Cobwebs started to spin themselves between beams. Faster and faster, until in front of us, glistening from the light behind it, was a gigantic web.
Old buildings had always fascinated me. So, when I was offered to tour the attic of Brookman Hall at City East, I jumped at the opportunity. There’s a lot of history in the building, and being the vintage lover that I am, I was excited at the possibility of seeing what it had to offer. Plus it was usually off-limits and – as I’d soon find out – for good reason.
Before I go into details, a bit of background is in order. The building didn’t become a part of UniSA until 1991. Before then, back in the very early years of the 1900s, it was home to the South Australian School of Mines and Industries. At that time, secondary education was mostly accessible to a privileged few.
On the day of the tour, I spoke to a couple of people on campus before going up to the attic. One of the cleaner’s eyes widened as I told her that I’d be having a look around. “You can’t be serious,” she said. “I won’t go into details, but it’s haunted up there. You wouldn’t catch me going up there.” I played along, but I guess I just don’t really believe in that kind of thing.
After what seemed like an eternity of walking up stairs (stairs and I don’t really get along), I reached the attic. I was with a small group of people who, like me, didn’t really see any sense in getting scared over something that probably wasn’t real anyway.
It wasn’t that impressive, honestly. Once you’ve seen an attic, you’ve seen them all – there wasn’t really much difference apart from the smell of old wood and metal. The photographer that was with us took some photos, but we all knew there wasn’t a whole lot to actually photograph. Writing covered a lot of the walls; names, accompanied by dates. “The students here used to come up here as a reward at the end of year,” the tour guide told us. “They’d kick back and write their names as a kind of tradition.”
As we got closer to an old, wooden door, faint glowing lights began to appear around it. We couldn’t really explain them, but there wasn’t any point in getting scared over nothing. “Maybe you should take a photo,” I suggested to the photographer.
The second he raised the lens to the lights, the attic fell into darkness. In front of us, the door creaked open and let in some light. Cobwebs started to spin themselves between beams. Faster and faster, until in front of us, glistening from the light behind it, was a gigantic web. Not wanting to face the dark, we could only move forwards. We swatted away the cobwebs and went into the room.
It was mostly empty. Inside, there was only a chair, a table, and a staircase. Brown watermarks stretched across the walls in large patterns, and the metallic smell seemed to have gotten way stronger. We looked around. There had been names scrawled almost everywhere in the attic so it wasn’t that strange to see another, except something about this one made it stand out… This one was written, clear as day, in the middle of the ceiling. ‘Peter, Sept 1961, the first time I’m here and the last,’ it said. I tried to shake off the feeling that maybe the cleaner was right about this place. I noticed a loose board, with a piece of paper sticking out so slightly that we could have completely missed it
Father says I bring shame upon our family. I suspect he’s right. The boys here, they’re so much stronger than I am… They’re made of better stuff. Today shall be the first time I come here, and the last. I must confess what I’ve done.
The rest was torn away. The door suddenly closed. Behind us, the tour guide stood next to the door, smiling. “You know,” he began, “I’ve never had people come up so willingly. The boys at end of year used to come up here with hopes of relaxing but I soon showed them. How dare they succeed while I was never able… You walked in so willingly, so keen to get a story.”
And then there was a noise, a massive screeching sound. His flesh began to deteriorate as he cried out. Spiders began to pour out of his eye sockets, towards us faster and faster as more followed. We pushed past him and flung the door open, into the dark. What else could we do but run?
As we got back, the cleaner waited downstairs. “I told you not to go up there,” she said.
She told us the dates were the dates students had gone up there, never to be heard from again.
The man now walks around City East at night, leaving behind him a trail of spiders to watch and wait for his prey: students. Some people say it never happened, but we know better. If you had seen the look in his eyes moments before his flesh tore and rot, you probably would never set foot on campus again. I swore to myself never ever to return to the attic, but every now and then, I see a spider and it sends shivers down my spine. I never found out exactly what happened in ’61, but I couldn’t bring myself to if I tried.
Words by Alyssia Tennant
If you’re feeling brave, check out: