Travelling solo can be scary and dangerous. I often get incredulous stares when I reveal that I’ve been doing it for the past four years. And I am still in one piece – despite plenty of misadventures. The country that I brought the most mindboggling stories from is Down Under. Not just on Halloween, I’d like to entertain you with my very real Australian horror stories.
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Aussie Horror Tale 1: Lone Ranger Danger
One day one of my tour guides – let’s call him Aaron – was doing his usual trip along the Stuart Highway. You know, the longest and straightest highway in the world.
Here, you will not encounter a fellow soul on the road for hours, civilisation is so far away, you can’t even use a phone. Better hope someone on the radio funk will hear you scream if you’re in trouble.
Too bad the first of my freaky real life stories about outback travel happened exactly here. Aaron was driving a tour group from Coober Pedy to Alice Springs and was staring at the horizon when he saw two dark dots briskly approaching.
Read this too: Roadside Etiquette and Safety on Stuart Highway
The closer he came, the clearer the silhouette did too. It was a lean tall man, all dressed in dark colours. A dog was trodding faithfully by his side. The pace was determined, he didn’t seem to slow down one second. Not even when the tour bus halted next to him.
Did he require help? Was everything alright? Aaron’s questions went unheeded. It was as if the man didn’t even notice. Growing anxious and knowing how unrelenting the Australian heat in the outback can be, Aaron backed up his car for a bit, trailing the man’s footsteps.
This wasn’t normal. Aaron had a very bad feeling about this but the tour group by now had made up their minds. The heat must have affected the poor man, he clearly needed to be convinced to come on the bus.
Read this too: How to Survive a Solo Trip to the Outback
Rule number one on Stuart Highway: to look out for one another. It could be hours until someone else drove by. What if he fainted? What if he needed water? A lif? Medical help? Maybe he was deaf and dumb? But Aaron had none of it. Something inside him told him to not open the door at all costs.
The tour bus grew agitated. Why was Aaron suddenly so cold? Why would he refuse to help a human being in such a situation? Aaron struggled with himself, with his gut feeling that said to not listen to them. To drive on and so he did, despite the anger coming from the back of the bus. The group’s safety was his main concern.
Back in Alice Springs, he couldn’t shake the feeling of unease even as he was meeting up with his fellow mates over a drink. But one of them took his sweet time in arriving. When he finally did show, he was flustered and clearly upset.
All day he had been spending investigating a crime scene in a small town. It was a proper bloodshed. Several people had been brutally butchered to death. Reasons unclear. The criminal was on the run.
His identity wasn’t so much a mystery as were his whereabouts. He was nowhere to be found in the small town, nowhere around it. He simply seemed to have vanished. He fled on foot, accompanied only by a dog. How far could he have possibly come?
Aaron knew the answer.
Later that day, the man in black and his dog were arrested. They werestill marching doggedly along Stuart Highway.
Aussie Horror Tale 2: Newspaper Alert Underground
Aaron wasn’t done telling his real true scary stories. On another tour of his, a man with quite peculiar behaviours joined the group. He seemed entirely disinterested in what was happening around, he refused to mingle, never talked and looked perpetually startled.
No encouragement could get him off the tour bus. Why was he on a guided tour around the outback if all he cared for was the airconditioned seat inside the van? Not even for meals did he join, he went without food.
On the way from South Australia to the Red Centre lies Coober Pedy, a popular spot for its eccentric build. All houses were entirely underground. It had been a mining town for decades and due to lack of trees and shelter, the heat of the day was unbearable, you had to live in the rocks below.
Read this too: Where to Find Opal in Coober Pedy
Not even this woke the odd guest from his stupor. He immediately retreated to his bunk bed, drawing the blinds. The bunk beds were meant to be shared, you know! But the entire group was perfectly fine with the arrangement. Whatever was going on behind the curtains, nobody cared to know.
To finish the last leg of the trip required an early start from Coober Pedy. And with a start the guest awoke. He had laid the entire floor with newspapers, covering every inch. The high pitched sound of the crumbling paper and sulphur in the black ink alerted him of intruders right away. And he raced to the tour bus. Waiting.
