How could a dead man walk these streets for six months and no one notice? This is another incredible tale from the Queensland city of Ipswich. It’s a true zombie story from almost a century ago. I told a version of this story on West Bremer Radio.
It was the middle of February 1928 and Arthur Anderson and his sisters Mary and Evelyn mourned the passing of their father. They’d buried their brother James at Brisbane’s Toowong Cemetery just eighteen months earlier, and now they were tendering another grave there, this time it was their sixty-four year old father John Clayton Anderson.
John had died in mysterious circumstances. He was found on the morning of the 29th of December 1927. He was lying in long grass in Albert Park in the heart of the city of Brisbane, with a bullet wound to his head and an automatic pistol in one hand. But no one had heard the shot.
At first no one could identify the body, and so he was buried in a pauper’s grave at Toowong. For months afterwards a police photograph was circulated around the state.
Finally, his three children positively identified their father. Arthur Anderson was living at Coorparoo and sister Mary Clark at Albion in Brisbane, and Evelyn Hanson in Townsville in north Queensland. John was survived by his children and grandchildren, but none of them had seen him for a while.
Another man, Irishman Jimmy Maguire, who was a friend of John’s having worked with him at the State Lands Department, also came forward and identified him.
John was a distinguished looking gentleman. He was six feet tall, a wiry ten stone, and sported a grey beard and moustache. He was well dressed when his body was discovered. He was wearing a grey suit and gabardine overcoat, grey felt hat, black boots, celluloid collar and black tie. Every inch a gentleman.
It was a sad and mysterious end for someone who had worked for the Queensland government as a draughtsman for over thirty years and more recently contracted to do technical work there.
The family mourned, friends and colleagues expressed sympathy, and the police file was closed.
But then it got really weird.
Almost six months after he was declared dead and buried, stories began to circulate that John Anderson was seen walking the streets of Ipswich. This was a real-life day of the zombies in Ipswich.
Eventually, a man who had known John Anderson when he was alive, approached the dead-man-walking and engaged in conversation.
The man told the look-alike of his mysterious death and burial, but the dead man denied everything and left.
The friend was convinced that he’d actually been talking to the undead, and so he went to the Ipswich police station in East Street. There he told his story to an incredulous police sergeant.
The police file was re-opened and further inquiries were made. The allegedly dead John Anderson was interviewed, and the police decided that there was no doubt that he was actually alive.
The real John Anderson had moved from Brisbane to Rosewood and then to Karrabin on the north side of Ipswich where he worked in charge of Harding and Walker’s sale yards. That was while everyone around him mourned. There had been a zombie walking the streets of Ipswich for six months and no one had noticed.
The dead John Anderson was never identified.
The real John Anderson died for a second time just three years later when he was found in a boarding house in Spring Hill. His family and friends mourned him once again.
Weirdly John Anderson was again buried in a pauper’s grave at Toowong, just near where he was buried the first time.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A VERSION OF THIS STORY TOLD ON WEST BREMER RADIO
Nicholas Street Ipswich c1928 – State Library of Queensland
Olive Hanson granddaughter of John Anderson 1936 – bmiskin1 originally shared on Ancestry in 2012
Mystery body – Truth, Brisbane, 27th May 1928, page 13