Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Ghost Plane at Hawker

 Ghost Plane at Hawker


DH-82A Tiger Moth - photo courtesy of Temora Aviation Museum

Mounted Constable L.F. Butcher of Hawker received several enquiries on Friday 26 August 1948 regarding a low flying Tiger Moth biplane that was seen at 8:15am, then disappeared!

 Railway workers witnessed the plane flying low near the township when it suddenly disappeared into a hillside. Afraid there had been a crash, they alerted the local authorities.

Enquiries to the Civil Aviation Department found that all planes from as far away as Broken Hill, Whyalla and Albany were checked, and none matched the plane, nor its flight path. M.C. Butcher enquired with locals in the area, and no one had seen, nor heard the aircraft flying in the vicinity of Hawker.[1]

M.C. Butcher stated in the newspapers "It's a complete mystery."

 The authorities would not believe a ghost plane could ever fly in our skies, so launched an investigation. It was widely rumoured that either a Tiger Moth or Puss Moth had been seen illegally flying somewhere near Beltana, South Australia. However, Mr A.V. Lauchland, an officer in charge of the Parafield Airport stated that there was no way the unregistered pilot could buy aviation fuel without a current registration. The Civil Aviation Department investigated through the Disposals Commission on the sales of light planes in the state.[2]

 238 km's south of Hawker, at Clare, Meggitt’s Ltd. was using a Tiger Moth to crop dust with DDT, in fields around the Clare region. The same planes were being used in Queensland and New South Wales for the same purpose.[3]
 So perhaps, one of the Tiger Moths had made its way to Hawker as well?

 It was never determined inf the Tiger Moth seen at Hawker was a ghost plane or an illegal pilot. However, a similar style of plane was once flown over the skies of Kapunda by my Great uncle. Long after his death, and the plane being sold and removed from the area, a phantom Tiger Moth has been seen silently flying over the township from time to time…


Researched and Written by Allen Tiller © 2022

[1] '"Ghost" plane in north', News, (27 Aug 1948), p. 1., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129908639.

[2] 'Is 'phantom' plane unregistered?', News, (28 Aug 1948), p. 1., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129899109.

[3] 'Linseed Dusting in Clare District by Aeroplane', Northern Argus, (18 Nov 1948), p. 7., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article97816206.

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

The Burton Incident

 The Burton Incident


 In 1927, the township of Burton was described by many as a hamlet on the road to Virginia from Salisbury. At the time, it had few houses, and a small school run by Miss Violet Handley.[1]

 On Friday 2 December 1927, Harry Bruce McDowell of Alberton, arrived at the Burton school early in the morning in a taxi. He found Miss Handley and entered the schoolroom, where they had a short conversation. He then left the room. Fearing the situation would escalate further, Handley dismissed the class, except for one strong lad. McDowell came back into the room and pushed Handley into a corner where he hit her repeatedly. He then pulled a revolver from his pocket and screamed at her, “I’ll shoot you and your mother as well!”[2]

 Handley pleaded to McDowell to be sensible and promised him she would meet him that evening to discuss matters. She gradually got up, and still talking to McDowell, led him outside to the taxi he had arrived in. She pleaded with the driver for assistance, as it looked as though McDowell was not going to leave. The taxi driver convinced McDowell to leave, and they left again for Adelaide.

 Miss Handley, fearing that McDowell would return that day, posted some of her male students outside the school to keep watch for McDowell. Just after midday, he returned, asking the taxi driver to park further from the school.
 One of the students alerted Miss Handley. Another student ran to a nearby farm to get help. Miss Handley ran from the school and locked herself in a room of the nearby Methodist Church.

 Farmers, Mr White, and Mr Barcroft rode to the school on their horses, there they found McDowell outside the room Handley had locked herself in. He had in his hand a loaded revolver. Barcroft, disarmed McDowell, taking his revolver.
 The police were notified, and Mounted-Constable T.H. Northridge of Salisbury arrived. He took the loaded revolver and a packet of bullets found in McDowell’s coat. He then charged him for threatening to shoot Miss Handley.[3]

The case came before the Salisbury courts, where it was alleged that Miss Handley and Mr McDowell were long term friends. It was alleged Miss Handley’s mother had influenced her daughter to end the friendship, and therefore McDowell had become enraged.
 Harry Bruce McDowell was charged with ‘unlawfully and maliciously threatening to shoot Violet Amelia Handley, schoolteacher, at Burton.’[4]

 The case was to be presented before Magistrates W.H. Neal and J. McGlashan. The prosecution read the charges, and as soon as they had finished, Miss Handley spoke; stating she had no intention of proceeding with the serious charges presented to the court, on that she withdrew, substituting instead, with a less serious charge of common assault.

