Every city has a dark side. Melbourne is no different. While Chicago had Al Capone and London had the Kray Twins, Melbourne had Squizzy Taylor in the roaring ‘20s, the Gangland Wars in the last decade and one of the country’s most notorious outlaws, Ned Kelly, who met his end at the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1880.
One of the best ways to find out about Melbourne’s criminal past is to strap on your sneakers and join a walking tour. The Unsolved Crimes Tour from Walking Tours of Melbourne is one of the more thought-provoking, featuring a stack of cold case police files, some dating back to the 1800s, with direct links to Melbourne.
You might be familiar with some of the cases: the Great Bookie Robbery of 1976, the theft of Picasso’s Weeping Woman from the National Gallery in 1986, and the murder of Squizzy Taylor in 1972. But the tour also takes in more bizarre and macabre unsolved crimes. Who lost a tattooed arm in a shark in 1935? What about the Great Continence Mystery of 1904, the Brown-out Strangler of 1842 and the Mace and the Brothel case of 1891?
Without a doubt, the grand dame of criminal activity from yesteryear is the Old Melbourne Gaol Crime and Justice Experience. Not only is the jail itself (or should we say ‘gaol’?) a National Trust building of awe-inspiring proportions, it also housed some of Melbourne’s (and Australia’s) most hardened criminals until it closed in 1929. Some brave souls believe ghosts still prowl its corridors at night, which may explain the strange chill in the air.
To stay on the right side of the law, check out the Victoria Police Museum. The museum showcases the largest collection of Kelly Gang armour alongside the latest crime fighting techniques and takes a look at the social history of crime and its effect on Melbourne and its police force.
For a spine tingling adventure, you might consider going on an Old Melbourne Ghost Tour. If you’ve got the guts…we don’t.