Written by Amanda Moloney
On Monday night I was lucky enough to attend a Halloween Dinner that the National Hotel put on with special guests West Coast Paranormal. Most buildings in historical Fremantle retain the gorgeous turn of the century charm and architecture and the National Hotel certainly did not disappoint. As I walked down the main drag in Fremantle and approached the hotel I was taken aback by the beautiful facade of the building. The building itself actually dates back to 1860 and is four stories of exquisite balconies, arched windows and wrought iron. Just the sort of building that looks like it should have a friendly spook or two just hanging around.
When it first opened in 1868 the then two storey building was a shopfront, then it converted to the National Bank in the 1870’s. By 1886 it became a hotel and retained the name of the bank. In 1902 an architect was employed and the hotel was expanded to 5 storeys including a basement. Unfortunately the hotel has suffered several fires during its life, the last one in 2007 which seriously gutted the interior of the hotel. Through hard work the building has been returned to its former glory while boasting many modern additions.
For the evening we were promised a delicious 3 course meal with wine accompanied by ghostly stories of Fremantle and a presentation by West Coast Paranormal so I was looking forward to how the night would pan out. I entered the hotel and was directed to head up the staircase which was suitably dark adorned only with tea-lights on each step. A great visual start to a hopefully spooky evening! The staff at the National had gone to great lengths, making sure the room looked amazing. Tables covered in black cloth were decorated by wax covered candelabras and candles in old wine bottles, placed ever so carefully on old worn books and covered in cobwebs and spiders. The perfect level of spookyliciousness right there! The room had a great dark feel, only illuminated by the candlelight. I found my seat and waited for the evening to start.
The owner of the hotel Karl Bueller was a very amicable host and welcomed everyone to the night with a couple of spooky short stories of the Fremantle area and the National Hotel, including a murder of a councillor at the town hall. I asked him what he hoped to achieve with the evening
“It’s really to explore the whole paranormal and the ghosts of Fremantle. It’s such a historic town I say it’s such an interesting topic to explore!”
The staff headed around the tables placing drinks and bringing our first course of the evening, a delightful sounding butternut squash soup accompanied by bread. I grabbed myself a glass of “blood” and waited patiently. If wine wasn’t your thing there was also the option of several cocktails aptly named “The Corpse Reviver” and “Death Flip”. The soup was, in one word, amazing! So beautifully rich, smooth and full of savoury flavours. I’ll be completely honest here - I did consider stealing the one from my neighbour who hadn’t turned up ;) What would have made it perfect would’ve been to have an ‘eyeball’ in the soup that you scooped up as you ate! Staff cleared the table and we welcomed Karl back to regale us with a few more stories of reportedly haunted buildings around the local area ranging from gaols to town halls to art centres. We also heard a rather humorous report from a turn of the century newspaper regaling what can happen when one happens to drink alcohol BEFORE attending a funeral. This made me laugh as they described many eye witness reports of an apparent spirit or zombie desperately trying to escape out of an open grave! The poor grave digger had jumped in to fix something and couldn’t get back out.
Second course arrived and looked incredible! This time around we had a lamb rack together with roasted cauliflower, pomme puree (fancy word for potato), red cabbage and lamb jus, which of course was a lovely shade of red so it looked like our meal was covered in blood. The lamb was perfectly cooked and the vegetables added a great side to the meat.
After the second course we got to hear from West Coast Paranormal. This group has been around in one form or another for close to 10 years and have had many amazing experiences. We heard from Margaret Zammit, Kylie Lane and Lisa Maree Stocker. They each shared some of their favourite personal paranormal experiences and also showed some video footage along with EVP’s, a couple of these from the National Hotel itself. My favourite was hearing an EVP of someone asking them to ‘help me’ when they were in an old mental asylum. They also had some of their equipment there from paranormal investigations and encouraged people to come take a look and to ask questions.
Next it was time for desert which I was really looking forward to as we were promised something special. The chef had gone to a great effort and we all received our very own chocolate coffin complete with a meringue gravestone. The coffin itself was filled with a heavenly (pun intended) chocolate, strawberry and cream dessert. The whole thing was divine, not too sweet and just enough to finish of the meal nicely! After desert had been cleared the guests were in for a special surprise as Karl invited everyone upstairs to the third and fourth floors where West Coast Paranormal had most of their experiences. I headed up a little later than the rest of the group so by the time I got to the third floor they’d moved on. This floor was in the middle of renovations so it was a little creepy walking around there by myself after hearing some of the stories just told. Especially when I came across a dark room and saw a figure illuminated by the window, only to find out it was a mannequin! The rooftop itself allowed an amazing 360 degree view of Fremantle and in summer I’m sure is going to be a massive hit with the patrons.
That concluded the evening and I spoke to several people who were regaling their own experiences with the paranormal. It was great seeing that people felt open and comfortable enough to discuss these things after the dinner. Karl and his staff, along with the girls from West Coast Paranormal put on a great evening and I highly recommend that you keep an eye on the National Hotel for more events as you will be well looked after. One gentleman I spoke to had the following to say
“I’m here on a holiday from the UK and it’s been a very, very fascinating evening. Lovely meal and lots of fascinating information”
Raymond Johnson UK
All in all a great way to spend a Halloween evening!