Ghostly sightings

The Adelaide Gaol is said to be regularly visited by some of the inmates and prison officers who once wandered its halls, with innocent people who were hanged allegedly heard and seen, seeking exoneration to this day. More ominous is the reported sightings of the Gaol's hangman.

Frederick Carr

Frederick 'Fred' Carr was hanged at the Adelaide Gaol on 12 November 1927 for the murder of his wife, Maude. He protested his innocence, even up until the final moments before his death.

Maude Carr was found with her throat cut. Medical experts at the time noted the wound could not have been self-inflicted because of the angle of the cut. Interestingly, Maude's previous two husbands also died from wounds to the neck and Maude tried to commit suicide the day before she died.

Fred is said to appear regularly near the stairs leading to the upstairs cells of the New Building. He is reported as a happy spirit, always neatly dressed in dark clothes and taking a polite interest in visitors wandering through his former 'home'.

Fred's spirit was thought to appear without a face. That is, until November 2000, when his spirit apparently appeared with a face - a smiling, happy face. Why Fred's face was restored is a mystery, but he remains one of the many fascinating folklores of the Adelaide Gaol.

Governor William Baker Ashton

William Baker Ashton was the first Governor of the Adelaide Gaol and despite being a reasonably fair man, he was accused of wrong-doing. The ensuing scandal is said to have hastened his demise.

William was a very large man and when he died (in office) in 1854, his body could not be manipulated down his apartment's steep, narrow staircase. Instead, he was unceremoniously lowered out of the front window to the undertakers waiting below.

Three months after his death, William was exonerated. Too little, too late to pacify a disturbed spirit. On warm, still nights with a hint of thunder in the air, his footsteps are said to be heard (through walls of solid stone) as he struggles to move furniture in an empty room.

Ben Ellis - the hangman

Ben Ellis was the Adelaide Gaol hangman for 10 years, from the mid-1860s to the mid-1870s. He lived at the Gaol in a small apartment below what became the female dormitory.

Ben took pride in his work and approached each task with complete professionalism. Each of Ben's executions was precisely - and expertly - carried out. Except in the case of the execution of Charles Streitman in 1877. In his haste to get the job done, Ben neglected to prepare his prisoner properly and Charles dropped but rebounded, getting caught on the platform. Instead of instantaneous death it was a further 22 minutes before he finally died.

Ben never questioned the right or wrong of his profession until 30 December 1873, when he was required to hang a female prisoner, Elizabeth Woolcock. She was to be the first and last woman executed in South Australia. This event changed the way Ben viewed his profession forever.

Ben's restless spirit is said to appear often throughout Adelaide Gaol, perhaps seeking forgiveness for a job too well done.