Ghostly bushrangers, ghastly demons part of investigation
DAVE Condon used to be a sceptic.
The former Bundaberg man and airforce member would never have dreamed that at some point he'd be studying hauntings, meeting ghosts and helping to banish demons from homes.
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"When I left Bundy I was one of the biggest sceptics ever," he said.
But a random decision between Dave and some of his mates to visit a haunted house one night in New South Wales changed everything and would open up a whole new world.
"We had a few weird things happen like growling sounds and weird smells," Mr Condon said.
"There were a few spots in the house that were just freezing."
When Mr Condon found out that the burning he'd smelled at the back of the house matched up with a barn burning down and the tragic death of a little boy, his curiosity was piqued.
"I've kind of been trying to get answers ever since," he said.
Mr Condon, who now lives in Tasmania and volunteers with the Australian Paranormal Investigation Unit, said ghost hunting had increased in popularity.
"There's a lot of groups down here," he said.
One of the most haunted locations on the group's radar, he said, was the Willow Court Asylum at New Norfolk.
"We've spent a lot of time in there and we've had names come up on recordings and everything like that," he said.
"When we researched it we found out they were actually inmates who had been in there."
Mr Condon said it was impossible to mistake as the spirits had given the researchers both their first and last names.
"They said it three or four times," he said.
He said while they were investigating the asylum, members of the team had stones thrown at them and had even been bitten and scratched.
"There's so many things that have happened that I can't explain," Mr Condon said.
He said one weekend the team spent at Willow Court was especially chilling when they recorded the voice of a child after putting out some toys.
"They had little toy cars and things and a recorder and we got this 'help me mummy' - it was a little child's voice," he said.
One time, Mr Condon even had a spirit follow him to his house.
"One of our former investigator's homes was a massive 180-year-old mansion at Dysart," he said.
"Growing up he'd seen several apparitions - one was a lady in a dress and there was a girl in a dress."
An outlaw named Martin Cash had robbed the home twice and it was when the group started communicating that things starting to get weird, including the sound of footsteps.
"As soon as we mentioned his name things started to happen," Mr Condon said.
"I started gently taunting him and things went pretty crazy for a while."
By 2am, Mr Condon had taken a shower and was back home watching some TV to wind down.
"Out the corner of my eye I saw the little plastic handle you open and close the blinds with was swinging. 'There's no wind here' I thought, 'that's really weird'," he said.
"The same thing happened again and it was like someone was hitting it with their hand.
"I said 'whoever is here, do it again' and it would happen on cue."
But that wasn't the last time Mr Condon's family would hear from the ghost of Martin Cash.
"The next day I picked my son up and brought him home," he said.
"That night he came running down the hallway and jumped in his room and said there was a man in the hallway."
Mr Condon said two nights of strange noises and knocks followed and he thinks he knows why the ghost went to his house.
"I told him 'I'm going in the next room, you can follow me'.
"He's obviously taken that as an invitation."
Another haunted location, Mr Condon says, is the Hobart Penitentiary Chapel - a former jail and execution yard.
Thirty-six people were hanged there, including one woman.
It was the location where Mr Condon's partner felt like someone was pulling her hair and choking her.
"One of the curators said there was a male sexual offender," he said.
"Where she felt she was getting choked was exactly in the same area."
He said visitors to the historic site were able to go downstairs and look up from the eerie dirt below at the trap doors used once people had been hung.
As to who or what ghosts really are, Mr Condon said it wasn't an easy question to answer.
"I don't think anyone really knows," he said.
"The stuff that groups capture on camera and audio is just amazing.
"What everyone wants to do is get a full body apparition on camera."
Mr Condon said one theory behind some hauntings was the stone tape theory - the idea that objects can record strong energies from living beings and then replay those energies over and over.
As a self-confessed former sceptic, Mr Condon said no one was immune from the paranormal world all around us.
"It's funny how people will eventually have something they need to try and explain," he said.
Mr Condon said anyone who was being haunted should try to document as much of it as possible.
"When we get contacted by people we tell them to just document everything including times and dates and after a month see if there's a pattern," he said.
But would-be ghost hunters should never, ever enlist the use of a ouija board, says Mr Condon.
"We had one (haunting) that was quite demonic and the kids were getting scratched and bitten," he said.
"We did a cleansing with sage; you need to get the smoke into every corner then put rock salt all around the windows and doors.
"She said she had the best sleep she had in six years, but as soon as she vacuumed up the salt it all started again."
Demons and poltergeists have all been linked back to ouija boards, according to Mr Condon.
"A lot of paranormal teams refuse to use them," he said.
"You're opening a portal and you can't control what comes out of it."
"Just don't touch them. It's like seances and stuff - people think it's a bit of fun but it's quite dangerous."