Rowena Gilbert originally created Castle of Spirits in 1997.
Rowena had been interested in the paranormal since she was a small child. Rowena's baby book lists her two favourite books as "Ghosts" and "Dinosaurs". One of Rowena's early recollections was being taken to Hanging Rock by her family where she was told the story of the schoolgirls disappearing (which is pure fiction - read more by clicking here). As Rowena grew older she was fascinated by all aspects of the paranormal and craved to look for ghosts in old, haunted houses.
That dream came true at the inception of public use of the internet in early 1996 when Rowena found other ghost groups around the world online. In 1997, Rowena founded the Castle of Spirits. Castle of Spirits was originally set up to report ghost stories and promote the paranormal field in Australia, for a while it was the only Australian paranormal site.
The website soon caught on and Rowena began to attract worldwide attention and also became a regular point of contact for the media. Within twelve months, Castle of Spirits became extremely popular becoming one of the most popular websites in Australia (measured in volume of hits).
Castle of Spirits became an invaluable source of information for anybody researching the paranormal. Over the years Rowena developed a reputation for being detailed, balanced, well researched. Rowena soon developed a network of contacts around the world who shared her enthusiasm and came to rely on the quality of her research.
Rowena was able to extend her interest in the paranormal with the Australian Ghost Hunters Society and became an expert on haunted sites in Australia including the Quarantine Station in North Head (Sydney), Picton, Port Arthur and Annandale asylum (Ararat). Rowena's expertise gained her unparalleled access to these sites.
Castle of Spirits was Rowena's proudest achievement.
Rowena sadly passed away in March 2008 and her family and friends were devastated. Castle of Spirits continues to exist in memoriam to Rowena's enthusiasm and dedication to presenting a balanced view of the paranormal.
It’s funny the way things work out – I initially emailed Rowena to warn her that someone was using email addresses from her guestbook for spamming and ended up with one of the best friends I ever had. After a few emails she invited me to join the AGHS discussion forums and from there I was accepted as a honourary member. Rowena and I clicked fairly quickly and it wasn’t long before we emailed each other on a regular basis and kept each other up nights chatting on the computer or phone and became as good friends as two people on opposite sides of the planet could be.
What I remember most about Rowena was her spirit and her general good nature. She was extremely supportive and we helped each other through some really bad times in life. She was always able to put a smile on my face with her irreverent sense of humour and her directness was refreshing; she was always there to listen to her friends and always responded with good advice. Though life would get in the way sometimes and it would be a month in between emails and/or chats, whenever we got back in contact we’d always pick up where we left off and have each other laughing within minutes.
Unfortunately, it was during one of these email dry-spells that she passed away and I never got to say a proper goodbye, let alone ever meet this wonderful woman in the flesh, two things which I will always regret in my life. I am not a religious or particularly spiritual person, but I do believe in the soul and I know wherever she is, I take comfort in the fact that Rowena is looking in on her friends and now has all the answers she looked for in life… I just wish she’d pop in some time and fill us all in!
Goodbye Rowie, I’ll miss you. Meet me in the afterlife when it’s my time… we’ll chat.
I met Rowena in 2001 after I read about the Australian Ghost Hunters Society in my local newspaper. I'd moved to Australia from Canada and was really looking for something I could get involved with over here and the AGHS and "ghost hunting" really caught my attention. I joined Rowena's discussion group and right away I found her to be welcoming, thoughtful, intelligent and very, very funny. When the AGHS was scaled down, I had the honour to be chosen by Rowena as one of the core members of the new group. On my first investigation with the AGHS at Monte Cristo I met Rowena for the first time in person and I discovered what a professional she really was. Over the years as I got to know Rowena, I feel that her main concern for the AGHS was that we be taken seriously. She struggled as a woman in a field dominated by men, and in the end, I believe she succeeded by the recognition she received, and still does receive, in paranormal research circles. Her work with Castle of Spirits and the Australian Ghost Hunters Society is appreciated indeed.
On a personal level, Rowena was a true friend to me. A very considerate person by nature, on a number of occasion she drove two hours from one end of Melbourne to the other to visit me after my son was born. As I don't drive, she also gave me a lift to every investigation we conducted together, and I really appreciated that. In short, Rowena was the type of person who would go out of her way for people simply because she was nice.
We kept in touch on a weekly, if not daily basis though email for nearly seven years. On too many occasions to count Rowena's emails had me in tears with her razor sharp wit. She could find the humorous side to everything and anything, and I really miss those emails. I wish I'd told her when I had the chance how much she and her friendship meant to me.
Whether she knew it or not, Rowena made a monumental impact on my life and she is missed terribly. I am grateful though, that her legacy lives on in the Castle of Spirits and the AGHS. I think she would be pleased with that fact also!
I met Rowena on-line to begin with in 2001 as a new visitor to the AGHS chat group. My interest in the paranormal meant I had a lot in common with Rowena and the other members (Leanne, Ronalee etc.) It wasn’t long after this that Rowena made me a member of the AGHS as a ghost hunter. I finally met Rowena in person in 2003 when the AGHS spent a weekend at Monte Cristo in Junee.
Rowena was one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. Her sense of humor and take on life was so endearing she was a joy to be around. Her passion for investigating the paranormal and her dedication to her website, Castle of Spirits is a credit to the type of person she was.
I’m sure she is still looking over us all in spirit. She will be greatly missed.
I am a friend of Rowena's from the AGHS and knew her for around ten years. Something that I will always treasure about Rowena as a friend and as a fellow ghost-hunter: the fact she always approached everything with a remarkable combination of courage, good sense and compassion. She had a brilliant sense of humour as well. A combination that is hard to find. I am very grateful to have known Rowena and am very inspired by her.