Ghosts, Haunted Inns, and why you Should Eat at McDonald’s

WHEN YOU DRIVE BETWEEN Hobart and Launceston, the two largest cities on the island of Tasmania, somewhere along the way you’ll find a pub, just off the Midlands Highway on the side of the road. It is a simple white inn with space out the front for a few cars and probably horses and carriages back in the day. At first glance there really isn’t anything special about the inn, apart from that it is in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Even for a quick pint of ale it seems out of the way. The only explanation I have for its existence is that it must have served as some sort of halfway house, a filling station for vagabonds or escaped convicts trying to find some nourishment in an otherwise punishing and desolate Van Diemen’s Land.

According to some articles, the inn was built by convicts and there are unexplained occurences there that some may even invoke the word ‘haunted’ to describe. Certainly, if our dining experience there is anything to go by, ‘spooky’ would not be an inappropriate word to describe the place.

It was the early 90s and we were facing a long journey back down to Hobart Town. My parents were never the type to drop in at the closest McDonald’s and feed their kids with something quick and cheap. I will always cherish that about my parents—they knew good food and would never settle for anything less, even if that meant dining at a haunted colonial-era inn.

We decided to pull off the highway and stop at the first place we saw that looked open. Out of nowhere, the inn appeared like a shining light out of the blackness. When I say blackness I really mean it was pitch-black dark, the kind we never see these days on account of the fact we mostly live in cities and always have the faint glow of our smartphones just a reach away. So our little white Toyota Corolla hatchback pulls into the front of the inn and we switch off the lights. It is now darker than anything we’re ever used to—out in the middle of the Tasmanian bushland without a soul or car in sight. We climb out of the car and stroll up to the inn door. It looks like we are the only guests and there is no sound of diners or plates clanging or anything to suggest lively patrons were inside. We step through the door.

Inside, the place is deserted except for someone standing behind a wooden desk to our right. He looks up and I looked at him. He has huge eyes and short white hair. He comes up to us and greets us and we are seated at a table. A log fire burns in the corner of the inn. It is warm. We receive menus but the only thing on offer is kangaroo meat, so we all order kangaroo. When in Rome, I suppose.

When the man returns with our meals, he has a very intense look on his face. It is as if he is a manservant who had killed his master out of rage and has been assigned to serve his last meal over and over again for eternity. Either that, or he is hiding a secret. It is a fierce look of intense concentration, as if he is doing everything he can to keep it together. Even as a small child I remember feeling something was amiss. And it wasn’t the undercooked kangaroo.

I can’t recall if we left early without finishing our meals, but once back in the car all my parents could talk about was how strangely the man had acted and whether or not he had been a ghost. Later, my father would find a newspaper article in the local paper which interviewed the innkeeper, stating that there had been strange goings on in the inn—footsteps upstairs, things moving about in the middle of the night. Evidence of ghosts. Next to the article was a photo of the innkeeper holding a portrait of the previous owner who had died when a fire had destroyed part of the kitchen. He had tried in vain to put it out but had been engulfed in flames. I stared at the portrait for a while, taking note of the man’s features: his huge eyes, his short hair, and a look of intense concentration on his face.

After that my parents had absolutely no problem with Macca’s. ω

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