Cousin Jack’s B&B – A Brief History
Cousin Jack’s B&B has to be one of the most charming cottages in Moonta. On arriving, the first thing we noticed about this 1860s cottage, was the chimney which was doing its best impersonation of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. As our eyes travelled down the external wall, we noticed it too not only leaned but also had a definite curve to it. Somebody obviously didn’t have a spirit level in those days! As we dragged our bags onto the veranda, this is when we experienced the strangest optical illusion of all. We found ourselves wanting to lean steeply to one side as we walked on it. The brain was attempting to level our bodies up to the lean of the cottage. It was such a bizarre but curious effect.
It is at this point I will remind people that this is the true charm of these old miner cottages. With no knowledge of house building, often the walls and chimneys were not built with the skill and precision that they are today. Yet these cottages ooze character and charm and let’s not forget, still stand as strong today as the day they were built. A true testament to the miners of old who constructed them!
Moonta is a copper mining town on the Yorke Peninsula about 170 km from Adelaide. European settlers arrived in South Australia in 1836 and quickly spread out, looking for farming opportunities. In the 1840s, pastoralists had settled on the Yorke Peninsula, which was home to the indigenous Nharangga people. By this time, the State of South Australia was in financial trouble. Governor Gawler had invested a lot of money into new structures and Government building upgrades, such as the expensive Adelaide Gaol. He had expected England to send more money but was greatly disappointed. Governor Gawler was quickly told they were on their own and he was even called back to the U.K. to explain this folly. If silver hadn’t been discovered at Glen Osmond and copper in Kapunda, Burra, Kadina, Wallaroo and Moonta then the history of the State of South Australia would have been very different.
With their new fortune discovered, to successfully mine the copper, they needed good miners and it was the Cornish miners who answered the call.
One of these was the Hand family. Samuel John Hand had been born in Luydgven in Cornwall, and when only a year old, he travelled out to South Australia with his parents Samuel and Elizabeth Hand. They were miners and heard, like many others from Cornwall, that there was a good living to be made in the copper mines now operating in this ‘new land’. At first, they settled and worked in Kadina, but the gold rush in Victoria naturally drew them there for a while, before moving back to Moonta in 1872. They took up residence in the cottage that is now known as Cousin Jack’s. Samuel and Elizabeth lived there until they died in 1916 and 1908 and now lie peacefully in Moonta cemetery.
Their second oldest child, Samuel John Hand, who had been one of eleven children, became well known in the town of Moonta. He was not only a miner but also became a preacher at the beautiful historic Methodist Church, which sits only metres away from Cousin Jack’s. He also became a Masonic Lodge member, and some of his regalia can still be seen in the Moonta Mines Museum. Marrying Mary Moyle in 1886, they went on to have six children. Samuel eventually moved away from Moonta and spent his last 18 years living in Norwood.
Over the years, the cottage became more and more run down until somebody saw its potential. Now it is a shining tribute to its era, the resourcefulness of those Cornish miners, and also to the previous and present owners who saw what it could be once more.
Deaths and Ghost Stories
The fantastic Sandy Hilbert, one of our Patreon Subscribers, invited us to Moonta/Wallaroo to investigate some of the sites she had heard to be haunted. As always, when somebody finds us a location, we invite them to join us for the night. We have investigated with Sandy before, and she runs her own little paranormal team in Moonta. This time she invited us to stay at Cousin Jack’s, a cottage she had looked after for many years.
On questioning Sandy why we were there investigating, she replied “I have looked after this place for many years, for different people and through those years have had reports from different people staying here. They report hearing sounds that don’t quite fit with a solid stone house, lots of movement, shuffling and voices”.
I asked if there had been any recent reports and she replied that only a couple of weeks earlier they had a couple staying there who reported that somebody from ‘yesteryear’ appeared to be staying there with them.
“Have you had anything personal yourself?” I enquired.
Sandy shook her head. “No, but I never actually feel alone here. It is a very comfortable feel, though”.
Sandy confirmed to date it had only been sounds, so we discussed whether it could just be residual. One hypothesis for a residual haunting is that maybe a building will hold on to sounds, much like a recording, and then for whatever reason replay. So, the sounds are not a ghost as such, just sounds the building has held on to.
Our Paranormal Investigation at Cousin Jack’s
Before I write about the following investigation at Cousin Jack’s, it is important to explain where else we had visited that very afternoon. Sandy had approached us and asked if we would like to visit Elizabeth Woolcock’s cottage.
This was the one cottage I personally had been longing to see but had never been able to find. You can read more about Elizabeth Woolcock from earlier blogs on the Adelaide Gaol. Elizabeth was the only woman to be hanged in South Australia, for having poisoned her husband, Thomas Woolcock. To finally see and stand in the house where she lived and where the tragic event took place, was almost a pilgrimage for me, it helped finalise the picture.
