Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Eidolon Investigaion - St Johns (Various Years)

Photo of St Johns Cemetery Gates © 2010 Allen Tiller
Saint Johns Reformatory, Presbytery and Cemeteries
Investigation Status: Ongoing
Location: South Australia
Location type: Catholic Cemetery
Location status: Open during daylight
Closed after dark
(Trespassers can be prosecuted)
For newspaper stories relating to the reformatory please visit:  "St Johns History"


Recent History

Kapunda, a country town north of Adelaide, once famous for being a copper mining town, and the home of Australia's richest pastoralist, Walter Duffield. Now a farming community, and possibly the most haunted town in Australia.
 In 2001 a television film crew, headed by host Warwick Moss, of "The Extraordinary" fame conducted an (ongoing) investigation into the hauntings of Kapunda, called "Kapunda: The Most Haunted Town in The Western World" 
In the Documentary he covered The Old Kapunda Court House and Police Station which stand next to each other, numerous houses in the area and of course St. Johns Reformatory and Cemetery. The script for the documentary was based on research written by Kevin McNeil and members of a prominent South Australian paranormal group of the time, however some liberties were taken with the stories for filming purposes and much of the research has now been found to be either exaggerated or totally wrong. Since the release of the documentary many of the "facts" within the film have been disproved, some by Eidolon Paranormal, simply by asking the one man who knows more about the cemetery than anybody else, Mr Peter Swann, Author and local historian, and caretaker of St Johns Cemetery ..
 Warwick famously spent the night alone in the reformatory ruins, filming on a handy-cam the whole time, when the film crew returned the next day Warwick was in tears and swore he would never do anything like that again!
 The History of St. Johns is long and interesting. However, a lot of what you will read online about the happenings at the Reformatory during its operational years are grossly distorted and quite often, completely wrong (as stated above). It is however very easy to access documents and history related to St. Johns and the former town which stood on the site.
 Numerous Paranormal groups visit St. Johns, as do thrill-seekers, hoons and vandals - it is very hard place to conduct a serious investigation due to the constant traffic and the weather conditions.
We here at Eidolon visit the ruins and Cemetery often and log the constant damage caused by vandals, reporting it to the curator and police. We will also report anyone we find their doing the wrong thing.
 Below we are presenting a brief history of the site and the facts (that are publicly available) to you. We aim to present the truth without descending into hearsay and speculation. We will also publish some of the rumours here as a representation of just how far-fetched the stories are becoming...

"Kapunda: The Most Haunted Town In The Western World" ...So rang the title of Warwick Moss's television documentary about Kapunda, which included a trip to the historic reformatory and cemetery- a night Warwick soon won’t forget!
5 kms South East of Kapunda, the town of Johnstown was established by a large Irish Catholic community. They established the church of Saint John the Evangelist with the corner stone laid on April 2nd 1850, by Bishop Francis Murphy.
A presbytery was built at the same time as the church and a graveyard was established some 70 metres from the church entrance.
Father Fallon was appointed the first parish priest and remained living in the presbytery until his death, on 25 March 1860. Father Fallon was succeeded by Father Michael Ryan (died 24-08-1865). Others who served as parish priest, included: Father Jeremiah Moynahan (died 21-12-1867), Father Hyland (died 13-04-1868), Father Byrne and lastly, (and most famously), Father James Martin (who died in 1921).
A new cemetery was established close by (Saint John's Catholic), in 1861. The bodies of the priests were removed from the original cemetery and re-interred in the new cemetery in 1891.
In 1869 the church was converted into a school and convent, after the completion of a new Catholic Church within Kapunda (St Rose of Lima). This Reformatory was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, which included  St. Mary MacKillop (who stayed in Kapunda for three months). During this time, in a letter, she wrote about her experiences with a local ghost at the site.
The Girls’ Reformatory was closed in 1909 by Arch Bishop O'Rielly. The remaining girls were transferred to Burra - the buildings were then used as private dwellings until the 1950s. The church was demolished in 2002 after constant vandalism.


A Time Line of events at St. Johns
 For a list of burials please click Here

 Government grants land 5kms south east of Kapunda
     Father Fallon ordained
          July 1849 Father Fallon appointed to St. Johns
Father George Michael Williams Born in Mauritius 

 2nd April The foundation stone of St John the Evangelist Church was laid by  Bishop Francis Murphy
 presbytery built

 30 April 1854 that the church was finished and officially opened

 Father James Martin born in County Galway Ireland

School opened

 25th March Death of Father Fallon,  died suddenly aged 40
          Father Michael Ryan appointed parish priest
          All church services moved to a small barn on site of future St. Roses Church Kapunda
 Lower cemetery opened
  "St. Johns church" graveyard closed

13th July The Saint Rose of Lima foundation stone was laid in Kapunda
8th Feb First church service held at St. Roses newly completed church


          3rd April Father Ryan performs wedding ceremony for Horace McKinley and Martha Craig
          10th Oct. Father Carew performs wedding ceremony for Joseph J. Walsh and M.A. Carley.

