Canberra, 9 February 2001
In February this year, a group of would-be ghosthunters from Canberra ventured into Stromlo Forest, a big pine plantation dating from the 1830's, which has a bit of a reputation for being 'weird'.
Some people think it is actually haunted, there are a lot of typical urban myths about it ranging from being the site of satanic rituals (for which there is absolutely no evidence) to mysterious disappearances (ditto).
The history of the place, in a nutshell, is that it was one of the local places where Aboriginal people lived before settlers moved in. The early farmers and settlers used it as a source of wood, fuel and grazing until they started to notice alarming signs of very serious land degradation. In a remarkable burst of foresight, they decided that planting trees in the area might help to prevent the soil erosion. They settled on plantation pine as their preferred tree, adding a cork plantation a little later to one area.
The forest encapsulates the Mount Stromlo Observatory, one of Australia's significant astronomical observation facilities, plus a CSIRO research station, and some areas of privately owned grazing land. It is a popular place for walks, fun runs, orienteering, cycling and the occasional car rally.
It is also, as we discovered, one of those places where there is a fairly constant sensation of somebody 'looking over your shoulder', which I suspect has led to some of the place's reputation.
The point of our visit was partly to seek out spooks, but largely for us to get to know each other and get a feel for what ghost hunting involved. Being a group of people who shared the same spiritual background, we were also interested in getting a feel for how our spiritual beliefs affect our ghost-hunting techniques and opinions.
Overall, it turned out to be mostly a pleasant walk with much talk about ghosts and ghost hunting, a few photographs taken (no anomalous results) and some very odd, distinct sensations of being observed, which we noticed quite early and spent some time tracking and trying unsuccessfully to 'pin down'. It was interesting that there was not a lot of verbal communication going on but many of us were reacting to exactly the same things, at one stage two separate groups of people converging on the same spot from opposite directions. We all noticed it: many of us were inclined to believe in spirits of the non-ghostly form being responsible.
Opinions among the group included the following:
The one conclusion we did all seem to reach was that the forest does have a sense of Presence but not a ghostly one, at least in the places we wandered.
At Stromlo Forest, there was only one character we met who was a little spooky. We managed to capture a quick shot of him on the digital camera before he oozed away to the great land of the Dr Who Monster in the sky..
Leanne, Random and K'Tara, COSPER.
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