Not only is Devil’s Pool one of the most beautiful locations in Australia, it’s also one of the most mysterious and dangerous spots to visit. Several people – mostly young men—who have visited this location have also lost their lives. From a man simply trying to avoid a gap between rocks, to another who disrespected the location, many people have tragically died while visiting this beautiful place.
The area is also said to be haunted, and especially cursed. Legend has it there’s a grief-stricken ghost of a young woman still searching for her lover in the water. Many visitors to the location claim that she still haunts the waters, and is the reason so many young men perish there. Non-believers in the paranormal claim that there is a much more natural explanation to the drownings, such as slippery rocks and fast-running water. Whatever your beliefs are, Devil’s Pool is one of the most cursed areas on the planet, filled with dark mystery and horrible tragedies…
At the foot of three streams running through the Babinda Boulders is the eerily named Devil’s Pool. It’s located 58 kilometers south of Cairns in North Queensland, Australia in a small town named Babinda. The pool is a very popular spot for people hiking and backpacking on their way to Cairns.
This natural pool in the Queensland rainforest has claimed at least 17 lives, and is a highly dangerous location for even the best of swimmers. The water runs exceptionally fast, which can lead to people being pinned underneath the water and trapped between logs and rocks. It’s also almost impossible to stay afloat, as the water is very highly oxygenated.
And if the name Devil’s Pool isn’t frightening enough, some locals have nicknamed an area in the water the “washing machine” because the water goes “around and around” just like — you guessed it — a washing machine. One emergency service member said, “It’s all bubbles so there is no buoyancy. It’s dangerous water. It sucks you under.”
The town of Babinda is known as one of Australia’s wettest towns – if not the wettest. In fact, the annual average rainfall there usually exceeds 4,000 millimeters. However, even when the water is low, it can still suck people under and hold them beneath the surface, causing them to drown.
The area is undeniably beautiful, and going for a swim is a natural thought for many visitors. But the Devil’s Pool is not a place where people should indulge in their urge to enter the water. Since 1959, 17 people have drowned in the pool and even more have lost their lives there, according to old newspaper articles. In fact, written on a plaque in remembrance of someone who lost his life there is are the words, “He came for a visit and stayed forever.”
While there are many unfortunate victims of the Devil’s Pool, let’s discuss just a few…
A young couple was in the area when a storm hit, and suddenly a flash flood swept them away. While the woman was able to survive, the man wasn’t so lucky, and drowned in the water. In 1979, a 24-year-old man named Peter McGann was visiting the location when he slipped and fell as he jumped from one rock to another, trying to avoid the gaps. Experienced divers finally found him almost six weeks later. Other victims who have lost their lives in the water there are a tourist from Adelaide in 2004, and a businessman who was visiting the area from Sydney in 2006.
The most recent death at the pool happened to a Tasmanian naval seaman in 2008. The 23-year-old man, named James Bennett, along with three of his friends decided to visit Devil’s Pool in late November. They had walked past the safety rails and entered the swirling water also known as the “washing machine.” Bennett was swimming when he was suddenly pulled backward – almost as if he was pulled by an unseen hand. He attempted to reach for a branch, but it snapped in half and he began struggling in the water. His head went under, and the only thing his friends could see were the tips of his fingers trying to reach for help. While his friends attempted to help him, he ended up completely disappearing underwater. His remains were found three days later.
Needless to say, the divers have an exceptionally difficult job searching for the drowned victims, as they could themselves easily become trapped under the rocks, particularly since the majority of the bodies have been found under rocks and logs. Some bodies have even been found continuing to spin around in the water. These brave divers are attached to the land by ropes when they enter the dangerous waters.
16 of the 17 people who have died there were males. The only female who died at the location drowned in the water farther upstream.
While it’s been reported that 17 people have lost their lives at Devil’s Pool since 1959, it’s believed that many others have also died tragically at that location. Old newspaper articles have been found that suggest as much.
According to an old article in The Cairns Post on Saturday, June 10, 1933, a man named T. Winterbottom was swept over the Barron Falls, and his body was missing for almost a week. Here is the report of the search for him:
“Although it is practically a week since the unfortunate man, Mr. T. Winterbottom, was swept over the Barron Falls, and all likely places have been searched, the body has not yet been located. It is problematical as to where the body can be, as the first pool under the falls proper is of a tremendous depth, and, perhaps the body may be lodged in crevices or caves which may exist beneath this water. Again, the body may be lodged in one of the crevices under the second pool. The search is being continued, and a further search of the Devil’s Pool will be made.”
Then, on November 18, 1940, another article in The Cairns Post read, “The tragic story of the eight year old child, John Dominic English who was drowned in the Devil’s Pool last Sunday was retold in the Police Court at Atherton…”
The legend of the Devil’s Pool has been around for many years, long before any of the reported drownings took place. The local Aboriginal people tell a legend about a beautiful Yidinji girl named Oolana. She married a highly respected elder from her tribe named Waroonoo.
However, not long after they were married, a new tribe moved into the area and Oolana quickly fell in love with a man named Dyga. After they began their affair, they fled their tribes and ran away to the valleys, but the elders caught up to them and they were captured. Oolana was able to escape her captors and jumped into the waters of the Babinda Boulders. After calling for her lover, Dyga jumped into the water, but she lost sight of him. Her sad cries are said to have turned the still water into a rushing flood that made the land shake. Large boulders dispersed around the creek, and Oolana is said to have disappeared amidst them.
The Devil’s Pool has been named one of Australia’s most haunted locations. Many people have heard a woman calling out in the middle of the night. Some visitors have also captured pictures with a face appearing underwater. They believe it’s Oolana’s ghost. In fact, people claim to still hear Oolana’s cries and calls for Dyga, and her ghost still apparently guards the boulders. Others believe that her spirit is what causes so many men to drown in the waters as she lures them to their deaths.
In several of the drowning cases, it’s said that the victims were pulled and held under the water as if by another person’s hands, when nobody was in fact beneath them. People who disrespect the location are also severely punished. One example is that of a young man who was visiting the pool when he decided to kick one of the signs. He then slipped, fell into the waters, and drowned.
The police took the father of one of the drowning victims to the location of his son’s death, and the man took a photo of the spot. He got the photos developed the next day, and — allegedly — in the picture was the image of his son with a cigarette in his mouth.
Since James Bennett’s death in 2008, there have been no more reported drownings at Devil’s Pool. One reason is because it was declared a no-go zone after the last tragic drowning. In fact, there’s a sign in front of Devil’s Pool that was put up by authorities at the Cairns Regional Council, giving a very direct warning to visitors. It reads:
This creek has claimed many lives
Wet rocks are extremely slippery
Beware of rapidly rising water levels
Do not swim in main creek downstream of this point
This track leads to lookouts only
For your safety keep to walking track provided
Unfortunately, people still put their lives at risk by swimming in the exact same location where so many others before them have met their tragic fates.
There’s no denying that this location has a very dark history, starting with a tragic legend about two young lovers who lost their lives there. Add to that the high number of people who have tragically drowned there over the years, and it creates an ominous mythos. Are these tragic events caused by the ghost of an inconsolable young woman searching for her lover, or by the natural dangers of the pool? We may never know the answer, but one thing is for sure: Devil’s Pool is a highly cursed location, and visitors should tread carefully.