Ever wanted to visit a haunted pub? The Great Northern prepares to serve spirits of a different kind
They have been around for years, stories about the ghostly apparitions that wander the upstairs floors of Newcastle's Great Northern Hotel. But are the tales true? We recently went in to find out.
Over the years, everyone from mediums to musicians and staff claim to have experienced things they cannot explain at the Great Northern Hotel, from items moving on their own, to footsteps in empty rooms, and haunting voices calling their name.
With a colourful history dating back to the 1800s, the site has certainly seen its fair share of activity, but the question is - now the upstairs floors are closed to the public and the rooms are abandoned, is activity still taking place?
According to staff, the answer is a resounding yes.
In fact, a number of current staff say they have experienced ghostly interactions after hours, including a mysterious light shining from rooms that currently have no power or light fixtures, sudden rushes of wind from corners and dead-end hallways, and the sound of footsteps splashing in puddles in a tunnel that leads to the boiler room.
"Several contract workers have claimed to have witnessed paranormal activity when working in the basement, some refusing to come back," a staff member said.
"On some nights after we close up we've also heard Irish chimes ringing somewhere behind us. I've heard loud banging and other strange noises when I've been here alone. It's pretty unnerving."
The Irish chimes could be explained by the ghostly presence of former 1800s Irish-born publican Agnes Hayes, who took over as licensee of the hotel at the young age of 20. While she did not die on the premises, she has been said to haunt the third floor. The spirit of her husband George has also been known to scare staff and contractors in different locations, including down in the cellar.
"Several contract workers have claimed to have witnessed paranormal activity when working in the basement, some refusing to come back..."
In a story published by journalist Josh Leeson by the Newcastle Herald in 2016, singer-songwriter Emma Louise also claims to have experienced the presence of George in the hotel's former first-floor ballroom.
“It was the first ghost experience I’ve ever had in my life,” Louise said. “I was a bit of a skeptic before.” Louise was upstairs in the hotel’s old ballroom, which doubled as the green room, before the show with singer Thelma Plum when they started smoking. “George didn’t like us smoking, because all of a sudden the guitar case started shaking and then it fell on to the ground and all of a sudden there were heaps of footsteps all around us.” - Newcastle Herald.
Determined to find out if the stories were true, Australian Hotels Association - Newcastle Hunter recently teamed up with Newcastle Ghost Tours and members of hotel staff, to spend a few hours in the venue after dark.
At present, the hotel's upper floors are under renovation and at night, given the haunted history of the building, it's easy to understand why people get the jitters.
The halls are long and dark and on the fifth floor the haunting clock face of Customs House stares in through dusty glass. The old floors creak underfoot as you move around and unexplained noises groan at every turn.
Upon entering the top floor, Newcastle Ghost Tours' resident pyschic medium and necromancer, meaning someone who can speak with the dead, Renata Daniel said she immediately felt uneasy...
Upon entering the top floor, Newcastle Ghost Tours' resident pyschic medium and necromancer, meaning someone who can speak with the dead, Renata Daniel said she immediately felt uneasy.
"I felt very uncomfortable in the top corner of the fifth floor," she said.
"An unsettled energy is still active up there. It's an energy that still has much to say and I'd love to be able to explore more in those few rooms, especially the area now occupied by the shared bathroom."
Further into the investigation, the Newcastle Ghost Tours team used what they call a Spirit Box to allow any spirits present to communicate using the energy of white noise.
While historically Agnes and George have been known to haunt the halls of the Great Northern, according to communication received through the device, the hotel may also be home to a number of women who worked there many years ago.
"The third floor has very concentrated activity in the central corridors," Renata said.
"The connections there were intriguing and through the Spirit Box we could hear women fighting over a man. Women who may have been 'working women' or two females fighting over the same lover.
"I saw a few dark energies swirling around and scooting quickly past and certainly the men present (hotel staff members) on the night were targets of their interest, whoever these entities might be."
"I saw a few dark energies swirling around and scooting quickly past and certainly the men present (hotel staff members) on the night were targets of their interest, whoever these
entities might be."
There was also a male voice that made contact through the device. While his communication seemed to be with a third party rather than directly with the team, he spoke angrily of a dispute with a woman that seemed to have reached a violent end.
As if sensing the seance may be getting out of hand, Renata closed the session leaving those present somewhat lost for words - the question as to whether the hotel is haunted, definitively answered...
Later in the investigation, the Newcastle Ghost Tours team conducted a seance on the first floor just outside the former Ballroom. They did not use the traditional upturned drinking glass, letters, numbers or the words Yes and No. The idea was simply to rest our fingers on the table and lend our energy to any spirits present. If they wanted to communicate, they could harness our energy to move the small wooden table.
Renata began by communicating verbally with Agnes and then invited any spirits present to come forward and interact with us.
It didn't take long for the table to react, shifting slowly at first and then more and more haphazardly until it turned 180 degrees and lifted onto only two legs.
As if sensing the seance may be getting out of hand, Renata closed the session leaving those present somewhat lost for words - the question as to whether the hotel was haunted, definitively answered.
While the upstairs levels of the Great Northern Hotel are currently closed to the public, Newcastle Ghost Tours is set to begin running private tours from December.
If you like a good scare, watch this space!