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Grave concerns over mystery burial

Sometimes a grave isn't a grave. And this was the case for one particular patch in the graveyard of St John's Church of England in Ouse, Tasmania.

The Mercury's article on the mystery grave that appeared without any authority.

It was the first month of 1954 and police were called in to unravel the mystery of a grave that seemed to appear for no apparent reason in the churchyard. The grave had been a mystery for a year, with 30 white painted bricks carefully placed to outline a burial place.

It was not until a burial was made in the small cemetery, that the grave came to the attention of authorities. The cemetery caretaker Harry Bannister, who lived nearby, brought it to the attention of the newly appointed minister Reverend H. G. Biggs that he had not seen anyone preparing or digging it.

The authorities of the day advised that the grave was placed in the corner of the cemetery, partly hidden away. A plan showed the mystery grave was on a path so no permission would have been given for it to be placed there.

St John's Church of England cemetery at Ouse. Courtesy: Michael Elkan.

At one period, the previous year three pickle bottles had been placed there with flowers in them. These were now dried and withered. A call was put out to find out who may have put the grave there. If no one was to come forward the authorities' final step was to inter the grave.

Days later from the first enquiries, the mystery was solved. An unnamed Hobart woman came forward to admit she had made the grave on the spot where she believed her mother had been buried 25 years earlier. It seems the family hadn't visited the cemetery for the past 15 years until she and her husband came the previous February.

They had found a pile of rubbish and rubble on the spot where they believed her mother had been buried, so they tidied it up and placed the border of bricks. The family were never named but they soon found their mother's grave in another part of the cemetery.

If you have a mystery grave you would like to share, tell Tales from the Grave. We'd love to write about it.


  • 'Police aid sought over a mystery grave at Ouse', The Mercury, Wednesday 13 January, 1954, Page 16

  • 'Mystery of Ouse cemetery solved', The Mercury, Thursday 14 January, 1954, Page 2

  • 'Grave mystery solved in Tasmania', Barrier Miner, Friday 15 January, 1954, Page 5

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