A Ghost Tour of Canberra with Tim the Yowie Man
When people think of Canberra, their first thought might be politics, or its planned layout, its rural surroundings, or maybe even its local attractions like Questacon and the National Dinosaur Museum. It’s unlikely that people would suggest that the city’s folklore and urban mythology are its defining characteristics.
But for Timothy Bull — better known across Australia as Tim the Yowie Man — and others like him, Canberra is a lot more than “a modern city of roundabouts and government buildings”. Working as a self-employed ‘crypto-naturalist’ (an ideology grounded in understanding mysterious and unexplained phenomena), Tim occasionally hosts ‘Weird Canberra Ghost and History‘ tours around the city. During these tours, the charismatic ghost hunter uncovers the secrets and stories behind some of the capital’s allegedly haunted locales — from the National Film and Sound Archive, the Air Disaster Memorial, Duntroon House and even Old Parliament House.
Blundell’s Cottage is among the sites shrouded in mystery. According to Tim, it’s bloody history dates back to 1892, when it was inhabited by a servant’s family that was working on the Duntroon sheep station.
Gathering around the cottage, Tim told the tour group the cottage’s story: it was a cold August night when Flora Blundell and her husband George, a bullock driver, had left their eldest daughter Florrie with the responsibility of looking after her sisters. Tim says that the accounts vary, but a fire allegedly ignited in the house and burnt Florrie’s skin as she attempted to extinguish it. Florrie was transported to a Queanbeyan hospital, where she died from infected burns a few days later.
“People who have visited Blundell’s Cottage, during the day or at night, say that they experience the ghost of Florrie Blundell. She manifests herself in the form of a bad smell, and people say that it smells like burning human flesh”, Tim says.
The tour group walks towards the farmhouse and onto the veranda, where Tim says that visitors will sometimes smell Florrie’s ghost. By the window of the front-left room, adjacent to the chimney, two women in the group claim to catch a whiff of Florrie’s odour.
“I can definitely smell something burning.”
“It smells like yucky fire.”
Visit Blundell’s Cottage for yourself with Google Maps.
This is only one of hundreds of cases that Tim has explored during his career in ‘crypto-naturalism’. In fact, many of his investigations have taken place within and around the ACT — including accounts of former Prime Minister Ben Chifley standing by his window in the Kurrajong Hotel, sightings of the iconic Australian ‘bunyip’ around Lake George, and one claim of seeing 150 ghosts in the foyer of the National Film and Sound Archive, which was once the Institute of Anatomy.
Tim admits that being a ‘crypto-naturalist’ comes with its fair share of criticism, but having acquired his own travel blog at The Canberra Times, and the position of ‘mystery investigator’ at the National Museum of Australia, he is just happy to be working in a field that interests him.
“In today’s world, we think science seems to have to have an answer for everything. But science doesn’t really work in the realm of the paranormal – yet,” he says. “We don’t know everything about the universe, and I think it’s great that we don’t.”
With Tim’s ghost tours selling out months in advance, increasingly more Canberrans are becoming interested in the ACT’s history of mystery. It might be due to Tim’s tendency to approach each ghost story with skepticism and attention to detail, but it could also be his delightful injection of humour into the spooky field of crypto-naturalism.
“On Halloween, a couple of years ago, everyone [on the tour] was dressed up in Scream masks, and we rocked up at the Hyatt Hotel and walked in on a secret meeting with Kevin Rudd, who was the Prime Minister at the time, talking with the second-in-charge of China, Li Changchun! It didn’t go down too well, security-wise.”
Couple that with a cheeky bus driver who pretended to be blind when he introduced himself, the Ghostbusters theme song blasting from the bus radio, and other mischief, and the Weird Ghost and History Tour is a must for curious Canberrans.
The Weird Canberra Ghost and History tour is held at various times throughout the year. For more information, including booking details, visit Tim the Yowie Man’s website.
Text and photography by Andrew Nardi