Every location has its attraction. There is often a famous story or famous figure attached to the property which is one of the many things that draw people to the location. Black Rock House is no different. It was built for non-other than Victoria's first Auditor-General, the very eccentric and 'disgustingly rich' Charles Ebden. When people visit Black Rock House, however, it is not usually Charles they walk away thinking about. It is someone else, that goes by the name of Annie.
Nestled in the back of the living quarters is a quaint little room. It is always one of the first places we head to on an investigation and is usually the place most people ask us if they can go back into. For the last 7 years, we have had quite a lot of communication in this room. What surprises people is that is a mostly positive experience. A lot of people associate the paranormal with 'demons' and think those interactions are all 'negative entities'. In reality, it is very far from the truth, and Annie gives them a glimpse of this.
7 years ago now, I first walked into what we have now affectionately dubbed 'Annie's Room'. From the get-go, it seemed like there was something or someone in there that wanted to talk. We had a lot of different things happen in here that we could not explain no matter how hard we tried. I brought many investigators and even sceptics into this room and they would all walk out scratching their heads. After a period of time, I got the name Annie to come through and I guess it stuck. So we kept referring to this spirit as Annie and allowed her to tell her story which seemed to get a lot of positive responses. What seemed to be something a lot of people picked up on or through communication we received was that for a long time, Annie didn't understand why people were coming in and not acknowledging her. So we made a point and now all of the volunteers do as well to say Hello to Annie whenever they walk into her room.
One of the really frustrating things over the years of investigating Black Rock House is the lack of official records that could give us information on the people that used to live at the house. We have a few names of people who owned the house or were the caretakers, but as it was used as a boarding house much of the time, we don't know a lot about the everyday people that came and went. Part of me had wondered, was there even an Annie? Maybe she had a different name but just went with Annie because that is what we said. Maybe we created her out of nowhere. We have had some people come forward over the years with relatives by the name of Annie they suggested could be our Annie, but besides the name, nothing really fit and we have to acknowledge it was a common name too. None of the information about their relative felt like our Annie so it was never really anything we pursued further.
What was always consistent though was the information complete strangers would come through with each and every investigation. People always pick up on older female energy in this room. Sometimes shy and timid but often willing to have a chat. Some have seen her stating she has long brown hair. Many have made a connection that she is of Irish descent and that she had a very motherly instinct about her and maybe a son who had possibly died and that is why she was still around. We always felt like there was a connection between Annie and the caretaker of the property. Many feel that she passed away in her sleep while she was in her early 50s and perhaps didn't know she had passed and that is why she was confused that people were ignoring her. Annie either likes you or she doesn't. If she doesn't, you don't last very long in the room and either get a splitting headache or feel dizzy and like you need to vomit. Some just feel uncomfortable like they are invading her space and feel the need to leave. We will always respect Annie's wishes and if we feel she doesn't want to talk or wants us to leave, we do. There have also been a few male guests that Annie has taken a liking to over the years, and one of them now makes sense which I will get into a little later.
I suppose it is here that if you are a casual reader of the blog you might not be as excited by the information if you have not visited or know of the Black Rock House stories. What you will relate to thought is the excitement that comes when historical information comes across your desk validating some of the very consistent things you have been receiving over a 7 year period. That is just what happened to us at Black Rock House.
A few weeks ago, the committee of the Friends Of Black Rock House were contacted by a historian who had some information about one of his ancestors that lived at Black Rock House that he had published in his book. The information related to an ancestor by the name of Annie. As I continued to read, my draw dropped to the floor with some of the information and connections that we were now able to put together.
Annie Abina was born in 1827 in the town of Cloyne in Ireland where she went on to marry John Millerick in 1855. It is not known what year she arrived in Australia. The first she appears on official records in Melbourne is a birth certificate of twins Ellen and William Garrett. The twins were born in 1865 and the birth certificate lists 5 prior children of which no record could be found - Kate, 9, Honora, 8, John, 7, Abina, 5, and Joanna, 4. Where this story becomes interesting is the witnesses listed on the birth certificate of the twins. They were Mrs O'Neil and John O'Neil with an address of the same residence. That address turns out to be what we now know of as Black Rock House. Mr John O Neil was the caretaker of Black Rock House where he lived along with his wife and daughter. Until his departure from Ireland, John O'Neil had been employed, as the Revenue Officer in Cobh (the port of Cork). The town of Cloyne where Annie was born and married is nearby. They were quite possibly family friends and it makes sense then as to why they would be boarding at a house he was the caretaker of.
