Close encounters of the spooky kind
My first memory of something unexplained occurred many years ago, when I was about ten years old.
Life on a farm in the rich dairy country of south western Victoria meant natural encounters were part of daily experiences.
Childhood games, wide open spaces to run, play, seek out, hide and explore.
Days of heat shimmers on the horizon, hay baling season, home made barley water carefully carried outside to quench the thirsts of hot and dusty workers, the herd slowly making their way along the path to the milking sheds. The cats in the yard receiving well aimed streams of warm,fresh milk directly into their waiting mouths from the hand milked cow. My Father was an excellent shot.
We would sit on top of the hay in the shed in that Summer heat, contemplating life as we lived it. There were chores, such as feeding the chooks and creeping into the dark hen house to collect the eggs from unwilling broody hens.In Winter I remember sinking knee deep in the churned up mud of the cow pen, relishing the squishing, sucking sound made from physically pulling legs in rubber boots out of the mire.
Roast dinners appeared with regularity – over the following decades none have ever come up to my Mother’s standard.
Even at that young age, I was not, nor am I now, prone to imagining things. In my adult life, becoming a Tour Guide, I have used imagination to enhance my stories, make them more entertaining, to put life into a building or landmark which no longer exists. Nothing is made up, credibility is lost on untruths.
There were two specific areas on the landscape surrounding the farm which were steeped in atmosphere, one of which was never explored unless parents were with us. This one was….
Lake Elingamite bordered the back of our property. It is a lake formed in a maar crater, with a circa 1500 year record. It has an area of 300 hectares or 740 acres. It was creepy.
One of our nocturnal activities included a family excursion down to the lake bed. I don’t have a clear memory of how we navigated our way. The lake appeared shallow. There was always light from the moon strangely – or lake mist if there was such a thing. Like a movie scene, a horror movie scene, there was a sense of silence, as tendrils of water weeds, similar to seaweed, seemed to grab at our ankles in the murk. Other night creatures would appear, huge biting mosquitos and the leeches. Legs were covered with the bloated, black sucking things which required lit matches or other implements of torture to be applied to remove them. Being young, I wasn’t interested in history, however my Father told us of a family fishing on the lake who drowned. He and other neighbours all mounted a rescue operation, with ropes and manpower only. That families property was close by, separated by a fenceline.
My City cousins visited from Melbourne every year. Being girls similar in age, I had a strong friendship with the eldest.
We would explore all the usual places around the farm. We were on the same wavelength and got on well.
This one time in the middle of the day, we drifted up along the fenceline, separating the two properties, the fishing family and ours. It was close to the edge of the lake. We paused there in the long, dry grass, watching some horses grazing and listening to bird calls.
It is as clear to me as yesterday, that feeling of laid back, carefree Summer days. We had never ventured this far.
Something happened all of a sudden, as we stood there.
Have you ever thought that time had stood still.? Literally. That all movement, sound, just disappeared? In what must have been seconds, we experienced something that we have never forgotten. No bird sounds, nothing, just us there and what then sounded like air rushing into a vacuum, a “ whoomph “sound and then gone. As if all life had been sucked out in those short seconds then returned. We looked across at each other as the horses in the paddock suddenly took off like someone had lit a firecracker under them and the birds songs returned. We bolted, alongside those horses, terrified and startled, back to the safety of the house.
Many times since, whenever we have met up at some family gathering, as adults, we reflect on that day. We long ago ruled out earthquakes or tidal waves in a lake – or the fact that one of us had a strange turn – both of us had an identical experience. Identical.
They say there is a family trait – the second sight, the sixth sense, intuitive –call it what you may. “ It’s in the family” my Uncle Jackie said.
This was not to be the last time.
PS Mary Ann Scanlan, of Lake Elingamite, signed The Womens Suffrage Petition in 1891 ( Office of Public Records) Possibly a relative as we are a feisty lot.
The SS Elingamite was a passenger steamer which sank near the northern tip of mainland New Zealand, amid wild tales of lost treasure…..