During the trip several students and a teacher disappear, most never to be heard from again. But is it true?
Hanging Rock is in fact not the name of the mountain, but rather one of its many geographical features. It itself being a boulder, suspended by two other rocks under which the main walking path travels. Other features around the mount include 'the Post Office', a small hollow where passers by throw small rocks and 'Lovers Leap', a large rock looking out over a massive cliff face.
Mt Diogenes was named by surveyor Robert Hoddle in 1844. Prior to this time, and colonial settlement, the mountain was used by the aboriginal tribes of the Kulin Nation. For more than 26,000 years it was a place for large tribal gatherings, trade, marriages and initiation ceremonies. It was an important landmark, as it sat on the border of four tribal territories.
Unfortunately, as was the way things were, the local traditional owners were moved along from the site when colonisation took place. In 1844 the tribal initiation ceremonies largely stopped although, with only one other taking place in 1851. Although used as a location for gatherings, not one of the tribes would climb into the mountain, as they believed harmful spirits lived among the rocks and crevices.
An interesting fact is that the rock that makes up the mountain (created over six million years ago by magma exiting a vent), can only be found in two or three other places around the world. This rarity, along with the places natural beauty, saw it become a great tourist attraction.
It was also during this period that many a bushranger sought shelter among the features of Mt Diogenes. The natural nooks and crannies formed the perfect hiding place for those on the run from the law, as the mount afforded a good and clear lookout over the surrounding country side.
It was in 1901 that Hanging Rock, as the mountain had become commonly known, saw its first tragedy. On new years day James Flight, along with his wife and two children, visited the rock, and after some time, James decided he would climb it.
He took his two children, but after a while when the climb became difficult, James sent his children back. Later that day, James was seen staggering along the rock by some other visitors, who laid him down and called for the police and a doctor. By the time the doctor had arrived, James was dead. Although the following inquest found that the death was accidental, no one was convinced or satisfied that a fall had caused all of his injuries.
Picnic at Hanging Rock
The story centres on the 1900 Valentines Day visit of a group of girls from Appleyard College to Hanging Rock for a picnic. The main theme tackles the disappearance of three of the girls, and one of their teachers, while climbing the rock. In the story, the mystery is never solved.
About ten years later the book was adapted to the screen, and the mystery gathered a great deal more attention. Was it a true story?
Fact or Fiction?
It is still a fantastic story, and one that will haunt your mind as you try to work out what, in fact, happened to the girls and their teacher.
For those who are really intrigued by the tale, you can try to locate a copy of 'The Secret of Hanging Rock', which is the unpublished final chapter of the book. Originally Joan Lindsay had included what had happened to the girls, but the publishers wanted to retain an air of mystery to the book, so had it removed prior to publication. This final chapter was released in 1987, three years after Joan Lindsay’s, death in accordance to her wishes.
Had the final chapter been in the book, and thus in the movie, Peter Weir, the movies director, would have been saved from seeing a cup of coffee thrown at the screen during an early screening. According to Weir, "One distributor threw his coffee cup at the screen at the end of it, because he'd wasted two hours of his life—a mystery without a goddamn solution!"