Monte Cristo Homestead in Junee, New South Wales, Australia

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I wrote about a true crime case a while back that took place in Australia in the 1940s that continues to boggle minds today. This is my first dive into a haunted house in Australia, though. The entire continent has a long and rich history, going back at least 65,000 years of indigenous Australians. Travel with me now as we head over to look at a place known as Australia's most haunted house in New South Wales, the Monte Cristo Homestead.

The front of Monte Cristo Homestead.
This looks exactly like what inspired so many haunted house films—complete with the fountain out front. Photo courtesy of denisbin on flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

A Brief History of Junee, New South Wales, Australia

The entire state of New South Wales has a strange past—in 1778, the British Empire traveled over to Australia and claimed ownership of the land from indigenous people the way it happened in other parts of the world—with excuse seeking, lies, loose morals, and lots of violence. The British claimed that the indigenous Australians didn't own the land because they didn't farm it.

After forcefully claiming ownership due to lack of farming, the British did exactly what you'd expect with the not-farmed land: they set up a penal colony. Yes, the British shipped over criminals from their homeland and had them do the farming. Christian missionaries also traveled to Australia with the self-proclaimed God-driven mission of "civilising" the indigenous population. Between 1788 and 1930, the indigenous population went from around 1 million to about 50,000. Diseases like smallpox, violent conflicts, and outright murder—some Aboriginal groups were driven to the brink of extinction or obliterated from the face of the planet forever. I didn't mention slavery there because it was known as "Protectionism."

Slavery in Australia

"Between 1860 and 1970, Australia effectively had state-sanctioned slavery of Aboriginal people. Historians Dr Rosalind Kidd and Dr Thalia Anthony have documented how Aboriginal Australians of all ages were forcibly sent to work on sheep and cattle properties across Australia under government schemes that were supposedly "designed to protect them". Laws in Western Australia allowed Aboriginal children to be sent from the age of 12. The conditions were often horrific: 16-hour days, floggings and forced removal from families. They were either unpaid or received only a few shillings pocket money. State governments assured these workers that their wages were placed in a government trust, but most never saw a cent."

The Sydney Morning Herald - Australia needs to own up to its slave history

So in 1845, well into the era of Australia becoming Protection-ed and Civilised, a man named Leopold de Salis squatted an area in New South Wales from the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people and established the 'Junee' pastoral run (for-profit, obviously).

Did You Know?

"Squatting
is a historical Australian term that referred to someone who occupied a large tract of Crown land in order to graze livestock. Initially often having no legal rights to the land, squatters became recognised by the colonial government as owning the land by being the first (and often the only) European settlers in the area. Eventually, the term "squattocracy", a play on "aristocracy", came into usage to refer to squatters and the social and political power they possessed."

— Unabashedly ripped straight off Wikipedia

Eventually, the population slowly increased; a post office opened up in 1862, followed by the establishment of the village of Junee in 1863. The village gradually grew into a town with a population today of just under 5,000 people. Junee now enjoys small-town life and is home to Australia's most haunted house, the Monte Cristo Homestead.

Front of the Monte Cristo Homestead.
The Monte Cristo Homestead.
1 Homestead Lane, Junee, NSW, 2663 Australia.
One glance at it, and you know the place is haunted.
Photo courtesy of Bidgee, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

History of the Monte Cristo Homestead

A farmer named Christopher William Crawley bought two parcels of land in the town of Junee to build a family home. Unfortunately for him, he didn't have enough money to do it. So, Christopher Crawley and his family lived in a slab hut while he struggled to feed everyone. In 1878, the Main Southern Railway expanded south into Junee. Seeing a ripe business opportunity, Christopher Crawley somehow scraped enough money to buy a license to build the Railway Hotel across the street from the soon-to-be-opened railway station. By this time, Junee consisted of a post office, Crawley's hotel (who knows how he funded building it), the Railway Store, and some slab huts.

Small brick building as soon through the entrance of a brick gate.
Garden gate in Monte Cristo Homestead. Photo courtesy of denisbin on flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

With the new railway, the town grew from travel and trade, and Christopher Crawley became rich. He knocked down the slab hut and built a small brick cottage for himself and his family. The location of the old slab hut was turned into a big stable for his prized horses. In 1885, while living in the small brick cottage, he built a two-story late-Victorian-style manor overlooking the entire town.

Christopher Crawley died on his homestead on December 14, 1910, from an infected carbuncle. Evidently, too many years of starched collars rubbing his neck created the issue, leading to blood poisoning and heart failure. If you don't know what a carbuncle is, I suggest you don't Google Image Search it to find out.

