Port Adelaide is one of the oldest suburbs in Adelaide, known for its maritime history, popular for its river dolphins and, as a heritage-listed precinct, iconic for its abandoned buildings. Boarded up storefronts and empty factories give the appearance of an almost-ghost town, and in fact, as you’ll learn on the Port Adelaide Ghost Crime Tourit is a ghost town – literally.
As our tour began near the lighthouse, we learned why Port Adelaide was initially called Port Misery: when boats arrived, the finely dressed, suitcase-laden, children-holding passengers had to trudge through the thick river muck to get to land. Laugher from men drinking at the pub was a harsh sign of welcome.
In a nearby dilapidated building, there’s a ragged curtain in the top window that’s sometimes pushed open, sometimes closed. Our guide told us when she and her colleagues went inside to check out the place, the staircase was destroyed – there was no way to the top floor.
For the next two hours, as we circled the main streets and back alleyways of the Port, we heard more stories suggesting why the old name “Port Misery” was an apt one.
When recounting the tale of a sensational and unsolved murder at the Lighthouse Warf Hotel or the ghost of a madam at the Port Dock Hotel (which had been a brothel in the early 1900s), our guide would add, “the newspapers said” or “ the coroner’s findings were” or “if you talk to the bartenders at the pub now, they’ll tell you”, and it was interesting to see the sleuthing at work behind our tour.
It was clear that each paranormal and murderous account inspired our guide, and in the dark of the night, standing in front of deserted buildings dating back to the mid-1800s, this was as infectious as it was eerie.
No matter what your beliefs are on the afterlife, the stories that pack this leisurely stroll are both documented and folkloric, and they help make sense of the bygone culture of Port Adelaide. History buffs will love this, as will anyone wanting to be spooked.
Port Adelaide Ghost Crime Tours are running until March 19.
Read more 2022 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews here†
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.