Perched high on a hill overlooking the small town of Junee is the imposing Monte Cristo Homestead. Built in the classic Colonial style of the era, it combines functionality with beauty.
Now over a hundred and thirty years old this historic building is both famous and notorious. Sadly though it is not its architecture which has provoked worldwide interest in the building.
Inhabited by the Monte Cristo Homestead ghosts, it is said to be the most haunted house in Australia.
A Brief History of Monte Cristo
Construction of the Monte Cristo Homestead began in 1884 by Christopher William Crawley. Once a poor farmer, chance, good fortune and business acumen elevated him to great wealth.
In a few short years clever investments meant that he owned a great deal of the growing town of Junee. Before long he was a pillar of the local community and wanted a home to reflect his rise in status.
The beautiful Monte Cristo Homestead must have fulfilled his expectations and more. Renowned for its social gatherings and parties it appeared to be a happy home.
Occupied by the Crawley family until 1948, the property was left empty for the next fifteen years. The contents of the house were sold off and a succession of caretakers failed to care properly for the building.
Eventually, the building was left vandalised and derelict. In 1963 it was bought by Reginald and Olive Ryan. The couple restored the house to its former glory and occupied it as their home before opening their haunted house to the public.
Looks Can be Deceptive
To the outside world, Christopher William Crawley and his wife appeared to be pillars of society. Both were devout Catholics who donated money to the local church and to the community of Junee.
Behind closed doors, there is a suggestion that Crawley and his wife were not the ideal citizens they pretended to be. Mr. Crawley is suspected of impregnating two of his maids, one of whom went on to commit suicide, while the other’s illegitimate child was treated like an animal.
A hundred years later it is difficult to confirm whether or not these rumors are true. Crawley himself died in 1910 leaving his widow behind.
Mrs. Crawley went on to live in the house for another 23 years, rarely leaving her home to venture in to the outside world. Described by some of her staff after her death as harsh and cruel, she is said to have run the household with a rod of iron.
The Ghosts of Monte Cristo
The Monte Cristo Homestead is said to be haunted by up to ten troubled souls and poltergeists. Some remain unidentified but others have a very strong link with the house and can be traced back through its troubled history.
Mrs. Crawley: One of the most powerful presences at Monte Cristo is said to be the ghost of Mrs. Crawley. Virtually a recluse after the death of her husband, she confined herself to the limits of her home.
Despite being a committed Christian and converting a room in her house to a chapel, Mrs. Crawley is rumored to have had a cruel and unkind nature.
Dressed in black and carrying a silver cross her presence is often seen and felt. Upset Mrs. Crawley and you will incur her wrath.
Visitors to the Monte Cristo Homestead have felt themselves pushed unceremoniously out of the rooms which she haunts. Others have heard her unhappy spirit weeping.
Mr. Crawley: The spirit of Mr. Crawley is also felt about the building. Not as powerful a presence as his formidable wife, he has been seen in the room where he died.
Ethel Crawley: Ethel Crawley died in 1917. Literally a babe in arms, she died when her nursemaid dropped her on the stairs. Whether it was an accident or intentional we will never know.
At the time the nursemaid swore that there was a supernatural involvement, claiming that she had felt a shove to her back from an invisible force.
To this day visitors to the house feel a strange atmosphere around the stairs. Some feel an invisible force restraining or pushing them, young children become agitated and upset, while others feel the tiny icy hand of a child slip silently into theirs.
Morris, The Stable Boy: Morris was a young stable boy who worked for the Crawley family. One day he is said to have taken to his bed, feeling ill and unable to get up. There are two different versions of what happened next.
The first version describes poor Morris trapped in his bed unable to move when a fire broke out in the stable. In the second more sinister version of the story, Morris’s boss set fire to the straw mattress on which the poor boy was sleeping.
Presumably he was calling the boys bluff and expected him to leap from the burning bed. Sadly, the stable lad died. His screams are said to resonate around the stables.
Harold Steel: Harold Steel was the son of one of the maids in the Crawley household. He was also rumored to be the illegitimate child of Christopher Crawley.
As a youngster Harold was involved in a carriage accident and sustained serious head injuries. After his accident he developed an aggressive and violent personality.
In order to control him, his mother chained him up in the dairy behind the main house. Harold is said to have spent up to thirty years in this state. During this time he would howl and scream, becoming the object of children’s curiosity and cruel taunts.
When his mother died, life became worse for the unfortunate Harold. Eventually, local people intervened and he was confined to a mental institution where he died soon after. Harold’s howls and screams can still be heard in the dairy.
The Pregnant Maid: Another sad soul that haunts the Monte Cristo Homestead is the ghost of the pregnant maid. Whether she was pregnant by Christopher Crawley or not, we can only speculate.
What is known is that she committed suicide by throwing herself from the top veranda of the building. Her blood still stains the steps that lead up to the house and her ghostly image is said to hover around the exterior of the building.
Jack Simpson: Few who see the beautifully restored Monte Cristo Homestead today could imagine the decay it fell into during the last century. Crumbling and derelict it became the classic haunted house on the hill.
Despite this, the murder of Jack Simpson in 1961 must have shaken the small local community to the core. Jack Simpson was one of the many caretakers who occupied the property after the last of the family vacated the Monte Cristo in 1948.
One evening in 1961 he opened the door to an unexpected and lethal visitor. Shot at point blank range, Jack died immediately.
His murderer was a crazed local youth who had watched Psycho three times before carrying out the killing. Before fleeing the scene the young man wrote ‘Die Jack – ha ha’ on a shed door. The words can clearly be read today and the spirit of poor Jack is said to linger in the area.
Strange Lights and Animal Mutilation
Since its purchase and subsequent restoration in 1963, the Monte Cristo Homestead has become a family home, museum and ghostly tourist attraction. Thousands visit each year and there are hundreds of paranormal incidents recorded.
One of the strangest incidents experienced by the family who occupy the property involves strange lights. At least twice they have left their home in darkness to go out for the evening.
As they have approached the empty house on their return, they have witnessed it completely lit up. By the time they have reached their destination, the house is in darkness again.
More disturbing is the reaction and fate of some animals on the property. When the Ryan family moved into the property in 1963, they claim their cat and dog would not enter the building but ran away.
Subsequently, they went on to discover their chickens strangled in their secured pens, a parrot choked to death in its locked cage and kittens found dead and mutilated in the breakfast room.
Other phenomena recorded by those who visit the home include; nausea, fainting, overwhelming sadness, icy touches, whispered messages, unexplained mists and full body apparitions.
The Monte Cristo Homestead is open to the public and for those who are interested in the paranormal it must surely be on the list of must see places. Claiming to be Australia’s most haunted house it is certainly rich in unexplained phenomena.
Lovingly restored to its former Victorian glory by its current owners, it offers Ghost Tours for the curious. Overnight stays in haunted rooms are available for those who are really keen to catch a glimpse of the Monte Cristo Homestead ghosts.
A word of warning though, Mrs. Crawley is very particular about who enters her home and is often said to take an instant dislike to those who show her or her home disrespect.
If you don’t want to feel her icy glare, a whispered threat or a short sharp shove in your back, be sure to mind your manners and be on your very, very best behavior.