He was gone as soon as the bus arrived in Alice Springs. Certainly nobody would be missing him. Nobody but the police. The TV news segment told of the escape of the most wanted drug criminal in the country. Why did he look so familiar? You probably know the answer.
Aussie Horror Tale 3 – Gumtree and Boozedrive
I was in desperate need of a backpacker job. Coming to Australia was only possible if I funded my way through temporary jobs on my Working Holiday Visa. So far, I had been out of luck so it was due time I found a job. Anything.
Gumtree isn’t necessarily the most trustworthy of places to find reputable jobs. But jobs there are plenty. You just have to sort through the weeds and read between the lines. Or your life might end up on the line. As happened in this true horror story.
Jobs that are remote don’t have a lot of competition so I wasn’t too surprised to see an ad for “simple household work” in far out Queensland that’s been up for a while. Plus, if you work on a farm or a remote farm- or roadhouse for a few months, you can be eligible for a second year Working Holiday Visa in Australia. It was worth checking out.
The job description was vague at best so I decided to skip the mailing back and forth and called through. After a few attempts a timid woman answered in a hushed voice. Yes, her job description wasn’t very long but it was even shorter as they currently only needed a driver.
In return for a twice a day run I’d get free board and lodgings and was free to do whatever with the rest of the day. Say what? My alarm bells went off and I was slightly suspicious as to why someone living so far out couldn’t drive themselves. (Also I hate driving so I needed to be really sure.)
Well, her son was currently incapacitated. In what way? His driving license was revoked. For what reason? Well, nothing worth mentioning. Now my interest really was piqued. Also, she refused to specify where the twice daily drive would be taking place.
After a long pause because I refused to engage in this conversation any further if not all cards were on the table, she came clean. Sounding almost as if she was holding back tears she briefly mentioned that her son had been driving under the influence. Not only that but the destination he needed to be driven to was the only nearby pub.
Had he ever- under the influence – shown abusive behaviour? He had indeed. And from the tone in her voice, you could tell she spoke from firsthand experience. Now I got really mad.
How could she knowingly lead people on into a job that required driving around an abusive alcoholic to refuel on the booze? Did she have no shame offering that job to a young woman like me, travelling solo, being dependent on these people camped in the middle of nowhere?
Sobbing, she apologised profusely but remained determined on trying to advertise the job to me. She understood if I didn’t take it but she really needed to get him out of the house. I hung up right there and then and reported the ad to gumtree. Who knows who ended up taking them up on the offer?
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So why could he not drive himself, I wanted to know. He had lost his license. How, I inquired. The police head taken it. I became suspicious. What was up with all the short answers? Well, he had been driving under the influence. Did he have a problem with alcohol, then? A long pause.
Was he an alcoholic? Yes, came the bushes answer. Was that a problem? Yes. Did he message a temper? Yes. By now her voice was super heard to hear. Where did he want to be driven to, work? No, only to the nearest pub. I had heard enough.
How could she send a young woman into the middle of nowhere to drive an alcoholic asked possibly abusive man around to fill up his levels of intoxication? She should be ashamed of herself. “I know,” she said almost sobbing. And with that she hung up. I felt sorry for the naive soul she convinced. (Hopefully not.)
Aussie Horror Tale 4 – Where No One Can Hear You Scream
A week after my gumtree episode I heard more creepy stranger stories on gumtree. One of them particularly struck with me as it involved solo travelling women as well. It was about two young women looking for WOOFing experience in the outback.
A nice family on gumtree was looking for an au pair. Nothing terribly unusual. Sadly they only had need for one but made the kind offer of asking the neighbour. It was quickly agreed that the friend would stay with the neighbours.
Everything was settled and soon enough, the girls were picked up by the man of the house. On the phone he had been super nice and charming but during the long drive to Nowhere Land, he was cold and taciturn. Not a word he uttered.
