Quarantine Station, North Head, Manly

1828 - 1984

From the beginning of colonization in Australia until the dawn of the modern age and medicine, contagious disease posed a deadly threat to the isolated community.
With the arrival of each ship in Sydney Harbor carrying goods and settlers from the far flung corners of the globe, came the dreaded prospect of epidemics ravaging the outside world.
With smallpox, cholera, Spanish influenza, bubonic plague and other contagious diseases regularly sweeping the world it became essential to the colony that a quarantine facility be established to act as a barrier between it and the outside world.

The combination of maritime convenience and geographic isolation made North Head the ideal location, the Quarantine Act was passed in 1832 and the Quarantine Station was officially established and would protect Australia for over 100 years.

At peek periods there could be as many as 8 ships moored off Quarantine Beach and the Station would run out of accommodation, and residents would be forced to camp on surrounding hills, in generally miserable conditions.
The healthy sometimes being called upon to clear surrounding bushland and construct hospital and residential buildings, which they did eagerly to break the monotony of being isolated for months on end with little to do.

Ships at the Station

The atmosphere of the Station was somber at best, as most of those quarantined had been forced to endure long voyages from the other side of the world on diseased ridden ships.
As in the case of the typhus ridden Lady McNaughton which arrived in Sydney Harbor in 1837 after loosing fifty four passengers en route, however the Quarantine Station proved no sanctuary. Thirteen more died after arrival in what were then described as "truly appalling conditions with a sense of misery, wretchedness and disease present everywhere."

Captain Stokes of the Beagle wrote that he was able to identify the Quarantine Station by the number of tombstones whitening on the side of the hill.
Not surprisingly the old Quarantine Station is said to be the most haunted place in Australia, since records were first kept reports of disembodied patients, doctors and nurses returning to haunt the place have flooded in.

With the advent of modern medicine and aviation the Quarantine Station went into decline, reduced geographically to its present 69 acres.
At the turn of the century it was used to isolate residents of the Rocks after a bubonic plague outbreak, and following World War One soldiers returning from the battle fields of France were quarantined there in fear of an influenza outbreak.
The Station was last used as emergency accommodation for people fleeing the destruction of Cyclone Tracy and Vietnamese orphans in the 1970's, in 1984 ownership passed from the State and Federal Governments to the national Parks and Wildlife Service for inclusion in the Sydney harbor National Park.

Despite its obsolescence and geographical reduction the Quarantine Station remains a city in itself, boasting its own post office, power supply, water reservoir, hospital, morgue, telephone exchange and paved streets lined with various styles and types of buildings.

Sydney Harbour at Sunset Commanding spectacular views of Sydney harbor and Manly it's rolling green hills, timbered ridges and deserted beach possess a timeless, tranquil atmosphere. Which envelopes a suburb of 60 restored hospital, residential and industrial buildings which were built during the past 120 years with military precision.
Indeed the Station feels more like an army barracks than it does a Quarantine Station, more like a holiday camp than a place where 572 men, woman and children lived, suffered from horrendous diseases and were consigned to one of its three overgrown or demolished cemeteries.

The National parks and Wildlife Service regularly conducts a three hour ghost tour after sunset, where visitors are lead by tour guides through the winding unlit streets and buildings that constitute the Station. Listening to familiar stories of colonial life and the Stations often grizzly history, while tales turn more and more to ghostly activity.

There are no theme park gimmicks or staff dressed up in white sheets to frighten visitors, the emphasis is on the Stations history and documented cases of paranormal phenomena. The effect on people can be dramatic, visitors have reported seeing ghosts, feeling cold spots and being tapped on the shoulder when no one was anywhere near them.

Stories of haunting phenomena date back more than a century, when nurses on night shift reported seeing ghostly chinamen with long ponytails wandering through the wards and across verandas. While Park Rangers living in the Station regularly report seeing ghostly figures and lights in unoccupied hospital wards, but upon investigation find no one present and nothing amiss.

John Godl

The AGHS has visited the Quarantine station many many times. On various occasions we have experienced unexplainable lights inside the hospital wing, cool spots throughout the buildings, and witnessed many other tourists who told of their close encounter with one of the ghostly residents of the old site.

As of yet we have not caught anything on film or tape, but have visited with psychics who claim to have been visited and led around by ghostly nurses, and long dead patients all still remaining within the confines of the Station.

Some of the more common tales which you may hear while on a tour of ths Station include the story of the ghostly girl with blonde plaits who occasionally holds a tourists hand and leads them around the pathways. Some visitors see her hiding behind bushes or even tugging at their jacket sleeve. Some say she speaks to them or see here as a child on a tour, only to be told later there was no children on their tour

The lone grave that remains at the Quarantine Station

Many people have felt uncomfortable and have frozen on the spot of the old cemtery where a lone gravestone now is the only remaining evidence of the hundreds of bodies buried below.

The AGHS took Channel V around the Quarantine Station for an Interview at one stage to have the crew witness an event inside one of the hospital wings.

During an interview the crew suddenly were heard to shout and seen running from the hospital ward. The shout came out that they had witnessed strange lights inside the ward with no reason for them being there. There was no camera equipment or anything else that threw light or reflected on the walls to create the light. We went in for a look and found nothing out of the ordinary, the only explanation we could think of was perhaps they had witnessed one of the many ghosts reported to haunt the hospital buildings!
Rowena talks to Jabba on Channel V about the ghosts of the Quarantine Station
Rowena speaks to "Jabba" from Channel V as the crew witness some spooky lights inside

Upon another visit to the quarantine station we took along an AGHS psychic to see what he would come up with. We all witnessed another spooky event in the hospital wards as it felt like a body was lying on one of the beds. The bed at the time had a cold spot in the form of a body and our psychic could strongly sense the presence of a person.

The event did not last long but it certainly seemed as though the spirits were with us that night!
A psychic picks up on a long dead patient

The diseases

More information on the Hospital Wards/Wing

The most spookiest part of the tour - The Shower Block

The Mortuary, where the ghosts never leave or rest

Other Ghostly Happenings in the Quarantine Station

For a very spooky night out, where you shouldn't be surprised if you experience something creepy or spooky I recommend you take one of the Quarantine Station Night Tours.

For updated information on tour times and prices please check their website as below:

Quarantine Station Ghost Tour

Sydney Harbour National Park

Visit the Quarantine Station at night when strange things happen. Explore the many buildings that scatter the station, such as the hospital, cemeteries, isolation wards and mortuary. Hear tales of bizarre happenings and of the fascinating history whilst walking around this unique area by eerie lantern light. A light supper is served following the tour to calm your nerves. The tour is not recommended for children under 12.
When: Wednesday through Sunday, 8 pm
Duration: 3 hours
Level of difficulty: easy
Cost: $44 per person
Booking requirements: Bookings essential
More information: Please call (02) 9466 1500 or visit their website, www.qstation.com.au

The extensive landscaped gardens are open seven days a week, the house and gardens can be hired for weddings and other functions.

Read about the developments planned for this historic site here

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