What better way to get our spook on for Halloween than with a night’s stay at Sydney’s most haunted hotel – The Russell Hotel in The Rocks.
And I can tell you now, if you’re after creaking floorboards, ghost stories, shadows and a whole lot of history, it didn’t disappoint.
Of course, if you’d rather a lux hotel experience then this is the wrong place. You come for the charm here, not the sheets.
The Russell Hotel is a mere five minutes’ walk from Circular Quay station, at the gateway to the oldest area in Sydney; The Rocks. And after making sure I booked the most haunted room in the hotel through Hotels.com's easy mobile app, I rocked up camera in hand ready for anything.
The site of the hotel has been in use as one thing or another since way back in 1790, when it was a moveable hospital. In the years following it became a shop front, a public house called ‘Patent Slip Inn’, and then a hotel in 1887. Eventually an extension was added and it was briefly a rooming house before being renovated in the 1980s and becoming The Russell as we know it today.
Now of course, The Rocks are known for being a little creepy, given how old the area is and what has happened there since the First Fleet arrived, no wonder there are supposedly some spirits hanging around. Definitely plenty of fodder for the regular ghost tours held in the area.
And the hotel itself is not short on spooky occurrences, with numerous reports of staff and guests seeing spirits, sounds of someone walking, screaming, and the general feeling of a presence.
Speaking to one of the staff members bar manager Chris, he was adamant there was something that gave him the chills about the place.
“I sometimes have to do the close shift and lock everything up and the whole place just gives me the creeps. I don’t know if it’s all in my head,” he tells Be.
“One time I swear I was just finishing packing things up and the wine glasses on the shelf just started shaking for no reason.”
Walking through the hotel I was told that in the bar downstairs a photo had once captured the image of a man in colonial work gear hiding behind one of the pillars in the room.
From the attic, staff, who sometimes have to sleep at the hotel overnight, say they can often hear footsteps when there is no one. And one time apparently a lamp broke – untouched – and a little boy’s voice could be heard saying ‘Do it again’.
The sitting room or lounge area is another hot spot according to staff with many guests and previous paranormal investigators claiming to feel a lot of energy in the room.
But the two rooms of the hotel to avoid if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of anything out of the ordinary, are room 20 and room eight.
Guests have spoken of hearing screaming through the night or feeling like they are being held down in their bed by their sheets in room 20, with some even checking out the next day because of it.
I’d picked room eight, which is the most haunted in the hotel because it’s where a sailor was murdered by a prostitute during the hotel’s time as a moveable hospital – GREAT vibes then!
Plenty of guests have stayed in the room and described seeing the spirit of the sailor appear standing in the room and staring at them – yikes. Sometimes he even speaks, calling the name of a lost love.
Settling in for the night I made sure to have basically every single light on in the room, as well as the TV going until it was time to go to sleep.
Sleep didn’t come easy at first because to be perfectly honest the old cast iron bed I had was not particularly comfortable. But I did drift off eventually.
That is until I woke up with a start at around midnight. Whether I was dreaming or not I swear I heard a man’s voice scream out a name. It sounded a fair way away but as I opened my eyes a shadow flickered across the wall just near the bedroom door.
With my heart racing I quickly sat up and turned the light on. Given the wall with the door was directly opposite the window I wrote the shadow off to something moving past the curtains – but I was on the third story?
Either way I did get back to sleep after that and woke the next morning ready to enjoy the complimentary continental breakfast before checking out.
Thinking back to what happened I do feel that the stories of footsteps, sailors and voices may have influenced my perception of my surroundings. Who knows how the human mind processes things sometimes. Especially half asleep.
Hearing spooky stories all day probably doesn’t lend itself to a restful sleep regardless of where you are.
Although if you want to experience it for yourself and love the old charm of a boutique hotel then The Russell is the place for you.