You know what, even after what I’ve been through, I’m still pretty skeptical. I don’t have much choice but to believe in spirits or ghosts, I’ve seen, heard, felt and had my life uprooted by a close encounter with one. I just have a lot of trouble believing most other people when they tell me ghost stories.
After the event I’m about to relate, I had post traumatic stress disorder which made my life a living hell for 4 years. I spent years of my young adult life introverted, afraid and unable to deal with people. I wasn’t the only person who was affected by this haunting, either, I’m lucky that my scars were only mental ones, others were not so fortunate. Almost 20 years later, It’s still a personal struggle to even write this down.
It began with the news our school camp was to be held at the York Hostel, about 110km (65 miles) out of the state capital Perth, Western Australia. There were 31 kids in my outdoor Ed. class, only 16 went to the camp. The kids who weren’t allowed to go had parents who had heard the stories about the place and were not letting their kids any closer to that place than they were already, let alone spend two nights there.
Our family had only moved to Perth 3 years before, when my stepdad got out of the Air Force so we hadn’t heard the stories about it being the source of some of the most frightening ghost stories you’ll ever hear, so of course I got my note signed and I was heading to camp.
I remember some of the kids talking about the place we were going for camp being haunted. I scoffed at that then. Just kids scaring each other is what I thought.
The trip out was a typical school bus ride. Heaps of chips, Cola, lollies and shouting. It was hot, too as it was close to the end of the year, the Southern summer. The further we went from the coast, the hotter and drier it got.
York W.A. is pretty small. Being from the thriving metropolis that is Perth, the idea of a town in the middle of the bush, literally, from anywhere in the place, you had a view of the countryside, was pretty strange.
The camp was at this old stone and wood building with a bit added on the side, and two other buildings. There were two big dogs that the owner locked up out in the yard of the smaller house, it was where he lived. The building looked pretty interesting, mainly because it was so old looking, like something out of pioneer times. It didn’t look scary or haunted. There wasn’t any gloom hanging over the place. Basically, it was shade.
We went up on the veranda because it was mid morning and getting pretty hot. The owner opened up the doors and led us in to a side area that had all camp beds set out in it. Him and the teachers talked for a while and they came back over and said we were only allowed in this room, the big open room with the stairs, the kitchen area and that was it. We weren’t allowed in any of the other buildings and we weren’t allowed upstairs, at all. Mr Martin, our outdoor Ed. teacher said if anyone was seen anywhere near the stairs they’d be sent home from the camp and suspended from school.
We only had half an hour from when we got there ’til when we had to go for the afternoon activities. We got our bags laid out by our beds, made up our beds and went to lunch on the veranda before jumping onto the bus and going to where they’d set up an endurance course with rope climbs, flying foxes, barricades to climb over and a cross country run between them all. It was pretty cool fun, kind of like a big playground. We did the course as a group first and then pretty much got the run of the place. Most of the kids went for the flying fox but I just went running around the bush track, over rough terrain, jumping onto logs and running up little rock outcrops and jumping down the other side. I was a bit nuts as a kid like that, full of energy and happy with my own company most of the time, or my brother after school.
That afternoon, running like a mad thing around the bush, free from my parents, away from my home and my friends, was my last happy memory for quite a while. If we had’ve got on the bus and just gone home, I’d have grown up a totaly different person. But no we went back to the York Hostel to stay the night oblivious to what had happened there time and time again over the years.
We got back in the late afternoon, the reddish orange glow of dusk coming early to the sky to the west. There were probably bushfires out there somewhere between us and the coast, the smoke making the sky burn. The building itself looked rather attractive in that light, the natural color of the stones enhanced to make the scene look like a postcard photo of itself. The sunset was awesome, I have a thing for watching the sun go down. Living on the west coast this was my first country sunset since I’d started really paying attention to them, and it was gorgeous. I really enjoyed that sunset.
The chill came on as the light faded, as it does away from the influence of the ocean. Space opened up above us, and cold air dumped itself down from above like hail. The stars came out as I finished my food, which I’d gotten from inside and brought back out, and I went inside to write up my times with everyone else for the first run we did. Mine wasn’t the fastest of the guys but it was up there, which was good. I had this thing going where I’d just do well and shut up about it, didn’t brag or boast, just put in the effort, got a result and went on with life. You’re probably starting to tell I wasn’t an ordinary little kid. I’ve always been bright and intuitive, and been aware of gut instincts and gone with them more often than not.
