Antwerp, Australia - A Town with a Stranger-than-Fiction Past
Updated: May 4
There may only be 50 or so people who call Antwerp home now, but once upon a time, it housed a school, a church, a mission, a eucalyptus distillery company, several thousand sheep, operational wheat silos, a railway siding, general store and a post office.
It was also once home to a grizzly exorcism which took place in 1993, ending in the untimely death of a middle-aged woman named Joan. Her captors, four locals including her husband, and neighbours, thought they were doing the right thing by ridding her of her demons. Through a series of cruel rituals Joan succumbed and her perpetrators were sent off to jail for manslaughter. I'll spare you the shocking and gruesome details but if you do an online search for it, you can read more for yourself.
The funny thing is, my hubby, Rick, and I had joked earlier, that the lonely roads through the Wimmera would make the perfect backdrop for some thriller or murder-mystery movie. Little did we know...
Currently, on this quiet country road halfway between Dimboola and Jeparit in the Wimmera district, nineteen private letterboxes and an Australia Post mailbox stand proud beside a freshly updated bus stop. The house opposite (shown at top), once the general store, has been shown some love with a lick of paint and a spattering of tinsel.
As a photographer, it is one of those places where you slam on the brakes, pull the car over and drool at the numerous photo opportunities. A 360 degree turn at the quirky crossroads, gives you a choice of the now-abandoned silos and siding, of course, the letterbox, and, just over the railway tracks, an abandoned Methodist church.
What we also didn't know at the time, a two-kilometre drive toward the river would've resulted in us finding more abandoned ruins - an old mission, first set up to "christen" the local Wergaia indigenous tribe, by two Moravian missionaries, Reverend Friedrich Hagenauer and Reverend Spieseke, in 1858.
Antwerp was named after the Belgian birthplace of Horatio Ellerman, the original settler of the area, who, along with his mate, George Shaw, were granted 130,000 acres in 1846 to graze sheep. To me, though, this dusty siding will remain etched in my brain as a colourful quirky corner of authentic Australia. Glad I drove through it, but glad I didn't know about the abandoned (apparently haunted) farmhouse with the stranger-than-fiction murky past 'til I was long home.