 She then presented that the accused had arrived at the school and grabbed her, then tried to kiss her. She had resisted.
McDowell in his evidence offered that he was extremely drunk at the time, and had no intention of harming Miss Handley.

 The Bench inflicted a fine of £3, and costs, £8 7/6 in all.[5]

Mr McGlashan, the presiding justice, said the case was the most unsatisfactory that he had ever had to deal with.

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2022

[1] 'Threatened To Shoot.', The Kadina and Wallaroo Times, (3 Dec 1927), p. 2., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article110144809.

[2] "I'll Shoot You and Your Mother."', The Advertiser, (3 Dec 1927), p. 18., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47436245.

[3] "I'll Shoot You and Your Mother."', Chronicle, (10 Dec 1927), p. 68., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article90090424.

[4] 'Alleged Threat.', The Advertiser, (5 December 1927), p. 17., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47436690.

[5] 'SCHOOL SENSATION.', The Register, (5 Dec 1927), p. 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54934981.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Mallala Museum - Hidden Secrets

 Mallala Museum - Hidden Secrets

<start transcript>

In 1877, the Mallala Milling Company was floated with a capital investment of ten thousand pounds. A site in the township was chosen and James Martin and Co of Gawler were contracted to build all the machinery and carpentry for the new Mallala Mill.
The foundation stone was laid on 26 July 1878 by Miss M.A. Chivell, who was presented with a silver trowel for her efforts.[1]

The Mill was opened by Mr W. Cavanagh M.P. on Tuesday 18 March 1879.

The completed building was three stories tall, built from hammer-dressed limestone, with brick quoins and cement dressings.  At the rear was a shed that contained a Cornish boiler manufactured at James Martin and Co in Gawler. The boiler drove a horizontal engine of 22 horsepower, with a flywheel weighing three tons.
 The mill consisted of three pairs of French burr stones, each being 3 feet and 8 inches in diameter.[2]

On 31 August 1880, just after 12 noon, the boiler at the Mallala Mill exploded. Mr Armfield, the Mills engineer had just been to check on the boiler and returned to the engine room when the accident happened. The boiler exploded, blowing down half of the boiler-house walls and bursting numerous pipes. The explosion blew the roof of the engine and boiler room houses and shattered the base of the chimney stack. Luckily, no one lost their lives, as most workers had gone to lunch, however, Mr Armfield received some head injuries from flying debris

When the mill closed, the inner workings, the steam engine and grinder were removed and used at the Blyth Mill.[3] Mathew Henry East held the title in 1909, and in 1933, East Brothers and Co took possession

In 1947 the 50-foot-tall chimney, made from over 6000 bricks, that had been built in 1878 was demolished. It had been declared unsafe and a risk to the buildings nearby

The Mallala and Districts Historical committee was formed in 1968, and in 1970, the Adelaide Plains Council bought Mallala Flour Mill to be used as a museum. The museum holds a comprehensive military display of local involvement, farming machinery, an REO Speedwagon Fire Engine, displays of old typewriters, toys, blacksmith forge, and Mr Temby’s penny-farthing, which was ridden in the Adelaide Xmas Pageant by Lance Tiller. The Long Plains Schoolroom has many displays, and recently, in 2021, a new upstairs gallery was opened and dedicated to long term volunteer, the late Margaret Tiller.

The Mallala Museum is considered one of the finest local heritage museums in South Australia. It is open every Sunday afternoon from 2pm until 4:30pm and is run by volunteers. <end transcript>

© 2021 Allen Tiller

[1] 'Laying the Foundation Stone of Mallala Flour Mill', Yorke's Peninsula Advertiser, (6 August 1878), p. 4.

[2] 'Opening of the Mallala Mill.', South Australian Register, (20 March 1879), p. 1.

[3] 1947 'Out Among The People', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), 15 April, p. 4. , viewed 14 Aug 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article30522934

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

The Murder of James Curran.

  The Murder of James Curran.


Grave of James Curran - SLSA [B 28120]

  James Curran worked at Minnipa on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. He was employed by the Hydraulic Engineers Department, working on constructing a holding tank for the Tod River water scheme in 1927.
 On Sunday morning, 30 January 1927, Curran had a drink of coffee before breakfast and became ill.
 Before he died and in throes of agony, Curran spoke to the foreman, H.E. Scott. He gave the address of his daughter at Warrnambool, but before he got to speak his son’s address, he died.[1]

  It was believed that poison had been put with sugar that Curran had used to sweeten his coffee. Police constables Hann and Cain investigated. They found that a cook from the construction camp had suicided six months earlier and that recently two pigs, who had eaten scraps from the camp dinner, had also died. Further investigation was sought.

