Jenolan Caves

Spine-Chilling Stories from the Underworld

October 28, 2020

It’s that time of year again, when in some parts of the world, people celebrate Halloween.  The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.

People love to hear ghost stories – the scarier the better!  When we get scared, we experience a rush of adrenaline and a release of endorphins and dopamine. The biochemical rush can result in a sense of euphoria. We can enjoy that excitement, when we know we are safe.[i] That is why visitors to Jenolan can thrill at the adventure of being deep underground in a tour group, even if they think that Jenolan is ‘haunted’.  Maybe Jenolan isn’t haunted.  But maybe it is.  Here are a few chilling stories from the deep, dark, mysterious underworld of Jenolan.

The Orient Scream

One evening, cave guide, Geoff Melbourne, was taking a small family through the Orient Cave.  It was very quiet. They were in a chamber known as ‘The Well’, looking up at the natural dome far above them.  Geoff was describing their surroundings, when he heard a loud, piercing scream, that made him jump. It came from the chamber that they had just left. The man said, “What was that noise?”  Geoff said, “What did you hear?”  “Sounded like a woman screaming,” the man said. Geoff said, ‘Yep, that’s what it sounded like to me.” The children started to cry, and they all decided to leave the cave without finishing the tour.

Why didn’t he check it out?  He said that he was absolutely certain there was no one else in the cave. They had just been in the chamber from which the sound had come. It’s impossible for visitors to get into a cave unaccompanied, and there was no reason for any staff to be there at night.  Could it have been a Sooty Owl?  Although it is quite uncommon to see or hear one, there are Sooty Owls at Jenolan. They have only ever been seen in the Nettle Cave, where they have roosted for literally thousands of years.  Sooty Owls make a short, descending screech, which is often called the ‘falling bomb whistle’.  Did they hear a Sooty Owl that night?  Geoff doesn’t believe so, as there is no way that an owl could have got into the Orient Cave, because of the solid doors, and in the Orient, it is impossible to hear any external noises, no matter how loud, even if a real bomb fell!

The Laughing Children

The Jubilee Cave is currently closed for tours, but a few years ago, cave guide, Geoff Melbourne, was showing a group of adults through.  The big chamber called the ‘Water Cavern’ marked the furthest reaches of the Jubilee, where tour groups always turn around to go back. The group had stopped to photograph the unusual chocolate-coloured stalactites and gaze into the enormous Water Cavern, before turning around to return the way they came.  Out of the darkness of the cavern, Geoff clearly heard the noise of a group of small children giggling and laughing.  He asked his group, “Did you hear that?  They all heard it too.  There was no explanation.  They could not leave quickly enough. 

The Shoulder Tap

Some cave guides, while underground, have been tapped on their shoulder. They look around, but no one is there. It seems to happen to the female guides more often.  Some guides speculate it is the ‘ghost’ of James Wiburd, who worked at Jenolan for nearly 50 years, from 1885 to 1932, and was devoted to the place.  He and his colleagues explored the cave system thoroughly, discovering several of Jenolan’s most spectacular caves.  It is even rumoured that his ashes are hidden in the caves. 

Visitors have sometimes told stories of seeing a tall, thin old man on their tour, sporting a big moustache and dark suit, but when they looked again he was gone. The description matches Wiburd.  He was a gentleman.  Maybe when he taps female guides on the shoulder, he’s really trying to say, “Young lady, you are doing a better job than I ever did.” We hope that’s it, anyway.

The Children in the Hallway

Caves House staff have repeatedly reported that at night they hear children loudly running up and down the hallway in the Vernon Wing, which was the first section of Caves House to be built, in 1897. (The Vernon Wing is currently staff accommodation.) The noise is loud enough to keep staff awake at night, but no children are ever seen.

The Lady’s Arm

In March 2014, cave guide, Geoff Molesworth, was conducting the ‘Legends, Mysteries & Ghost’ tour, in the Mud Tunnels near the River Cave. The discussion of belief came up. One of the visitors asked whether he believed the caves really are haunted, or if it was just made up. A lady decided to share her story of what had happened in Caves House just the night before, when she was staying in room 211. To her horror, she saw a ghostly arm coming through the door of her room - no body - just an arm, wearing a lace cuff.

The Shared Dream

A family came to visit Jenolan when their 2 daughters were young.  They stayed on the 2nd floor of Caves House. The girls pestered their mother to go up to the 3rd floor, but the mother insisted that there was nothing to see there, as it was just the same as the 2nd floor, so they never went.

15 years later they visited Jenolan again, and reminisced about their previous visit. One of the girls told her sister and mother that 15 years before, after they had not been allowed to visit the 3rd floor, she dreamed she went to the 3rd floor anyway, and she and her sister were floating around the room. In the dream, their mother came upstairs, and saw the girls, as well as an older lady in a rocking chair. The mother beckoned the girls to come down, and the lady in the rocking chair calmly told the mother that the girls were only playing.

The mother and the sister both said, “No, that was my dream”. All three had the same dream, but none of them spoke about it until their return to Jenolan Caves 15 years later.

Jenolan is a Place of Enchantment

Maybe these strange incidents have logical explanations.  Whatever! Don’t let these stories put you off visiting Jenolan and staying overnight. Jenolan is a place of fun, love and adventure.  The caves are Australia’s most spectacular. They are the biggest caves in Australia that are open to the public, and they are the world’s oldest caves – 340 million years.  Caves House also is a romantic and relaxing place to stay overnight – full of authentic historic ambiance, and warm country hospitality. 

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Jenolan Caves Apps
4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains NSW. Ph: 1300 76 33 11 or +61 2 6359 3911
Sydney Bucket List2011 Winner - Australian Tourism Awards

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