Would we survive the night? Would we see a ghost? Would we need to go to the toilet half way through the tour?
These are the questions that plagued my friends and I before we began our adult ghost tour in Australia’s second-most haunted site (first place goes to Port Arthur).
The Q Station, formerly known as the North Head Quarantine Station, is a series of buildings on the north side of the harbour in Manly.
From the 1830s to the 1980s, it was used to isolate people suspected of carrying severe infectious diseases such as the bubonic plague, Spanish influenza and smallpox.
About 500 people are reported to have died there.
Today, the Q Station is a source of more joyful events such as weddings and functions, and in the light of day, it offers spectacular harbour views and tranquil bush walks.
At night, it’s a different story and it’s dark past can feel a little oppressive.
Our tour group of 15 assembled at the starting point to meet our guide, who was standing on the pier in a billowing black overcoat.
‘Who wants to see a ghost tonight?’ he asked.
Everyone raised their hand, including yours truly. I’m a sceptical believer.
As a horror film buff, I knew there were certain dos and don’ts on this tour.
Don’t wander off alone. Don’t say ‘I’ll be right back’. Don’t investigate strange noises.
Do stick to the middle of the group. Do have your iTorch on your iPhone at the ready.
Do run the other way if you see an unexplained shadow.
The first room we entered was a dark and windowless one. Our guide gave us the nicknames of ghosts he’d met or had dealings with over the years.
Pantry Man lived in the pantry and Stabby Nurse — who stabbed you with a syringe — were frequent other-worldly visitors.
There was also Mr. Chen, one of the only Asian ghosts on site.
As the only Asian person on this particular tour, I felt a certain kinship with Mr. Chen.
I guessed he didn’t feel the same way since he chose not to reveal himself to me, even after some cajoling from our energetic tour guide.
In one of the rooms, the electromagnetic field (EMF) reader we were given lit up from green to yellow to red, a sure sign a ghost was around.
All of us stared into the pitch-black darkness eagerly, including one overexcited man who mistook the vague outline of my friend’s head for a spirit and poked her square between the eyes.
‘Ow!’ my friend said.
‘Sorry’, the man said, sheepishly. ‘I thought you were a ghost.’
After two hours of walking, exploring and some screaming (a possum decided to make an appearance in the bushes), the tour came to an end.
Some people had felt something supernatural and some people swore they had seen something supernatural.
That’s more than can be said for the poor souls who suffered and perished at the Q Station. Ghost or not, I hope they all find peace.
Ghosts of the quarantine station
For 150 years, North Head’s isolated location made it the ideal place to host disease-ridden travellers.
During peak times, up to eight ships could be moored off the headland and hundreds of passengers were often forced to camp on shore in miserable conditions for months at a time when all the beds in the quarantine station were full.
With more than 500 deaths recorded, it is said the spirits of many who passed have never left the buildings.
Stories of haunting phenomena date back more than a century, when nurses on night shift reported seeing a ghostly chinamen with long ponytails wandering the wards and verandas.
On-site park rangers have reported ghostly figures and lights in unoccupied hospital wards, but upon investigation find no one there.
Other common tales include a ghostly girl with blonde plaits holding tourists hands and leads them around the pathways.
Have you seen or heard anything spooky at the Quarantine Station?