  An inquest was held under the watch of Dr McCarthy of Wudinna, ordered by Coroner A.G. Collyer-Braham.
 At the inquest, Charles Jones, the assistant cook gave evidence of the morning of Curran’s death. He said that at 7:30 am Curran came into the kitchen with a pannikin. Jones put coffee and sugar in it. Curran remarked to Jones, “What did you out in this? You are always putting jokes upon me.”
 Jones replied that he hadn’t put anything in it. Curran asked him to taste it, so he took a teaspoon full, which Jones thought tasted bitter.
 Curran threw out his coffee and was poured a new one. A short while after drinking it, he shouted “I am poisoned!”[2]

 Another witness, Walter Rowe, a Deputy Government Analyst, stated that he examined the 3 oz. of sugar in the container. In it, he found a ½ grain of strychnine. There was no poison in the sugar bag in the storeroom. He also examined Curran’s liver and kidneys and found enough of the poison present to deliver the fatal blow.

More witnesses were called, and a suspect pointed at. Frank Styrmin recalled that he had handed a bottle of strychnine to a man named Schultz who was with Carl Bystedt. A suspect had been found.


Based on circumstantial evidence, Carl Eugene Elwing Bystedt was committed for murder.[3] Coroner A.G. Collyer-Braham stated that the evidence against Bystedt was strong. He commended Detectives Slade and Golds on their investigation into the case and their collection of evidence, which met with difficult circumstances due to a large portion of the workers at the camp being foreigners whose first language was not English.
Coroner Collyer-Braham stated,

“That James Curran came to his death on January 30 at mess camp at Minnipa through strychnine poisoning, after having drunk a cup of coffee, in which was mixed sugar containing strychnine.' He stated that the evidence against Bystedt was so strong that he must face the jury at the next sitting of the Criminal Court.”[4]

 Bystedt was taken to Adelaide to face charges. The South Australian Crown Solicitor, A.J. Hannan, investigated the case and decided that there was barely any evidence that pointed toward Bystedt being the murderer.[5] As there was no case, Bysted walked a free man.[6]


James Curran is buried in the Minnipa cemetery.

© 2021 Allen Tiller.

[1] 'Poisoning Case at Minnipa.', West Coast Sentinel, (4 February 1927), p. 1., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article168243416.

[2] 'Minnipa Inquest.', The Register, (23 February 1927), p. 15., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54886406.

[3] 'Minnipa Tragedy', Barrier Miner, (24 February 1927), p. 4., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article45981347.

[4] 'Minnipa Tragedy.', The Register, (25 February 1927), p. 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54884520.

[5] 'No Indictment.', The Armidale Chronicle, (9 April 1927), p. 6., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article188070777.

[6] 'Minippa Tragedy.', Recorder, (8 April 1927), p. 1., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article95872984.

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

The 1855 Macclesfield Murder.

 The 1855 Macclesfield Murder.


Davenport Arms Hotel 1921 – SLSA [B 34161] 

 On Monday 24 September 1885, an inquest was held at the Davenport Arms, Macclesfield after the murder of a local man named James Spencer.
 On the Friday prior, locals witnessed Spencer dressed in his best clothing at about 7pm in the evening, after he voted in a local election. He was seen to return to his small home about three-quarters of a mile from the town.

Spencer lived by himself. A neighbour, Mr Crick, noted that no smoke left his chimney on Saturday and Sunday; something that in 1855, would have been a regular occurrence anytime someone cooked, or even wanted to boil the kettle, being as there was no electricity or modern conveniences.
  Crick went over to check on his neighbour and found the old man had been murdered.

The police were called immediately, and upon inspection, locked the door of the house so any potential evidence would not be corrupted. The police then informed the local magistrate and then investigated the home.

At the inquest, it was revealed that Spencer had been stabbed twice in the chest, and three times in his side. He had been left to bleed out. Spencer’s blood covered his body and much of the interior of the hut. Near his body was a washbasin filled with water, where the murderer had washed his hands.[1]


  After the announcement of his murder in local media, a story was published in the South Australian Register about Spencer’s life by his former employer. It was revealed that Spencer was a ‘ticket-of-leave’ man, a former prisoner at Tasmania, sent from Oxfordshire, England.
 Spencer had lived in poverty in his younger days, and worked as a chimney sweep.
Spencer had a grand idea one day. He decided to descend into a house through the chimney and rob it. On his way back up he got stuck in the chimney. He tried to escape but wedged himself tighter, he had no choice but to call for help. When help did arrive, a large section of the brickwork had to be removed to free him. His loot was discovered, and he was arrested, sentenced, and sent to Van Diemen’s Land.

