Here is the article which was published in AdelaideNow by Noel Probert in SA Weekend.
SHADOWY apparitions, disembodied voices and doors that slam of their own accord – these have been staples of campfire stories and scary movies for generations, but for Alison Oborn, they’re all in a night’s work. Oborn has spent a quarter of a century searching for spooks, parlaying that experience into a successful business hosting guided ghost tours in historic South Australian locations.
Oborn didn’t always seek out ghosts. In fact, she slept with the lights on until she was in her twenties to avoid them. “I was born into a haunted house,” she says. “It was an everyday terrace house, but the previous owner got mugged one New Year’s Eve and died of head injuries. My earliest childhood memory was being in the bedroom and hearing heavy, rasping breathing, but nobody else was in there with me.”
Her parents played down her fears, but her anxiety remained. “I lived in a house that scared the pants off me,” she says. “Whenever my sister or I said we’d just experienced something, my parents would make up a rational, natural story, so it wasn’t that my parents were feeding us kids ghost stories.”
When the family moved up the street, she would avoid the old house, going the long way around to visit her friend who lived nearby. “I was that terrified of the house that I couldn’t walk past it, right up to the age of 21, when I went back to England and stood outside it. Even then I felt uneasy.”
As a teenager, Oborn started looking for answers, but it wasn’t until she moved to South Australia in 1989 that she began to seriously delve into the supernatural.
“As a kid, it started out with hanging out in cemeteries, as we all do,” she says. “I just wanted answers, but at the same time I’m just as fascinated with how the brain works, looking at that aspect of it. I don’t just jump into it and say it’s a ghost. I don’t want to lie to myself.”
Oborn’s curiosity has led to her operating ghost-hunting tours around South Australia, but to get from hobby to business meant spending 10 years in jail.
Oborn and her team, a group known as Paranormal Field Investigators (PFI), started visiting the old Adelaide Gaol in 2002, an experience documented in Oborn’s self-published book, Ghosts of the Past.
PFI had been set up largely as a result of Oborn’s dissatisfaction working with other paranormal outfits. “At first I didn’t have access to other paranormal groups, so I kind of joined up with some UFO groups first and studied that, but I found that very frustrating,” Oborn says. “With a UFO you get a report of a light in the sky, but what can you do with it, apart from log it? You weren’t there, you didn’t see it. Plus, it’s not likely to happen again. With hauntings, if you’ve got a report of a building having activity in it, chances are at some point down the track you’re going to get it to happen again. You’ve got more chance of studying it.”
Scepticism isn’t what you’d expect from a ghost hunter, but it’s a theme that Oborn returns to regularly, both in conversation and in her book. Her descriptions of events are frequently accompanied by disclaimers and admissions of uncertainty and although she give examples of her own encounters, she’s hesitant to offer an explanation. “I have a believing side but I also have a very sceptical side,” she says. “I’m never going to say ‘that’s a ghost, ghosts exist’, because I don’t know. I know I’ve got things I can’t explain – we get a lot on the tours – but I just don’t know.”
For all her professed scepticism, it’s clear that Oborn’s believing side is dominant. At one point she expresses doubts about the efficacy of electronic equipment in the search for spectral activity, saying that none of it is proven to work, but PFI’s research methods still include gadgets like audio recorders, electronic thermometers and night-vision cameras. The results from a dozen years of taping, measuring and photographing are slender at best – a prison door swings shut, a spot of light appears to hover in mid-air, an indistinct sound that might be a voice. However, Oborn says there are other phenomena that haven’t been captured on tape. PFI investigators have reported feelings of nausea and dread, shuffling footsteps, banging noises and shadowy apparitions, but Oborn says that most of these could have a natural explanation.
“You’ve got to have a neutral mind and be happy to have natural explanations if you’re going to get to a proper answer,” she says. She points to a recent PFI investigation in a private home. The occupant had reported seeing shadowy figures and feeling agitated and paranoid in one particular room of the house.
“We took our electromagnetic field meters in there. All teams use them but there’s no proof that they actually capture a ghost. What they are very good at is capturing natural EMFs in the walls. There was a massive EMF coming off the wall exactly where her head sits when she’s on the sofa. They’ve found the effect of high EMF can make people feel paranoid, feel that they’re being watched, so sometimes the symptoms of a haunting can come from that.”
While Oborn’s efforts are yet to result in definitive evidence of paranormal activity, they have borne fruit of another kind. She was a volunteer ghost tour guide at Adelaide Gaol and in 2010 she started her own tour business, Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons. “I got a love of tour guiding,” she says of her time at the jail. “How lucky is that, sharing your passion with 20 or 30 people who can’t go anywhere? Towards the end, people kept asking if we did tours anywhere else. There wasn’t anywhere else in Adelaide. We were investigating Old Tailem Town and thought we could do tours there.”
