Mentioning Australia and mysteries in the same sentence may conjure up thoughts of Taman Shud, the “dingo ate my baby” case, and the disappearance of Harold Holt. However there are many more mysteries in Australia that simply refuse to be solved.
10 Luna Park Ghost Train Fire
In June 1979, a happy family was waiting for a ferry to transport them to Luna Park, a popular amusement park located in Sydney. Jenny and John Godson had looked forward to this moment for a long time, wanting to spoil their two young sons with a fun day out. After having visited the Taronga Zoo, they finally made their way to Luna Park where they had a whale of a time going on all the different rides the park has to offer. At the end of the night, the family had to make a final decision before leaving for home. Which ride would they spend their final four tickets on?
The boys decided on the Ghost Train and headed off to the ride with their father while Jenny went off on a short detour for an ice cream. When she returned a few minutes later, she walked into a nightmare. Instead of seeing her husband and two boys having a fun Ghost Train ride, she saw smoke billowing from the train as it hurtled down the track and park employees trying desperately to get people off it each time it emerged from a tunnel.
Jenny’s husband and two boys, along with four other passengers, didn’t make it out.
Some time after the tragedy, Jenny came across some of the photographs taken during that horrible day and stopped to stare at one in particular. A picture of her son Damien, the last one ever taken, shows the little boy shyly posing next to an intimidating figure wearing a demonic-looking mask with horns on his head (pictured above). They were unable to locate the man later.
After the fact, comparisons were made between the figure and the god (or demon depending on which version of the story you read) Moloch. It is believed that Moloch preferred children to be burned alive as sacrifices. Was this a sinister way to offer up human sacrifices to an ancient god or was it deliberate arson in a business dispute as some others have claimed? Jenny Godson believed something evil was at work, but the mystery of exactly who the horned, masked man was remains.
9Disappearance Of Rhianna Barreau
Twelve-year-old Rhianna Barreau planned walk to the local mall in South Australia in October 1992 to buy a card for her American pen pal. She normally would have taken the bus, but bus drivers were on strike that day and Rhianna didn’t want to wait. Her mother agreed that she could go to the mall, said goodbye to her daughter, and headed off to work.
People witnessed Rhianna walking along Highway Drive just before lunchtime. This would be the last time anyone saw her. Rhianna’s mother arrived home that afternoon to find the card for her daughter’s friend lying on the dining room table and a record lying on the floor. The TV was blaring in an empty room.
Calling Rhianna and receiving no reply, Ms. Barreau started looking. First inside the house, then outside, eventually going to neighbors asking if they had seen Rhianna that day. No one had. Police were called, but Rhianna was never seen again and to this day no one knows what happened to her.
In 2015, a police officer attempting to solve the now decades-old cold case offered up a reward of $1 million to anyone who had credible information on Rhianna Barreau’s disappearance. Nothing came of that either. After all these years, Ms. Barreau still lives in the same house, hoping against hope that her daughter might return. Or at least that there will be some kind of closure before she herself passes on.
8 Wailing At Wilga Water Hole
In 1941, the Sunday Mail recounted the story of an employee of Ruthven Station in Queensland who decided to build a hut for himself and his wife to live in. The hut stood on the banks of the Wilga water hole close to the station. His wife had no qualms about being at the hut alone while he worked, but he came home one night to find her in hysterics.
Trying to figure out what had scared his wife so much, the station employee could only get out of her that she had heard paralyzingly terrifying screams and wailing emanating from the water hole. The man believed his wife had been scared by the screams of a bird, and he wasn’t worried at all. He didn’t think anything of it again until a few weeks later when he had to be away on business for two days and nights.
Upon his return, his wife was again hysterical, even worse than the previous time and adamant that she heard wailing and screaming rising from the water hole. Thoroughly spooked now by the state of his always levelheaded wife, the man took her away from the hut and never returned there. When he left, he warned some of his colleagues about the creepiness of the water hole.
His colleagues were skeptical, and a couple of them decided to camp out next to the water hole overnight. They stayed awake until after midnight, the only scare coming when an old bull bellowed and startled them. The men laughed at themselves and one by one fell asleep next to the dying campfire. However, it wasn’t long before they were woken rudely from their dreams by a deafening wailing increasing in volume with each shriek. The horrible sound was emanating from the water hole. The men threw their things together and hightailed it out of there.
