them worry about the possibility of an ice-cream related death.
In 1897 – and on Valentine’s Day, no less – 50-year-old Thomas Risk had the charge of opening and closing the bridge to allow ships to pass below.
He was closing the gate when an ice-cream cart driver tried to pass through, knocking Risk to the ground – and into the bridge mechanisms, where Risk was crushed to death.
Check out the full archives here.