The move paid off. Adelaide Haunted Horizons now offers ghost tours and hunts, dark history and historical crime tours, and paranormal investigation workshops at locations including Peterborough, Gawler and Port Adelaide. Oborn says numbers have doubled in each of their four years of operation, with more than 1300 customers in the last six months. In 2013 she was the first ghost tour operator to be awarded a bronze medal in the South Australian Tourism Awards.
Oborn credits the success of her business to a straightforward approach, eschewing dress-ups, over-acting and special effects. “We try to keep it real in the tours,” she says. “We cover the proper use of equipment, the pitfalls in photography and audio that we mistake to be paranormal – and there are many. After all, I want to know it is happening for real, too.”
Her desire to unearth evidence of ghostly activity is tempered by the long and so far fruitless search. “I’m not optimistic that we will anytime soon uncover the evidence that will change the world,” she says. “People have been trying for over 150 years to prove that ghosts exist and haven’t yet.”
In spite of the odds, Oborn’s enthusiasm is undimmed. A clue to her motivation can be found in her explanation for the popularity of her tours.
“We’re all going to get there one day,” she says of death. “We’d probably all like to be reassured there’s something there after we die.”
Ghosts of the Past by Alison Oborn, published by Paranormal Field Investigators/Alison Oborn, $28 or $20 if purchased on an Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons Tour. Available from adelaidehauntedhorizons.com.au, Also available from the Adelaide Gaol.
SA Life covered a story on Adelaide Haunted Horizons ghost tours at Old Tailem Town near Tailem Bend. An enjoyable experience for Alison Oborn and her guests.
It also gives you a great insight into this unique village… after dark! Although, SA Life gave it a light-hearted look as it is a family show, the village has many chilling surprises not talked about here. Don’t forget to book onto one of our tours to discover what really happens at Old Tailem Town at night… if you are brave enough!
I was lucky enough to be invited to the U.S.A. to appear on the ‘Ghosts R N.E.A.R.’ television show by the hosts Keith and Sandra Johnson (from the first 2 seasons of Ghost Hunters).
In the interview, I get to discuss my time as the co-founder of Paranormal Field Investigators, and the 10 years we spent as the official investigators of the Old Adelaide Gaol. It was 2 years after this that I went on to create Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons, where we get to share that experience with you on ghost tours and paranormal investigations of the Old Adelaide Gaol.
If any of you have wondered where my passion began, I also chat about my beginnings and early ghostly memories and experiences in the haunted house where I was born.
It was a wonderful trip, where I met and made a lot of new friends with the guys that help out on ‘Ghosts R N.E.A.R.’. It is certainly where I fell in love with the U.S.A. Even better it led to an investigation at Slater Mill, which again I won’t forget in a hurry. More on that investigation later.
Note: I know I got the Gaol closure date wrong…. what can I say… I was jetlagged after being picked up from an international flight/several internal flights, only 2 hrs earlier!
Since this time, I have been back several times to the U.S.A. and investigated many places. We are looking forward to returning in 2019.
Bookings and calendar for the Adelaide Gaol tours can be done here – Book Now
A FIGURE WITHOUT FEATURES – A CHILLING TAILEM TOWN GHOST STORY
By Alison Oborn
Alison has been running tours at Old Tailem Town since 2010, having previously done tours at the Adelaide Gaol for many years. The Gaol is a paranormal hotspot… but Tailem Town is in another category altogether!
The following personal Tailem Town Ghost story was featured in That’s Life magazine in 2013.
“I’ve been interested in the paranormal all my life and seriously investigated it for over 25 years. But even though I have experienced a lot of weird phenomena, I’d never actually seen a ghost. Not until Saturday, 23rd April, 2011, when I saw the darkest of dark figures in a church. But in the heat of the moment, I didn’t realise what I was seeing.
I run a company, Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons, and I was conducting a ghost tour of Old Tailem Town, S.A., when it happened. Tailem Town is a collection of 110 buildings brought from all over the country and then laid out in their original condition on 13 streets.
Every building is home to at least one amazing story about its past. Murder, tragedy, romance – it’s all in Tailem’s history. “I think it is the largest pioneer village in the southern hemisphere”, I tell my tour groups. “You won’t find anywhere more authentic.”
While it’s open to visitors during the day, at night the electricity is turned off and the town is deserted. It becomes a very eerie place. I’ve been running night tours there for three years, having previously done ghost tours at the Old Adelaide Gaol. The jail is a paranormal hotspot. But Old Tailem Town is in another category altogether.
On our tours we usually tell the visitors stories about the building after they’ve been inside, so we don’t plant any seeds about what they should see. But it’s a little different at the old church, where I chat to them while we’re inside. On that Saturday there were 12 people in the pews and I stood at the front, explaining the buildings history. People were restless, changing seats and adjusting their clothing.
