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The curse of Devil's Pool and 19 lives lost: The legend behind Queensland's most haunted spot.

In beautiful far north Queensland, there's a spot nestled in the Australian bush where the confluence of three streams among a group of boulders creates natural pools of water.

The pools are quite cool, even in the blistering summer months, and after a 1.3 kilometre trek into the famous tourist attraction, just south of Cairns, a swim often beckons.

To tourists, it's known as the Babinda Boulders, but to locals it's referred to by its main attraction: The Devil's Pool. 


According to Dreamtime legend and the local Aboriginal community of Babinda, The Devil's Pool has a haunted history. 

The tale goes that a beautiful young girl called Oolana from the Yindinji Tribe married a respected elder called Waroonoo. But shortly after they wed, a young, handsome man from another tribe came into Oolana's life and they fell in love. Realising their adulterous crime together, they fled into the valleys. 

They were caught by the tribe elders, but Oolana broke free from her captors and threw herself into the Babinda Boulders calling for Dyga, her lover, to follow her.

As Dyga hit the waters, her anguished cries for her lost lover turned the still waters into a rushing torrent.

It's said to be one of Australia's most haunted spots, claiming the lives of at least 19 people since 1959.

According to Aboriginal legend, Oolana's spirit still guards the boulders, and her calls to Dyga can still be heard. 

All but two of the known victims killed at the popular tourist spot have been male. 

Legend says Oolana lures people close to her beautiful waters, as she forever searches for her own lost lover. 

The spot where the water foams is believed to be the most lethal during the wet season, but as Aboriginal elders will tell you, it can be dangerous all year round. Elders colloquially call the haunted spot the "Washing Machine", referring to the undercurrent that makes it near impossible for victims to swim to safety.


Brisbane father Shanon Hoffman, 37, became the pool's 19th victim on October 19, 2020. His body was found 200m from where he went swimming.

Just seven months earlier in April 2020, Madison Tam, 18, went paddling in the pool and got sucked under the water into a 'chute' that pulled her downstream to a depth of eight metres. She failed to resurface.

Shanon Hoffman and Madison Tam both died at Devil's Pool in 2020. Image: Facebook.

In 2008, Tasmanian man James Bennett was swimming in what his friends described as "calm waters" when he was suddenly pulled backwards by an invisible force towards the rapids at the end of the pool. 

The 23-year-old reached for a branch which snapped before his head went under. 


It was Bennett's death that finally made authorities declare the site a no-go zone. 

A sign was erected that reads: "This creek has claimed many lives. Wet rocks are extremely slippery. Beware of rapidly rising water levels. Do not swim in main creek downstream of this point. This track leads to lookouts only. For your safety keep to walking track provided."

James Bennett drowned at Babinda Boulders in November 2008.Image: Facebook.

Babinda court records show 11 people died between 1959 and 1983, and although most reports suggest there have been 19 fatalities since those records began, it's believed many others have tragically died there, with old newspaper articles suggesting as much.


According to an article in The Cairns Post, a man called T. Winterbottom was swept away in the area in 1933.

"It is problematical as to where the body can be, as the first pool under the falls proper is of a tremendous depth, and, perhaps the body may be lodged in crevices or caves which may exist beneath this water. A further search of the Devil’s Pool will be made," reads the report.

There are also reports that an eight-year-old boy called John Dominic English drowned in 1940, and Aboriginal locals say another young man vanished after he kicked a plaque commemorating the dead. 

In another mysterious disappearance reported - and referred to by local elders - with no date attached, a young couple stood together on the rock platform admiring the view over Devil's Pool, when, according to one witness, without warning the waters suddenly rose, sweeping both into the water. The girl was lucky to survive, but her male companion did not. 

Watch: The Devil's Pool from the air. Post continues after video.

Video via YouTube,

Other more recent confirmed victims of the pool include a tourist from Adelaide in 2004, a Sydney businessman in 2006 and Peter McGann, 24, who drowned in the pool's chute in 1979. As the Brisbane Times reported, he jumped across the short space between the rocks, slipped and went missing.

At the time, police diver Peter Tibbs told the ABC McGann's case was the most 'interesting' he'd seen, having already been called on three times to retrieve bodies from the pool.

"We thought we knew he was in there, but we couldn't get to the body because the water is so cold, it's so deep and it flows so fast. So eight or ten times we went down and we eventually cut the logs out of the place underwater and on the last day after we'd almost given up, we cut the last log that was in the chute and the body floated freely," he explained.

There's no doubt the spot deep in the Queensland rainforest has a dark history, whether that's because of the tragic legend of two young lovers or because of the natural dangers of the pool. Both are true, depending on who you ask.

But tourists continue to visit the spot, with TripAdvisor giving the area "4.7 stars" with a little green subnote telling you Babinda Boulders is "open 24 hours," with Devil's Pool just a 10-minute walk away from the main camping and swimming area. 


But click into the more than 300 reviews, and among the exclamations of "a lovely spot," and "magical place" and "make sure you take insect repellent," there are also warnings:

"Read the legend of the pool."

"It's beautiful but dangerous."

"Don't swim in Devil's Pool."

Feature image: AAP/Mary Evans/Ardea/Steffen & Alexandra Sailer.