Prison scream a ‘cheap thrill’

A NEW promotion for a Halloween tour of Fremantle Prison treats the world heritage site like a theme park of cheap thrills, says a member of the team that drew up the site’s first conservation plan.

Gerry MacGill, a former Fremantle councillor, says he’s appalled by the marketing of the tours, which the prison’s website says will have participants “screaming with fear”.

Mr MacGill is particularly unhappy with a jokey reference to the gallows at the prison, where 44 people were hanged.

“There is no escape…there will be terror behind the prison walls. …encounter dark corners, ghostly shadows and the gallows — where 44 people were hanged,” the promo promises.

“So this place of pain, suffering and execution has become a theme park providing cheap thrills for paying visitors,” Mr MacGill told the Herald.

“I’m not sure that UNESCO would consider this to be consistent with the place’s world heritage status; but who knows — Fremantle’s groundbreaking lead may inspire the Taj Mahal to run Bollywood movie nights.”

Mr MacGill says the original conservation team, which included architect Ralph Hoare, former long-serving city heritage architect Agnieshka Kiera, and historians Michal Bosworth and Erica Harvey, had wanted current uses to be sensitive to its grim history. He says a similar event was cancelled years ago after community outrage and the current prison hierarchy “should be ashamed”.

Prison director Bevan Beaver wouldn’t comment on the marketing, but says the tours are appropriate.

“The prison is widely regarded as one of the most haunted places in Western Australia and the annual Halloween tours are an entertaining way to share this story with the public,” he told the Herald.

“The Halloween tour is based on the prison’s popular torchlight tour and offers participants an enhanced experience through themed costumes and decorations.”

Mr Beaver says the prison is always looking for new ways to present the prison to a wider audience, and themed tours have proven successful.

“Funds generated from functions and events, such as the Halloween tour, are essential to support the ongoing conservation of Fremantle Prison.”


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