Plucky TV personality Louise Crawford was seriously spooked recently when a long-dead boy suddenly appeared and sat on her lap.
The almost unbelievable happened when Louise and a crew from Network Ten’s Scream Test, were filming at the notorious haunted house, Monte Christo, in Junee, NSW.
It was midnight, and eight crew members were safely outside in the broadcast van as the show’s contestants – who’d been dared to spend a night in the haunted 1880s house – were scaring themselves witless inside.
Without warning, a light on one of the competitors’ video cameras began to blink on and off. As Louise watched the curiously flickering light on the TV monitors in the van, a chill swept over her, sending shivers down her spine.
“Suddenly, there next to me was an icy form. It wasn’t a wind or anything like that,” wide-eyed Louise tells Woman’s Day exclusively.
“I couldn’t see it, but I could feel the shape – if that makes sense. There was this being of ice, and I could feel other beings of ice all around me. There were lots of them.”
The other crewmembers were just as freaked out as Louise, and the male sound recordist was crying uncontrollably.
Louise turned to the show’s resident clairvoyant Ruth Wilson, who was sitting close to her.
”I said, ‘Is this what I think it is?’ and Ruth said, ‘Yes. Say hello to our friends.’ A whole lot of spirits had come to visit the van!
“They weren’t unfriendly. They were just there to check out who was at their place,” Louise says.
Just then an icy being hoisted itself up onto one of Louise’s knees and one of Ruth’s knees. Ruth said they were nursing a little boy ghost.
“At Monte Christo,” explains a now calm Louise, “there had been an intellectually disabled boy who had been chained up in the cowshed for 50 years. That’s who we think the ghost was.
”It was a childlike energy, not threatening at all. You could feel it looking at all the technical equipment, kind of fascinated.”
Reg Ryan, the haunted home’s owner for 37 years, believes the spirit could have been that of Harold Steele, the maid’s son, who had been brain damaged in a woodcutting accident when he was a boy.
“When officials found him in 1958, he was attached to a nine-metre chain.,” says Reg.
”He had degenerated so badly that he was in the foetal position. His fingernails had curled back and grown into his hands and he hadn’t been bathed for 30 years.”
Scream Test make-up artist Jo Cotter was there when Harold and his vaporous friends made their appearance, and she has no doubt that something other-worldly happened that evening.
“All through the night, we had technical problems with the radios and the monitors would go on and off constantly,” she recalls.
”They had a heart monitoring machine in one room and, obviously it needs to be attached to somebody to get a reading,” Louise explains.
”We could see on the television monitors that the heart machine was sitting on the table and there was no-one in the room.
“Then suddenly we were getting readings of a distressed heartbeat. It was goosebumps material.”
Reg, who believes he was “supernaturally drawn” to look after Monte Christo and its inhabitants, was not at all surprised at the positive results of the Scream Test. He says he can understand why people constantly feel something other-worldly.
“My wife, Olive, won’t ever be alone in the house, and it has that effect on lots of people,” he says.
“Christopher Williams Crawley, the man who first owned Monte Christo was a mean man; a tough boss who was very hard on the people around him. His evil essence is still living in the house and it gives women, especially, the creeps.”
But far from being creeped-out Louise was disappointed when her icy beings, who appeared twice during the night, finally dematerialised. She hadn’t felt any fear while she was put through her own Scream Test.
“I wasn’t scared,” she says. “I think because it was light in the van and there were other people around me. It wasn’t like I was in the middle of pitch black and suddenly something was there.
“And this had a real innocent, childlike quality to it, so you knew it wasn’t going to do anything bad. At least, you hoped it wouldn’t…”
Story: Leigh Reinhold
[this story first appeared in Woman’s Day, 2001]