Haunted pub sale includes caravan park, resident ghost

THE ghost of an old punter who "smoked like blue blazes and worked like buggery" is included in the bargain sale price of this iconic Far North Queensland pub.

Garradunga Hotel owner Ian "Cambo" Campbell has quietly had his historic watering hole on the market for the past few years, but is ramping up a campaign saying he is now willing to "consider offers".

An old article from the Cairns Post reveals the ghostly history of Garradunga Hotel.
An old article from the Cairns Post reveals the ghostly history of Garradunga Hotel.

The old pub - a favourite drinking spot for NRL legend Billy Slater's dad, Ron Slater - features the bar, publican living quarters, a commercial kitchen and seven hotel rooms.

It also features the ghost of Athol Johnson, a favourite old boarder who died in his room upstairs.

"He originally came from Ballina but he was working up here," Mr Campbell said.

"Everyone said he was a really nice bloke.

"He's definitely friendly.

"I saw him walking up the hall one night.

"I said, 'A-a-a-a-athol', like that and he looked around at me and walked straight through the wall.

"A lot of people say they see a light flying around their room, or sometimes feel something pushing on their chest.

"But he's never done any harm."

Billy Slater's dad Ron (centre) and mum Judy (right) watch their boy play his last home game in the NRL on the screens at the Garradunga Hotel.
Billy Slater's dad Ron (centre) and mum Judy (right) watch their boy play his last home game in the NRL on the screens at the Garradunga Hotel.

An old Cairns Post article written about a decade after Athol's death details punters' numerous run-ins with the well-mannered spectre.

"I was singing Baby Blue," recalled Pete, one of the blokes holding up the bar.

"And this fellow I couldn't get a good look at started talking with a real Australian accent.

"He asked me if I liked singing.

Garradunga Hotel Owner Ian 'Cambo' Campbell with his trusty dog Odie. PHOTO: LACHIE MILLARD
Garradunga Hotel Owner Ian 'Cambo' Campbell with his trusty dog Odie. PHOTO: LACHIE MILLARD

"I said yeah, I liked singing every now and then.

"He told me he used to live here years ago.

"He was dressed old-fashioned - about the style of the '50s or '60s with dark slacks.

"I was walking out and I thought, 'geez that bloke looks like he's going somewhere'.

"I looked over my shoulder and he just faded in front of the wash basin - sort of quickly."

The ghost of Garradunga is set to haunt the historic pub — but he means well!
The ghost of Garradunga is set to haunt the historic pub — but he means well!

Another spotted someone talking on a phone at the bottom of the stairs, but the phone had been removed years earlier.

One of Athol's contemporaries was Brian Veivers, a farmer who knew Athol well when he lived in the area.

"He was a terrific bloke," Brian told the Cairns Post so many years ago.

"One of the nicest blokes I ever knew.

"He came from Ballina in New South Wales and was in the war, although he never left the country."

A young Billy Slater celebrates his 21st birthday party at Garradunga in 2004.
A young Billy Slater celebrates his 21st birthday party at Garradunga in 2004.

Mr Campbell suggested alcohol consumption could perhaps make people more susceptible to becoming conduits to the supernatural world.

"I always say it depends on how much you drink," he said.

"One of the locals reckons he has seen him plenty - he's had him in the toilet, talking to him."

The Garradunga rain gauge.
The Garradunga rain gauge.

The pub last year gained council approval to have a formal caravan park out the back to cash in on the grey nomad trade.

"We missed out last year because they closed the bridge for about six months," Mr Campbell said.

"But now the bridge is finished it should be a good year."

The beautiful old pub (and it’s resident spook) is on the market.
The beautiful old pub (and it’s resident spook) is on the market.

The pub was built in 1888 and rebuilt in 1935 after being burnt down.

It is believed to have hosted General MacArthur, and Errol Flynn on his way to New Guinea, and a window still carries the scar of a bullet where a man shot himself outside the pub.

Mr Campbell said he was selling the pub due to health concerns but believed it would bring plenty of joy to someone else's life.

Ron Slater rips into a cold one. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
Ron Slater rips into a cold one. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

"Just make friends with the locals, look after them - that's the main thing," he said to any prospective publicans.

"It's a great pub with the coldest beer in the land."



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