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Mystery

Mystery

An elusive knot lies at the heart of any good mystery. What draws us in are the secrets and lies, the intrigue and talk of conspiracy. No matter how many times we tell the story, wonder what really happened, what might have been, questions remain. Not everything can be explained. The enigma, in the end, is something you feel.

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and the mystery of her daughter's death

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton.

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton.
Photo: Nigel Wright.

Born 1948

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton's story and the disappearance of her baby daughter, Azaria, was one of the biggest legal and media events in Australia in the 1980s.

An initial inquest supported the Chamberlains' statement that a dingo had entered the family tent and taken the baby. A subsequent trial found Lindy guilty of the murder of her child and she was imprisoned for three years.

Further investigations and legal proceedings eventually cleared the Chamberlains of any connection with the disappearance of her daughter.

Throughout the process there was a media frenzy and intense speculation about Lindy's innocence or guilt. This interest continues today.

Lindy has worked with the National Museum for many years to document the Chamberlain family's story. The Museum holds more than 250 items relating to the ordeal. This includes courtroom sketches, camping equipment, the clothing Lindy wore during the trial and the number from her prison door.

A black dress worn by Azaria is also part of the Museum's National Historical Collection. This dress is a powerful illustration of the frenzy of speculation which surrounded the story. Despite the dress being a one-off creation originally crafted for her son, rumours emerged that Lindy always dressed her daughter in black  a colour which was perceived by some to be an 'unnatural' colour in which to dress a child  and another sign of her apparent guilt.

A piece of the dashboard from the Chamberlain family's car, used in evidence, is on show in the Eternity gallery. Original analysis of the dash indicated that it may have been sprayed with blood. This spray was later found to be sound deadener.

More on the Chamberlain collection at the National Museum

audio_w15 Download 'Conversation with Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton' audio program

Granny Locke and the mystery of the Min Min light

Born 1918

Granny Locke, Photo: Peter Knowles, Boulia Shire Council
Granny Locke. Photo: Peter Knowles, Boulia Shire Council.

The Min Min lights are one of Australia's greatest supernatural mysteries. A sign on the way into Boulia, Queensland reads:

For the next 120km towards Winton you are in the land of the Min Min Light. This unsolved modern mystery is a light that at times follows travellers for long distances – it has been approached but never identified.

These football or watermelon shaped glowing balls of light have been following travellers through the Queensland outback for over sixty years. No satisfactory scientific explanation exists to explain them.

The lights are named after the Min Min hotel in Boulia that burnt down in 1918. Soon after the fire a stockman was followed by a light on his journey to Boulia.

Other reports of the lights soon followed and they have become a local feature and legend. Thousands of sightings of the lights have now been reported. The lights have been known to follow people on horseback, in cars and on foot sometimes for hundreds of kilometres. The lights generally travel around three feet from the ground and are often mistaken for the headlights of another vehicle.

Granny Jean Locke has seen the lights herself on four occasions. A long-time resident of Boulia, Granny Locke is familiar with all of the stories of the lights and passes these stories on to visitors as they pass through Boulia.

There is no object associated with this story, but we have re-created a representation of the lights, as Granny Locke describes them.

Harold Holt and the mystery of his disappearance

19081967

Was it the curse of the Cheviot? Many rumours abound to explain the disappearance of Australia's 18th Prime Minister in surf at Cheviot Beach, Portsea, Victoria, in December 1967. One of them is the curse of the Cheviot. Months before his disappearance, Holt went diving at Cheviot Beach with five companions, each retrieved relics from the Cheviot ship wreck, and then four of the six died in mysterious circumstances. In 1967 no one knew that the Cheviot still entombed the 28 souls who died when it sank in 1887. On display is the porthole that Holt himself retrieved.

More on Harold Holt

The Tichborne Claimant and the mystery of his identity

1829 (1834)1898

Was he Roger Tichborne, heir to the English Tichborne Family estates, or Tom Castro, a butcher from Wagga Wagga, New South Wales? Long lost heir or cunning imposter?

In 1866, Tom Castro claimed he was Sir Roger Tichborne, who was thought to have drowned at sea 11 years earlier. He and his family travelled to England to claim the family fortune, which had passed to a grandson when it was believed Roger had drowned.

Lady Tichborne was convinced this was her long lost son, but the rest of the family thought he was a fraud. The ensuing trial was the longest in English history (until recently beaten by the McLibel trial) and was closely followed by the public in England and Wagga Wagga.

Prior to DNA testing, many ingenious methods including face comparison were used to establish if Tom Castro was indeed Roger Tichborne. The claimant (Tichborne/Castro) lost the case and was imprisoned. His celebrity status enabled his supporters to raise £10,000 in bail.

Ceramic figurines of Tichborne/Castro and a glass plate were produced to commemorate the trial and one of these is on display.

When Tom Castro died in 1898, the family agreed to him being buried in the Tichborne vault. Was he the heir after all?

Tom Sonter and the mystery of the Southern Cloud plane crash

Born 1931

In March 1931 the Southern Cloud took off from Mascot airport in Sydney bound for Melbourne with two crew and six passengers on board. The weather report issued the night before indicated some rain and wind along the route, but nothing that would make flying too hazardous.

Nearly three hours after departing Sydney, however, an updated weather report warned of severe storm activity and gale force winds in the area that the Southern Cloud was flying into. This information could not be relayed to the crew because the plane carried no radio.

Tom Sonter at the Southern Cloud site.
Tom Sonter at the site of the Southern Cloud crash. Photo: Matthew Higgins.

When the Southern Cloud failed to arrive in Melbourne, it triggered one of the largest air searches undertaken to that time in Australia, but no trace of the plane was found.

27 years later, Tom Sonter, a carpenter on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, took a morning off to climb Mount Black Jack, but soon realised time was against him. He decided instead to look for a vantage point from which to photograph the Deep Creek Gorge, but this also proved too difficult. Just as he had decided to return to camp, Tom saw what he thought was the remains of an old mining shaft and went to investigate. On closer inspection he realised it was the wreckage of a plane later identified as the Southern Cloud, thus solving an almost three decade old mystery.

A plaque of remembrance now marks the spot where the Southern Cloud came to rest and memorials to those on board have been built at Cooma and Tumbarumba.

The loss of the Southern Cloud led to safer air travel, with legislation requiring all passenger planes to carry radios.

Stories previously on display

Rex Gilroy
The mystery and legend of the yowie (1990s-today)

Great Levante
Mystery of magic and illusions (1930s-40s)

Harold Bell Lasseter
Lasseter claimed to have found a large reef of gold in the Northern Territory which has never been found (1930s)

Juanita Nielsen
Publisher, activist and heiress murdered in Sydney (1970s)

The Pyjama Girl (Linda Agostini)
Prominent murder mystery (1930s-40s)