Have you ever wondered whether ghosts, ghouls and spirits are real? To best honest, although I find it delightful to be scared witless watching a scary movie or sharing a ghost story around a campfire, I've never really, truly been a believer in the supernatural. Until, that is, the Winter Solstice 2014.
Thanks to the Royal Mail Hotel and some renowned local story tellers, we invited locals and visitors alike to a night walking tour of Dunkeld to discover a bit of the facinating, sometimes grusome, history of this pioneering town. Researching last year's tour was a lot of fun, and sifting through old newspapers turned up a colourful range of dastardly deeds during the boom time following the 1850s gold rush.
But the biggest coup was securing Scottish born great, great granddaughter of James Templeton as one of our storytellers. James tragically died age 27 after being shot by a gold digger at his family's inn. His massive tombstone now adorns the backyard of one of the houses in Dunkeld's main street.
I had goosebumps standing beside the grave at midnight, listening to the amazing story of a lost family connection discovered half a world away after more than a century. But when our storyteller, Lynne, offered to demonstrate a bit of grave divination to show how the body lay, it started to get real. Using two metal rods, Lynne demonstrated the head and the foot of the grave, before offering one of the guests to take a turn. When the rods took on a life of their own and pointed across my shoulder - a sure sign of James' presence, according to Lynne - it freaked out the whole group!
Storyteller Steve Kennedy, who has participated in tours in Ballarat, believes the appeal of ghost tours is all down to the anticipation and the potential for the unexpected.
"The sites we visit on the Dunkeld Ghost Tour are all perfectly picturesque in the day time, but when it's dark and cold and you leave the comfort of the fire at the pub to visit a grave, a church, a haunted house - or even a cemetery in the middle of nowhere that closed more than a hundred years ago - well anything could happen," Steve explained.
"There are still a lot of strange, unexplained things in the world. That's the thrill."
One of the highlights for Steve from last year's event was the chatter among the guests after a story was told.
"It was almost as if they were trying to convince each other and themselves that everything was alright, even though they'd booked the tour for a good scare. Happily, after a drink back at the bar, there nerves seemed to settle down again," Steve said.
Tickets are now on sale, but be quick. Numbers are strictly limited. Book by phoning the Royal Mail Hotel on 03 5577 2241.