Fright at the Museum

When I’d started working as a curator at Griffith Pioneer Park Museum, I spent time visiting each of the 42 buildings and testing my intuition.

As I’d walk into each of the historic and recreated buildings I’d get a feel for their age and something else. I recall a couple of buildings made an impression and one was Fairview Cottage.

The building is a Cypress Pine ‘drop-log’ construction from the late Nineteenth Century built by Alfred Hill with his sons and a carpenter.

Like many old homes, it’s dark inside with low ceilings and lower doorways. One of the previous curators at the Museum installed an exhibit that shows a family tree of the Hill family with details including a few tragedies.

The name Fairview came from Hill’s observation there was “a fair view of the work ahead” of him when he looked out from the porch at the wooded landscape at Tabbita, some miles outside Griffith. It would have taken decades to clear the land for agriculture.

The cottage was inhabited by three of Hill’s sons for most of their lives, with the last dying there in 1952. The building was donated and relocated to the proposed folk museum in 1969, which was opened in 1971 by Elizabeth Roberts, a niece and sometime housekeeper for the Hill brothers.

In the first few months of my new jobs I heard a few spooky stories. A couple of the volunteers at the Park spoke of seeing a shadowy figure moving between the buildings around Fairview.

One spoke of having to double-check the Park at closing to ensure that everyone had left after locking the gates.

Another spoke of hearing footsteps in the early mornings outside the kitchen used to prepare meals for visiting tour groups.

Then last year I heard the story of a visiting psychic who claimed to see a ghost in the grounds at Pioneer Park Museum.

She described a large bearded man who was moving around and, when led to 'Fairview', identified him in the family tree as the eldest of the Hill children. James had lived at the cottage all his life.

On the way to the building the psychic experienced breathing difficulties and asked if someone had drowned or suffered from asthma. The family tree described the Hill’s son Daniel who died from pneumonia.

While I haven’t felt anything other than growing unease, it’s not surprising that ghost stories are populating my knowledge of Fairview Cottage.

Last summer a young girl was playing in the garden out front of the building until she complained of being hit in the face by a man yet there was no one there.

I find it fascinating there are increasing numbers of ghost stories about Fairview Cottage yet cannot think of them as anything more than stories, except when I’m alone at closing time.

Then I sometimes wonder if I’ll see a ghost.