For many supposedly haunted locations, the possibility of encountering the paranormal can be a huge draw for tourists and their sweet, sweet tourist cash. For those of us that believe or want to believe, any chance to experience something supernatural is alluring. For others, though, it seems that the prospect of encountering members of the spirit realm can be a turn-off. A big one. And for tourist attractions which depend on regular visitors, that can be a huge problem.
The Oakabella Homestead, a popular tourist attraction in Bowes, Western Australia, is learning that the hard way as it tries to shed itself of its haunted reputation. Why would ghosts be such a problem? Because the never-ending hordes of Chinese tour groups tend to stay away from haunted locations. If you’re the proprietor of a tourist attraction in Australia, you need every red Mao you can get, and that means the ghosts have to go - real or not.
Oakabella Homestead has for years been recognized as one of Australia’s most haunted buildings. The homestead was built in 1851 during a time when deadly clashes between white colonists and Australia’s indigenous population were common. According to folklore, the Oakabella Homestead and the surrounding territory were the site of many horrific battles between settlers and indigenous peoples, spilling an untold amount of blood upon the very ground where the homestead was built and defended.
While that macabre history and rumored present-day haunting was once a large draw for the historical attraction, today the site’s business owners Belinda Turner and Brian Snelson think the ghostly reputation needs to go. “Not everyone is into ghosts and that was definitely portrayed in the Facebook comments,” Turner told the ABC, "people will not come here if they think it is haunted so that is why we are bringing it back to the history.” Instead of its ghostly legacy, the site will now focus on its historical accuracy which its owners claim gives a glimpse into what life was like for early settlers in the 1800s.
While a Chinese tourist-oriented re-branding might be necessary to keep the business afloat, I’m left to wonder what will happen to all of the restless spirits who depend on that tourist income. Is it time for a universal basic ghost income? Ghosts are people, too. Er, were. At any rate, the more important question is whether it’s worth it to give up haunted reputations and legends in order to reel in a few more Chinese tour groups. Is no local folklore resilient enough to withstand the forces of capitalism or globalization? How many other legendary hauntings have been lost to history as buildings and historical sites attempt to shed the haunted label?