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Scary Stories

A Story by Beryl Bowden

As an eight-year-old, in the 1930’s, I firmly believed that an underground tunnel connected Stroud House to Silo Hill. At a Garden Party in the grounds of Stroud House one day a group of young girls thought we would test the theory by going into the cellars and see where we would come out. When our parents were occupied having afternoon tea, we crept down the steps to the cellars. More than a little scared, we huddled together as we crept along in the dark, shivering with cold and fright. We hadn’t gone far when we heard yells and loud clanging noises. Some boys must have heard our plans and had gone ahead and were hiding, waiting for us to come along. Terrified, we ran screaming back into the daylight… much to the boys’ amusement. The tunnel theory was not proven – or disproved- that day!

There are eight underground silos situated on Silo Hill. One was always left open for people who wanted to have a look inside. Mrs Bubbles (Marcia) Rowe who lived close by had to walk past the silos whenever she went down town. One day, in the 1990’s she was astonished to hear what sounded like ghostly music coming from under the ground. She was quite frightened by the experience and told everyone about it. It caused a sensation at the time but no explanation was found. Years later I was telling my daughter Anne of Bubble’s experience when she laughed and said. “I know the answer to that, Mum.”  Christopher, a friend of hers, had told her that one day he played his saxophone in the silo to test the acoustics. No doubt that was what the startled Bubbles had heard as she sauntered by. Mystery solved!

Silo Hill

The silos concreted over

In the 1800’s the silos were used to store surplus grain. One convict whose responsibility it was to mind a litter of pigs had the misfortune to mislay one of them. He was in trouble. After much frantic searching the pig was located many days later. It had fallen down an empty silo without harm and was as happy as a ’pig in mud’! Due to the constant temperature and ready supply of spilt grain in the silo, the pig must have thought it was in ‘piggy’ heaven or at the very least a five star ‘piggy’ motel! His keeper was very relieved to have him back again!

When our children were young, we spent good times on Silo Hill. In school holidays we often took a picnic lunch and spent the day there. Happily we climbed up and down the open silo on the steel ladder provided. Perched on the cannons they sang out to people walking by on the road below. Sadly, none of the silos is now open for viewing. A steel grate with a huge padlock now prevents entry. In all the years that the silo was open I don’t ever remember hearing of any accidents happening as a result of it being accessible to the public!

As children, whenever we had occasion to walk past the Masonic hall in Memorial Ave, we gave it a wide berth. The brick building was square with windows set high up in the walls, no doubt to prevent their activities from being observed!  We had heard rumours of loud knocking and men ‘riding Billy goats’ inside! Only men were admitted, dressed in suits, white shirts and black bow ties- each carrying a little black leather bag. Women were not allowed in. The secrecy that surrounded the rituals of the society, made it all very mysterious to us, so we kept well away.

Stroud Masonic Hall

The Masonic Hall today

Another rumour that persisted when I was young was about our local swimming hole called Towser. We believed that a man drove his bullock team too close to the edge of the riverbank. The bank gave way and they all went into the water and were drowned—the driver too!! The story went that his faithful dog Towser, resisting all attempts to coax him away, swum round and round in the place where his master had disappeared until he eventually drowned. We were told that the swimming hole was named Towser after him.

My main contribution towards restoring Quambi House was to re-surface all its interior cedar woodwork and cedar furniture. I usually worked on my own and with no electric light, found it quite scary on dull days. Most days were uneventful, but occasionally I would get frightened! I am convinced that there is a ‘presence’ in one of the upstairs bedrooms. I sometimes heard a noise in that particular room and would call out “Is there anyone there”? There never was! I would get ‘spooked’ and go home. I always came back next day though!

This little anecdote was included in my story about St John’s Church last June. To those who have read it I apologise, but for the benefit of those who haven’t, I thought it worth repeating.

St John’s Anglican Church, as we know, is the site of Stroud’s earliest cemetery. One very dark Sunday night, during Rev Cook’s ministry, I was nervously hurrying down the church path. Conscious of being alone and surrounded by tombstones, I was half-way along when out of the darkness came a deep voice, ’Good evening’ it rumbled. Terrified, I screamed, wheeled and ran full tilt in the opposite direction.

Rev Cook, invisible in his black robes, was sitting on a tombstone, waiting to see if anyone turned up for Evensong.

As it happened, I was the only one who did. Even so, we said the full service- every word of it!!

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6 Comments on “Scary Stories”

  1. Beryl Bowden March 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    She was not the only one Mick!!

  2. Beryl Bowden March 17, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    A friend of similar vintage to myself, was surprised to learn there is NO underground tunnel connecting Stroud House and the Silos. She always thought there was!

    • Mick Collins March 18, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

      Beryl, would you like to ask your friend if she would like to purchase the Sydney Harbour Bridge from me. it was left to me by a distant cousin, and is no longer required by Marie and me since we moved to Stroud. It’s going cheap!!!
      All the best
      Mick

  3. Robyn Franks March 13, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    Thank you Beryl. I enjoy reading all your experiences involved within the history of Stroud. You bring it to life, and I can feel like I’m there as well!

  4. jackie versace March 12, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    Fantastic stories Beryl. Always enjoy them. Jackie V

  5. Wal Towells March 12, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    Again Beryl, another very interesting read for an ex resident. Thank you very much.
    Wal Towells

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