Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Rocks: Haunted Russell Hotel

The Russell Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in “The Rocks” district of Sydney, Australia. 

This area is where the first penal colony was established in 1788. It is located on the southern shore of Sydney Habour. 

The Russell was constructed out of local sandstone like all of the original buildings in this first European settlement-- hence the name The Rocks. 

Today, The Rocks is an upscale commercial area--many tourists visit its’ galleries, restaurants and historic pubs. 

The Russell Hotel is near the Opera House, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Harbor Bridge and Circular Quay.

The Rocks was once the toughest and seediest area in New South Wales. For centuries it was a slum. 

During this sorted history The Russell Hotel always served as a safe haven. From its early years The Rocks was the area for crime, prostitutes and visiting sailors that entered the area via its various wharves.

During the 19th century a gang known as “The Rocks Push” plied their trade. This gang engaged in warfare with other push gangs and assaulted and robbed the local police and citizens. 

Female members of this gang were used to entice drunks and seamen into dark areas so the gang could rob them. Many victims were found murdered. 

The Rocks Push dominated the area well into the late 1870s, which maintained its bad reputation.

By the 20th century most of the original buildings in The Rocks were badly decayed. 

In 1900 the bubonic plague broke out. The Russell Hotel was used as a hospital--it had been used once before for this same purpose when smallpox hit the area. With the plague state officials inspected over 3800 structures including wharves in The Rocks and marked them for demolition. 

World War I halted this process.

By the 1960s again plans were put in motion to demolish this historic district. The Rocks is located on prime waterfront property. 

The local citizens joined together in a group called “Rocks Residents Group” and managed to stop the destruction by having a Green ban placed in 1971 which saved many of the historic buildings.

The Russell Hotel was one of the structures that were preserved. Today this historic hotel is a Bed and Breakfast and is on many lists as one of the top ten most haunted hotels in the world. 

The two oldest historic pubs in the Rocks also claim their own ghosts. 

Considering its history it is not surprising the area is a haunted corridor.

The Russell Hotel has several ghosts but the one that is most talked about is the ghost of an old seaman who is seen and heard in Room 8. 

This former sailor dressed in clothing from The Rocks colonial period is seen standing very still and staring at the guests that become aware of his presence. Many report feeling cold spots in the room. Others guests have been startled awake to see him standing and staring down at them. 

Some have seen this old seaman strolling through the hotel’s corridors--it is said he then just vanishes. Hotel employees report hearing Room 8’s floorboards creak when this room is unoccupied.

Other ghosts seen at The Russell include ladies of ill-repute and other sailors. 

In recent years with a major renovation the hotel has become even more active. 

The two pubs mentioned above are called: the Fortune of War and the Australia Hotel. Both started serving grog in the 1820s. The ghostly tales that surround these two pubs in The Rocks I will tell in another post.

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