Misfortune the clairvoyants missed

There was a Boarding House that one hundred and twenty years ago was owned by a Mrs Mathilda Walter and it has a strange past. Today the site hosts commercial premises that were built in the 1950s, but that doesn’t alter the unusual stories that the place can tell. I shared a version of this story on West Bremer Radio.

Mrs Walter’s Boarding House (pictured above) was in a prime location on Brisbane Street which is the main thoroughfare of Ipswich. At one time Ipswich was in line to be the capital city of Queensland. Mrs Walter’s son was a hairdresser George Walter Junior who was regularly convicted of illegal bookmaking.

Her granddaughter was Miss Mona Walter. Mona helped found Ipswich’s first radio station 4IP at the city’s Old Flour Mill in 1935. That’s when she was appointed the first official accompanist, or musician. Mona later became the program director and was anointed the commercial ‘Queen of Ipswich’.

Miss Mona Walter in 1939

Mrs Walter’s Boarding House first appeared in the news in 1903. That’s when the funeral of Mrs Walter’s two-year-old niece, also called Matilda, left from the location. The child had tragically died unexpectedly and quickly from pneumonia.

Misfortune revisited the site in 1913. A boarder William Douglas badly dislocated and fractured his elbow while playing football. He was on a lunch break at Shillito and Sons foundry in East Street that was just around the corner.

Death came to the Boarding House in 1918. Mrs Walter’s oldest daughter Anna was then living there with her husband and ten-month-old son George. Records today suggest that there was some doubt about the identity of young George’s father. Anyway, the family failed to foresee the danger of keeping poison in the house. Anna, who was had suffered somewhat since the birth of her child, was upstairs when she mournfully cried out, “Oh Mamma, I have taken rat poison.” She later collapsed on the front verandah where she died.

In 1921, another of Mrs Walter’s daughters Rose played it safe and married an accountant. His name was Otto Shafer. But just two months later, Otto died of heart failure after an appendicitis operation.

It was during this misfortune that clairvoyants became regular guests at Mrs Walker’s Boarding House.

Mrs Mathilda Walter with grandchildren at the back of her boarding house c1927

In 1909 Mr Joseph Francis Bostock could be consulted at Mrs Walter’s Boarding House every Thursday. He promoted himself as a clairvoyant, psychometrist, herbalist and magnetic healer. Back then fortune-telling was illegal, so the practitioners had to be careful how they sold their service. Bostock was later charged with fraud for representing himself as “having the power and ability to predict future events.”

Come 1910, a Mr Stepherson was another clairvoyant and herbalist to set up shop at Mrs Walter’s place. He advertised that he could be consulted on everything, and that included both health and business matters. He was the most expensive of the practitioners, charging half-a-crown for private sittings.

The longest serving clairvoyant was Agnes Charlotte Dwyer who was professionally known as “Madame Langdon”. For twenty years from 1914 through to the mid-1930s, Madame Langdon was working as a consulting herbalist, and a mental and magnetic healer, and holding sittings at the Boarding House.

Clairvoyant Madame Langdon

None of the clairvoyants had warned of poison. Mrs Walter passed away in 1935 after having run the house for around forty years.

The Boarding House was demolished perhaps a decade later and today the site, which is in the heart and soul of Ipswich, hosts Choices Flooring and the digital radio station West Bremer Radio. That’s where I told this story of misfortune and clairvoyants for the first time. I’m not sure, but the programme hosts may already have known.


Photo credits:
Probably Mrs Walter’s Boarding House in Brisbane Street Ipswich 1910s – Ipswich City Council
Mona Walters and Robert Scott 1939 – Telegraph Brisbane, Saturday 29th July 1939, page 5
Mathilda Alwine Gustine Walter nee Manteufel at the back of the boarding house with grandchildren Chloris and Chas c1927 – family collection
Agnes Charlotte Dwyer – Jill (McMillan) Mills, via Wikitree

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