It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to live in Australia’s most haunted house, but Monte Cristo Homestead in Junee hasn’t scared away the Ryan family.
Aged 90, owner and resident Olive Ryan has a lot of experience with the dead, yet her advice to visitors is to watch out for the living.
It was her late husband Reginald’s dream to own and restore the homestead built by Christopher Crawley in 1876.
He discovered the dilapidated property while living nearby in Wagga Wagga and spent eight years negotiating a purchase with Mr Crawley’s children.
The young couple took up residence in 1963 for a sum of 1000 pounds but with no idea of its creepy history.
Their first supernatural encounter took place on a foggy evening while driving home from town with supplies.
“They were halfway up the dirt driveway and stopped their car because lights were beaming from every door and window of the house,” said Lawrence.
The freaky thing was the house had no electricity.
“Dad assumed squatters had moved in, but as they drove closer all the lights went out. People say it could have been their car lights reflecting off the windows, but there weren’t any glass panes in the windows or doors at the time,” said Lawrence.
Legend has it that the Crawley family were an odd bunch and several people met their fate at the property.
There was a maid who fell to her death from the upstairs balcony. It’s rumoured she was pregnant with Mr Crawley’s child and may have been pushed by his wife Elizabeth.
Then there’s the stable boy who burned to death in his bed and the intellectually disabled man Harold who was chained to the caretaker’s cottage for 40 years.
It’s also said that Mrs Crawley didn’t cope when Mr Crawley died in 1910. She rarely left the house again and still haunts the property today.
However, Olive and Reginald never shared any of these stories with Lawrence or his four older sisters.
“I think that would have been a form of child abuse,” said Lawrence with a laugh.
“I can’t say it was scary growing up in the homestead, it was just our home.
“My four sisters have seen Mrs Crawley on several occasions and my Dad and I have seen shadows and heard people walking past, but not to the point where we’ve been scared out of the house.
“I think the ghosts think there’ll be no one to look after the place if we take off.”
Reginald and Olive never imagined opening the homestead to the public but were caught in the enthusiasm for ghost tours in the 1990s.
“My family has been running ghost tours since 1993 and it just gets busier and busier because people are fascinated by the whole supernatural thing,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence gave up his career as a professional stuntman to take over the ghost tours when his father fell ill in 2014.
He may not be the biggest believer or vouch for seeing Mrs Crawley but will dress in Victorian clothing to keep the former owner happy.
“Visitors think it’s for them, but it’s not. Mrs Crawley doesn’t like people dressing inappropriately when visiting her home,” said Lawrence.
Wear the wrong wardrobe and Mrs Crawley will appear… apparently.
Monte Cristo Homestead ghost tours are still running during COVID-19.
Visitors can take part in a self-guided tour between Friday to Monday, 10 am to 4 pm or stay over on Saturday’s.
The Ryan family takes great pleasure in placing bets on whether visitors will last the night.
“Visitors sleep above the original homestead – the most active part of the house,” said Lawrence.
“We’ve heard everything from people waking up to see Mrs Crawley standing at the end of their bed, to people being pinned to the bed and not being able to move.
“Every three to four weeks people don’t come back from the tour.”