Crime tours of Northbridge taking people to the dark side

Christie Strauss believes walking tours about Northbridge's history should be a permanent attraction.
Christie Strauss believes walking tours about Northbridge's history should be a permanent attraction.

DESPITE the dark night and darker themes, people weren’t frightened to learn about Perth’s gruesome crimes in historical walking tours around the city.

Former The West Australian crime reporter Sean Cowan led a one-off Northbridge Crime Walk earlier this year, re-telling turn-of-the-century stories about Northbridge’s formative years and providing fascinating insight into an era of Chinese opium dens, prostitution and Italian mafia infiltration.

It sold out so quickly the Centre for Stories has since organised a further two sold-out walks and is contemplating a longer season next summer.

Walking Tour guide Christie Strauss spent a year researching Perth’s history for her crime walking tour with Fringeworld earlier this year.

Ms Strauss said while it proved popular, she found some things about Northbridge had not changed in that there were risks for her to lead tours at night.

“During the tours, I had my partner as my security so if anything went astray, he could jump in and even at Fringe, he had to jump in twice,” she said.

“My biggest demographic was women in their late 30s to early 50s and I’m not sure whether it’s because a woman was leading it, there was a sense of female safety.”

Ms Strauss also added an extra tour to the schedule after all four planned nights sold out.

“I did a heck of a lot better than I thought I would have and I think part of the reason for that was because it was niche,” she said.

“I’m really hoping someone will take the initiative and will get a permanent Walking Tour to present some more stories and the emerging mysteries that are coming through Perth.”

Edith Cowan University tourism lecturer Greg Wilson said research showed more people wanted a sense of nostalgia by going on simpler tours and pushing away rising technology.

“A vast majority is the domestic market, there’s people who have lived in Perth for decades but know very little about it,” he said.

“Whenever there’s a big crime, it’s a major drawcard and Tasmania is a great example of that with a strong, dark tourism industry around Port Arthur.”

Two Feet and a Heartbeat walking tour guide Ryan Mossny said people were now looking to get more than just the basics out of a tour.

“People want to feel like they are part of the place they are visiting,” he said.

“Niche tours like crime tours are popular because they highlight the more sensational part of life in a city.”

Dr Wilson said modern Perth events might inspire walking tours, citing an international trend such as the treatment of Whitney Houston’s death in a hotel bathtub.

“Her hotel room was booked out for the next year because, and it sounds a bit ghoulish, people wanted to be in the same space as something big that had happened,” he said.