Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Pomona Hotel Ghost: He may be known affectionately as 'Darby', but he could likely be just plain old Fred

 The Pomona Hotel (John Oxley Library)
Haunted pubs - when it comes to hotels that claim to be haunted, I have to admit that I'm an absolute sucker, as I'm sure we all are...although, that being said, I'm very regularly disappointed by the whole "haunted pub" routine - stories of fatal fires, fatal shootings, fatal stabbings...it seems that the majority of pubs across South East Queensland all brandish unfounded tales of woe in an attempt to claim they have a resident ghost.  Over the past few months, I've looked into well over a dozen pubs that claim to have resident spooks resulting from fantastic events, & haven't found an ounce of evidence to back the claims in the historic record...I still live in hope that one day I might bring these stories to light, although for many of them I'm not holding my breath.

However, some of the hotels I've heavily looked into do possess legitimate histories that lend credence to the tales - as contrasting examples, our tale of the Rosewood Hotel was a perfect case of a schiester Publican's attempt to market a country pub as haunted for monetary gain...however, our investigation of the Ipswich Jets Club & the Caledonian Hotel ghosts exposed likely origins for the sites' hauntings based solidly on the historic record.  From experience, I tend to find that hotels that claim to have a ghost, & just a ghost, with no known origin or outlandish story to back the haunting, generally possess a number of deaths on site (after extensive research) that may just explain their resident spectre.  However, pubs that claim to possess ghosts resulting from horrible accidents "early last century," - i.e. no specific details or precise dates given - tend to be no more than urban legends...& when it comes to writing weekly articles for the Haunts of Brisbane, urban legends are nothing more than a good jumping off point - if the historic record doesn't remotely support the claim, then we'd be no better than a certain Brisbane ghost tour operator if we ran with the story as gospel truth!

So, where does that leave us regarding this week's article??  Well, I had grand plans of tackling a haunted pub in a particular township outside Brisbane this week, however I quickly became bogged down once again in a swamp of hear-say & urban legend - whilst I'm in the lengthy process of bringing this tale to light, or debunking it completely, I seem to be stuck with a very small town...with two supposedly very haunted pubs...with some very base history between them, & some aggressive argument as to which stories belong to which pub.  Sadly, yet again, the ability to claim a resident ghost for either pub is looking very sketchy at best - the claimed origin of either haunting doesn't even remotely match the historic record, & the details seem to change dramatically with every telling of their respective tales.  So...let's change tack, & focus on another pub that claims to have a resident haunting, minus any outlandish claim as to their ghost's origin - the Pomona Hotel, nestled at the foot of Mt Cooroora, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

Having been settled in the late 1880's under the name of Pinbarren Siding, the township saw a vibrant mix of residents move through the area - in the early years, timber getters from the surrounding regions stopped in for supplies, gold prospectors moved through on their way to the then languishing Gympie gold fields, & immigrants began to settle in the hope of taking advantage of the growing sugar cane & banana industry.  As the town grew, & enterprising individuals moved to the area with money, it came as no surprise that a hotel would be proposed.  Built in 1905 & declared opened for business under licence in 1906, the new Pomona Hotel opened its doors for business as the first establishment in the area.  Fortunately, in the very same year as the hotel opened, the town was renamed Pomona, from its previous name of Pinbarren Siding, allowing the hotel a name it has carried to this very day.  Originally constructed as a single storey building, the Pomona Hotel boasted nine lodging rooms, a public bar, a dining room & a kitchen...& being the only establishment for miles around, trade was exceptionally good.

The good times continued, through 1911 when a second hotel was built in Pomona, the now demolished Railway Hotel, until the 3rd of January 1913.  At a few minutes before 5pm, the kitchen of the Pomona Hotel caught alight, & within minutes the building was ablaze.  A bucket brigade rushed to the scene, with little effect, & further adjoining buildings caught alight...at the time, Pomona lacked any semblance of water supply apart from rainwater tanks, lending further difficulty to the town's firefighting efforts.  By the time the fire was finally extinguished, the original Pomona Hotel & a number of adjoining shops lay in smouldering ruins.  However, necessity be as it may, the proprietor James Connolly took up a temporary residence in the Pomona Hall until his hotel was rebuilt a few months later - the rebuilt two storey premises is the same Pomona Hotel that exists to the current day.  However, 1913 was not the only year that the Pomona Hotel was exposed to fire - on the 5th of September 1939, the Sunshine Cafe close by the Pomona Hotel caught fire, destroying nine surrounding businesses yet sparing the hotel.  Water was drawn from a large water tank behind the hotel in an effort to extinguish the flames...unfortunately, there was little anyone could do to save the buildings on fire, however the Pomona Hotel alongside the water source was spared.  Fortunately, as had been the case in 1913, not a single life was lost in the hotel's second brush with death.