So to recap. We have now a historical record of an Annie Abina Millerick who not only lived at Black Rock House, but gave birth to twins while there. This also validates for us that she was of Irish descent and that she did have a connection with the caretaker of the property. I will go into that a little later.
Sadly, one of Annie's twins died 3 months later and wasn't taken to hospital. It is likely William Garrett who died of debility from birth at the age of 3 months old passed away at Black Rock House. Annie went on to have another son in 1872, however, the birth certificate cannot be found so we cannot verify if she was still living at Black Rock House at the time. She named this son Thomas. Thomas died at the age of 2 and a half years old and she was living in North Melbourne at the time of his death. The medical inquest suggests that he died of meningitis.
Are you still with me? If you have been to Black Rock House at all over the last 7 years, you would have heard us talk about Annie and that we felt often she had some sort of connection to a caretaker. Many felt like he didn't want Annie to talk about things. We also picked up that Annie had a connection with someone called Thomas. We assumed that Thomas was the caretaker, so to see that Annie had a son called Thomas is just a little bit mind-blowing (for me anyway).
In 1874, Annie's husband John died and she remarried 1883 a man by the name of William Wilson Storey. Again we find this information particularly interesting because we have a guest that often visits Black Rock House whom we call Will but has the name of Wilson. Annie seems to take a particular liking to him and a dislike to his wife. The name Wilson has also often come through in our communications.
It seems Annie died in 1878 at the age 51. She didn't die at Black Rock House but after the wedding to William, there is no further record of her, only that her husband William was listed as a widow in 1878 and they had lived in North Melbourne. Here we have confirmation of the age that we had suspected Annie was. There is no record of the death registration of Annie's first husband in Australia that can be found. Nor is there any trace of Annie and William Storey after their marriage, or of Ellen, the twin born in 1865. Because the registers for the parish of Cloyne for the 1850s and 1860s are not available, the details of Annie's marriage and birth of children in Ireland cannot be verified. We would assume these children had either passed or remained in Ireland when she migrated to Australia.
So there is a lot of information to digest. A big thankyou to Vin Kane for sending these two pages of his book published in 2019 which has been able to give us some very precise clues into Annie's life. When I first saw there was information coming through, I didn't really expect any of it to fit, but this has really shocked me as to how much we were able to confirm.
For a long time at Black Rock house, people have picked up on a tall male figure standing in doorways keeping an eye on things and potentially not letting anyone communicate with us. We had always thought they were the caretaker of the property and went by the name of Thomas as again we had that connection between Annie and a Thomas. We had been told many times by people visiting that either Thomas was misunderstood or that it wasn't his name. So is the Thomas we pick up standing in the doorways actually the caretaker Mr John O'Neil? Is the name Thomas such a sensitive topic for Annie because it was a son she lost? There is so much here that I feel it cannot just be a coincidence.
The final question to ask is with all of the places that Annie lived in her life, why is she at Black Rock house? That we cannot answer, but again we always suspected it was due to the death of a child. Perhaps she never recovered from the death of baby William and that is why she stays around? Maybe something significant here at Black Rock House or it was just a place she was fond of.
With this new information, we have quite a lot of things to discuss at Black Rock House and a whole new direction to take our investigations going forward.
So what do you think about Annie? Do you think Annie Abina Millerick is our Annie? (I do!!!)
I want to leave you with a recent photo I found of Black Rock House said to be the earliest known photo of Black Rock house. It features a man in the garden and a well dressed male and female on the verandah of the house. I can't help but wonder, could this be a photo of John O Neil the Caretaker and Annie and her husband John Millerick on the porch? It looks like the female is quite pregnant .... maybe with twins???
Earliest known photograph of Black Rock House, J.P. Lind Photo, Tyne St. off Lygon St., Carlton. Features man and woman under verandah, gardener with rake, and showing viewing tower. Image Source: Sandringham and District Society
If you want to know more about the significance of the mention of the tower, check out my article Tales of Black Rock House: The tower?
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