The Deaths of Devil's Pool
The small town of Babinda, situated 40 miles to the south of Cairns is notable for two things. The first is its name, which when translated from the country's native aboriginal tongue means 'mountain'. It is an apt description for the settlement, which dwells within the shadow of Queensland's two highest peaks: Mount Bartle Frere, and Mount Bellenden Ker. The second thing Babinda is known for is that it is officially Australia's wettest town, recording over four thousand millimeters- that's around a hundred and sixty inches or thirteen feet of annual rainfall. This combination of mountainous terrain and violent downpours has resulted in numerous spectacular waterfalls and underground tunnels, which are visited by thousands of tourists every year. The most famed of these is known as the Babinda Boulders.
The Creepy History of Babinda
Literature published by the Australian Tourist Board explains that this idyllic location was formed when three fast-flowing tributaries once collided amidst the series of gigantic rocks, creating several tranquil and inviting bodies of water. Although there is another, far more sinister account explaining how the site came to exist, one that involves an illicit affair and the tragic deaths of two young lovers. Legend has it, that long before Western Society arrived, the region was inhabited by the Yidinji tribe. Their leader, Waroonoo was engaged to marry a young girl named Oolana, but awoke one morning to find that she had eloped during the night with one of his warriors, a man by the name of Dyga.
Consumed by bitterness and jealousy, the tribal elder gathered his warband and immediately hunted down the traitorous youngsters. By the day's end, Oolana and her
lover found themselves surrounded by Waroonoo's men, with the fast-flowing Babinda River at their backs. As their captors closed in, the two deserters flung themselves into the waters, Dyga immediately disappeared into the depths and never resurfaced. As soon as Oolana realized that her lover had perished, it is said that her grief-stricken screams echoed around the valley, smashing boulders to pieces and turning the waters into a raging torrent. She vanished in the whitewater shortly thereafter.
In the aftermath of Oolana's disappearance, the menfolk of the Yidinji tribe began to die whenever they ventured near the water. Once brave warriors were reduced to sniveling wrecks, claiming to have seen Oolana's face under the surface, her cold dead hands dragging their companions into the depths in retribution for the loss of her lover. In time, the legend would fade, but the deaths of the visitors to the area would not.
Over the last century, the same waters have claimed more than 20 lives. Some believe the spot is cursed, that it exudes an almost Supernatural Allure that the spirit of Oolana entices young men into the waters, only for them to drown with an uncanny ferocity. It is for this reason that the area is known to the locals as Devil's Pool.
The first recorded fatality at the pool occurred on 10th of June 1933, when a local man by the name of Winterbottom was dragged into a whirlpool at the bottom of one of the Babinda waterfalls. The Cairns Post chronicled the fruitless efforts of the authorities to find his missing body, theorizing that it must have been sucked down and lodged somewhere in one of the many tunnels and crevices that lurked within the depths. The same newspaper name-checks Babinda once again in November of 1940, when it related the case of John Dominic English.
John Dominic English's Fate
John was an eight-year-old child, who was seemingly yanked down under the water and drowned, despite the frantic efforts of his parents and others nearby to save him. The only mercy in the child's death was that his body was not lost to the haunting darkness below. For the last decade at least, swimming and other activities of any kind have been officially banned because of the worrying loss of life.
The official viewing platforms and the pathways leading to and from them are now securely fenced off. Mounted up on the center of the main viewing platform, there is a modest memorial plaque with a brief but moving inscription, "He came for a visit and stayed forever". This is dedicated to 24 year old Pete McGann, who was tragically killed there on the 22nd of June 1979.
Pete McGann's Fate
Pete was visiting the Babinda pools with some friends and a number of them had decided to climb through the rock formations that led to the top of the waterfalls. As the group slowly progressed along the rock face, Pete spotted a small hole in between some nearby rocks. He shouted for his friends to watch him and then jumped out across the tiny gap. Unfortunately, he never made it to the other side. As his companions watched, his body suddenly lost all forward momentum mid-jump and immediately plummeted straight down into the narrow breach beneath him. Pete did not even have time to cry out as his body disappeared from view, plunging down into the foaming waters below.
The alarm was quickly raised and local rescue workers and paramedics were called. A number of tentative initial dives were made into the water to try and find Pete's body, but the swirling and surging currents made any meaningful attempt impossible. It would be a further six weeks before divers in possession of sufficient equipment and training could descend into the depths and retrieve the young man's remains.
Other Paranormal Incidents at the Devil's Pool
The plaque was still clearly on display almost 30 years later. On the sunny morning of the 30th of November 2008, a group of four young men arrived at the Babinda pools seeking a day of rest and relaxation. Amongst their number was a 23 year old Tasmanian native named James Bennett. James was a sub-lieutenant in the Australian Navy and had been stationed aboard one of their minesweepers, HMAS Norman.
Having parked their cars, James and his friends walked onto the site and noticed a couple of local children swimming out on the far edge of the pools. Despite the safety rails and warning notices that had long been in place, the men disregarded them, taking the sight of the children playing in the water as an indication that it was also safe for them to venture in. The group jumped over the barriers and started to pick their way along several narrow pathways between the looming granite boulders, before they came across a beautiful pool underneath a viewing platform.
Within minutes, they had all undressed and plunged into the deep blue water, swimming around, and splashing one another. This went on for about 10 minutes, when James Bennett suddenly threw his arms up into the air and cried out in shock, before disappearing straight under the water. He had been pulled vertically downwards in the space of the heart beat as if taken hold off by strong and powerful grip.
The other three men initially thought he was messing around, but this passing amusement soon turned to horror, as a pair of hands emerged for just a moment, thrashing around in a desperate bid to find something to hold onto. They could now clearly see James's outline struggling and writhing just beneath the water. He was suspended only a few feet down but was seemingly unable to swim up and breech the surface despite frantic efforts to do so.
