Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Humbug Scrub Wildlife Sanctuary

 Humbug Scrub Wildlife Sanctuary

The sanctuary, located behind the Parra Wirra Reserve near One Tree Hill in Adelaide's north, not far from the Barossa Valley was first established in 1905 by Thomas Bellchambers
Thomas was a keen naturalist and wanted to preserve native fauna and flora, he did this by establishing the wildlife sanctuary and writing articles for various newspapers and magazine columns  he also wrote books based on the plants and animals he found in the sanctuary and surrounding scrub.

In the middle of the sanctuary Thomas build a small stone hut, and in it he lived with his wife, Eliza and ten children, with no electricity or running water.
The Sanctuary garnered national attention and has been visited by dignitaries such as Governor Generals.
In time Thomas passed the sanctuary on to one of his sons, who took care of the property, and now Thomas own grandson, Neville is the caretaker. Tom's old cottage is now a museum, housing a large collection of photos and histories associated with the Bellchambers family and the sanctuary and surrounding gold mines.
Neville who also grew up in the sanctuary is a very kind, spiritual man, and someone I got to know on a personal level when I volunteered at the Sanctuary, it was through Neville, and long time volunteer Keith, that I got to hear many of the local ghost stories associated with the Sanctuary, many of which happened directly to Keith during his 20 years as a volunteer.
The cottage sits above a small lake, and is 2kms from the nearest road, isolated in the middle of the sanctuary. I was very lucky to be allowed to investigate the Sanctuary and Cottage on a number of occasions over the years, and through my investigations got to feel first hand, some of the goings on in the cottage.

The first story I heard was relayed to me by Keith. Some time ago, he was camping in the sanctuary on rifle duty as stray cats and dogs had been attacking the animals. He noticed strange lights down near “Lingalonga”, a small wooden shelter where volunteers prepare food for the animals.
The lights seemed to float in and out of the hut and around the storage sheds, thinking it might be kids who have wandered across the fence line, he went to take a look. When he got close enough he realised the lights were not torches, but free floating little balls of light, that soon extinguished upon him getting closer.
Another story, which was relayed to me was that of a tourist visiting the cottage, she came back to the volunteer area and asked if there was a costume event on that day. She had seen a man in period clothing, a white shirt with a vest over the top, standing on the front porch of the cottage of which she was about to enter, rather than disturb a re-enactment she walked down to the entry to enquire about goings on.

The volunteer on duty couldn't offer an explanation, so the two of them walked up to the cottage and went inside, when the lady started looking at the numerous photos spread around the cottage, she pointed to one and exclaimed “that’s him!”.
The photo she was pointing at was an old shot on Thomas Bellchambers, wearing a white shirt with a vest over the top – this was not the last time Thomas was seen, he has also been seen by various other guests around the cottage and near his grave which stands at the top of the hill overlooking the entire sanctuary.
Another interesting story involves the cottage itself, on occasion, volunteers camp at the sanctuary, or host night tours, on a few different occasions a glow has been witnessed coming from the fireplaces in the cottage. The fireplaces have not been in use for many many years.
One of my on experiences involved the cottage. Myself and a friend were camping at the sanctuary and were given permission to investigate the cottage, we let ourselves in at about midnight, and sat facing each other, at the table. We turned out torches off, and in the pitch black began to ask questions. It didn't take long until we heard shuffling footsteps inside the cottage with us!
We sat still and listened, and could feel a cold breeze circling us in the room, we both turned out torches on at the same time, as we both felt we had been touched, thinking it was the other making a joke...neither of us had touched each other – we tried further experiments into the night, but nothing happened again during that night, no noises, no cold breezes, no touching.

Whilst camping on hot summer night, Keith took myself and friend on a night bushwalk to some old ruins behind the Sanctuary, he gave us the following story.
 During World war two, many German people were set upon by their fellow Australians out of fear and suspicion that they were secretly helping the Nazi war effort by sabotaging things here in Australia.
 Many camps were set up around the state to "protect" the German people - one camp was set near Sandy Creek, not far from Gawler
 To escape the persecution, a German man, known as "Flett" fled into the wilderness around humbug scrub - he set himself up a makeshift humpee in the ruins of one of the old mining town buildings and lived a very secluded life.
He would fire warning shots from his rifle over the heads of anyone coming near him - the only man game enough to do so was the caretaker of the nearby wildlife sanctuary, Mr. Bellchambers, who would walk down and leave Hessian bags, and sometimes food for Flett, the two men never spoke, but had a feeling of mutual respect and never got involved in each others business
 Flett met a tragic end, his body was found lying on the road near Parra Wirra, his bicycle, which he pushed everywhere (but never once rode), was lying next to him - his body was severely beaten
Stories of the ghost of Flett now haunt the old mining area, often he appears when someone comes near his old home, some dilapidated ruins near the back lake of the Sanctuary, but he has been seen on the road near where died as well. One witness who contacted me directly spoke of seen a man laying on the ground as his family drove past, he got up and looked the driver in the eye, and as he did, his body and clothing turned black and he disappeared, the witness described the colour a fluid movement of what we saw as similar to and “Ink Blot”...

There are other stories from the sanctuary that wont be discussed here as they contain locations and information that are culturally sensitive, but there are other mysteries that are yet to be solved, like who's grave is it that lays in the middle of the scrub, far from anything?

© 2013 Allen Tiller

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