If you ever find yourself in St Marks’ Anglican Church & Pioneer Cemetery in Picton, there is a chance you may feel the strange sensation of a dog licking your hand… but when you look down, there won’t be an animal in sight.

It is said that the pastor who established St Marks’ in 1850 was never seen without his beloved black dog. Both the pastor and his dog are now buried together at the cemetery, and the animal’s spirit is believed to wander the area, often making its presence known to visitors.

You’ll hear this story, and many other bone-chilling tales, in the Picton After Dark walking tour.

It’s hard not to feel immersed in an otherworldly atmosphere as our guide Brent Hilbrink-Watson begins the tour against the eerie backdrop of the cemetery under the fading daylight. It sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the evening.

Picton has long been regarded one of the most haunted towns in Australia. It has been home to many strange – and often unexplainable – occurrences.

The stories of these strange happenings continue to live on through each new generation, and it is believed by Picton’s residents that the same otherworldly entities still occupy the town today.

Ghost tours have been running in Picton since the 1990s, and its haunted sites have become so well known that in 2023, Australian Traveller named Picton one of the nine most haunted places to visit in Australia.

Mr Hilbrink-Watson has lived in the Wollondilly Shire all his life. His knowledge of local lore meant he was able to answer any questions from the tour group, drawing from an impressive repertoire of personal anecdotes built up over 40 years.

We stopped at George IV Inn, where convicts were held in lockup during the township’s colonial period. It is now said to be home to an aggressive convict’s ghost who died while detained. His name is unknown, but locals call him Eric. Eric, they say, has made the Inn’s downstairs cellar his eternal home.

The local theatre group claims to have sighted three different spirits at the Wollondilly Shire Hall. One of them is a little boy whose cries have been heard coming from underneath the stage. When a local radio station camped out overnight in the Hall to see if they could find any evidence of paranormal activity, they captured recordings of children’s voices being spoken in the middle of the night.

Undoubtedly, Picton’s most famous haunted site is the Mushroom Tunnel, an old railway tunnel that was the site of the tragic death of a local Emily Bollard in 1916 as she was travelling from one side of Picton to the other.

The circumstances of Emily’s death remain unknown, but it is believed that her ghost still roams the tunnel and many visitors claim to have encountered her.

Unfortunately, due to restricted opening hours, the infamous Mushroom Tunnel is not accessible during the walking tour, but if you are inspired to experience the tunnel in your own time, it is open on weekdays from 9am-2pm.

The Picton After Dark walking tour is now open for 2024 bookings. It’s a spooky but engaging account of the township’s past, perfect for thrill-seekers and history lovers.

A few things to note before attending:

  • The tour requires around 2.5km of walking in total, including one steep incline,
  • It starts at 8pm, so most of it will be in the dark; we recommend taking photos during your first stop at the cemetery,
  • Children under the age of 16 are permitted to come along, however some content may be frightening and/or distressing.

To find out more, or to book yourself a spot in one of the upcoming walking tours, visit:  https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing/1054915

–   Emily Kaine