Hanging Rock is a geologically interesting area just 70km north of Melbourne in Australia. Not only is the area beautiful and unique it has also become an area shrouded in legends. But is there any truth behind these legends? The versed investigates.
Although the name itself lends the area a certain mystique it’s other names are less evocative, it is also sometimes known as Dryden’s Rock or Mount Diogenes. Originally the area and the surrounding towns were occupied by several indigenous tribes but these were forced out and it was recolonised. The tribes however still consider the area culturally significant.
In terms of the geology of the area, the formation is referred to as a mamelon. This is when fairly thick lava is forced through narrow vents in the earth’s crust. Around this area are several mamelons but none are quite so infamous as Hanging Rock, why is this?
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Author Joan Lindsay penned this classic in the 1960s although the novel was written in a way that suggests it was a true story it was a work of fiction. Rumours persist however that there may be some truth to the novel. Lindsay did nothing to quell the mysterious nature of her novel by claiming that it presented itself to her in a dream.
The plot of the novel
In the novel, a group of schoolgirls visit Hanging Rock on a trip. Four girls attempt to climb to the top of the rock and they are followed by their teacher. Only one of the girl’s returns and she has no memory of what happened. The fallout from this is that conspiracy theories abound. Everything from accusations of abductions to murder is suggested. People at the school start leaving in droves and the mystery of what happened is never solved. All this happened on valentines day.
Film and tourism
In 1975 the book was made into a film. The film was widely praised and was a success. On the back of that, the debate raged about whether the story did have any basis in reality. Whenever asked Lindsay refused to outright dismiss the work as entirely fictitious. As a result of this, the area has become a tourist hotspot.
Adding to the mystique of the area are the reported strange happenings. People report their watches stop working in the area and there have been several alleged UFO sightings.
This all makes the area sound terribly fascinating, but it would seem that is by design. Creating the impression that the area is mysterious has added sales of the book, the film and ultimately has brought in money via tourism. Even in the modern world people are still interested in a spooky tale. In fact, it has got to the point where some tell the story of the Picnic at Hanging Rock as if it weren’t a work of fiction. The fact is that there have never been any school girls go missing in that area.
Call to end the legends
Although the area makes money from the tourist trade many are critical of the area cashing in on this. Critics would argue that the fictional history of the area overshadows the actual history.
Many natives died due to a Smallpox epidemic and many aboriginals were murdered when they were made to leave the area. There is a feeling among many that these are the real tragedies that befell the area. Yet if you go to the local museum the indigenous history is almost a footnote and mostly it focuses on the film and the novel. Perhaps these critics are right, perhaps both facets of the culture of the area need to be celebrated equally.