When Freddie comes calling

When it comes to ghosts I must first admit that the subject has been known to send a tingle up my spine and make the hairs on my arms stand up, but then I guess I am also susceptible to such things as I aways feel my scalp itching whenever someone talks of headlice. The Gippsland Times is a newspaper based in Sale in eastern Victoria. The paper was established in 1861 and for most of its life it has occupied an old building in Macalister St.

The building has been renovated and extended many times but part of it is the site of the first State Saving Bank and the main entry is actually the second State Savings Bank. There are many ghost stories surrounding The Times but I will recount a few of the more interesting which took place in my 26 years with the company. In fact, the number of incidents were so numerous that staff usually referred to the ghosts as "Fred" or "Freddie". Why? I have no idea who coined the name but I do admit to occasionally saying "Hi Freddie" whenever I was working back late at night in the dark, creaky building. Being on familiar terms with a ghost which may or may not exist, seemed to calm my nerves. I often heard footseteps when there was no-one there but to my joy "Freddie" never personally appeared.

A see-through couple in 1800s attire

The employee in charge of paperboy deliveries, Rex, was in the building early one morning in the mid 1990s when a young paperboy asked for some rubber bands to put around papers so they would not blow away in the wind. Rex pointed down a long corridor through the production department to an office where he knew there was a box of rubber bands. He saw a man and a woman in 1800s period costume standing at the end of the corridor. "Do you see what I see?" he said to the paperboy. The young lad pointed out that he could see through the couple because he could still see the fire extinguisher hanging on the wall. Taking rather long steps, he disappeared out the back door, never to be seen again. His mother made contact some hours later and talked to the front office staff to see if there was something sinister about Rex. It appears the paperboy had gone home, put himself to bed with the blanket pulled over his head. He had not gone to school and was refusing to talk about something which had happened at The Times that morning. Rex saw her and told his amazing story, which the mother did not believe a word of, but fortunately for him later in the day the young fellow told her the same story about the twin ghosts. As far as I am aware this is the only time two ghosts were seen at the same time.

Ghost standing in mid air

Rex was also involved in another experience at a time when there were large scale renovations taking place. The old timber floor in the main entry had been torn up in preparation for being replaced by a concrete floor. Rex, wandered in about 7.30am to see a tall grey-haired gentleman in a grey suit, standing looking down at the floor. At first he thought he was the general manager who fitted the description and normally got to work around that time. Rex said good morning to him and the ghost turned his head as if to acknowledge the greeting. It was then Rex noticed it was not the general manager and the tall gentleman was actually standing in mid-air where the wooden floor had previously been. This time it was Rex who took the long steps to vacate the office. When he returned some time later with another employee there was nothing to be seen. Rex swore that the ghost he saw was a different one to the male seen in the incident described above.

Mystery page turner

Another interesting incident involved my senior journalist Leonie who was working alone on a Sunday afternoon, subbing sports stories. One of the graphic designers Noel came through the office via the editorial door which was only open on Sundays. He greeted Leonie on the way past and she continued on with her work. The arts department was the other side of a chest high wall and Leonie thought she heard Noel dropping the heavy clip art volumes on the desk and frantically flipping through pages. After some time she asked him what he was doing but got no reply.  A couple of minutes later she got up from her desk, walked around the wall to see him and was surprised there was no-one there, even though she had heard pages being turned as she walked. It freaked her out and she had her husband come down to remain with her for the rest of the afternoon. Noel was only in the building a few minutes and had left by the main front door 40 minutes earlier and that is why Leonie missed seeing him leave. So who was turning the pages and moving the heavy volumes? The upshot of the incident was that Leonie refused to work alone in the building any more.

The flying chipboard incident

During renovations a doorway between the editorial department and the main office area had been blocked off to prevent dust and noise coming into editorial. The builders had nailed a large sheet of 25mm thick chipboard into the doorway, held by three large nails hammered into the heavy wooden lintel. I normally worked from 7am on Thursdays but for some reason I had obviously conned A grade reporter Julianne to do the early start. I came in about 8am and she started abusing the builders for not fastening the chipboard properly. At one stage the chipboard had fallen, narrowly missing her. On inspection, it revealed the builders had used 4-inch bullet head nails which had pulled straight out of the wooden lintel. I would have thought that the bullet heads would have pulled thrrough the chipboard before the long nails would have been withdraw from the lintel. There is no chance that a gust of wind could have caused the incident.

Mysterious hand in photo

Publishing photos of new babies and their mums was once a popular part of local newspapers. We usually did twice weekly visits to the local hospital to take photos but if any mums missed out on having their photos taken, they were encouraged to bring the baby into the studio at the newspaper office for a portrait. On one of these occasions a mum came in and our photographer Lisa took several shots of mum and bub on black and white 35mm film. The husband was present in the room and I also happened to walk in during the session.   Everything was as normal until the film was developed and then on the middle of three shots a ghostly hand appeared to be touching the baby’s head. Lisa called me into the dark room to show me and we printed the photo, burning in the ghostly image so we could see it better. Interestingly, the hand had no thumb showing and the arm was wearing a hand-knitted jumper in a classic two plain, two pearl pattern. This knitting pattern is nowadays only seen at the wrist on jumpers but apparently in days gone by, full sleeves of this were more common. There was also a carved wooden item which gave us our first clue. This unexplained image on the negative was 90 degrees to the photo of mum and bub. When we turned the picture we could explain the missing thumb because it was tucked into the waistband of the trousers. The carved wooden item was an antique chair with carved armrest. There was certainly no antique chair in the room and neither the father nor I were wearing jumpers. I have copies of the print but neither Lisa or I have ever published them to protect the identity of mother and child.  

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