We were all sitting around at about 8:00pm, doing what felt rather a bit to much like homework to be considered fun, when one of the girls screamed "oh my god!" in a really sharp and high pitched voice. Everyone jumped and we all turned around to look at her. She was looking at the top of the stairs with her hands up over her mouth and her eyes bugging out of her head. She stood up and started for the doors at the front, took about six really fast steps, then turned back to face the teachers and just burst out crying. There was a really intense feeling over the whole group, like her fear had been infectious, and we’d all very quickly and silently worked out that whatever had frightened her had REALLY frightened her, and that whatever just happened to her was seriously wrong. So we were all looking at her and she stops crying and says "can we just go?" That broke the room. Guys were yelling "what? what happened?!", girls were starting to cry, the teachers are yelling at everyone to settle down. She never got a chance to tell us, because a door upstairs banged closed, and a second later, the same door banged closed again. It was like two gunshots from up there, and it got everyone’s attention. Nobody could tear their eyes away from the top of the stairs. There was total silence. For about 10 seconds, nobody spoke. Then I heard a sob from upstairs, a human cry, very soft, just once, and I’m thinking "did I just imagine that?" and staring at the door. I look back and everyone’s looking around at each other. Phil said "did anyone else..." and there was another sob, followed by what sounded like that stuttered inhalation you do when you’re crying.
After that the crying kept coming. Mr Hilm started to say the Lords prayer, which totaly freaked me out. I’m having visions of the girl form The Exorcist in full possesed mode floating down those stairs, suddenly reason had flown out the window, and the crying was getting worse.
For about 25, 30 minutes, we all listened in mute terror to the crying from upstairs. It only went on for about 2 minutes as a sad, distant sound, then it grew in volume and....well the only word for it is ferocity, until it was a barely recognisable female voice screaming bloody murder. No words, and what was worst, gaps between the screams for inhalations of breath. It sounded like a psychopath upstairs getting fired up to come down and wreak horror on anyone stupid enough to still be inside when she came down. The door was padlocked from our side though, we could see the lock which was a very hefty looking brass lock with mountings screwed into the door and into the wall. For me, it was the only defence between us and whatever was upstairs. Nobody moved through this entire experience, not even the girl who had jumped out of her skin and ended up standing in the middle of the room. We all stayed rooted to the spot, lost in a very surreal personal space where there was no awareness of anything except this awful wailing and screaming. It was hypnotic, but if any hypnotist in history ever used this particular method, we’d be burning hypnotists at the stake even now. It was horrible, being so filled with terror that you couldn’t move or speak, in a room full of other people in the same condition, and the sound you’re thinking is just in your head, "it has to be in my head, it’s got to stop soon, it has to stop soon, oh god why doesn’t it stop!!!" just keeps on going for an eternity.
By 8:45, the sound had faded. it was like someone upstairs had been playing a CD, and were turning the volume down slowly. Eventually it faded to nothing. The teacher who had started praying was still mumbling the Lords prayer. He’d been saying it over an over in a whisper the whole time. I don’t think whatever was upstairs cared what he was saying as she didn’t stop until she was good and ready to stop. My world had been rocked. Everything I thought I knew seemed to have been turned upsidedown by the last half hour. I was afraid, I wanted out of there, I wanted to know what the girl had seen or heard that made her freak out just before the sounds started. Mostly I wanted to just not be there anymore. The teachers were rapidly leaning in the same direction, telling everyone to pack up their bedding and get ready to get on the bus. The ghost had other ideas.
The teachers went out through the kitchen area, out to side door where the bus had been parked. We didn’t hear them opening the door, we’d heard them walk into the kitchen and just stop. One of the guys called out "Mr H., what’s wrong? " and when they didn’t answer, someone got up and about six guys followed. We walked to the door that leads into the kitchen area not knowing what to expect, and there’s the two teachers, back to us, both staring at something outside the window. I said "Mr Hilm, what’s the matter?", and they both turned around, faces looking drained of blood. They looked at each other for a split second and Mr Martin just said "get back inside". Right then one of the other guys swore, turned around and bolted back inside. I looked back at the window and there was a face of a woman there. She was looking back in at one of the other guys, then she turned her face and stared straight at me. Her eyes were just black shadow, not black eyes, not even eye sockets, just blackness around the entire eye area. Her face itself was like old parchment, brownish, dry looking, like dried or desicated skin. It was an old lady’s face, probably (going by the wrinkles and lines) in her 60’s. Her hair line had hair, but as you looked to where the edge of her hair would be, it just faded into nothing. I took all this information on board as long as it took me to lock eyes with her, damn this is hard to bring back up. I have to take a break.