Stories are rampant that the wailing could be from the ghost of a boy killed by wild pigs whose body was found at the water hole many years ago. Another tale states that a shepherd was murdered in the area and his body thrown into the water hole. Skeptics believe that the shrieking is from the a local species of owl, the powerful owl, or is caused by a subterranean channel. There have been some investigations, but the cause of the wailing at the Wilga water hole remains unexplained.
7 Tynong North Serial Killings
On December 6, 1980, a man dumping animal remains in Tynong North came across something that looked to him to be human bones. He immediately notified local police, who then proceeded to uncover the remains of three women. Two years later, the remains of a fourth victim was found in the same area, a woman named Narumol Stephenson who had been abducted a month before the first remains were found.
One of the victims, 14-year-old Catherine Headland, was due to report for an afternoon shift at the local supermarket on August 28, 1980, where she worked part-time to earn some money to take care of her beloved horse, Prince. Catherine spent some time with her friends at her boyfriend’s house that day before heading off to work. Little did she or any of her loved ones know that she would never return home. Her body was dumped next to that of 73-year-old Bertha Miller, who had been abducted 18 days before. Eighteen-year-old Ann Marie Sargent disappeared in October 1980, and her remains were found near Catherine and Bertha.
Despite naming suspects over the years and linking the serial killings to two more murders committed in Frankston, police have been unable to solve either set of crimes. Even after rounds and rounds of interviews, police don’t even know whether the murders were committed by several people or by a lone killer.
6 Missing Cessna VH-MDX
On August 9, 1981, a Cessna 210 (similar to the one pictured above) was going from Proserpine to Sydney with four men on board. It was just a regular flight for 52-year-old pilot Michael Hutchins—until the plane reached Taree and he saw bad weather approaching. He requested permission to fly through restricted airspace to avoid the storm, but he must have decided his plane could handle it, because he didn’t wait for permission. Instead, he continued on the original flight route.
It was all downhill from there. Not long after passing Taree, a vacuum pump responsible for powering the horizon simulator and heading indicator failed. This meant Hutchins had no sense of direction, flying west toward the mountains instead of the coastline he was aiming for.
Having to battle strong winds and ice along with vacuum pump failure would be trying for any pilot. The extreme turbulence seemed to be the last straw. The last response from Hutchins was a terrified “Five thousand—” before complete silence. Air controllers could not find the emergency beacon or anything on the radar.
Land and air searches involving hundreds of police, rescuers, and volunteers lasted nine days but yielded no sign of the plane. Another extensive search a month later only raised more unanswered questions. Searchers exhausted all avenues of help, including the assistance of psychics and aviation experts, but the location of the plane and the fate of the passengers onboard remains a mystery.
No one knows who carved the drawing of the Marree Man, first witnessed by a tour guide in 1998, in the Australian desert. The drawing stretched over 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) and depicted an indigenous man. Tourism spiked as word got out, but this angered some indigenous Australians who wished the drawing would simply disappear. Strangely enough, that is exactly what happened. A news article in 2015 features photographs showing an almost-blank terrain where the Marree Man once was.
When the drawing was first discovered, conspiracy theorists suggested the Marree Man might have been created by the military or by UFOs. Some believe that eccentric artist Bardius Goldberg was responsible for the drawing as he had once mentioned that he wanted to create a sculpture that would be visible from space. Goldberg passed away in 2002 before he could confirm or deny the rumors.
The mystery remains as to who the creator of the Marree Man was and what the purpose of the massive drawing was supposed to be. Responsibility for the Marree Man’s preservation is being shoved from one place to the next, as the Marree Man slowly erodes back into the landscape.
4Pajama Girl Murder
In 1934, a farmer who had just purchased a prize bull a few kilometers outside Albury was strolling home with the animal when he noticed a bulky object stuck inside a storm water pipe. Upon inspection he discovered it was the body of a young woman who appeared to have been beaten, burned, and shot. She was wearing yellow pajamas and had a towel wrapped around her head.