24 August Death of Father Michael Ryan who died from apoplexy

          Father Jeremiah Moynahan appointed parish priest

 post office opened
     21st December death of Father Jeremiah Moynahan

Sisters of St.Joseph start teaching at school
    13 April death of Father Thomas Hyland
 presbytery converted to a convent and school

 Dr. Eugene McMahon Glynne born in County Galway Ireland


post office closed

 New school built in Kapunda - children from St. Johns school transferred to new school

 James Martin becomes ordained priest and arrives in South Australia

 Father Fallons remains removed from graveyard and re-interred in Cemetery
          Ruby Olive Murray Bland born near " Lake Victoria"

 Act proclaimed by State Children's Council to place Catholic State Children in private institutions, as long as they were away from Adelaide.

 Mary MacKillop arrives at St. Johns to oversee renovations - stays 3 months
          Church site opens as Girls Reformatory under the supervision of Sisters of St. Joseph
      4th June Mary MacKillop installs  Miss Mary O'Brien (Sister Helena) as first head matron of Reformatory

reformatory extended to include cells

 Annual Council report states that the reformatory is kept in splendid order,girls well cared for, receiving good religious, moral and practical training.
News Story 
 June Sister Helena transferred to Victoria
          Miss Mary Coxs (Sister Berchams) appointed Head Matron

 Aug: Father O'Rielly approves the closure of reformatory
         15th Nov.Ruby Bland admitted to the Kapunda Hospital with suspected stone in the bile duct from the liver
           Ruby Bland operated on by Dr. Eugene McMahon Glynn, head of surgery at Kapunda Hospital
          16th Nov Mr Gray, the Secretary of the Children's Department arrives at Reformatory. announces in the "Kapunda Herald" that St. Johns reformatory will be closing down.
         28th Nov Death of Ruby Bland from Cholithiasis Operative Shock in Kapunda  hospital
          29th Nov. Reformatory closed by Archbishop O'Riely
          29th Nov. Ruby Bland buried at St. Johns cemetery
          Girls transferred to Redruth girls reformatory in Burra

 death of Dr. Eugene McMahon Glynn aged 48 years


13th Feb: Death of Monsignor George Michael Williams (aged 71)


 Jan: Death of Father James Martin

 Headstone erected on Father Fallons grave
      4th Oct Headstone revealed by Father Killian

 Window removed and placed in St. Rose's church Kapunda

Sept. Warwick Moss films "Kapunda: most haunted town in Australia"

 Catholic church demolishes Reformatory after constant vandalism
      Peter Swann, St. Johns Curator, finds grave monument to Ruby Bland buried under a pile of dirt and begins restoration of her grave
Vandals break Father Fallons grave stone

Curator, Peter Swann erects memorial to children buried at St. Johns
Blessed Mary MacKillop is Canonised to be Australia's first Saint

Trees along fence line, near entrance are felled
Broadband lines are laid along reformatory road from Moppa to Kapunda

New trees planted along front  fence line
Graves in rear section restored (see photo below)

University of Adelaide Students begin study into the site, including mapping of the former graveyard, Church and presbytery. They find a number of interesting artifacts and raise a few new puzzles about the usage of the site.
 New rear entry gate is installed by the Church, plus fence repairs

Photo © Allen Tiller, Eidolon Paranormal March 2012

 Many thanks to local historian Peter Swann for all the information he has passed on to us over the years.


