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  • Writer's picturesamantha battams

Ghosts, Ghosting & Love Stories

Updated: Apr 19, 2022

I hope everyone is enjoying the last hours of their #Easter2022 long weekend. I have had a great weekend, catching up with family and friends: an Easter egg hunt at Modbury Civic Park (great playground!), walking part of the #HeysenTrail at Encounter Bay and around #GraniteIsland, having lunch at The Salopian Inn at #McLarenVale, and walking along the #KingstonParkCoastalReserve today. So thankful to be able to be outdoors and to catch up with family and friends.

Easter 1920 is the setting of my latest book The Rhynie Poisoning Case: The True Crimes of Alexander Newland Lee, set in post WWI Adelaide. In 1920 there was strong anti-German sentiment, and the largely Prussian-German community was ostracised (although being amongst the first European settlers in the state), with constant cries of ‘A leopard does not change his spots!’ in the newspaper. This social environment led to the objectification of a key witness in the case – young ‘Dolly Scholz,’ a nurse of Prussian origin working at The Willows Hospital in the #BarossaValley (now The Willows Cellar Door) where Alexander found himself following a shearing accident. This week is the #BookLaunch of the The Rhynie Poisoning Case, on Friday 22 April at 7pm at Studio 99 Art and Whiskey, Port Adelaide (postponed from January due to COVID-19). The fantastic human rights lawyer and friend Claire O’Connor SC will launch the book and I will speak about the book in interview format and do a reading. It is always a good night at Studio 99, look forward to catching up with people there! Bookings for the event can be made here.

More information on The Rhynie Poisoning Case can be found in The Adelaide Show podcast by entertaining host Steve Davis, which I did with Alison Oborn. Alison owns and leads The Haunted Horizon ghost tours at the Old Adelaide Gaol, where Alexander Newland Lee was hanged in July 1920. Alison has written the book ‘Ghosts of the Past – Adelaide Gaol Ghosts.’

I will also be speaking about The Rhynie Poisoning Case during History Month at the City of Charles Sturt Woodville Civic Library at 11am on the 14th May and at the Northern Districts Family History Group on the 23rd April (1pm) at Salisbury.

I also recently had the opportunity to participate in a Clare Mini-Writers Festival, organised by fellow author Portia Stanton-Noble, and stayed at The Heritage Garden at Sevenhill and the garden is absolutely magnificent! The owner Walter Duncan has interesting links to early SA European Pioneers, and artists such as Hans and Nora Heysen. I bought their coffee table book ‘The Heritage Garden,’ (2021) with beautiful pictures of their roses in bloom, which tells some of this history.

Books read

I have read an eclectic mix of books so far this year. This includes Attached by Dr Amir Levine and Rachel Heller (2010), which is based on the ‘science’ of adult attachment and is both practical and theoretical - I think everyone should read this book! I have always known about attachment theory from my child development studies in my undergraduate Psychology degree, but this book explains how insecure attachment can manifest in adult relationships and behaviours (for example, the modern phenomena of ghosting!) and offers practical strategies for sustainable relationships.

This book contrasts with another I have nearly finished reading - Love Stories by journalist Trent Dalton (2021), which is a beautiful, hopeful book and highly recommended, I LOVE THIS BOOK – it is about love in all its permutations – a delightful book for these times. The author describes it as ‘a joyous, heart-on-the-sleeve tribute to the wonder of love.’ The author intersperses the stories collected from passers-by in Brisbane mall with his own reflections and poems, such as this:

Love Can Mend the Broken Things But Nothing Can Survive Being Lowered into Molten Steel

Love can mend the broken things

The beat-up plans and the wedding rings

Love can fix the broken hearts

The robot souls and the missing parts

Love can raise the poet’s font

The need, the lust, the love, the want

Love can light the Brisbane sky

To let us know now why we cry

(Trent Dalton, Love Stories, p221)

This year I started the year reading Super Attractor (2019), interested to read what New York Times Number 1 Bestseller Gabby Bernstein had to say. I have previously been interested in Jungian psychology and have the book of collected essays Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal (Main, 1997). In his writing ‘On Synchronicity,’ Swiss-German psychiatrist Jung refers to ‘a meaningful coincidence of two or more events, where something other than the probability of chance is involved.’ He refers to ‘spontaneous, meaningful coincidences of so high a degree of improbability as to appear flatly unbelievable.’ Synchronicity is described as ‘an acausal connecting principle,’ which may help to bring meaningful understanding. Bernstein appears to draw upon such Jungian concepts, along with cognitive psychology, principles of meditation – and hope - to create an extremely popular series of books and large following.

