Welcome to the Haunted Adelaide Arcade on Rundle Mall
“I am sorry, I don’t believe in such things. But I can tell you now the Adelaide Arcade is haunted…” ~ Paul, who worked in the Adelaide Arcade at night
At Haunted Horizons we are very lucky to be able to carry out tours at some of the most fascinating and interesting buildings in Adelaide. But there can’t be a more stunning building than The very haunted Adelaide Arcade. If the walls of this shopping complex could talk, not only would it be buzzing with all the daily goings-on there, but also tales of murder, accidents and a variety of ghostly activity.
On the 12th of December 1885, Adelaide Arcade was officially opened. Now you would think that with it being not only the first shopping arcade in Adelaide but the oldest shopping arcade in Australia, that there would be a lot of ‘pomp and circumstance’ involved. But no, it was a relatively quiet affair, apart from the massive crowds outside wanting to see the event unfold. There were concerns at the time that some unemployed men would spoil the opening but, apart from a bit of booing at Governor Sir William Robinson who lead the ceremony, it all passed peacefully. It did, however, have its own piece of music composed for the occasion ‘The Adelaide Arcade Grand Polka,’ which can still be heard being played on the piano accordion in the Arcade’s museum today.
The 1880s was a boom era for South Australia and the Arcade really shows off this moment in time. This opulent building took 200 men only 5 months to build. It contains marble from Kapunda, floor tiles from the UK, over 2 million bricks, 50,000 square feet of imported glass and some absolutely beautiful plaster and metalwork (most of which unfortunately goes unnoticed today). It originally had 3 fountains down the middle of the walkway and even a Turkish bath in the South-Eastern corner. The cost of the baths was: 1 shilling for a warm bath; and 4 shillings for a Turkish bath and Mondays were ladies only.
Originally the shopping arcade consisted of approximately 50 shops on the ground floor, with accommodation or workspace on the top floor, accessed by a beautiful internal staircase. In 1968 most of these staircases were removed and a balcony added to the top floor. Now the Arcade has around 100 shops for Adelaide’s eager shoppers to explore.
Adelaide Arcade shops each had a gaslight outside of their shops, but the building was famous for being one of the first buildings in Adelaide to have electric light which was run by a huge generator. The lights were the responsibility of a gentleman called Henry Hardcourt.
Former occupants and hauntings
The haunted Adelaide Arcade has seen more than its fair share of tragedies, starting with a gentleman called Francis Cluney who was the Beadle or caretaker there. Unfortunately, he lost his life in a horrific accident only two years after the building opened. He was left in charge of the electric lights whilst the gentleman who should have been in charge, Henry Hardcourt, went off to ‘moonlight’ elsewhere. The lights began to flicker and Francis went to see what the problem was, shortly after the lights went out. The reason the lights weren’t working was that Francis’ body was now wedged firmly in the machinery. It is rumoured by psychics that he was pushed to his death by some ‘larrikins’ who had earlier threatened to put the light out, but there is no supporting evidence. In fact, evidence from the inquest states the contrary and that he died from a tragic accident after clothing got caught up in the machinery. He died instantly with horrific injuries to his body, all of which were reported in the newspapers at the time.
Francis’ presence has been noted often, especially by new residents, a bit of a ‘welcome to the Arcade’. He has been known to knock things over in shops, interfere with electrical items and even appear as a full-bodied apparition, wearing the long coat he was renowned for! Francis may still be diligently carrying out his duties to this day and just letting everyone know that he is still around.
Although Thomas Horton was not a resident at the Arcade, he did contribute to more tragedy there. Thomas Horton was a bootmaker by trade and also a talented juggler. He had recently married a young lady called Florence (Florrie), but things were not going well for them. Thomas was a jealous and violent man and Florence could take no more so eventually left him. Only three months after their wedding, he shot and killed his now estranged wife whilst in Arcade Lane, which ran between Adelaide and Regent Arcades. She was taken to a nearby shop but had already passed away. After initially running away and presumed dead, Thomas was caught a few days later up in the Adelaide Hills and taken to the Adelaide Gaol.