After a few hours’ drive, he dropped off the friend at the neighbour and then continued stone faced. The neighbours weren’t that close at all. It was the outback and distances to the nearest souls were long. Not so cool!
Read this too: 24 Life Saving Safety Hacks for Solo Women
Finally having arrived at her new temporary home, she was shown to her room on the upper floor. She stepped in. The door slammed shut and she was locked in. To her utter shock, she found the windows were nailed shut and her phone had no connection.
Over the next few days, she was barred from leaving the room and having any contact with the outside world whatsoever. She didn’t know the fate of her friend. Or what was in store for her.
Her abductors didn’t talk to her either. All they did was shove a little tray of food underneath the door so she wouldn’t starve. They still needed her. Or parts of her, it turned out later.
Luckily, a neighbour happened to come by one evening and saw light in her room. Confused over this as he wasn’t aware of the room being ever used, he investigated and discovered the terrified girl. He pieced the information together and come up with a rescue plan.
As soon as he knew the resident couple had left the home, he raced over with his car and released her. On the way to the police station, he took the friend as well though she seemed to be fine.
For all that I know, the couple was not caught. But the story went that they were involved in organ trading and had already secured a deal. So you better be careful who you allow to take you into the outback to not end up in your own horror story.
Read this too: How to Plan a 4WD Adventure in the Outback
Top 5 Australian Horror Movies
Now if all of this didn’t send shivers down your spine, try watching a horror movie in Australia that is set in Australia. I couldn’t do it. (But then again I am too scared of horror movies.) To help you with some inspiration for your next Australien scary movie, here are the top 5:
Wolf Creek isn’t for the faint hearts of backpackers. In it, they get captured in a sick game of hunt and prey in the Australian outback by a deranged killer. The movie doesn’t actually portray real life events even though it as inspired by some.
Between 1989 and 1993, Ivan Milat committed a series of murders in North South Wales. Seven young backpackers –international as well as Australian – fell victim to him and were found partially buried. In 2001 Bradley Murdoch murdered another backpacker.
The American movie series Saw is an international hit but are you aware of its Australian origins? Saw started as an Australian short horror movie. It’s often referred to as Saw 0.5.
Fun fact: the short film was incorporated as a scene in the well-known 2004 feature length American horror movie.
The Babadook has supernatural elements to it and is more a psychological horror than an Australian slasher film. The story revolves around a widow and her six year old son who becomes obsessed over his fear of monsters, particularly the kinda human looking Barbadook.
Strange events start to happen after the mother downplays the monster’s existence. An ultimate showdown with Barbadook ensues and the ending takes quite the turn.
Upgrade is a different genre of horror movie, covering elements of science fiction and action. But unlike the other movies (maybe except Saw), it’s main horror “appeal” is the body horror that is going on through graphic bodily mutilations.
In the movie, a paralysed man is able to control his limbs through an implanted chip. However, the chip starts speaking to him and he becomes quite the killing machine. Was the accident that lead to the death of his wife and his paralysis maybe planned?
Is Lake Mungo a true story? This low budget Australian psychological horror film certainly looks like a documentary. But it’s all scripted and played out with real actors, not interviewees.
On the surface it looks like just a creepy Australian ghost story. But it actually centres around the theme of grief. Interesting fact: At the real (dry) Lake Mungo, some of the earliest archaeological findings of aboriginal people of Australia were discovered.
What’s Your Australian Horror Story?
So these were just some of my scary stories about my time travelling the Australian outback. (Get the full adventure for kindle or as hardcover on Amazon.) You have probably heard that Australia is a dangerous place and that is certainly true.
But you also see that if you have common sense, listen to your gut and stay on your guard, you have a clear advantage. A word of caution: don’t blindly buy all the media dishes because that fear mongering is truly the worst horror story of all!
Have you heard terrifying horror stories during your travels in Australia or even experienced them yourself? I would love it if I was not the only one sharing those. We all need to be better prepared so we can enjoy the trip even more!
What scary Australian horror stories do you know?
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