In September 1917, a 22 year old man called Knight was found at a camp on the Karuah River. He had lost the use of his legs and was unable to hear or speak. He was immediately taken to hospital in Newcastle. Because the young man was unable to tell authorities what had happened speculation ran rife. He became known as “The man in the scrub”.1
Meanwhile a man who knew Knight came forward with an extraordinary story that he thought might explain what had happened. Knight and his brothers were fishermen and they had established a small smoked fish factory along the Karuah River. A couple of kilometres from the factory at Limeburners Creek, was a large house built by an old sea captain who raised his family there. Years later it became vacant and a family moved in only to be driven out by the ghost of a headless woman. One night the Knight brothers took refuge in the abandoned house during a storm and the same headless woman appeared in the doorway that had been locked, scaring them witless. Many other sightings of this ghost were reported.2
Mystery continued to surround this young man who had suffered spinal injuries. It was thought his name was Bert Lilley Knight.3 Two men fitted the name, one was Bert Lilley Knight from Karuah who fought and died in WWI France, 1918.4 Another, Herbert Lilley Knight, a fisherman from Karuah later lived in Taree and died in 1960.5 The newspapers offered no more updates on the young man and it is not known what became of him.
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Northern Star, 17 September 1917, 4.
2 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 2 October 1917, 2.
3 Dungog Chronicle: Durham and Gloucester Advertiser, 11 September 1917, 2.
4 NSW BDM, Death Index for Bert L Knight, No. 18368/1918.
5 NSW BDM, Death Index for Herbert Lilley Knight, No. 11487/1960.