At his trial for Florrie’s murder, his mother stated that as a child, Thomas had fallen 13 feet out of a tree, suffering severe head injuries. She thought this could be the reason why he acted the way he did. But the most damning thing for Thomas at his trial was a letter written by his deceased wife and stating that if anything should happen to her, it would be by the hand of her husband, Thomas. It told of her unhappy life with Thomas and about the beatings and accusations. Thomas was found guilty of Florrie’s murder and sentenced to hang by the neck until dead at the Adelaide Gaol. His body remains there to this day, a final punishment.
Sydney Kennedy Byron
Another sad tale to be told is about Bridget Kennedy Byron who shared a shop at the Arcade with her husband, Professor Kennedy. She was a fortune teller and palmist and he was a phrenologist. They had marital issues and he left her for another, taking with him their toddler son Sydney. Devastated, Bridget hired a private investigator and eventually, her son was returned. But then tragedy struck which resulted in Sydney sadly losing his life, with Bridget initially being blamed.
Gas could be smelt in the Arcade and it was traced to Bridget’s shop. Inside they found little Sydney, life extinct, and his mother unconscious. Bridget was arrested for his murder and taken to the Adelaide Gaol. At her trial, it was found that there was not enough evidence and it was thrown out of court. Things didn’t end well for Bridget as she turned to drink and, a few months later, she was found dead in the West Parklands; she’d been poisoned. Who poisoned her? We may never know. Mother and child are buried together at West Terrace Cemetery although their final resting place bares only Sydney’s name.
It has been rumoured that female ghosts or spirits walk the floors of the Arcade which have been picked up on by psychics and mediums, but we haven’t had a verifiable sighting reported to date and in our many official investigations there, have had no response from a female.
There have been reports of tenants hearing children running around the Arcade at strange hours of the day and night, no children can be found! One is possibly little Sydney, the other is unknown …. as yet!
Happenings on our tours and investigations
At Haunted Horizons we are very blessed indeed to be given access to parts of the Arcade not open to the general public, it is also these rooms where most of the activity that has been experienced has occurred.
The upstairs storeroom can have guests feeling very uneasy as footsteps can sometimes be heard behind them, along with heavy breathing or sighing (all of which we have managed to catch on video!) Our Paranormal equipment has lit up when asked, we’ve had relevant answers to our questions come from various devices!
The Tea Room is a very dark and creepy place to be. Originally called ‘The Tea and Coffee Salon’, the beautiful but eerie staircase is still the focus of the room and the fact that it seemingly leads to no-where adds to the atmosphere. During tours, we have had reports of guests being touched, a tug on their coat sleeve, and a hand grabbed, as though by a child. Figures have been seen as darker than the dark. Our investigations have also experienced equipment going off on cue, the Paranormal Musical Box playing overtime, and we have even captured the voice of a child on our digital recorder and possibly confirming that Bridget Kennedy Byron was innocent!
It’s not just in these areas where activity has been reported! The upstairs staff toilets have a cubicle that few will enter. Francis Clooney has been seen in numerous parts of the building, day and night, looking into shop windows and watching shoppers from the balcony above. Children have been heard running around the haunted Adelaide Arcade in the early hours of the morning!
Our tours at the beautiful Arcade are always accompanied by security guards and they love to share their personal experiences with the tour group. Hearing first hand from someone who has experienced the activity just adds to the atmosphere of the building. Tenants, workmen and cleaners tell us their ‘paranormal’ stories and we, in turn, share these stories with our guests.
My aim for this tour is to not only tell the history and hauntings of this building but to encourage guests to visit the Arcade during the day; to sit and have a coffee at one of the cafes and then wander through the shops. Visit the museum, take in the beautiful surroundings and admire the architecture. Look around …. you never know who may be looking back at you!
To hear more about the very haunted Adelaide Arcade, why not book one of our fortnightly tours. We also have 3-hour paranormal investigations at the Arcade.
Written by Kag Allwood
Lead Investigator/Guide at Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons
Kag has extensively researched the Adelaide Arcade for many years and now is the lead guide, conducting
The Ghost & Dark History Tours there.
For more information on the Adelaide Arcade visit their website – https://adelaidearcade.com.au/
Copyright – Adelaide Haunted Horizons 2019