The town of Port Arthur has a rich history and is an important heritage site for Australia. This former convict settlement has many secrets just waiting for you to discover that may not be in your travel guide. If you think there isn’t much to find in Port Arthur, below are five things you didn’t know about this place that may be of interest:
Port Arthur is no stranger to ghost sightings. During the 1870s, writer George Gruncell noted down a series of weird occurrences within the Parsonage building. Some events he recorded were seeing lights in rooms where no one entered throughout the night. The place is currently deemed as the most haunted building in Australia and is still holding the title today. You also have the chance of bringing home your own ghost story with the Paranormal Investigation Experience activity with certain Port Arthur tours.
Port Arthur’s Isle of the Dead is a grim place with a scenic surrounding. The island is the resting place for more than 1,600 convicts and 180 prison staff. The personnel were buried highest and were the only ones to receive headstones. This is due to a rule where criminals were considered unworthy of having markers on their grave due to the crime they committed. One of the famous graves found here belongs to “Big” Mark Jeffrey. This convict is the one who made his own hole to be buried in.
Lottery of life
Visitors to the Port Arthur Historic Site are given a playing card along with their ticket. The card is derived from a plan on deciding what can happen to the convict while they are in custody. The system is placed to reward prisoners with good behaviour and punish those who break the law. Convicts are told to “play their cards right and they just might get a ticket to leave”. The cards are used to match it with the prisoners who own it. This helps give visitors a connection to the ones who lived out their sentences in Port Arthur.
The Separate Prison building
This building acted as the solitary confinement area of the prison. Convicts who entered here were usually the ones who had done a very serious crime. The cell walls were made with sandstone in order to block any sounds coming in or out. Prison staff hoped the silence and solitude would help those who were imprisoned in the building.
Closure of the prison
Port Arthur halted its function as a penal settlement in 1877. This was due to the decreasing amount of convicts being delivered to the island while others either grow old or are able to completely serve their time. Most of the buildings have been left to degrade due to neglect ever since its closure. It was in in 1916 when the ruined buildings were placed under the responsibility of the Scenery Preservation Board. This turned Port Arthur into one of the first historical sites of the country.
The five things mentioned above are just a taste of what you can find in Port Arthur. If you are looking to visit this great place, contact a Port Arthur tour provider to find out more.