Because of the lack of progress made by the police in identifying the victim, her body was preserved in formalin and put on display. It took 10 years for the authorities to come to the conclusion that the murder victim was Linda Agostini. Evidently, the first dental record analysis was incorrect but another attempt at dental identification a decade later seemingly confirmed the identity. Shortly after the announcement, Linda’s husband confessed to her murder and pleaded self-defense. He was sentenced to 10 years behind bars.
However, it seems that the woman in the yellow pajamas and Linda Agostini may have been two different people. A book written by Richard Evans claims the two murder victims did not have the same eye color, breast size, or nose shape. A play called The Pyjama Girl was later made based on these same claims.
3 Mr. Cruel
Ten-year-old Sharon Wills and 13-year-old Nicola Lynas were abducted from their homes in 1988 and 1990 respectively. Their abductor freed Sharon after 18 hours of holding her captive and Nicola after 50 hours. The evidence supplied by the two young girls soon convinced police that the same perpetrator was responsible for a host of other crimes, including abductions and attacks on several other boys and girls in the Hampton and Lower Plenty areas.
Dubbed Mr. Cruel, the man the Victoria police department continues to look for was also believed to be behind a break-in at a house in Templestowe in 1991, when 13-year-old Karmein Chan was kidnapped. She wasn’t lucky enough to escape or be let go by Mr. Cruel. Her remains were found a year after her disappearance. She had been shot in the head multiple times. Because of the lack of evidence in the Karmein case, police cannot be completely sure that Mr. Cruel was behind her murder, but they believe he is the most likely suspect.
In 2013, the police were still working on a list of more than 20 suspects. They had revisited each of their homes two years before when 13-year-old Siriyakorn “Bung” Siriboon disappeared on the way to school in Boronia. She remains missing. A prime suspect, Robert Keith Knight, committed suicide in 2013 before he was due to face charges of possession of child pornography.
The complete lack of DNA or any other forensic evidence has ensured that the identity of Mr. Cruel remains a mystery.
2Disappearance Of AE1
Submarine HMAS AE1 had only been in Sydney for two days in 1914 when news came that Serbia had disregarded an ultimatum from Austria and that war was imminent. Just a few months later, Britain and Germany were at war and Australia had no choice but to enter the war as well. AE1 and other warships were ready in August 1914 and sailed out on their way to Queensland on September 2. Once the submarines arrived at the destination, they were to receive orders to set up a joint occupation of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.
The occupation went as planned. On September 14, AE1 and destroyer Parramatta set out from the Rabaul Harbor for a patrol of Cape Gazelle. Both ships were to stay within viewing range of each other and ensure they reentered the harbor before nightfall. At some point in the midafternoon, Parramatta lost sight of AE1, which had earlier requested information about visibility. The crew assumed that AE1 was headed back to Rabaul and headed there as well but didn’t see the submarine as they went. When by 8:00 PM AE1 still hadn’t returned or been heard from, a search was launched.
The search stretched as far as New Ireland and New Britain but yielded no results. AE1 was officially missing. Theories ranged from a German attack to a mechanical breakdown causing the submarine to be swept out to the open sea, and even an internal explosion. AE1 has never been found.
1 Rack Man
On August 11, 1994, fisherman Mark Peterson set out on his boat and moved slowly up the Hawkesbury River just north of Sydney. It was a lovely day, and Mark became excited he felt a heavy tug on his fishing net. It was sure to be a good haul of fish. But when he drew his net from the water, it contained a heavy piece of steel fashioned into a crucifix. Tied to it was the remains of a human body.
Shocked, Peterson immediately called the police, who examined the remains and confirmed they were human. A forensic pathologist noted that the remains were of a male between 21 and 41 and that the bones were anatomically arranged on the crucifix. The victim’s entire body and head was wrapped in plastic. In addition to the plastic, there was wire wrapped around the head and torso.
The man has yet to be identified, partly because his fingerprints had literally been eroded by the water. He was given the nickname Rack Man. Police are still working on several leads, including one from the public that stated that Rack Man may be Joe Biviano, a drug dealer who had gone missing from Drummoyne in 1993. They are still hoping to match the DNA.
The remains of Rack Man are still lying in the morgue.
Estelle lives in Gauteng, South Africa. She is still hoping for more happy endings.