Wildman of Tallarook

During the 1880’s Tallarook was at the centre of a sensation that shared equal billing in the newspapers with the trial of Ned Kelly.  In the Tallarook Ranges there lived an illusive hermit who has made himself a subterranean home and lived virtually undetected for a decade.  The locals knew him as the ‘Wild Man of the Woods’ and his reputation grew.

 

Extract from ‘The Argus’ August 3rd 1880


Mr. Thomas Mullavey, a boundary rider on Mount Piper Station, was the first recorded sightings of this mysterious individual.  He observed a stranger, who immediately disappeared over a three year period.  Once he came within speaking distance and asked him who he was.  The man replied that he was prospecting.  Mullavey had a barney with him and suspected he was a sheep stealer.  The man protested that he was honest and then Mullavey offered him some work, but he declined.  The man kept walking into the range and when he got into a place, which Mullavey could not follow on horseback he ran away and disappeared.  Twelve months later a son of Mullavey’s was strolling about the haunted spot and observed a man who suddenly disappeared from his view.  The lad went home at once and told his father.  The next day Mullavey went to look for the man with Constable Shanahan from Tallarook Police - ‘When I arrived at the spot, I found that the entrance to the cave lay between two large boulders.  I descended with a lighted candle.  The cave is like a regularly built house on the side of a hill, covered over with soil and made to appear part of the range.  The side of the range is one mass of rocks and the roof of the cave forms a small protection.  A quantity of stuff has been dug out and the place was then built up substantially of masonry and slates.  It appears to be 12 years old.  After descending the two steps I found a turning on the left and was confronted by a door.  Entering by this door I found a room formed of posts and slabs with a bark roof.  There was a fireplace built of brick and a long chimney trending in an oblique direction.  On the left hand lay a sleeping bunk and on the floor I found several billy cans with wooden ends, a little bag of peas, two tins of white sugar, some early potatoes, baking dishes, frying pans, knives and other articles.  A nice little stack of dry wood and a bundle of bark for lighting the fire.  Of course, I found no one inside.  On examining the chimney outside I found its top a long distance from the cave, it was between two rocks and a dead sheoak was thrown over them to conceal the discolouration occasioned by the smoke  They discovered a second cave quite near the first.  A stream of water flows out of it and I had to creep in on my hands and knees with a candle.  After crawling some distance, about 10 yards, I was able to stand upright and found myself in a long narrow hall.  I went along and came to two compartments, one on the right hand and the other one on the left.  I entered the one on the left first and found there a box full of chaff, the bare bones of pig’s heads, beef bones, turkey legs some slabs and bark where a still seems to have stood, wooden shovels an empty flour bag and some old shirts.  The entrance to this cave was concealed by ferns.  The cave itself is a natural formation.  Fifty or sixty yards up the range there is a large rock and a tree growing near its end.  In the fork of this tree there is a prong like skewer on which is stuck a fresh piece of moss.  A little further up on the same track two pieces of dead wood have been placed on a rock and higher up still there is a wattle, which has be cut in a peculiar style.  The place where the caves are is known on the station as Horseshoe Bend, and it was very seldom visited until about six months ago, when the man Kirby took up  a selection on the flat below.  What these caves were used for is not definitely known, but the police suspect that an illicit still has been carried on there by someone from Reedy Creek diggings about 16 miles from here, for a series of years.

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