Pomona's destructive 1939 fire, with the hotel in the background (State Library of Qld)

So...what of this ghost, I hear you ask??  Well, the Pomona Hotel claims to have a resident spectre that walks its halls.  Locals & staff tell stories of feeling a presence within the hotel, like an invisible figure has brushed passed when no one else is standing near.  Disembodied footsteps are heard from time to time throughout the venue, & doors inexplicably seem to open & close of their own accord...admittedly, the haunting seems to manifest no differently to any other hotel's, however those who frequent the establishment & those that work there are adamant that something otherworldly resides within the nearly 100 year old building.  So sure are the staff that they share their place of employment with a spectre, that they've given the spook a name - 'Darby'.  I have it on good authority that the name is due to the phantom's preferred haunt within the Pomona Hotel - the Darby Room Restaurant, named after long-time Pomona resident & now deceased Darby Schrieder.  However, staff are also quick to point out that just because their ghost is affectionately named Darby, the likelihood that the ghost is actually that of Darby Schrieder is unlikely.  So, who could the ghost of the Pomona Hotel actually be?!?

That, I must confess, I do not know...after having pulled apart the historic record for the Pomona Hotel, not a single event can be located which may give rise to a haunting...although, the life of the former Railway Hotel in Pomona is a very different matter.  On the 6th of July 1924, a loud bang was heard amongst the lodging rooms at 8am - William Hughes, a lodger at the hotel, began to work his way down the hall, door-knocking in the hope of discovering the origin of the startling noise.  On reaching the door of recent arrival Frederick John Green, he entered the room to discover Green laying on the floor with a .22 calibre Young American revolver laying beside him...blood was streaming from a wound above the man's right eye, & a doctor was called for immediately.  Green was tended to by Doctor Rygate, & was rushed (as fast as was possible in rural 1924) to Gympie Hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds at 1:20am the next morning.  It would be discovered that Frederick Green had arrived in Pomona from Gympie on Saturday morning, the day before he'd chosen to take his life.  Given that it was common practice for gold prospectors to carry concealed side-arms to protect themselves & defend their mining leases, had Fred Green struck out in Gympie & decided to end it all in Pomona after losing his life savings seeking his fortune?  The gun that was found beside Green's body was a seven-shot revolver...it contained one expended round & two live bullets, a likely indication the 32 year old man was unable to afford a full compliment of ammunition for his side-arm.

However, the Railway Hotel would make national news in the early hours of the 13th of April 1928, when George Dann, a well-known Chinese banana grower, was stabbed to death with a cook's knife in the hotel, by an Italian immigrant named Guiseppe Sciglitano.  Sciglitano, a labourer staying at the hotel, stole into the kitchen & took possession of a knife before returning to the upper floor of the establishment...on seeing George walk out of the upstairs sitting room, Sciglitano chased Dann down the hall of the hotel stabbing him as he went.  Dann, gasping for breath in the hall, finally succumbed to his wounds on the floor after a violent scuffle in the hall.  Sciglitano was seen to run from the hotel in his pyjamas in the direction of the railway station, where he was arrested by the local Constabulary hours later in a dishevelled & leech-infested state...having hidden himself in the bush overnight, Sciglitano was worse for wear, in nothing more than his night clothes & bare feet.  During the preliminary Court case held at the Pomona Memorial School of Arts, it would be discovered that Sciglitano had taken a carving knife to George Dann because, "Chinamen no good this country along white people."  Sciglitano was committed for trial as a result, in Gympie on the 10th of July 1928, for which he served his time on a charge of wilful murder.

When the Railway Hotel was finally demolished in 1965, a bulk of the building's materials were recycled & used in the construction of Pomona's Memory Lane Antiques, Pomona Produce & Pet Shop, & Hollyhock Cottage & Nursery...history is yet to determine whether the ghosts of the Railway Hotel have followed the fabric of the building to their new homes.  In the meantime, though, it will likely still be claimed that Darby haunts the halls of the Pomona Hotel...whether real or fabricated, we'll never know...however the ghost of the Pomona Hotel will likely go down in rural legend as just that - a rural legend...

3 comments:

  1. This is extremely interesting as my mother is a niece of Frederick John Green, though we never knew until now what happened to him, except we couldn't find any trace of him in Sydney, where he lived with his family, who he adored, after 1923. If anyone has any further information on Frederick John Green, and why and how he arrived in Pomona, we'd be very pleased to hear from you pippa_curtis@hotmail.com . Thanks for posting all of this.

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  2. I am the niece mentioned in the comment of the 27th July , On the 26th I had received a death certificate from Qld Registrar General that I had requested recently on ascertaining the date of death of my Uncle. Cause of death stated as 'revolver wound' and now with the aid of Google we know where and how but the why is still to be answered. Please contact my daughter as above or myself on joancurtis@iprimus.com.au

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  3. Hi, just a quick note, it's actually Darby Schreiber, not Shrieder, he was my Great Grandfather :)

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