I didn’t really finish the kitchen window sighting off properly. I locked eyes with the Matron (that’s what I found out later the ghost is) She was a matron who used to work there. I now had her face burned into my memory for life in a split second, and looked away. In less than an hour I’d gone from not believing in ghosts to having the crap scared out of me by a not very shy one twice. When she had looked straight at me, it was with a quick, angry jerk of her head, almost to quick to be a human movement. It’s like she didn’t turn to face me, but just decided to be facing me. I couldn’t take that look for more than a split second. Everything, from her shadow eyes to the way she moved, said "not human" and "not natural". She radiated hatred. I could totaly understand the teachers not going outside when confronted by that face in the window. In fact, I commend them for standing their ground and being able to look back at it.
By the time the shock of what I had seen wore off, and I found the courage to look back at the window, the face was gone. Great. Psycho killer ghost upstairs, Devil woman outside. We did what anyone would do. Sat in a circle in the middle of the beds and did not sleep a wink.
The matron wasn’t done with us. About a dozen other incidents happened, water running upstairs, footsteps were heard on the other side of the door at the top of the stairs, the door was banged once so hard the padlock bounced. The girl who had cried at first told us she’d had a vision of a hidious, angry Nun (as she described it, in hindsight it was probably the Matron) come hovering down the stairs and into the room faster than people can run. Once in the middle of the room it had "exploded" towards her, mouth open. I’m thinking if all she saw was a vision, she got off lightly. I’m still trying, all these years later, to get my head around what I saw at the window. If hate has a face, it is the face of the Matron. It’s like she’s furious that we’re alive.
Dawn broke and we were ready to go at first light. Nobody had slept, we had another full day of activities planned, the Hostel was booked and paid for for a second night, and our parents weren’t expecting us back until Sunday afternoon. By 8:00am saturday we were calling them from school to come and pick us up. There was a meeting at the school and we had a counselor put on the school staff for the kids who were at that camp. She was pretty cool, very open minded about what had happened, very rational in explaining away the old Matron’s malice, very careful not to let any of us think we were somehow at fault for what had happened. I guess it was hard for anyone to deny 16 traumatised children and two adults with identical accounts of a paranormal incident of making things up. I sometimes wonder what the counsellor, Aggie, took away from our time with us. I can bet she’ll never sign a permission slip for any kid of hers to go on a camp at the York Hostel.
One thing I don’t understand, I’ve done other research since I managed to get over what happned to me. Learning more about the place and reading the stories of other people’s encounters there makes me aware just how lucky we all were. A girl from one camp was pushed or pulled through a door they must have replaced before we went there, the old door between the kitchen and the room we stayed in had a heavy glass panel in it. I read the owner couldn’t break out the pieces of glass that were left in there, it was so solid, So how did a 12 year old girl put her wrist through such a thick window, cutting herself very badly in a number of places, some to the bone. I mean, A grown man couldn’t dislodge the broken pieces of glass, and had to use a plank of wood to smash them out, how did a little girl put her hand through it? I can tell you, the face outside that window belonged to an entity that would delight in inflicting such a gruesome and impossible wound. She’s choked other children, when they used to let people stay in the upstairs dorms, she’s even picked objects up and moved them in front of two witnesses. I’m astonished she didn’t hit someone with that jug. It would be just her style.
I’m fairly sure the building itself is a heritage listed property, which means it can’t be demolished or have work done on it which changes it’s character. That means it should still be standing. This haunting is serious business, the spirit there is one cold hearted, evil, bitch. I defy any Australian ghost hunter to take their gear to the York Hostel and spend two nights. In fact, I would very much like to hear from anyone who plans to do it. I’d like to see what evidence could be collected since this place is a paranormal goldmine with a history of horror movie style incidents continuing over decades. You wouldn’t catch me back there though. That Matron made her point, the living are not welcome in her home.