Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Queer Paranormal Road Trip: Brickfield Hill Bed & Breakfast

I had every intention of discussing at least one haunting in Sydney while I was visiting in the first few days of December. Due to limited internet, that never happened. And with the realization that three days hardly was enough time to cover my list of places to see I regretfully never paid a visit to Brickfield Hill Bed & Breakfast Inn (originally my first choice of accommodations but it was booked solid by the time my trip was finalized). I hope to remedy this next time I'm in Australia and still intend on devoting a fair amount of time on it in the next LGBT ghost book.

As Sydney sprang up from the wild landscape of New South Wales in the late 18th Century, a need for more permanent buildings arose. The earliest brickmakers, among them Londoner James Bloodworth, took advantage of clay deposits in the region and began producing bricks in earnest in a village which came to be known (obviously) as Brickfield. Today it is part of a popular restaurant and entertainment area named Surrey Hills. Here you will find the heart of Sydney's gay and lesbian life on nearby Oxford Street. And in a row of historic Victorian townhouses along Riley Street is a small but beautiful gay-owned inn called Brickfield Hill Bed & Breakfast.

The four-store terrace dates back to 1885 when it was built as a boarding house for Lydia King. Traces of this past were unearthed during restoration work by present owners Ivano and David. The four guest rooms are beautifully decorated with antiquities and simple elegance. Yet this is not without the modern conveniences, including free wireless internet and LCD televisions complete with DVD player. Surprisingly, given how expensive Sydney can be, they are very affordable and far less expensive than any hotel room you can find. But a hotel won't provide the same historic surroundings... or rumors of a ghost.

Both Ivano and David are staunch skeptics when it comes to ghosts and spirits. That hasn't stopped guests from reporting unusual experiences while staying at Brickfield. People have reported hearing fabric rustling and catching a glimpse of "a tall woman walking in a long black sateen dress" at the inn, most often on the stairs outside the dining room and or the upstairs landing. Even the innkeepers have heard footsteps on the stairs on more than one occasion while the building was empty yet they dismiss it as likely sound coming from the adjacent rowhouses. This cannot explain why a number of overnight guests have come out of their suites in the morning to ask what "the maid" was doing in their room in the middle of the night. There is no maid on staff, although this and the woman in black could be the same individual.

Perhaps Mrs. King is still keeping watch over her boarders from beyond the grave. Or maybe it's dark cast shadows in a creaky old Victorian, mixed with the excitement of a different city and too much Carlton's, which fuel the imagination. Whichever you choose to believe the question might be answered after spending the night—or an extended weekend holiday—in a room there. Even if you don't get a visit from "the maid" you can be sure to find plenty of spirits at the nearby Oxford Hotel or Colombian Hotel. Just remember that tipping in Australia is often included in the price (and the bartenders are better paid than in the states) so there's no need to fumble for a $1 coin.

1 comment:

The Blackout Blog said...

Surrey Hills/Darlinghurst is home to some of the most fabulous people in Sydney, so I'm sure some of the most fabulous Aussie ghosts are still around :-)