I recently caught wind of an old story, not far from my home.
Back in the late ‘70s, a child was playing on a set of swings in Lions Park, Lismore and fell off. A swing came back and hit the child, causing a fatal blow. Legend has it, that on windless nights thereafter, the swings rocked back and forth and unearthly screams would emanate from the forest.
The swings were soon removed and destroyed. However the screams continued, and pretty soon the happy families and laughing children, once so familiar with the park, had left. Lions Park was abandoned.
It still is.
The story is listed on Australian paranormal and ghost websites, which allege Lions Park to be conspicuously located in South Lismore, next to the now abandoned Lismore station. After further investigation, however, I found out these sites were incorrect. A local told me Lions Park had in fact moved from its original location on the outskirts of town.
Now I’m a fairly sceptical person, I don’t believe in ghosts, or life after death. So why did I decide to investigate a haunted legend? I’m also a curious person, and realising I know very little, the mere possibility of its existence fascinated me.
Arriving at the front gate, I admit, I was a little apprehensive, mostly because the place really looked forsaken. Evidently, this story was hush hush and the fact no one had done anything with the place since was also a little unnerving. Why had this forest lay abandoned for over 30 years?
Reminding myself I didn’t believe in ghosts, I wandered through the guardian pillars and into the reserve. An unkempt trail led me into the park. Lines of gossamer trailed across the pathway, telling me this was not something a lot of people did, which spooked me a little. I was alone in an abandoned, allegedly haunted forest.
The forest was wild and very beautiful. It was 10am on a bright sunny day, sunlight pierced the forest canopy, spraying in dappled clusters throughout this seemingly forgotten place. The odd bush turkey rustled about, making me feel not so alone. A few more metres and I came to a clearing with two holes in the ground. Evidently, this was where the swings once stood. I thought about the past, how places bear witness to many stories. However I felt nothing, heard nothing.
I continued, wandering down to the river and further into the bush. Soon after, I returned, deciding to drive into Lismore, to the new Lions Park, where the old park’s guardian lion heads had been taken. The park is now called W. Tresise Railway Park. From here I walked onto old Lismore station and thought about how this place was once the scene of bustling activity, now also abandoned, seemingly forgotten.
Driving home, I remembered the local saying there was another entrance to the old park, so I pulled over and wandered again into the forest. Exploring the other side of the river, I saw a canvas shelter over some logs, someone’s resting place. On my return, I heard twice, the faint but very audible call of a small child, uttering a sound like “mama”. I’m not sure if it was just an earthly child, but no children were about.
This made me think about what a friend had told me, that they believed a ghost was a person “trapped in between worlds”. That can’t be much fun I thought, and for a moment I felt like helping.
But it was only a passing notion, and I left.
Update: Miss S (see comments below) has sent me this still shot of her experience (taken from iPhone video footage) inside the old Lions Park at night. Note the grey figure. What do you think? Fact or fiction?