There is always a lot of mystery surrounding Ebden Castle, also known as Black Rock House - especially in the early 1900's when people didn't know a lot about the homestead with adjoining ballroom with the castle gates in the middle of the suburbs. This is what makes the history of Black Rock House so intriguing and where we try as much as possible to separate fact from local fiction. Lets dive into the local newspaper archives to see if we can shed some light on some of the legends and the accounted events that happened at Black Rock House.
On the 16th of April 1910, the local newspaper published an article addressing some of the local myths associated with Black Rock House. ** Below are excerpts and not the full article
BLACK ROCK HOUSE
By Mr. Geo. Morey.
We have in Australia no old ruins or castles around which are stories of ghosts, romances and family skeletons of all kinds. Therefore, the romantic portion of the people are per force driven to their imagination for anything of that kind, and they attempt to weave a halo of romance around any building that will lend itself to it. There is no building south of the Yarra which has so many stories told about it and with so little foundation in truth as the Black Rock House. We have often been interested, and sometimes amused, by the questions asked by young ladies, and the assertions they make regarding it. One story is that the building has been there since the colony was discovered,
and was built in the form of a fort or block house by convict labour for a protection from bushrangers.
A few days ago the caretaker was astonished by a bevy of girls asking permission to view the ' Haunted
Castle,' and being questioned as to their belief on the matter, they stated that the spirit of the late mistress
haunted it, particularly the cellar, and that she was illtreated and confined byher supposedly brutal husband. Of
course, all these and other similarstories are without foundation,
Full article available on Trove: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/164404487?searchTerm=black%20rock%20house%20haunted&searchLimits=#
Image Source Trove
There is no historical information to back up the claim of this spirit that haunts the cellar. What I can say is that during our paranormal investigations we often to try to get to the bottom of this story with conflicting results. The name Margaret or Mary comes up a lot and seems to be significant however we are not sure yet in what way. It is something we will be exploring more over the coming months during investigations at Black Rock House.
Like with any location, separating the fact from local fiction is what becomes difficult. In another published newspaper article on the 26th of January in 1918, the local care taker felt that the ghost stories had been given by a previous tenant who had wanted to purchase the property.
BLACK ROCK HOUSE.-EBDEN CASTLE
Mrs: Cullinan, who resided on the property with her parents during the Ebden ownership, claimed that the life of the family was most exemplary, and on no occasion was the place the home of an Indian prince, as was rumoured.
It had also been asserted that the place was haunted, and she thinks that that arose through one of the tenants
desiring to purchase the property, and in order to obtain it cheap the story of the ghosts was started. Mrs. Cullinane stated that during the years she acted as caretaker after the departure of the Ebdens for England the onlynoise that distdubed the quietness was the movements of mice and the falling of fruit on to the roof of the house. A popular story in connection with the place was that there were subterranean passages lending from the cellars to the beach, so that goods might be landed without having to pay customs dues. Here rumour again proved unreliable, for Mrs.Cullinane stated that the cellars were self-contained, and the shelves of which were always kept full.
Full Article available on Trove: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/75019172?searchTerm=black%20rock%20castle&searchLimits=
What is interesting here is while there is a denial about illegal dealings through the tunnels, there is no denial of the tunnels existing. The tunnels have been a long debate within the community for decades. While some insist the tunnels existed and remember playing in them as children, others say they were storm drains. With surveyors completing tests on the area itself suggesting tunnels were possible, but there was no evidence of them being there as they would have long collapsed by now. Underground tunnels in this area was quite common with a lot of local hotels also have underground tunnels that lead out to sea to deal in alochol with local pirates during the prohibition.
Image Source: Trove
One of the rumours of course is that the castle wall was to be used as protection as there was a valuable house on the other side with a stable full of horses. One such story published in a local newspaper on the 19th of September 1931 could suggest why protection would be needed after a close call with a local bushranger who had escaped from gaol!
a bushranger once made an unofficial call. He had escaped from gaol shortly before, and he was desperate. Mr.O'Neil, Mr.Ebden's steward, was in charge of the house at the time with his daughter. It was a stormy night, and, according to the custom at the homestead, the stranger was given shelter. Miss O'Neil saw the man gripping the butt of a huge pistol in his coat pocket, and she warned her father by speaking to him in Irish. Mr. O'Neil, who was a former revenue officer from Cork harbour and had protected his life and property on the goldfields during a "rush," took no chances. He drew his own pistol and compelled the bushranger to leave the house. The outlaw did not return.
Full article available on Trove https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/4412315?searchTerm=black%20rock%20house%20cellar&searchLimits=
Image Source Sarah LLIFS on behalf of Black Rock House Paranormal Tours
For a long time we have tried to validate any sort of known deaths connected to the property itself. With the amount of people that lived at Black Rock House when it was used a boarding house, it would be likely. What we do know is there is at least one confirmed birth at the property, but again given the times there were likely a lot more.
A newspaper article published on the 16th of July 1927 talks about 2 possible deaths connected to the property - although didn't take place at the property itself. It also mentions the verified birth.
The record of the house has been faithfully kept by more than one person still living, including Mrs. H. Edgar Glennie, of Toorak, niece of the builder, Charles Ebden, and Miss Eillie Cullinane, of Black Rock, who was the first baby born under its roof, which, as far as I can make out, has known only two deaths in its whole history. One of these touched the edge of tragedy, but that had nothing to do with the builders, or with any family concerned. It was just the wreckage of one of those ships that pass in the night."
The old house has known many merry meetings. There they entertained the officers of the Fortieth Regiment before they left to take part in the battles of the Indian Mutiny, and there, to bid a last good-bye to his friends came the gentle William John Wills, the explorer, before he went to die under a tree at Cooper's Creek. If the ghosts of the old days ever revisit the glimpses of the moon there may be interesting shades in the deep night shadows of the spreading Moreton Bay figs of Black Rock House.
Full article available on Trove: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/3867174?searchTerm=black%20rock%20house&searchLimits=
William John Wills Image Source: portrait.gov.au
A lot about Black Rock house is still largely unknown. It is a hope that the possible ghosts of the past can help us put together the pieces and seperate the fact from local fiction. Regardless, Black Rock House is a uniquely amazing location that is a must see for any history buff and those interested in the paranormal. The house takes a very different feeling by night and I would agree with the above statement that the ghosts of the old days are revisiting for a glimpse into the past!
Of course this is but a drop in the ocean and there is much more history to dive into and disect. Look out for more Tales of Black Rock House throughout the year! Next up, the famous party held at Black Rock House for the 40th regiment before they set sail to take a part in the Indian Mutany battles.
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