The others immediately jumped out of the water, ripping branches from nearby trees and plunging them down where they had last seen their struggling friend, but it was no use. James had now disappeared into the darkness.
Other deaths at the beauty spot have been equally disturbing. In one reported case, a young couple was visiting the site on the day of a heavy rainstorm. They were on one of the lower walkways and had asked one of the volunteer lifeguards to take a picture of them standing together. He had barely done so when a sudden surge of storm flow rose up and sliced across the decking they were all standing on. As both tourists were swept out into the surging waters, the lifeguard immediately discarded their camera and jumped in after them. He was able to save the woman but her boyfriend never resurfaced, dragged down into the whirlpool they had all been swept into.
Storm flooding has accounted for many other victims in the area, with a visiting Korean tourist killed there as late as 2018. Another infamous story describes what happened to a school boy from a neighboring district, when his class came to visit for the day. The 15 year old student was particularly troublesome and caused repeated problems throughout the duration of the trip, even going as far as to kick one of the wooden warning signs out of the ground as he passed by. Within moments, he slipped on a nearby patch of wet mud and plunged down into his death.
These types of unfortunate incidents are sadly far from uncommon, with water related deaths accounting for a significant proportion of those attended by the local Coroner's office each year. Between the aforementioned storm-surges and flooding, there are also domestic swimming pool deaths, drownings attributed to crocodile attacks and even coastal tsunamis, but the sheer volume and similarity between incidents at the Babinda is difficult to ignore.
For the witnesses who have been present during these occurrences and sometimes even for the grieving families of the victims, there is a sinister vibe to what has taken place. As if there is something that operates outside the established laws of nature, which seems to haunt the site. And it has been said that there have been occasions when this unknown force has inadvertently let its presence be known. Some photographs taken of the pools in the aftermath of such incidents are said to have contained the shape of a woman's face peering up from under the water's surface.
In other pictures, the ghostly outlines of the victims can just about be made out, standing along the water's edge. Then there is the fact that the 20 people who are known to have been killed at Babinda Boulders in recent times all died as the result of drowning, but some of them were not even in the water at the time, further suggesting that something sinister is at play.
Pete McGann was climbing on rocks 40 feet above the surface of the pools, when an invisible force, seemingly reached out and plucked him from midair. The visiting couple swept off the viewing platform and the unruly teenager who kicked the sign were also propelled over and down into the pools by circumstances far beyond their control. The bodies of those who have drowned also seem to take an excessively long time to be found and recovered, as if they have been hidden away from those trying to locate them.
Divers entering the Babinda Pools in search of the deceased have reported decidedly unusual experiences. One rescue worker related how one underwater search lasted five weeks. When they finally located the body of the young swimmer, they were unable to free him. It was as if the same unseen force that had pulled the body down and jammed it against the rocks in the first place was now refusing to relinquish it, exerting a crushing pressure on both the corpse and the men working to free it.
The divers had hacked at the wooden timbers and rocks that held the body in place for two days, but to no avail. It was only as they had been wearily suiting up and preparing to re-enter the water on the third day that the cadaver had astonishingly appeared on the water's surface by itself. It seemed that whatever power had been withholding it from them had finally tired of its efforts. Other bodies have been found spinning wildly around in underwater circles, as if pulled by an invisible pair of hands.
Local residents and shopkeepers are happy enough to recount the stories of Oolana's ghost to the curious backpackers and tourists who visit the area, but they have far more grounded beliefs about how the victims all met their end. The entire region sits atop a honeycomb of volcanic tunnels and tubes that were carved out by historic lava flow. These go hand in hand with underwater currents and riptides, that can suddenly materialize and subside again without warning.
Bodies which disappear into the depths are quite often caught up in these currents where they can be sucked into the subterranean caves and tunnels, sometimes trapped for months before they return to the surface. In November 2014, a 56 year old local man named Maurice Shutter was paddling his way across nearby lake Eacham, when he fell out of the inflatable raft he was in. Maurice was not wearing a life preserver and authorities spent the next 26 days unsuccessfully searching for his body, even utilizing a submersible at one point.
His remains eventually resurfaced a staggering 18 months later, in a remarkably well-preserved condition. The local police stated that this was not unusual as at some points the lakebed dropped below 65 meters. At this depth, with little oxygen and no natural predators, a body would simply lie in the silt until a brief surge in water temperature propelled it back to the surface. The pool in which James Bennett perished is especially notorious for drownings and is nicknamed 'the washing machine', on account of a powerful clockwise current that swirls just meters below its tranquil surface. The surging streams of bubbles it produces severely reduced the water's natural buoyancy, meaning that anything drawn into it could not be pulled clear without additional assistance.
Whether you believe the deaths at Devil's Pool are caused by some supernatural force or whether they are simply the result of many converging factors including sheer bad luck, there is no denying that the area is unnaturally terrifying, due in no small part to how its otherwise beautiful and serene appearance masks a far darker reality. Even without the existence of vengeful spirits and destructive paranormal entities, Australia is a land that demands deference and respect from those who choose to travel it.
As humankind continues to expand across the world's surface, there are few untamed landscapes left to challenge us, but the arid deserts of the land of the Lucky Coss remain largely unconquered. Maybe the extreme sadness and loss felt by Oolana and those who have since perished at Babinda has perhaps somehow managed to become imprinted in the very fabric of the landscape, especially the boulders that surround the pool, permeating deep inside them and cursing the location with misfortune for generations yet to come. Thankfully, since the death of James Bennett in 2008, the ban on swimming has meant that no further deaths due to drowning have been reported at the site. But who knows if the Spirit of Devil's Pool remains watching and waiting?