Christopher's wife, Elizabeth Crawley, spent most of the rest of her life in the house, up in the attic where she had built a small chapel. She lived until the age of 92, when she died of a ruptured appendix on August 12, 1933. Over the next fifteen years, the remaining members of the Crawley household moved out, eventually leaving it empty in 1948. Aside from a few caretakers doing their best to keep an eye on it, the entire place sat vacant for over a decade. It was, of course, vandalized. All of the furnishings were removed and sold.

Cast iron gates at Monte Cristo Homestead.
The gates of Monte Cristo Homestead. Photo courtesy of denisbin on flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

Finally, in 1963, a couple, Reginald and Olive Ryan, purchased the Monte Cristo Homestead. When the couple moved into the homestead, they immediately noticed something was off. Their cat and dog refused to enter the house. One night, the couple was returning from an evening out, and they found all the lights on inside the house as they approached. Upon entering, they discovered all of the lights were off. Despite the strange occurrences, the Ryans worked to restore the homestead to its original state over the next few years and opened it up as a museum with tours. It now includes a doll museum and an antique store.

The Ghosts of Monte Cristo Homestead

There are a lot of stories about the Monte Cristo Homestead, with plenty of personal accounts, including some from the Ryans. Following is a brief overview of the types of ghosts that supposedly inhabit the place.

Old library in the Monte Cristo Homestead.
Part of the library of Monte Cristo Homestead. Photo courtesy of denisbin on flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

The Ghosts of Christopher & Elizabeth Crawley

Christopher Crawley wanders the house, occasionally seen but never scaring visitors. His wife, though, Elizabeth Crawley, is known to scare visitors by touching them with an icy cold hand, particularly anyone who doesn't display proper manners.

The Animal Killer Ghost

At one point, the Ryans came home one night to find all of their chickens strangled to death. In a similar incident, they discovered a pet parrot choked to death in its cage. In yet another incident, an entire litter of kittens was brutally killed. No one really knows who may be at work here.

The Ghosts of Two Maids

Christopher Crawley is rumored to have had sexual relations with several Monte Cristo Homestead staff members—including two maids that became pregnant. One of them committed suicide by jumping from a balcony. She hit the stairs and was instantly killed. Her ghost haunts the veranda, and the bleach stain from removing her blood from the steps is still clearly visible. The second maid gave birth to a son that she named Harold.

The Ghost of Harold

Harold was hit by a coach on the property as a young boy and sustained a severe head injury.

A small brick carriage house at Monte Cristo Homestead.
Carriage house at Monte Cristo Homestead. Photo courtesy of denisbin on flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

As a result of the accident and the subsequent brain trauma, Harold exhibited uncontrollable aggression and could no longer care for himself. Harold was chained inside the coach house for over 30 years, screaming and howling daily, which gave rise to local children believing a monster was trapped on the grounds. Authorities eventually found him as an adult and moved him to an asylum, where he later died. Harold haunts the property, and visitors have heard his chains rattling; some claim to have heard his screams.

Speaking of the coach house (or, carriage house, depending on your locale)...

The Ghost of Morris in the Coach House

Morris, a young stable boy, known for sleeping in and slacking off, didn't feel well one day. He told his master at Monte Cristo Homestead. His master didn't believe Morris was ill, so he thought he'd teach him a lesson about sleeping in—by setting Morris's straw mattress on fire, thinking Morris would jump up and get to work. Unfortunately, the stable master was wrong. Morris burned to death in his bed. Visitors claim to hear his screams.

Inside the restored carriage house of Monte Cristo Homestead.
Inside the carriage house of Monte Cristo Homestead. Photo courtesy of denisbin on flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

The Ghost of Ethel Crawley

In 1917, Christopher and Elizabeth Crawley's granddaughter was dropped on the stairs by a nursemaid and died. The nursemaid claimed that a ghost grabbed the baby out of her hands and threw it down the stairs. Another account of this story says the nursemaid was pushed by a spirit, and the baby fell from the nursemaid's hands. According to visitors of the Monte Cristo Homestead, children near the area of the stairs become upset, and some guests claim to have been pushed.

The Ghost of Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson was a caretaker of the Monte Cristo Homestead until his violet death in 1960. A man had recently watched Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho movie and went to the house and shot Jack Simpson to death on the front porch. The shooter also carved the words "Die Jack, ha, ha" in the door of a shed where they are still visible.

Visiting the Monte Cristo Homestead

That was a lot of death and ghosts. How much of it is real? Your guess is as good as mine. One thing is for sure, though: the Monte Cristo Homestead has a fascinating history. It even inspired a film that was released in 2012, Muirhouse, and the place has been featured in several television shows, as well as Ghost Hunters International.

The Monte Cristo Homestead offers daytime tours, ghost tours, and even a bed and breakfast. You can find the latest information on their website at https://www.montecristo.com.au or on the official Monte Cristo Homestead Facebook page.

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