“You'd call the man a senseless fool, —
A blockhead or an ass,
Who'd dare to say he saw the ghost
Of Mount Victoria Pass;
But I believe the ghost is there,
For, if my eyes are right,
I saw it once upon a ne'er-
The verse above comes from “The Ghost at the Second Bridge” a poem written by the famous Australian bush Poet Henry Lawson, regarding the ghost of the Lady in Black which has been witnessed by numerous people travelling along the Great Western Highway in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales.
The ghost of the Lady in Black is said to be that of Caroline James who’s body was found on Victoria Pass, a very precarious convict constructed bridge in the Blue Mountains which leads to the historic village of Hartley.
The apparition is often described as wearing a black early Victorian style dress, her skin pale, and she is often reported as headless.
Lawson in his poem describes her thusly:
“And she is dressed in black;
Her face is white, a dull dead white
Her eyes are opened wide
She never looks to left or right,
Or turns to either side."
The circumstances of Caroline’s death were as scandalous as it was tragic. Her family background was hardly one of the upper class. In fact her father ran a sly grog shop and her mother was a drunkard, she committed suicide by hanging herself. Contrary to her own family background Caroline managed to marry into a respectable family; the Collits. This family ran the Inn at Hartley Village. The black sheep of the family William (whose father described him as a “spendthrift idiot”) took a fancy to Caroline, and they were wed in 1840. The marriage did not turn out the way Caroline had hoped and she left William and moved in with her sister and her thug husband John Walsh. It appears that Caroline had been in a previous relationship with Walsh as had her sister before they were married. The three entered into a sleazy ménage-a-trois. Caroline and William attempted a reconciliation in 1842. They met with Walsh in tow at Joseph Jagger’s tavern near Hartley. An altercation ensued between Walsh and William, Caroline tried to restrain Walsh which gave William the chance to escape.
At Six AM the next day about five kilometres from the Tavern, the local postman who was delivering mail to Hartley stumbled upon the battered body of Caroline on the side of the road on Victoria Pass, her head skull had been crushed by a large stone which laid nearby, stained with blood.
Walsh was arrested for Caroline’s murder of which he pleaded innocence. Strangely he did not accuse William of the crime, but instead blamed the inn keeper: Joseph Jagger for the murder. Fortunately the jury did not buy Walsh’s story, and he was hanged for murder at Bathurst on the 3rd of May 1842.
To this day the “Lady in Black” is still reported by people crossing Victoria Pass, including numerous truck drivers. She is apparently witnessed more in winter than summer, when the “black ice” forces motorists to slow down.
To hear more about this ghost tale and many others in the Blue Mountains area, take a tour with Paranormal Pete of Blue Mountains Mystery Tours, highly recommended by Unexplained Australia.
Source: Great Australian Ghost Stories by Richard Davis, ABC books.