I have at times experienced strong synchronicity, such as when travelling, or when others are travelling, and I’ve been a host. Bernstein would see such ‘signs’ as spiritual guidance from a higher power (I remember one young backpacker I hosted saying they thought they were ‘being passed by God from one person to another in Australia’). I found this book to be at once hopeful and disheartening. It situates people’s experiences in terms of their individual ‘ability to manifest’ and not to social, environmental and economic realities. Participating in Gabby’s (mainly American based) online community at the start of the year was enlightening as there were many people online out of work (sometimes due to COVID-19) or without a steady home who were hoping to manifest a job, or a house that they could rent using the principles outlined in the book. I wondered how public and social policy is perceived in all of this.

On the topic of the paranormal, I have also read Great Australian Mysteries 2 by the late journalist and author John Pinkney (2006), which was given to me. The majority of the stories were of alleged sightings of UFOs and ghosts, but one story that stood out was the ‘Mystery of the Man that Never Was’ – John Friedrich (Hohenberger), the CEO of the former Victorian Safety Council – dubbed ‘Australia’s Greatest Conman.’ I only vaguely recalled this story from the early 1990s. The VSC was purportedly set up to rescue citizens from fires, floods and ‘other mishaps’ but was said to conduct para-military training (and Pinkney suggests it had links to espionage). The VSC, according to Pinkney, was an organisation that was not officially funded by governments but received money from 23 different financial institutions. Friedrich had been given a Department of Defence security clearance and had access to Australian air bases. Friedrich was either born in West Germany or South Australia and according to Pinkney entered Australia on a 72 hour temporary visa in 1945 under a different name (following an alleged con in Germany), but then stayed in South Australia, working on a Uniting Church Aboriginal missions, including at Ernabella, where he met and married a nurse called Shirley after he was treated by her for a serious infection. After a stint on Mornington Island, Friedrich was hired as an Engineer and later as Executive Director of the VSC, and funds were misappropriated through the organisation. He ended up being charged with 91 counts of obtaining property by deception. Friedrich was found dead four days after he appeared in court for fraud involving over $296 million dollars. His death was ruled to be suicide, but Pinkney suggests that Friedrich may have been murdered and that mystery still surrounds his death. Friedrich was working on an autobiography with author Richard Flanagan when he died, which was published posthumously where he describes having been recruited by the CIA to work against far-left wing extremists, across Asia, Egypt, New Zealand and the former West Germany. This entire story reminded me of The Fabulist: The Incredible Story of Louis De Rougemont by Rod Howard (2006), about a French-Swiss traveller of uncertain identity that entertained British and European audiences in the late 1890s with his fanciful stories of living in Australia - and was bigger than Dr Livingstone at the time.

Upcoming Election

Which gets me on to politics….With the federal election hovering, I am answering Moira Were's AM call to state what I stand for and the issues I will consider when voting. This election I will be voting on issues such as 1) strategies to support early childhood development and a ‘fair start’ in life 2) a treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians 3) strategies to address the progressively rising incarceration rate, particularly for Aboriginal people, 4) action on climate change and strategies to shift toward renewable energy 5) responses to national emergencies that are not based on political bias, 6) action on gendered violence to address the domestic and family violence epidemic and trying to put a stop to one woman dying every 9 days, 7) strategies to address gender inequality to halt Australia further slipping in the gender equality rankings, 8) social housing to reduce all forms of homelessness, 9) more humane treatment of asylum seekers and refugees and 10) a federal ICAC. My hope is that the public will not be gaslighted through the remainder of the election campaign, that people will remember things such as the climate change denialism of our government (supported by the MSM), the so-called ‘pork barrelling,’ lack of follow through on funding for DFV services, or the treatment of women in parliament. I hope that we reflect upon the rising inequality within our society (including health inequality) and the problems arising from this (such as mental health), about the ‘big picture’ for Australia, and bold leadership. I will leave this blog with an image from the statue of Switzerland and Geneva, in the heart of Geneva, with the motto 'One for All, All for One'....

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