“It feels as if someone or something is trying to touch me,” one of the visitors told me.
Another man was feeling ill, which is a common reaction to the place. My colleague Ash left to help the sick man and his wife to their car. Not long afterwards everyone heard footsteps and the floorboards creaking at the entrance. Assuming it was Ash returning, I looked over just as some said, “What was that?”
Two people, myself and a girl in the group, saw a dark figure come in, turn and off to the side. Eventually I realised I had seen a ghost. Others have seen this dark figure at Tailem Town before. But this was a first for me and it was exciting.
He looks as though he might be wearing a coat, but his dense blackness doesn’t reveal any detail – no clothes, no facial features, nothing. The tall, dark figure is just one of at least three entities which regularly make themselves known at Tailem.
I feel I’m a rational person, but Tailem is a challenging place for rational people. It’s a historical gem that I’m sure still holds many surprises for me and I am looking forward to them!
An old church in a tourist village at Tailem Bend, sits in what is reportedly the most haunted town in South Australia.
Channel 9 news approached us a couple of years ago to inquire about video footage we maybe able to supply for a story about the ghosts in the village. We held back with the good stuff, as we like to keep this as a treat for the tours, but what we did provide was still dramatic and curious.
Tailem Town has long been growing it’s reputation for being the most haunted town in South Australia. People for many years have been experiencing everything from gentle touching through to choking sensations. It is not unusual for people to collapse or trance out. In fact if you book onto one our paranormal investigations, you will see a 20 minute video presentation when this has happened – including a lady who’s face appears to transform into a 6 year old childs face – she looks like a child, talks like a child but remembers nothing of it. This led us to the death of a child related to the property!
Tailem Town Ghost Tours have become one of the most popular ghost tours in South Australia, as word gets around about the happenings there. Come and check it out for yourself!
All her life, SA’s foremost paranormal investigator, Alison Oborn, has been seeking out some of the State’s most haunted locations and has turned her sights to Gawler.
Here is the Messenger Newspaper article.
GAWLER GHOSTS COME OUT FOR HISTORY MONTH
Tues, May 1, 2012
Paranormal investigator, Alison Oborn, has seen her fair share of ghosts over the years.
For the past 22 years, S.A.’s ghost hunter has been seeking out some of the State’s most haunted spots and has turned her sights to Gawler.
“The town has got lots of history and lots of tragic tales, murder mysteries and yes, even the odd ghost story” the One Tree Hill resident said.
Ms Oborn’s fascination with ghosts started at an early age in her home town of Newcastle in the UK.
“My earliest memory of the supernatural came when I was four years old, when I heard the raspy breathing of an old man in my bedroom, yet no one was in the room” she said. “I was born into a haunted house and since then it has been like a moth to the flame trying to find natural answers to the paranormal”
Ms Oborn will be holding Gawler Dark History Tours on Sundays during History Month, visiting Dead Mans Pass, Pioneer Park and Murray St.
“People walking through the streets are usually unaware just how steeped in history the town of Gawler really is,” Ms Oborn said. “There are many great people who used to live here, some of whom died in some unusual and quirky ways”.
“The tours are about giving people a different perspective on their town and about learning about a side of history that may have been forgotten.”
Ms Oborn said the sightings of ghosts and visiting haunted spaces used to “terrify” her but now she finds it fascinating.
“I still get a real uneasy feeling when I am in a space and I can feel something supernatural going on,” she said. “I usually get goose-bumps but mostly now I get really excited.”
Ms Oborn is no stranger to the supernatural. For the past nine years she has been a volunteer tour guide at the Old Adelaide Gaol reputed to be one of the most haunted sites in SA.
This Adelaide Author and award-winning tour operator has not only been researching the paranormal for over 30 years but is also a history & heritage enthusiast. She has been a volunteer guide, Information Officer and the official Paranormal Researcher at the Adelaide Gaol since 2002.
Alison also loves a good mystery and authored her book ‘Ghosts of the Past’ on the 10 years of paranormal research that she and her team, Paranormal Field Investigators conducted at the Adelaide Gaol.
She also runs Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons, which operates Ghost Tours and Dark History Tours in the Adelaide Gaol, at Z Ward, National Railway Museum, Tailem Town, Adelaide Arcade, Moonta and Burra.
Kag Allwood: The paranormal has always been a life-long interest of hers, but not something she ever thought of taking up seriously. She now works for Adelaide Haunted Horizons as part of the Management Team. Kag is also a lead guide, event organiser, as well as researches and writes her own tours.
She is an experienced, active paranormal investigator and has investigated numerous known haunted locations throughout the world.