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  • Writer's pictureDigital Liz

SA Ghost Story with a Difference

From an urban myth to an Australian literary classic, this is a ghost story with a difference! And it's become synonymous with one South Australian town.

We've all heard of someone who knows someone who was travelling alone at night when they saw a young woman walking a deserted road wearing a white flowing gown. Spooky. What happens next?

'Uncle Gustav's Ghosts' by Colin Thiele, the internationally-renowned author who also wrote Storm Boy, starts off on a similar note. In this story, Uncle Gustav, a relative of the narrator, has an otherworldly encounter on a country road near where a couple mysteriously disappeared on their wedding night many years earlier. That bride reappears in her wedding gown and veil after a tin-kettling* for two newlyweds in a farming community that most likely reassembles the one in which Thiele grew up. From that point on the activity ramps up in often side-tickling ways. It's horror with humour thanks to poltergeists, phantoms, ghosts and ghouls.

Even though Thiele wrote that story in 1974, you can still 'meet' Uncle Gustav when you visit the author's childhood town home, Eudunda, on the edge of SA's Clare Valley.

Gustav, with a faithful working dog at his side, lives perpetually on town entrance signs and artistic plaques that pinpoint locations of interest throughout the district.

In this way, 'Gustav and his Dog' are not just characters of fiction, but clever symbols of the pioneers who opened up this area and the faithful companions that helped complete daily farm chores.

The Colin Thiele Drive Trail leads you from Eudunda on a short trip through picturesque rolling hills to sites of importance to the author. That includes the shrouded farm house where he spent his childhood. Thiele was born into a German family who likely held tight to the traditions of their homeland. Incredibly, when the now famous author who wrote 100+ published works first attended school he could not speak English, only German.

That didn't last long and Thiele's love of language saw him graduate from the University of Adelaide to become a high school teacher, college lecturer, and principal.

There's also a cracker life-size scultpure by Chris Radford of Thiele and Mr Percival, one of the pelicans from Storm Boy, in Eudunda's Centenary Gardens near the town's main intersection.

And only a three-minute walk from those Gardens you'll find the Eudunda Caravan Park (pictured below) with eight pull-through powered sites for cars, caravans, RVs, trucks, buses and tents. Planted hedges between each site provide extra space and greater privacy. There is also a modern amenities block and a dump point, plus a flat area at the rear that's a designated free camp.

Between the CP and the Gardens is a pub and the town's recently painted silo art, which showcases the story behind another Thiele book.

Pro tip: don't miss the bakery, which is only a five-minute walk from the CP!

Image: Part of the picturesque Colin Thiele Drive Trail.

* This tradition refers to "a species of rowdyism that has become very popular of late, among the 'lark-loving' larrikins of this country." That was the take by the Illawarra Mercury newspaper editorial on 20 June 1873 after a bloke named Dennis Murphy shot at other men who came to tin-kettle his recently married daughter and son-in-law, injuring one of them! In real terms, it was a noisy affair that celebrated the homecoming of a newly married couple by banging together pots, pans and other metal objects. Gee, who needs friends?


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