The Myths of St Johns
The cemetery and ruins have attracted a great deal of attention over the years, from ghost stories in "True Barossa Ghosts (gathered with good spirit)" by Valerie Laughton, to documentaries by Warwick Moss, plus websites, facebook pages, you-tube videos and even newspaper stories.
Research is still being conducted by many paranormal teams, genealogist, independent researchers, paranormal enthusiasts and a myriad of journalists, reporters and authors..Many of the stories currently found, particularly on the internet are grossly distorted, personal points of view or plain lies. It isn't hard to dig for the truth about the place or its people, one only needs to venture into the Kapunda Public library or record archives, or simply contact the curator himself, who has a vast knowledge of the site.
One thing Eidolon Paranormal is trying to achieve is sorting the fact from fiction. It is our goal to educate the masses of people interested in this location with facts not rumours, innuendo or fiction.
Here are some of the rumours and fiction we have come across on the internet and through hearing stories from the public at the Cemetery.
  • Father Martin Murdered Ruby Bland
  • Father Martin Got Ruby Bland Pregnant
  • Babies were thrown in the reformatory furnace
  • Ruby hung herself
  • Vera was in the reformatory
  • A girl hung herself from the palm tree
  • A girl hung herself on the large tree in the field
  • The Girls were placed in the reformatory for being pregnant
  • Father Martin and nuns conducted abortions
  • Father Martin became crazed and killed everyone on site, then himself
  • Nuns were killed
Obviously some of these rumours are far fetched, some plain ridiculous, but all fuel the urban legend being created by misinformed individuals. We believe it is part of our job as Paranormal Investigators to educate people about  the truth of this, and other locations, and to instate a feeling of respect for the cemetery and the people buried inside, who all once lived, and now only have a tombstone to mark their life story.
The Truth:
 - Father Martin did not kill Ruby Bland - Ruby died in the Kapunda Hospital from complications of what equates today to "gall bladder stones"
  - No Girls died whilst in the reformatory
  - No babies were killed by Nuns at the reformatory, for the people who say "conspiracy", do you think a Nun would kill a baby, and break all her vows with God?
  - Ruby DID NOT die from hanging
 - Vera was born after the reformatory had closed, and was a local celebrity of sorts who life can easily be traced in the Museum.
 - No-one was hung from the palm tree - it would be mighty difficult to do so....think about it.
 - The large tree in the middle of the field has been estimated to not be old enough to have been there in the time of the reformatory, this rules out that particular tree being a "hanging tree"
 - There are no records of girls being placed in the reformatory for being pregnant, girls in such a state would have been placed in the Women's Asylum ( now the Migration Museum), instead girls in the Reformatory were usually in for breaking curfew and petty crimes.
 - Father Martin, and The Sisters of St Josephs Nuns, being good Catholics, would never allow an abortion to happen, it goes against everything the Catholics religion says - this is purely a rumour that has popped out over the last 15 years or so wince the Warwick Moss Documentary
 - Father Martin died of Senile Inertia, meaning, he became so senile he could no longer fend for himself, letters held by Peter Swann show that the Father lived on in the Presbytery of the Reformatory for another ten years after it closed, Former interns (girls) often came to check on him and help feed him, he died alone in his bed. He killed no-one, although his State of Mind is questioned in newspaper reports, it is because if his senility, not because he was a crazed schizophrenic madman, he was a man slowly losing who he was....
 - Nuns were never killed at the reformatory, however at least one Nun is buried in the Cemetery who had worked at St Johns, but she died of natural causes and also worked at St Rose of Lima and the local Nunnery.
If you hear of any other crazy rumours or stories, please let us know by emailing Allen@eidolonparanormal.net and we will get to the bottom of it!
We seek to bring you the truth of what really happened at St johns, and it is nothing remotely like what was said in the Documentary, or the what you will find on other paranormal websites .


A Ghost Story

This is a similar story, but not the same as, the one published in Valerie Laughtons book, "True Barossa Ghosts"

"In 1980 fourteen students from Kapunda went to Saint Johns Cemetery and reformatory at night. They heard a rumbling, bumping sound; they saw a marble slab move back from one the graves. they could not see any ropes or wires attached and saw nothing emerge. The vases began to move and the flowers were flung into the air. The students saw a semi-transparent girl with a long white gown, with long dark hair carrying a hurricane lantern that had a yellowish glow moving through the cemetery. Grave stones could be seen through her. the figure glided through a fence and headed towards the old reformatory ruins. She entered the ruins moving through the rooms and passageway and could be seen by the students through the broken windows. After a period of time  the figure headed back down the hill and back to the cemetery. She rose from the ground and her feet could be seen , she thinned into a yellowish-white light and spun herself and drove speedily into the earth. The students worked up the courage and slowly moved into the area were the ghostly figure disappeared. They found a circular spot with strange markings imprinted into the soil."

References and further info can be found at:
St. Johns - Facebook Group
"Kapunda: Most haunted Town in Australia"- Warwick Moss
Kapunda Town Library

 Kapunda and the Mary MacKillop Connection - Peter Swann
Curiosities of South Australia - Russell Smith
True Barossa Ghosts - Valerie J. Laughton
The History of Kapunda - Rob Charlton
History of the Catholic Church in South Australia -  F. Byrne

© Eidolon Paranormal


Eidolon Paranormal has been investigating St Johns cemetery since the foundation of our paranormal group, but Allen has been visiting the site since the late 90's when he first heard about the ghost stories associated with it. Eidolon Paranormals investigators have all experienced strange phenomena at times in this location, much of which we have debunked as natural causes, abnormal influences and over-active imagination.
Almost all of South Australia's Paranormal teams have at some stage in their careers investigated this site,with varying results, unfortunately some now choose to display information they know is not true, is misleading or is false, this raises a few concerns for us as we try to remove the images that are promoted to people via the misleading or inaccurate information.
We would like to see ALL paranormal teams posting the correct information, and abolishing the stories of rapes, teenage Mothers etc, as the evidence suggests these things never happened....
 We continue to return to the site in hope of capturing some solid evidence, but the more we investigate, the more we believe natural explanations are the cause of evidence and personal experiences being reported. 

© 2007 - 2014 Allen Tiller

All content on “Eidolon Paranormal & The Haunts of Adelaide” sites, blog and corresponding media pages (eg Facebook, twitter etc) is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any means or process without the written permission of the author. © 2012, 2013, 2014

All photos remain the property of their respective copyright owners and are displayed here for the purpose of education, research and review under the copyright act "fair usage" clause.

Some photo's used here on this site are sourced from The Sate Library of South Australia, and The National Library of Australia and http://www.gawler.nowandthen.net.au - all photos are out of copyright and have no usage restrictions implied.

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