This weekend just gone, my group hosted the first ever public paranormal investigation at Ripponlea. We also did the first private investigation there a week earlier as well. It was a massive honour for a number of reasons. Ripponlea is an iconic property here in Melbourne. It is not just a location well known to paranormal investigators. It is known to pretty much most people in Melbourne. The mansion itself sits in beautiful gardens and acts as a beautiful backdrop to the many weddings and the social events held here. The house was built in 1868 for Frederick Sargood who made his money from selling soft goods on the goldfields. The name Ripponlea comes from his mother’s maiden name which is Rippon and the word Lea means meadow. They had 7 maids, a butler, 7 gardeners, a coachman and a groom which translate to: they had a lot of money! Fredrick’s wife Marion had 9 surviving children and she passed away in the house whilst giving birth to their 12th child together. After this time, Fredrick moved the family back to England for a while and Ripponlea was used as a place of entertainment.
Upon his return, a lot of extensions and renovations took place, and Fredrick had remarried and had another child. He died in 1903 from an illness. His new wife Lady Sargood who was now a widow, sold the property for 20,000 pounds (this was a lot of money in the early 1900’s). It was sold to a syndicate of buyers who was led by Thomas Bent. He didn’t live there, however used the property as more of a place to entertain people and host charity events. He started subdividing off the land which was originally around 45 acres, however he passed away in 1908 which pretty much saved Ripponlea from being subdivided further. It stands today on 7 acres. It was put on the market and sold to Benjamin Nathan in 1910 and this is the last time the property would go on the market. He moved his family into the mansion and turned it back into a family home and not an ‘entertainment venue’ which had been it’s use over the last few years. He did however continue to use the property to host charity events. When he died in 1935, he passed the property over to his daughter Louisa.
Louisa had her own family and spent her time modernising Ripponlea to keep with the times. She hosted many parties and installed a swimming pool which was a big centrepiece to her parties. In the 1960’s the government forcibly acquired some of the land. Wanting to protect Ripponlea and the gardens they had all worked so hard to establish and maintain, Louisa made arrangements so that when she died, Ripponlea and it’s garden would be given to the National Trust of Victoria.
With such a rich history, a lot of loving and caring owners and tenants who spent their life building and maintaining it’s grand status, (and a few deaths on the property), paranormal investigators have often wondered if Ripponlea is haunted. A lot of stories have surfaced about a figure being seen on one of the balconies, a woman thought to be Louisa. Guests have often complained that they have felt like they were being watched in the master bedroom. Until now, all we could go on were the stories. National Trust has this property heavily protected and for good reason. It is one of their most well known and iconic properties. Taking a chance on something different, they allowed us to host the first ever public paranormal investigation. As part of this, we also conducted the first ever paranormal investigation there a week earlier so that we can could plan what we would do for this event and get a bit of a feel for the venue.
Combining both investigations private and public, there wasn’t a huge amount of things happening that I would be willing to put out there as paranormal. There were a lot of personal experiences including one guest seeing two maids in the underground kitchen. We conducted some different experiments and we tried to do things a little differently to what we would normally do. My favourite thing that I love running is experiments. In the public investigation I did a little test using ‘The Singapore Theory’. I have recently written about this experiment where you are recreating an environment, sound, image or event that may be familiar to the spirits and may encourage them to respond. A volunteer from our guests would stand and ring a bell in the underground kitchen. Why a bell? Louisa used to have a pedal in the dining room that she would press when she wanted the servants to come and serve or clear up dinner. The bell would ring in the underground kitchen. We thought by using the sound of a bell, would that somehow trigger the energy of a servant to communicate or go about their daily business. Could our equipment validate this? Sadly, we didn’t really get a response during this experiment. What I LOVED is that the guests were getting really involved. They even came up with ideas on what we could do next. One of them walked up and down the hallway ringing the bell saying it was supper time to see if this triggered something. I really love it when people get involved. We also tried an experiment using ‘The Stonetape theory’ by making loud noises to see if we could ‘release’ energy that may be within the walls. Again, our guests used their brains to try to come up with things that we can try. Instead of just sitting around and waiting to see if a K2 lights up, they are getting involved with us and trying to think of what they can do. We even had guests trying to debunk different things as well. This is what we are all about. All in all it was a pretty quiet evening, but the guests had a wonderful time. For about half it was their first investigation and the other half had almost all done investigations with us before so we had a really good mix of people. A common thought between us and the guests was that the furniture had all been removed or moved around to make way for their ‘Night life’ exhibition. Could things be different with all of the furniture in there? Furniture or no furniture, we were extremely privileged to have this opportunity.
One thing however that was interesting, was something that happened during our private investigation. One of the investigators was putting the kinect back where all of our equipment was. As he placed it down, the software was still running. When he looked at the screen, a figure mapped in. He managed to take a photo with his phone before it disappeared. We spent a week trying to come up with an explanation for it. The range was too far away to map one of the mannequins in the room at the back and there was nothing against the wall that it could be mapping. We are wondering if some sort of light reflection could have caused it? Maybe but we couldn’t recreate it. Before our guests arrived before the event, we did some experiments to debunk and test the range of the kinect. It still has us scratching our heads and is something that we will continue to debunk. Was someone watching him pack up in the hallway?
If you would like to visit Ripponlea, visit their website www.ripponlea.com.au for upcoming events and details of how you can take a guided tour of the house.
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