November 23, 2021

Argyle Emporium - the haunted old Goulburn police station

Ghost Among the Books

Once upon a time these halls and walls echoed to the sounds of shackles and handcuffs accompanied by the cruel shouts of the jailers. Today it’s deathly quiet, the silence only interrupted by a few quiet footsteps, some muted conversations and the muffled turning of pages as eager fingers riffle through an intriguing volume.

The Argyle Emporium is quite possibly the largest store of its type in Australia. This writer has certainly never found any to compare. Room after labyrinthine room is packed floor to ceiling with books on every conceivable subject. History, cooking, arts, crafts, motoring, atlases, biographies, hobbies of every description and a most impressive selection of Sci-Fi ephemera, particularly Star Trek.

“I don’t like the term ‘Trekkie’,” confesses Tony the proprietor, “but there isn’t much about the Star Trek galaxy I don’t know. So I guess, by strict definition, I am one.”

Not everyone gets out alive. 

Tony inherited the Argyle Emporium from his father Stephen who opened the shop here in 1975, so it’s also fair to say Tony has grown up within these walls. And that explains why he knows every nook and cranny and just about every one of the more than 500,000 items within.

While there is only modest demand for CDs and cassette tapes, Tony tells me there is a rising demand for vintage vinyl.

“Any of the classic bands of the ‘60s, ‘70s and … hmmm ... ‘80s does not gather dust,” says Tony. “Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Beatles, you name it. I have a waiting list for these artists.”

The first few times I visited, Tony was kind enough to guide me to the relevant sections because, let’s face it, people get lost in here. And while I would have plenty to read should I get locked in overnight, I reckon the ghosts would keep me awake.

“Honestly, I’ve never seen anything, but dad swore there were things going on after dark,” Tony tells me, “he even had paranormal detectives - or whatever they called themselves - come in here and take photos of auras and things. He was dead set convinced.”

The old tunnels joining the courthouse (Goulburn Post)

The old Police Station dates back to the mid-1840s and served the NSW Police Force for more than 120 years. It was also the courthouse until the magnificent Victorian Italianate building next door was built in 1887, designed by colonial architect, James Barnet.

A creepy, sandstone tunnel once joined the old police station to the newer courthouse and it was through here that prisoners - some of them condemned to death - were brought. A likely candidate for any supernatural manifestations is the tortured soul of Mary Ann Brownlow, the young mother who was sentenced to death in 1855 for the stabbing murder of her husband and was the last woman to be hanged in New South Wales.

Haunted or not, the Argyle Emporium is worth your investigation especially if you are seeking some long-lost title or even a book you didn’t know you wanted.

You can call Tony on (02) 4821 0876, visit the Facebook page ‘argyleemporium’ or drop in at 260 Sloane St, opposite the railway station.

All material (c) Copyright unless noted otherwise.

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