THE HAUNTED HOBO PART 1 : HARRY BROWN (1937)
Brisbane has a fascinating Haunted History. Jack Sim manager of Brisbane Ghost Tours loves nothing better than finding old ghost stories and trying to discover whether there is any truth in the tale. A great Brisbane oral tradition is the story of the “Haunted Hobo”. Told by homeless men and Queensland Railways workers in the 1940s, 50s and 60s the story centred on a brutal murder which happened at Victoria Park. While many people still do not believe in ghosts, Jack has found that ghost stories are rarely fabricated out of thin air. Almost invariably ghost stories circulated before the digital age were sparked out of a real incident – a death, tragedy, crime or murder. The hard part is finding that original incident. While carrying out research at the Queensland State Archives, in a musty old crime file, Jack found the answer to this old Brisbane ghost story that he first learned of from his Grandfather in the 1970s…
When hobo Harry Brown was found murdered in 1937 police had a mystery on their hands. There was some difficulty identifying him. His fingerprints were not known to them (i.e. he was not a “crim”) and detectives suspected that “Brown” was not his real name. Harry was an itinerant railway worker, living with other workers in a camp at Normanby in Brisbane. Harry had travelled the state in the company of a younger man whose mental condition had begun to deteriorate; believing that he could speak to the dead Harry’s friend became increasingly paranoid. Spirits told “Darky” to kill. The men at the camp were increasingly concerned that their demented co-worker was dangerous.
Close midnight “Darky” brained his friend with an iron bar and cut Harry’s throat. Harry’s mutilated body was found later that night. By the early 1940s railway workers believed that Harry’s ghost lingered near the place where he was murdered. Queensland Railway engine drivers during their training were warned about the ghost which was said to appear on the railway tracks below the Normanby overpass. Engine drivers were advised to slow their trains as they approached the bridge and to keep an eye open for this spirit.
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For this and more crime & ghost stories listen to Australia’s longest running true crime show “True Crimes” – presented by Jack Sim on 4BC Nights with Walter Williams. Thursday evenings 9.35pm on Radio 4BC.