Every small business operator strives to find that one thing that will help them stand out in the crowd.
But very few have what Tasmania's The Bush Inn has -- ghosts.
And even though twin brothers Don and Peter Smith didn’t know about the spectral occupants when they signed a 20-year lease in 2012, they aren’t calling on Ghostbusters to help any time soon.
The hotel’s ghostly residents have become an unexpected yet brilliant marketing tool for The Bush Inn, which was built in 1815 and first licensed in 1825, making it Australia’s oldest continuously licensed pub.
And while no one knows much about the little girl who haunts Room 6 of the 26-room hotel, she’s become a bit of a celebrity among tourists visiting New Norfolk, on Tasmania’s Derwent River.
“People tell me that it’s a little girl who fell down the stairs going back when the hotel first started,” Don Smith told The Huffington Post Australia.
“There’s been images seen of her up and down the hallways -- and in Room 6.”
Smith said he didn’t know the hotel was haunted when he stayed there for the first time -- by himself.
“The first time I took over, I was by myself and it’s an old pub and the floorboards do creak during the night,” he said.
“I didn’t get much sleep, the floorboards were creaking and I heard noises all night.”
Since word has started to spread about Room 6, more and more people have been coming to the hotel.
“We have a lot of people ask for that room,” Smith said.
“It’s only a single room, but people want to stay in there.
“One girl who stayed in there, I asked her in the morning if she heard anything and she said she had her head under the pillows all night!”
Hotel regulars have also reported weird happenings.
“A lot of locals drink here and they’ve said they’ve felt people walk past and there’s no one there,” Smith said.
“One time I was here working behind the bar -- there was no one else here -- and the bell up near the kitchen where you order your meal, it rang for no reason at all.
“I looked up there, there was no one there.”
Smith said he’d had paranormal enthusiasts from Melbourne investigate the hotel.
“They came and did some filming until 3 o’clock in the morning -- saw some orbs in a lot of the rooms; Room 6, the dining room the eight ball room -- all throughout the place,” he said.
Smith said the business’s marketing plan had changed since they found out about the ghosts -- and word of mouth has been an invaluable tool.
“We get a lot of people in groups come from the mainland and stay at the hotel, then they tell their friends about the place and then others come here because of them,” he said.
“Word gets around pretty quick -- we’re even having an open day on Sunday and everyone can come and have a look through the hotel -- all the rooms and downstairs as well.
"There’s a big old cellar door down there and there used to be a whole butcher’s shop.”
And if the ghosts ever decide to move out, the Smiths can always fall back on marketing the business’s rich cultural history -- Dame Nellie Melba sang from Maritana on her visit to the hotel during her final tour of Tasmania in 1924 and the first ever telephone call from the colony was made from the hotel in 1888.
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