Creepy Canberra!

ASK most Australians about Canberra and you’ll get little more than a yawn, with the capital known mainly for politics, peace and quiet.

Yet there’s another side to the city, one filled with strange stories of underground bunkers, secret listening towers, a disappearing lake, ghosts, UFOs and a hairy beast.

Mysterious tales first told by early Aboriginal Australians have re-emerged time and again, from 18th century European settlers all the way to present-day witnesses.

Perhaps there are natural, or man-made, explanations for the eerie episodes right at the seat of government, but whatever the truth behind the myriad conspiracy theories, one thing is for sure: something weird is going on in Canberra.


The tunnels that connect government buildings in Canberra are said to be used more to avoid the rain than for secret business, with TV crews welcomed in to explore the bare closets, storerooms and workshops below Parliament. But some believe this studied monotony may conceal more suspicious goings-on, since certain areas are barred to the public.

Black Mountain Tower is suspected of containing eavesdropping equipment, with a former technician telling ABC’s 7.30 that the Chinese embassy is the main target. The interview is now subject to a D-notice issued by the federal government advising against further publication.

Other reports claim the Deakin Telephone Exchange is used for espionage purposes by secret agencies such as the NSA and FBI. Former Labor MP Barry Jones was so unnerved by the rumours, he toured the building to check them out, claiming afterwards that he was satisfied that nothing strange was happening.

In the suburb of Belconnen, there is a rumoured top-secret three-level underground base referred to by locals in the know as “the Sheep Paddock”, reports It is said to be housed beneath a real paddock in an area apparently filled with large limestone caverns. The paddock allegedly contains antennae and a small shed housing a life to the underground command post below. Several sheep have mysteriously disappeared from the paddock over the years.


The “enigmatic” Lake George lies 30km from the city and is thought to be one of the world’s oldest at about a million years old. It is known for seemingly magical rising and falling tides, with the entire lake emptying in 2002 and not refilling until 2014, despite it not being connected to any river or ocean.

The lake was originally named Werriwa, meaning “bad water”, and is almost as saline as the sea, but leaves no salt crust when it vanishes. Ngunnawal ranger Adrian Brown told the Canberra Times it was known for malevolent spirits and a bunyip, a mythical creature of Aboriginal legend that haunts swamps and billabongs.

Urban myths suggest the lake could be linked to another in New Zealand, Peru, China or South Africa, that fills as it drains. Government ecologist Justin Nancarrow told Fairfax Media in 2002 that he thought there was a “grain of truth” in the theory, and that Lake George was connected to another body of water, only a little closer, believing hidden underground aquifers leading under a mountain to the Yass River.

Reverend Cartwright, who was with Governor Macquarie’s band of settlers when they came across the lake in 1812, wrote from the nearby village of Collector 43 years on: “My little church and this parsonage where we are now, had they been in existence then, would have been under fathoms of water.” There’s certainly something unusual about this inland sea.


The UFO Experience Support Association reports that a woman and her daughter driving from Canberra past Lake George in 1996 saw a bright light in the sky, which hovered above the car, before landing in a nearby field. The woman observed a solid structure with windows, coloured beams and sparks emitting from the underside. She parked close to two other cars, but drove away when a blinding light began moving quickly towards her.

In June 1974, an elderly farmer saw a spherical object land in the same area and three or four beings float to the ground.

The creatures were three metres tall with small heads and no clear facial features, wearing “glowing silver suits covering their whole bodies up to the neck”. The farmer saw a “chute” extend down from the craft, apparently unloading metal cases. Cattle were unloaded and “taken away by normal looking men”. Doctors at the time diagnosed him with a case of mild paranoia and schizophrenia.


Many have called Canberra a ghost town, and it does appear to be a hub of paranormal activity. In the 1950s, five cadets from Duntroon and a Queanbeyan family drowned on the rough waters of Lake George. In the 1980s and 1990s, when highway rebuilding left only a single carriageway into the city, 21 lives were lost in six years.

Absent Diane wrote on Canberra forum RiotACT in November 2005 that her brother and a friend of her mother’s had each on separate occasions spotted a mysterious man standing by the road, who then disappeared.

“(My mother’s friend) slowed down and saw the results of a nasty crash, which he could have plunged straight into had he not slowed down,” Absent Diane wrote.

The next day, he saw the man’s photo in the paper. He was a victim killed instantly in the crash.

The Hyatt Hotel Canberra is also known for the sound of footsteps, taps being turned on and apparitions of 1920s partygoers in the ballroom at night, and of a wealthy little girl from the same era standing staring in the hallway.

Such stories are not new. “Canberra’s First Ghost” published in The Adelaide Advertiser on September 6, 1930, read: “While crossing Commonwealth Bridge across the Molonglo River at a lonely part of the city, two residents were horrified to hear unearthly noises from the riverbank 25 feet below, and presently they saw dimly in the moonlight a dark, unearthly shape rising as if from the stream. It peered at them eerily, with eyes of uncanny brightness, and then vanished.”

Canberra’s government buildings and landmarks are popular haunts for poltergeists, with Launceston’s Examiner reporting that two cleaners saw the ghost of a woman in a flowing robe roaming the Department of Health offices in 1951. At the National Archive, a mischievous ghost is said to attack people by pushing them up against walls and trying to choke them. The War Memorial has a helpful digger in uniform and Duntroon House is said to be haunted by the ghost of 29-year-old Sophie Campbell, who messes up the bed in her old room.

Perhaps the most famous ghost is that of “Black Shadow”, an Aboriginal boy looking for lost treasure at Yarralumla, the Prime Minister’s Canberra residence, seen endlessly digging for a lost diamond under an elm tree. And you thought the pollies were bad.


The legend of a wild, hairy man has been told since Australia was colonised. Formerly known as a “yahoo”, now the “yowie”, this Bigfoot-like creature has been seen around NSW. Queensland and the Northern Territory.

In Bredbo, near Canberra, locals tried to catch such a monster, according to an account from The Queanbeyan Age in August 1886: “Whilst a young man named Flynn was looking after stock at the back of the Bredbo station one afternoon last week, he was surprised to observe a hairy human form, about seven feet in height, walking in the bush. The wild man walked with an unsteady, swinging, and fast step, his arms being bent forward and nearly reaching the ground, whilst the colour was described as ‘bay’, between a red and chestnut.

“Flynn did not take a second look at the uncanny creature, but rode as fast as he could to the homestead of Mr Crimmings, nearly two miles away, to whom he reported the strange, mysterious affair. Since then, Mr Crimmings himself has encountered the monster, and his account tallies exactly with that given by Mr Flynn. But Mr Crimmings heard the animal make a cry that sounded very like ‘Yahoo’. We hear that Mr Joseph Hart, of Jingera, also saw the Yahoo as he was returning home one afternoon. The strange being is, no doubt, the ‘Wild man’ that has been so often talked of about Jingera for so many years past. It is the intention of Bredbo and Jingera residents to scour the bush in a strong body and capture the monster alive or dead.”

Of course, they never did, and the hairy brute continues to roam Canberra along with the rest of its demons and ghouls.


About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).