Norfolk Island convict settlement: the most haunting place in the Pacific

According to legend, Norfolk Island is the most haunted place in the Pacific. A stroll between these gravestones reveals the history of what was once Britain’s worst convict colony. So bad was it, convicts sought execution as relief from suffering. One prisoner, Thomas Salsbury Wright, was found guilty of forgery and sent off to Norfolk 99 years old. He lived in horrid conditions and died 6 years later. If I close my eyes, it’s as if I can hear screams, resigned sighs – amidst the sound of waves brushing the sand.

One headstone reads:

Ye Christian Bretheren as ye pass by
Pray on this tomb cast an eye
As I am now so you must be
Prepare yourselves to follow me.

At first sight, I was struck by the stunning location. Surrounded by sturdy Norfolk pines, rolling hills, a gorgeous beach and the Pacific Ocean, it’s an inspirational and beautiful spot to contemplate life, death, the way of nature… Ironic, almost.

When Norfolk Island convict settlement was finally abandoned, descendants of the Bounty mutineers moved in. Tombstones – and the phone directory – reveal plenty of Christians, Quintals, McCoys, all Bounty names. The diminutive island abounds with intriguing history – and nowhere is it reflected better than in this evocative cemetery.

It has been seven years, but I’m still drawn to this island on the other side of the world; perhaps haunted, most certainly haunting.

This post is a contribution to the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Travel Carnival on scary stories, hosted by Joe Tuck @ Hello, Pineapple? Hop over to Hello, Pineapple? to read more scary stuff.

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The convict colony on Norfolk Island is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Australian Convict Sites.

Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.

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  1. lara dunston 22 June 2010 at 0932 - Reply

    Must admit I’m drawn to cemeteries too. Spookily beautiful image!

    Thanks for entering and apologies for taking so long to get to this! Tokyo was hectic to say the least, compounded by terrible jet lag, so not much time for social media, I’m afraid. 🙁 Best of luck!

  2. Suzy 27 June 2010 at 1812 - Reply

    I too love finding supposedly “haunted” places. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it is the lurking of a past that feels so present as you walk through. I will have to experience Norfolk at some point.

  3. Lauren 28 June 2010 at 1155 - Reply

    Sophie, haunting photo and story, indeed. You really brought me there with the back story to the island. Old cemeteries always seem to draw me in, too. Quiet, usually very peaceful, and they leave so much to the imagination. Thank you for giving us a peek into this spot that is so special to you.

  4. Christian 28 June 2010 at 2312 - Reply

    This island looks SO exciting. All that history and I have never even heard of Norfolk Island. Love surprises like that. Thanks!

  5. Dead Context « The Prattler 29 July 2010 at 0504 - Reply

    […] would appear that Norfolk Island is the “most haunted place in the Pacific” the history of what was once Britain’s worst convict colony. So bad was it, convicts sought […]

  6. Indian Bazaars 26 September 2010 at 1540 - Reply

    Its interesting to read this. Experiencing the quiet of an old cemetery and reading something written on a stone tablet so long ago is quite special.

  7. Laurel 20 June 2011 at 1211 - Reply

    Interesting read and I’ve never heard of this place. I can’t even begin to imagine how bad it must have been if prisoners were seeking execution over staying there. It looks like such a beautiful place – guess looks can be deceiving.

  8. Christina (Jandal Road) 5 June 2012 at 1037 - Reply

    An acquaintance of mine is from the Norfolk Islands. Her last name was indeed Christian…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 5 June 2012 at 1256 - Reply

      Christina, that is so cool!

  9. David Hook 30 August 2012 at 2335 - Reply

    Thirty years ago this year I lived on Norfolk Island for 1 year and one night with 7 others saw a huge block of energy shimmering as bright as a neon light – square – and the size of a person. It was shimmering at the top of some steps (a lookout or something) right at the pier at Kingston. One of the people with me decided to start to climb the steps but it disappeared when they touched the bottom step……………. Interesting

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