 The author of the description did not know what Spencer was like, nor how long he served during his time in Tasmania’s gaols. However, he stated that Spencer had,

 “Sacred veneration for what he termed his word of honour. His word was literally his bond, and his integrity in fulfilling his encasements was unimpeachable, he was a man of a charitable disposition, and was ever ready, as far as his scanty means would admit, to assist those who were in need, while with scrupulous pertinacity he would avoid incurring an obligation himself.”[2]


It was also written that Spencer was not keen on socialising. He kept few friends, never married, and kept to himself as much as possible.

 The author of the letter addressing the character of Spencer was Mr E. Holthouse, of South Terrace Adelaide. He went on to describe that he had recently employed Spencer as a log splitter. He stated that Spencer was physically strong and that he believed the person in the hut had been caught by Spencer, who tried to stop the infiltrator from robbing him, resulting in his murder.

 The police never found the murderer, and in a statement published in the Adelaide Observer, the South Australian Police Commissioner of the day said: "society is unable to avenge the death of one who had almost entirely withdrawn himself from her circle."
 A curious statement, that may hint at the possibility the police were not going to waste their time on an ex-convict’s death.[3]

 After the inquest, the jury returned the following verdict of: “Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.' The deceased was a single man, about 50 years of age, and followed the occupation of a splitter.”[4]

Spencer’s belongings and property were sold in January 1856 at auction.[5]

© 2021 Allen Tiller

[1] 'Declarations.', South Australian Register, (28 September 1855), p. 2., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49294447.

[2] 'The Macclesfield Murder.', South Australian Register, 95 October 1855), p. 3., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49298678.

[3] 'The Police Report.', Adelaide Observer, (17 November 1855), p. 6., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158100707.

[4] 'No title', South Australian Register, (26 September 1855), p. 2., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49298367.

[5] 'Advertising', Adelaide Times, (29 December 1855), p. 4., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207076731.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Peter’s Ghost

 Peter’s Ghost


Peter’s ghost is also alleged to haunt the Owen Road/ Aerodrome Road between four miles between Mallala and Owen. He is seen walking along the side of the road and sometimes hitchhikes.

It is thought the spirit is that of Peter Denis Kierse, a 19-year-old RAAF Leading Aircraftman (LAC), who was killed while on duty obtaining sand for operations at the Mallala Airbase.

According to the Mallala Now and Then website, “They were travelling in the open back of a three-ton tender. While travelling along Owen Road, the truck moved from the left-hand side of the road to the centre and passed over a rise, giving a sharp jolt and causing LAC Kierse to lose balance. He fell from the truck and was fatally injured.”[1]


Have you experienced this haunting? I would love to hear your story. Contact me at eidolon@live.com.au.

© Allen Tiller 2021

[1] RAAF No. 6 Service Flight Training School Fatalities, Mallala Now and Then, (2021), https://www.mallala.nowandthen.net.au/RAAF_No._6_Service_Flight_Training_School_Fatalities

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

The Ghost of Edmund Bowman.

 The Ghost of Edmund Bowman.


Edmund Bowman SLSA: [B 6912/ G6]

  Edmund Bowman, a wealthy pastoralist died on his property Werocata Estate near Balaklava in 1866. Bowman had walked out on an incomplete bridge, become unstable and plunged into the Wakefield River below, where he drowned.
 It is believed that in late August, near the date, that Bowman drowned, that his calls for help can be heard. The calls fade into the sound of gurgles as he drowns, then the area falls into an eerie silence.
Other people have witnessed Edward sitting on rocks near the pool, appearing to either be fishing or on some occasions in quiet reflection.[1]

  Edmund Bowman is associated with two other allegedly haunted locations in South Australia. Barton Vale House at Enfield (You can read more about this building and its hauntings in my 2020 book The Haunts of Adelaide: Revised Edition), completed in 1852.[2]

 The other location associated with the Bowman’s is Martindale Hall at Mintaro near Clare, which was built by Edmund Bowman junior in 1879.[3]

The Haunts of Adelaide: Revised Edition (2020) Buy it by clicking here:

Haunted Adelaide (2021) Buy it by clicking here

© 2021 Allen Tiller

[1] Gordon de L. Marshall, ‘Ghosts and Hauntings of South Australia’, (Jannali, NSW, 2012), pp. 150-51.

[2] SA Heritage Places Database ‘Barton Vale House’, http://maps.sa.gov.au/heritagesearch/HeritageItem.aspx?p_heritageno=1747

[3] Martindale Hall, Martindale Hall Historic Museum, (2021), https://www.martindalehall-mintaro.com.au/.