That one time when Rosie Waterland went to a paranormal conference.

Hiding from ghosts in a cell at the old Maitland Gaol.

If anyone ever asks if you would like to attend a two-day paranormal conference in an old haunted gaol, obviously your answer should be an unequivocal ‘yes’.

Seriously. I spent the weekend at Paracon and it was amazing. Touted as Australia’s ‘only paranormal conference’, Paracon is an event for paranormal enthusiasts – a place where they can come from all over the country to hear experts speak on topics like ghost hunting, alien abduction, time travel, the search for Australia’s Bigfoot (called the ‘Yowie’ btw – I totally know things now), UFO sightings, mediumship, past lives, drumming (I asked – apparently it is actually just drumming), crop circles…. The list goes on. Basically, if you are Australian and you love paranormal stuff, Paracon was the place to be on the weekend.

And I was there, you guys. I hung out with the paranormal cool kids to get a taste of what it’s like to live a life obsessed by the supernatural. And it was… Well, it was some next-level stuff.

I’m probably what you’d call an open-minded sceptic. Except for the time I watched The Exorcist by myself and then spent an hour crying on the phone to mum convinced the devil was trying to take over my body (I may or may not have taken a taxi to her house at 3am), I’ve not really experienced anything I can’t explain. I want to believe all that stuff, I really do. I just haven’t seen anything so far that has convinced me. Let’s just say I’m not a sceptic by choice, so I’m totally open to being convinced.

That was the attitude I took with me to the conference. I also took my friend Tony, who is the biggest believer of paranormal stuff that I know. I figured he would get me excited and stack the odds in Bigfoot’s favour.

Paracon at a glance:

When we noticed the vanity number plate with the word ‘UFO’, we knew we were at the right place.

We walked through the gates of the old Maitland Gaol in NSW and didn’t immediately slip into some kind of 7th spirit dimension, so I considered that a good start. I’d say there were about 150 people there, and they all seemed to know, or at least recognise, each other – from the web, other events, ghost-hunts, YouTube… That’s one of the main things I took away from this whole experience – the paranormal community in this country is pretty tight-knit.

Ghost hunter Ben Hanson: Paracon rockstar.

But there are separate (and sometimes competing) sub-cultures that sit under the larger paranormal umbrella and they all seem to stick together. There are the ghost-hunters, the alien and UFO people, the psychic/medium peeps, the Yowie people – they all kind of stick together in their little groups.

It was actually a lot like high school. As far as I could tell, the ghost-hunters were the cool kids. They all walked around in matching jackets (just like the Pink Ladies!) and kept randomly taking photos in the dark, looking for ‘orbs’. Those guys all hung together and smoked in between lectures. So cool.

The event organisers were kind of like the yearbook committee and the psychics were the popular girls constantly surrounded by adoring fans who wanted to hear them speak.

Far and away though, the coolest guys on campus were the experts who had been flown in from the US. One of them was on/is on some kind of show where he runs around in the dark waiting for things to tip over by themselves so he can film it with a night vision camera. He was like a rock star. He was even selling autographed pictures. It was legit.


What I learned:

1. The inventor of the Ouija Board died when he fell off the roof of the Ouija Board factory. Suspicious? You be the judge.

2. A psychic told me that in a past life, I was a very important adviser to Ramesses II. I now expect to be treated accordingly.

Me and Tony: Now terrified of alien abduction. And Yowies.

3. The Australian version of Bigfoot is called the Yowie and a whole group of them live in the Blue Mountains, throwing rocks at people.

4. Ghosts communicate by knocking things over.

5. You can take photos of ghosts by randomly flashing your camera in the dark.

6. Time travel is confusing but seems legit.

7. Paranormal enthusiasts have some competing ideologies – a photo of an object in the sky had the alien people saying ‘UFO’, the ghost people saying ‘energy orb’ and the time travel people saying ‘time-lapsed plane’.

8. The same historical paintings can be used to prove several different (and competing) paranormal theories.

9. Maitland has a FroYo vending machine, where a robot arm makes your FroYo.

Favourite lecture:

Far and away, the one on alien abduction and the history of extra-terrestrial contact with earth.

The lecturer (an extremely knowledgeable and well-respected source in her field) began by telling us she was taking a huge risk even talking to us. Apparently there is a lot of information that the government does not want the public to know and people who spread that information have a tendency to die in mysterious circumstances.

I spent the next hour learning that there is a highly organised intergalactic breeding program, in which ET species abduct humanoid women and mate with them in order to infiltrate the human race with half-breeds. There was so much information and some of it was hard to follow but I’m pretty sure that alien sperm is called ‘star seed’. Also, the US government built a $380 million alien craft parking station in the side of a mountain in the Nevada desert. And humans evolved when an alien race called ‘reptilians’ came and mated with apes. That’s why we have reptile brains.

The lecture was… informative, to say the least. And hey, who am I to say she’s not onto something? In fact…

Who am I to say that any of these guys aren’t onto something?


Did I see any evidence that proved to me, unequivocally, this stuff is real? No. But I also didn’t see any proof that this stuff isn’t real. And you can’t prove a negative, so…

What I did see evidence of was a great group of people who all passionately believe what they believe. There was a real sense of community at Paracon and everyone was genuinely excited to be in a place where they could spend time together in person, talking and debating about their passions.

I can’t say for sure if there was any connecting with ‘the paranormal’ at Maitland Gaol this past weekend but I can certainly say that these people connected with each other. And to me, that means the event was a major success.

Should you go to Paracon next year?

Yes. Yes. A million times yes. It’s awesome.

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