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Alison Oborn is the Spectre Inspector

Alison Oborn is the Spectre Inspector

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, Also available from the Adelaide Gaol.

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A figure without features

A figure without features

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!

Ghosts come out for history month in Gawler

Ghosts come out for history month in Gawler

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.

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.

She also runs ghost tours at Old Tailem Town Pioneer Village, St Ceceilia Mansion in Peterborough and the town of Burra.

“My tours are a bit of fun and a chance for people interested in history and the paranormal to find out about the history of a town.”

The Gawler tours are now reserved for group bookings Sun – Weds.  For enquiries Contact Us


Sharing Gawler’s stories

Sharing Gawler’s stories

This is an archived copy of The Bunyip ‘Sharing Gawler Ghosts’ story by Ellouise Goodwin, published on July 13, 2011.

It was the story of Adelaide Haunted Horizons’ imminent launch of our Gawler Dark History and Ghost Tours.

“Paranormal Investigator, Alison Oborn , has chosen Gawler as the site for her next ghost tour.

Alison, who currently runs tours in the Old Adelaide Gaol and at the Tailem Town Pioneer Village, said she hopes to be running regular tours through Gawler, in particular Dead Mans Pass, High Street and Murray st by early spring.

“Gawler is the oldest outlying township and it’s got lots of history” she said. “It’s got my curiosity”

It has taken just over a year for Alison to research the history of the area, and according to her, there are many forgotten stories to tell.

“We looked back through the newspapers and found a lot of deaths, murders, suicides and quirky stories that people had long forgotten.”

Stories such as the one about the 13 year old disabled boy who drowned at Dead Mans Pass in 1901.

“I’ve had two people tell me about seeing a ghostly figure among the trees, while they walk early in the morning,” she said.

There is also the story of the fatal tiger attack, which occurred during at circus performance at Gawler South in 1898.

“It’s those kind of quirky stories you want to bring into it… more of the human history,” said Alison.

Alison’s fascination with the paranormal life began when she was a child, living in England.

“I was born into a haunted house over in England, which raised a lot of questions for me,” she said. “My earliest memory is waking up and hearing male raspy breathing in the bedroom but there was no-one in there, and I remember just screaming and crying.  I round out later my sisters used to hear what sounded like a heartbeat in the house and my mother physically saw an apparition at the end of her bed.”

Alison moved to South Australia in 1988 and soon after began investigating the paranormal.

“I was terrified of the subject, absolutely phobic, but kind of ‘moth to the flame’, wanting to know answers, even if they were rational answers.”

In preparation of her Gawler tours, Alison and her team are continuing to look for interesting  stories and are welcoming information from the public.

“A large part of the tour will begin with the history and as the ghost stories grow we can add that aspect,” said Alison.  “People are interested in the darker side of history because ti is human nature.  We say we don’t love it but I think we all do… we have that morbid fascination.”

Those with an interesting story to tell can contact Alison  Oborn on 0407 715 866 or by emailing


The Bunyip article re Gawler Dark History and Ghost Tours


Sixth Sense, Sunday Mail story by Liz Walsh

Sixth Sense, Sunday Mail story by Liz Walsh


Liz Walsh, 11th July 2010, Sunday Mail

“There she is, standing on the side of Anzac Highway covered in blood and desperately seeking help.  It looks like she has been in a car accident, but there is no wreck nearby.  The young woman is wandering aimlessly along the road when two good samaritans travelling towards Glenelg pull over to help.  She gets into the backseat and the couple decides to take her to the nearest hospital.

They ask the woman where she lives, but she never answers them.  When they turn around to see if she is all right… she is gone.  Completely – and utterly – vanished. The phantom hitch-hiker of Anzac Highway has struck again.

Alison Oborn is a paranormal researcher, a woman intent on finding evidence that ghosts really do exist.  She has never seen the Anzac Highway hitchhiker, but she has had too many other strange, spooky and unexplainable encounters to ignore.  And as the co-founder of South Australia’s Paranormal Field Investigators team – a small but dedicated group of paranormal researchers – she is desperate to explain the unexplainable.

Oborn has been interested in the paranormal since her childhood spent growing up in a purported haunted house in England.  Love brought her Adelaide and here, in the City of Churches, her love of the paranormal has thrived.  You see, we are on fertile ghost ground.

The Anzac Highway hitchhiker is just one of the thousands of ghosts across the state who are said to wander and haunt our streets, churches, pubs, houses, old jails and other historic sites.

Read more below:

Sunday Mail Sixth Sense Part One

Sunday Mail Sixth Sense Part Two

Alison owns Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons, who runs public Ghost Tours, Dark History Tours and Paranormal Investigations through many historical sites around South Australia, including the Old Adelaide Gaol, Z Ward and Adelaide Arcade.

Adelaide Arcade Ghost – That’s Life Magazine Article

Adelaide Arcade Ghost – That’s Life Magazine Article

Adelaide Arcade Ghost Story by Alison Oborn which was featured in That’s Life Magazine.

“It was about 10 p.m. as we shuffled into the dark storeroom.  My friend Brad and I were filming a video about the Old Adelaide Arcade.

Built in 1885, it was thought to be haunted, so we got to work setting up the camera.

“You’ll never guess what happened,” I told Brad, “I was walking towards the storeroom door when it opened right in front of me!”

He was noticeably spooked, but as I finished my story, the same door suddenly swung open right in front of us.  Going pale, Brad turned and bolted from the room.  I giggled, chasing after him.

Just then, the door suddenly slammed closed behind me.

Even though I’d investigated the paranormal for years, I always looked for rational explanations first.

“It’s probably just a wind tunnel,” I chuckled.

Right next to it was a room that had once served as the living quarters for the caretaker, Francis Cluney.

Back in 1887, father of five Francis was checking a flickering light when he fell into an electricity generator and died.  Since then, many people had claimed to feel his presence in the building.

Even so, I was surprised by what I saw when I played the video we’d recorded back.

Smiling as I saw the footage of Brad sprinting out the open door, I wasn’t prepared for what I heard next.

As the door clicked closed behind us, I could clearly hear footsteps on the four stairs leading from the door inside.  Then there was a heavy sigh.  It was as if a man had descended the steps and groaned into the camera.  I could not believe it!

And my paranormal encounters did not end there.  Leading a tour of the old tearoom in the arcade’s basement, one day, I saw a dark figure passing by the door behind us.

“If there’s anyone here, make your presence known,” I asked.  Seconds later, a girl in the tour group, Tracey, let out a scream.

“Something touched me!” she panicked as the blood drained from her cheeks.

Until that point, she’d been the most sceptical of our group.  Now Tracey claimed to have felt a  hand stroke her face and sweep back her hair.

She was visibly shocked and hyperventilating.

Afterwards, a video would show there was no-one near Tracey.  I can’t say if it was Francis, but to have this possible evidence of the paranormal was a thrill.

This was just one of my Adelaide Arcade Ghost Stories.  For more, book on to one of our Adelaide Arcade Ghost Tours where we take you under the arcade into the dark, haunted tearoom.

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Arcade ghosts from Into The Mystic. The Restless Caretaker - Adelaide Haunted Horizons

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