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Best pubs in Queensland: The hotel that's full of spirits

The Grand Hotel in Childers where a ghost is reputed to live. Pub regular Lee 'Chocco' Williamson was happy to play spook with Virginia Grant, 18 and Caitlin Kolm, 19.
The Grand Hotel in Childers where a ghost is reputed to live. Pub regular Lee 'Chocco' Williamson was happy to play spook with Virginia Grant, 18 and Caitlin Kolm, 19. Nigel Hallett

IT WAS born before the nation, slaking the thirsts of timber cutters before Australia was federated in 1901 and the hard wooden beams of the Grand Hotel still plays host to our early pioneers.

The Grand has reputedly kept a few on as permanent guests, with ghosts of the past including "Luke the Spook” roaming the historic hotel on Churchill St Childers.

The spirits, largely benevolent, haven't frightened off generations of drinkers whose legacy lives on in "Chokko”.

Lee "Chokko” Williamson, 72, retired painter, lives a short walk away and had made the Grand his watering hole every Monday and Friday afternoon for the past 20 years.

"Wouldn't think of drinking anywhere else,” said Chokko who was happy to play the spook for the cameras, but doesn't have much faith in the metaphysical world after taking a personal visit.

Bar tender Virginia Grant swears she can occasionally feel the hot breath of Luke in her ear while she's working in the kitchen, but turns to find nothing there.

Chokko, with first hand experience with the world beyond, found pretty much the same thing.

"There's nothing there - nothing but a big blank!”

The Grand Hotel in Childers.
The Grand Hotel in Childers. Nigel Hallett

Recovering in a hospital bed in Bundaberg a few months ago after a stroke and heart attack arrived simultaneously, Chokko gave up the ghost himself and "died'' for 12 minutes before being air lifted to the Royal Brisbane in a critical state.

Revived from the blackness he remembered nothing of his past life - not his wife family or friends - yet good medical care and a strong constitution revived him.

Today he is nearly back to his old self, sitting on a bar stool joking with staff and fellow drinkers.

There's a story in every Queensland pub. Chokko's is one of the thousands told across for more than 100 years under The Grand's rafters made of tough local wood which won't yield to the hardest hammered nail.

"You gotta use a drill,'' says proprietor Dennis Corliss, who, with wife Pam discovered the hard wooden beams hidden behind cladding when they bought the hotel and began restoring its historical integrity.

To Chokko, the Grand and its occupants are like family - helping to restore him back to vitality.

Topics:  best pubs queensland bundaberg region childers ghosts grand hotel heritage queensland pubs


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