I will add that there is a controversy as to whether the cottage is truly where she lived. It has been believed to be by some, but other locals claim the actual house was knocked down long ago. Either way, I was willing to take that opportunity, to see the possible home of the person I had been talking about for many years on my tours.
As we pulled into the driveway of the charming miner’s cottage, we were met by Nat, the new owner of ‘Serenity’. Nat was so accommodating and welcomed us into her home. She had purchased it, unaware of the history of the cottage. It wasn’t until a local mentioned it to her, that she finally realised what a special piece of history she now owned. Nat gave us a quick tour, showing us the bedroom where Thomas Woolcock was said to have passed away and the parlour where the initial inquest took place.
While Kag and I chatted to Nat and her family outside, Sandy asked permission to have a little play. With permission granted, but no ghost hunting equipment with us, Sandy instead brought up on her phone, GhostTube and GhostVox. With nothing much happening, it wasn’t long before she rejoined us.
After a pleasant afternoon chatting and forging new friendships, we returned to Cousin Jack’s and later that evening prepared to investigate once more. We were unaware of how important this visit would be to our investigation later that evening.
We split up, with Kag and Sandy taking the back lounge area, and myself doing a lone vigil in the front sitting room. I had set up toys and the two antique dolls I had brought with us. It was by an old toy cow that Kag had brought, a flashing cat ball triggered, casting its strobing blue and red light around the room. Hoping it was a connection, I asked, “Is there a child here who likes that toy?”. It flashed one more time before going still.
Moving on to the ghost box/portal (broken radio), the only clear word at first, was “leave”. I explained that I couldn’t leave, as I was staying the night there. I was greeted with what appeared to be an “Oh, f#@k”. Somebody, who still lived there, appeared to not share my excitement!
We all went back into the back lounge to try an Estes Experiment (Ghost box with headphones) and decided to put Sandy on for a change. Sandy made herself comfortable on the sofa, shutting her eyes and pushing the headphones closer to her ears to focus on the words coming through.
As we started, at first we thought a child was coming through, as she repeated several times “A Kid” and then “Mischief”. When we explored this, the responses became a little more abusive. “Oh, I think I just got sworn at!” Sandy exclaimed.
Sandy suddenly spat out “Poison!” before following with “Oh… it just said Bitch!”.
As Kag and I, reacted with surprise, a thought was starting to grow in my head. “Did your wife kill you?” as I waited for a response I turned to Kag “Do you know what, we have just been to Thomas Woolcock’s house today, what is to stop him from following us back here?”
As I asked if it was Thomas, Sandy replied “Oh, that was a bad word!”.
I turned back to Kag, “Well he was abusive.” I turned back to Sandy. “Thomas, have you followed us here?”
“Oh, that was the ‘C’ word!” Sandy responded before following up with “Yes”, and a cold sensation started to creep over our skin.
I continued, “Thomas, did you follow us because you wanted the story known?” the response from Sandy was “Yep… forgot”.
“That’s getting a bit creepy, isn’t it?” Kag looked across at me. We were both doubly curious now.
“Truth” Sandy interjected our thoughts.
“What is the truth?” I asked. “Stop!” was the response.
I continued “You don’t want to talk anymore?” Sandy reaffirmed with “Enough!”.
I asked if Thomas would like us to go back to his house, and Sandy shifted uncomfortably in her seat “Oh, that was a bad ‘C’ word!” and then she followed it up with “Stop” again.
“What’s going on?” Sandy’s voice changed. Suddenly the mood shifted, as did the kind of responses we were getting. After answering that we were just trying to talk to Thomas, Sandy added “Hello”. It was almost as if a second person had stepped in.
“Hello” I replied back, “who are we talking to?”
“I think it just said, Robbie” came Sandy’s response on cue.
“Are we back to who owned this home?” I continued. I looked at Kag “it’s almost as if he popped in and has now left… that was bizarre!”.
With that, we went up to Sandy to let her know we had finished. Kag sat down gently beside her and asked if she thought the words had meant anything. Sandy replied, “no, I just zoned into the words”. We then went on to tell her how we had almost had a conversation with somebody and asked her if she remembered where we had been today. Her face looked confused at first until it dawned on her what we were alluding to. “Wow, wow, oh, that’s so cool!” she exclaimed.
With that, we called it a night. Was it Thomas Woolcock, our imagination or something playing with us… who knows. We are still unsure whether Cousin Jack’s is actually haunted or not or whether it is just residual sounds. After all, most of what had happened seemed unrelated to the cottage itself. One thing we can say, we slept peacefully for the two nights we were there. It has a wonderful homely feel, and we did not have any ‘ghostly disturbances’ during our stay.
We cannot recommend Cousin Jack’s enough for your stay when visiting Moonta. You can find it here on Country Getaways
Watch the full video of our Investigation at Cousin Jack’s B&B
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Written by Alison Oborn
Author, Paranormal Investigator, Tour Operator