FREMANTLE PRISON

1 The Terrace

+61 8 9336 9200

Status: Former Maximum Security Prison; Tourist Attraction; Torchlight Tour Available

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History

When the Swan River Colony – what is now Perth – was first founded in the 1829 it was free colony; unlike the eastern penal colonies. However, by the 1840’s, the lure of cheap labour led to an agreement to shipments of British convicts.

In 1850 the first convict ship arrived from Britain but the boat sent to announce the convict ship was coming was blown off course so there was nothing ready for the new prisoners. They were left on the ship while the colony found a solution.

The current site was picked, and construction began on the prison in 1851. The convicts were trained in limestone masonry and built the prison themselves. In late 1851 the Royal Engineers came to the colony and oversaw the construction until 1855 when the Crimean War called them away.

The prison was completed in 1859 but prisoners had been living in the first completed cell block since 1855.

In 1886 ownership of the prison was transferred to the Colonial Government. Up until then the British Government owned the prison but the Colonials had to pay for the upkeep. All prisoners in the Perth Goal were transferred to the prison and a separate female prison was built on site.

As the 20th century began new reforms in the treatment of prisoners also began including knocking down the walls between two cells making them one.

In 1970 a new women’s prison was opened and all female prisoners were moved there.

Despite continued attempts at prison reform – most of which seem to have been token at best – in 1988 there was a prison riot due to the conditions the prisoners were living under.

On November 30, 1991 the prison was closed.

The hospital has since been turned into a tourist attraction with numerous tours available – including a lantern lit after dark tour - and a youth hostel has opened in the former woman’s prison.

 

Paranormal Activity

44 people were executed in the prison; all for the crime of murder and all by hanging.

One of the rules of the hostel is to notify a staff member should you encounter a ghost.

The stories of paranormal activity date back to when the prison was open with convicts saying dead prisoners were coming in their cells and one cleaner having the terrifying experience of running into a prisoner who he knew had passed away only the day before (the experience was so overwhelming he passed out).

Another guard saw a black figure in the guard post with him. He refused to go back in that guard post and requested a transfer.

John Gavin was hung in 1844 for crime he most likely didn’t commit. John was only 15 years old when he was convicted of killing the baby of the family he was working for; the mother was later diagnosed with post partum depression and probably killed her own child and blamed John.

John is said to haunt what is now called the Shipwreck Galleries making banging noises on the walls and who people out of the corner of their eyes there.

Martha Rendell was the only woman executed at the prison. She was convicted of murdering her new husband’s son – it is also thought she murdered both his daughters as well but that couldn’t be proven – and sentenced to death by hanging 1909.

Martha’s ghostly face is often seen looking out of the window of the chapel. Photographs have even been taken of her.

In the rooms where the hangings took place people have taken pictures of their friends on the gallows; photos that when seen have had their friend’s heads missing.

Other reported activity: apparitions; shadow figures; time slips; objects moving on their own including flying across the room; unexplained streaks of light and other light anomalies; unexplained smells; disembodied voices and other unexplained noises including loud bangs, screams and whispers; touches, tugs and pulls by unseen entities; phantom footsteps; empathic sensations of anger, hatred and a feeling of being trapped; electrical disturbances; cameras and phone not working properly and photos turning out mysteriously altered and feelings of not being alone, being watched and not being wanted.