Castle of


is the story true?

the Mystery Solved

by Rowena Gilbert, AGHS/Castle of Spirits
Hanging Rock, Macedon Ranges Victoria, Australia

PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK by Joan Lindsay, the famous novel telling the mysterious tale of a group of schoolgirls and one teacher who, on Valentines Day 1900, disappeared up on Hanging Rock, never to be seen again.

To this day, there is still a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the story by the general public.

Why won't the mystery die?

Partially due to the fact that the original conclusion to the novel remained unpublished until the year 1987, when the final chapter was finally released, this was as per Joan Lindsay's wishes whom along with her publishers, made the wise decision to pull the final chapter before the novels original publication in 1967.
This was purposely done to give the reader the ultimate sense of mystery and compound the idea that it perhaps was a true and unsolved one.
It was upon Lindsay's wishes that the last Chapter be released three years after her death.

Titled "The Secret of Hanging Rock" the last chapter finally solved the mystery for all. It indicated that the girls met a rather supernatural and mystical ending. I will let readers track down their own copy and enjoy the final chapter for themselves however.

Why Do People Believe Its A True Story?

Its human nature to repeat strange stories about places we know. How many times have you heard about the local "axe murder house" up the road, where there actually was no axe murder or in fact any murder there, but there sure is one hec of a story about that house, a story that never dies.

These stories are part of our makeup and we relish telling them to others, gaining that sense of satisfaction of telling a spooky story and seeing the shocked and slightly unnerved reaction from our friends or family.

Picnic at Hanging Rock has now gained Urban Legend status, even though its based on a novel, its a story to be told when visiting the area or speaking of Hanging Rock itself, being a true site that any person can visit and climb for themselves. What could be more fun, to visit the ancient monolith and tell the spooky story of how the girls disappeared up on top and were never found.

People have also been slightly mislead by the author herself.
"Whether (the book) is Fact or Fiction, my readers must decide for themselves. As the fateful picnic took place in the year nineteen hundred, and all the characters who appear in this book are long since dead, it hardly seems to matter".
Lindsay also shrewdly mentions a newspaper report of 1914 in the end of the book, giving one the impression there are actual articles on the disappearance to be tracked down and found.
Unfortunately these articles do not exist.

Later on, when talking about the novel, Lindsay ambiguously stated in an interview with the Melbourne Herald "I can't tell you whether the story is fact or fiction . . . but a lot of very strange things have happened around the area of Hanging Rock - things that have no logical explanation".
Of course statements such as this imbedded the story as a true one in people's minds.

It was well known that Lindsay became tired of people writing to her asking about the ending, but she continued to guard the secret of the last chapter until after her death.

Yes there have been searches for articles, police records, and other information relating to the story. Once again, none exist.

The characters were an invention for the Novel, the places are based on memories from Lindsay's childhood and do include some actual real places, but most, such as Appleyard College are completely fictional.

Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan LindsayHaving a close friend who works in the State Library of Victoria, I'm amused to hear her weekly stories of how many people think they are the first to have the idea to investigate the mystery for themselves. They confidently walk in expecting to find the newspaper articles from the late 1800's and early 1900's on the disappearances but are sadly disappointed.

There have been many accounts of the staff in State Library who regularly have to deal with people breaking down in tears, throwing hysterics and being informed that its not a true story. Most simply do not want to believe this fact.
The responses of the public vary from utter despair to tears and anger.
The staff are now armed and ready to argue, as most people DO argue the point and still continue to believe, such is the stubbornness of human nature.
I guess people want to hold onto that childhood mystery that we all loved and were amazed by. Needless to say how embarrassed they must ultimately feel.

Some Interesting Facts:

The novel was set on Valentine's Day, February 14th, 1900 on a Saturday. The actual day, in real life, was a Wednesday. This would perhaps, to most people, be the first clue the story wasn't at all true.

The characters in the story never existed. There are no records of their births, deaths or existence anywhere within Australia or overseas. Any similarities to live people is purely coincidental.

There are no police records of the events on Hanging Rock. However there was a story that the Police Station at Woodend had burnt down, destroying all records. This never happened and was a little too convenient for the story. Another clue that the story isn't real.

There is one record of a young man falling and dying from Hanging Rock in the early 1900's. But this was recorded and solved by Police and had no connection to the Hanging Rock Story.

Appleyard College itself does not exist but was based on the school from Lindsay's childhood in Melbourne.

During the filming at Hanging Rock itself, Peter Weird tells how the effect where the light streamed down through the trees at Hanging Rock was only visible for one hour of the day when the sun was in the exact spot. They would have to film in one hour lots every day.

Hanging Rock still suffers from its Haunted story to this day. But the visitors are many and most suffer small accidents such as scrapes and scratches. There are no mysterious disappearances up on the rock.

There is an exhibit dedicated to the story of Picnic at Hanging Rock located at the site itself. This also gives the impression its a true story and does not make a statement anywhere that its pure fiction.

Hanging Rock is open to the public visit their website

You can also visit Joan Lindsay's house at Langwarrin on the Mornington Peninsula


Wikipedia - Hanging Rock /Secret of Hanging Rock

Darke Childe's Picnic at Hanging Rock Information

Pegasus Book Orphanage - Joan Lindsay, The Mystique of Hanging

before you e-mail us - read Castle of Spirits FAQ Castle of Spirits its graphics, stories, articles and entire contents are all © Castle of Spirits - All Rights Reserved Copying or duplicating of anything off this site PROHIBITED Rowena Gilbert