One of the most popular and biggest mysteries surrounding Black Rock House is the underground cellar and whether or not there were tunnels leading from the cellar to the beach. Just last weekend as we were setting up for our seminar, we had some members of the public show up who had just been down to the beach in search of the entrance to the underground tunnels. They asked us ‘Do they exist?’. Before I answer that question, lets delve into the mystery that is the underground tunnels.
What mysteries lie behind the doors of the underground cellar at Black Rock House?
From a lot of the research I have done on hauntings in Melbourne there seems to be a common theme. A lot of properties near the beach were rumoured to have underground tunnels leading to sea. This first came to my attention when we were researching Milanos Tavern in Brighton. There was an urban legend that a lady called Tilly haunted the building as she was killed by one of the landlords and dragged through the underground tunnels and left at sea. This was a myth and I have even seen where the so called tunnel entrance (which of course has now been sealed up) supposedly was. Why would a place like this have an underground tunnel? In the case of Milano’s Tavern it was rumoured to be for bootlegging alcohol which of course was illegal around the 1920’s when the crime was rumoured to have occured. Pirates would make a trade and use the tunnels to import in the alcohol. While I do have visions of Captain Jack Sparrow swigging his whiskey I am sure it wasn’t as extravagant as that and again that was ‘myth’. Much like the myth to the tunnels located at Black Rock House.
The stairway leading down to the underground cellar. It is rumoured that the tunnels were behind these steps! The steps themselves have been restored in recent years of course.
Why there would a beach side holiday house need underground tunnels? One rumour is that the family needed the tunnels to make a quick escape to sea. Again it was thought they feared the local aboriginal tribes and hence why a castle wall was constructed. There used to be a hatch from the cellar to the bedroom above which would allow for a quick escape (It is fact that this hatch existed as it was recently sealed up). This reason is extremely unlikely as I mentioned in my previous post as the family did fruit and vegetable trades with the local tribe so they certainly wouldn’t need to make a quick escape from them unless maybe they didn’t pay up. Seeing how rich the Ebden family was, again a very unlikely reason. A more controversial reason would be to import illegal goods from pirates. Alcohol was legal at the time the Ebden family were using the property so if they were smuggling goods it was most likely not alcohol. It must also be noted that as Victoria’s first Auditor General, it would have been very controversial for the family to be smuggling goods in so again perhaps an unlikely explanation to the myth. What adds mystery and perhaps merit to the myth itself was the fact that originally, Black Rock House actually had a viewing tower on the roof. It is possible the viewing tower was for the family to enjoy exclusive views of the beach, OR was it used as a look out. Maybe to send or receive some sort of signal?
In this original photo of Black Rock House you can faintly see the viewing tower which is also noted at the bottom of the photo. (Photo source Sandringham Library’s book on Black Rock House)
Another rumour that surrounded the property was the convicts were actually employed to build the property. Now this has been denied and of course it has as this is ‘illegal’ activity. Perhaps the tunnels were used to smuggle in convicts? Ebden himself also worked hard on bringing Germans out to Australia as well (which weirdly we believe we have commented with a German Girl during an investigation on several occasions). Were the tunnels used to bring them in under the watchful eye of someone guarding the tower? This of course we will never know. The claim has been denied by anyone with connections to the house. One of the more famous caretakers of the property Ellen Cullinane who was the first child to be born at Black Rock House (her father was one of the original builders) was in the early 1900’s thought to be the local go to gal for all things Black Rock House who has said the myth of the tunnels was rubbish and that the cellar was used to store food and the tunnels didn’t even exist.
A former care taker of the property denied there was ever tunnels and that the cellar was used for purely storing food.
We went as far as going to the local community as many who visit Black Rock House swear that there were tunnels and they used to play in them as kids. Others say that it wasn’t tunnels they were playing in it was storm water drains. An entrance on the beach side which was rumoured to be the tunnels was sealed up in the 1960’s according to one local to keep the kids out. Was it the entrance to the underground tunnels leading to Black Rock House or were they simply the storm water drains? The council have had the area inspected and a report has said they did not find any evidence of tunnels however did note that if there were tunnels, they would have caved in by now. This is one myth we can’t say either way.
In terms of spooky stories surrounding the cellar? While it may be cold, smell damp and have a very creepy feeling about it, we haven’t had a huge amount of unexplained things happening down there. Fun fact, while it does tend to flood when there has been heavy rain, it would actually be the quietest place in the property. We did on one occasion have a guest say there was a rock thrown at them. Upon review of the video it wasn’t a spirit, more a cheeky guest on our tour thinking they were being funny. We have had some lanterns switch on and off on command and we are usually under the watchful eye of a former caretaker when we are down there but he usually follows us everywhere. Glenn has even locked himself in there for an hour (padlock and all) to see what would happen and the most that did happen was a major case of boredom for Glenn and a tale of bravery to our tour guests that he spent an hour down there. In all honestly the cellar doesn’t need to be ‘haunted’. It has it own mystery and simply walking down the stairs in the dead of night with your lantern is a fun and spooky experience. Add to it the possibility there were tunnels and the myths that go with it and the tunnels speak for themselves. They are a must do when you visit Black Rock House – if you are brave enough!
All photographs have been taken by Sarah and remain the property of @ Black Rock House Paranormal Tours.
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