From the outset you can’t help but feel a sense of trepidation as you walk towards the colonial frontage of the Gaol, with its huge foreboding doors and high stonewalls. To imagine that for nearly 150 years, approximately 300,000 prisoners would have experienced that and so much more, knowing this would be either their temporary home or their forever home is unfathomable.
Our initial conceptions were alleviated by tour guide, Jo, whose enthusiasm and humour, was a stark juxtaposition to the emotive darkness the Gaol exudes that even the balmy summer air couldn’t quell.
Jo took us throughout barren prisoner courtyards, each with their own individual buildings that oozed gallons of sordid and some not so sordid criminal history (don’t worry the ooze wasn’t ectoplasm) If you’re a fan of local history you wont be disappointed, Jo was captivating and passionate about sharing the Gaol’s history. I noted how attached Jo has become to some of the past inmates, in particular Elizabeth Woolcock, the first woman ever hanged in South Australia. Elizabeth’s story brought Jo to tears and when you hear how unconscionable the story is, I guarantee your brain will struggle to comprehend it, I still don’t know how to process Elizabeth’s story.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though, there are a myriad of artworks displayed throughout various cells painted by prisoners that are so beautiful you’ll question your appreciation of them because the assumption is they were painted by bad people but you’ll soon learn that some inmates were incarnated for reasons not even considered today.
There is so much more on this tour, and even though I didn’t see any ghosts (this time) I think it’s worth multiple visits to uncover more history, more stories, and hopefully a ghost sighting. So whether you’re a paranormal fanatic like me or enjoy learning more about Adelaide and South Australia’s history, this tour is for you.
Adelaide Fringe Review By James Landseer