Labassa is an unique little gem sitting right in the suburb of Caulfield. Nestled on the corner of a quiet court, you could say it is a little out of place. Like a lot of heritage listed properties that date back to the 1800’s, suburbia has taken over the surrounds and a lot of the homesteads still intact today are smack in the middle of residential developments. Labassa is no exception, however it is not your average homestead. It is a lavish mansion with a touch of a French renaissance feel.
In 1862, Labassa was a country house called Sylliott Hill built for Richard Billing who was a Melbourne judge. He died on the property in 1882 at the age of 66 from a brain haemorrhage after a long illness. His wife leased the property to Alexander Robertson who eventually purchased the property and the adjoining allotment. An architectural inspiration from the Royal Exhibition Building in the late 1880’s saw Alexander Robertson purchase Sylliott Hill and convert it to a lavish mansion called ‘Ontario’. Robertson was a partner in the well-known Cobb and Co coach service. Boasting 35 rooms on a 35 hectare property with large steel gates similar to those used at Buckingham Palace, it is safe to say he like to spend his money. He passed away in 1896 at the age of 65. (Remember back in these days, people did not necessarily live until their 80’s and 90’s like they do today.)
The property was then sold to John Boyd Watson who was a mining millionaire who continued the renovations and had a significant influence on the interior design. He renamed the property Labassa. After Watson passed away in 1911, his wife started selling off the land and the adjoining allotments. Out of 65 hectares, she kept 1.73. For this reason, you will find Labassa Grove and Ontario Street just nearby. In 1920, Labassa was sold and converted into flats where the grandness disappeared and 60 years of decay and neglect began. It became a bit of a hub for creative types such as musicians, writers, actors, artists.
In 1980, the National trust purchased the property for restoration. They also knocked down a building of flats next door so the building could once again be showcased. Used predominately now for weddings and fashion exhibitions, the paranormal community has always wondered, is Labassa haunted? There have been the usual stories of the woman in white (she seems to pop up in every ghost story at every property), she likes to haunt the staircase apparently. There are also claims of papers levitating and music sheets swirling across the room. I was lucky enough to be able to conduct not 1 but 2 investigations at the property, and my group was the first group able to do this. That is pretty exciting for me and I feel a pretty awesome accomplishment as well.
On the first night of investigating, we actually didn’t get a lot of stuff at all. We could sense the energy and we had a few different things happen but we put it down to the residual energy that would still be in the building. It is also the first time anyone has really tried to properly communicate as well so we had our fingers crossed that by the time our public event went ahead, that we would be able to get something. We are pretty honest at our investigations and I usually start off by telling the group that we don’t guarantee that anything paranormal will happen and that my interpretation of something paranormal could be very different to theirs. At the end of the day, if someone is having a paranormal experience, who am I to tell them no what you are feeling or seeing is not happening. To them it is real, I just ask them to try and use a level head and I will tell them if there is something else happening say environmentally that could make them feel that way. I also remind them that just because we are in an old building, doesn’t mean it is haunted. We are here to investigate it and see if the ghost stories are true and if we can experience what others have spoken of or have our own experience. Everyone can take away what they want and I just hope they have enjoyed trying.
On the night, one of the big drawcards we wish that we would have been able to show everyone was the tower. It had recently been reopened to the public, but due to the narrow stairway with no handrails, it was deemed to be unsafe and was swiftly closed again. A sailor was rumoured to haunt the tower as his mother lived up there, but unfortunately we didn’t get to investigate to see. We were allowed to have a sneaky look and it is amazing up there and I managed to get down without falling down those small stairs so win win!
We had a group of 30 people attend the event but with so many areas to investigate, we split everyone up into 2 smaller groups. Having 2 levels also meant we didn’t have to worry about contaminating the other group’s investigation. I don’t like investigating with large groups of people so we always where possible split up or reduce ticket numbers so that people can have a bit more of an intimate experience. My group had some interesting things happening in one of the old flats which had not be restored for display as the mansion. Lots of REM Pod activity with some saying they were picking up on the spirit of a little boy called Ben. At the same time, the group downstairs supposedly had a voice come through on the SB7 saying Ben so that was pretty interesting. I did have a girl have to leave the group due to feeling ill, however we were in a small space and it was a warm night so I am not convinced it was something paranormal.
One of the groups I had was very keen to use the Ovilus device. I am not the hugest fan of this device but people see things on tv and they want to try it. We did have some interesting connections with words come through and a name when I asked what is your name so I do find that interesting but again, I am never completely sold on the Ovilus. Downstairs the other group mapped an interesting figure on the grand staircase on the kinect as well as some interesting spirit box responses and lots of things coming through the GD box at the end.
Before we knew it, the night was over. Sadly we didn’t have anything levitate and no one spotted the woman in white, but we did get some interesting things on our equipment. Quite a lot of people on the investigation told us they were very ‘sensitive’ and picked up on a few things and almost everyone felt like they had experienced something paranormal, even if it was just a feeling. Im not a highly sensitive person, I do feel things but I don’t see or sense anything which can be difficult at times when a bunch of people are saying they are all sensing the same thing and I am standing there saying I don’t see or feel anything. I need the equipment to show me and validate what they are feeling and there will be others attending that will need that too. It is each to their own and I felt on this night, the equipment was backing up a few of the things that the guests were experiencing so they were all pretty happy and I was happy that they were happy. Happiness all around!
Happy, excited, honoured and relieved. I was feeling so many mixed emotions after this event. It was also the kick off for the National Trust events for the year and I was feeling the pressure!
All in all, paranormal or not, Labassa is an amazing place to visit. It is just so eccentric and out of place and it has so much history. There are a lot of personal stories and family stories on display. There was a lot of life lived in this house, and the fact that the National Trust are slowly restoring it to its former glory, but also showcasing the lives of the people who once lived there, I can’t stress how important this stuff is. When I was younger, my parents used to make us travel around Victoria and visit places like Labassa and honestly, I couldn’t give 2 hoots back then. I didn’t care about how pretty it was and I thought history was boring. Maybe it is getting older and maybe the paranormal has given me a love for history, but either way, this is now the kind of stuff I love and gravitate to. Labassa has open days once a month and you are free to walk around and take photos. I am really hoping they will have us back again. Given that the investigation sold out within 24 hours, I am guessing a lot of other people are hopeful too.
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