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Aboriginal legend Devil's Pool in Cairns where man's body was found making him 19th victim


In the heart of a picturesque Queensland rainforest lays a deceptively calm  swimming hole which has taken the lives of at least 19 travellers.

Babinda Boulders, or more aptly referred to as Devil’s Pool, is home to an Aboriginal legend which, according to some, is the reason people continue to die there.

The watering hole is at the base of a hiking trail in Cairns popular with backpackers and travellers, who take for granted the calm surface and miscalculate the strength of the current underneath.

On Wednesday, 37-year-old Shanon Hoffman’s lifeless body was pulled from the haunted swell.

He’d been dragged under just two days earlier, and locals feared he would become just the latest in a long line of fatalities at the ‘haunted’ spot.

A young runaway bride who fell to her death at Devil's Pool (pictured) is believed to be the reason why so many young men's lives have been taken at the site, according to Aboriginal mythology

A young runaway bride who fell to her death at Devil’s Pool (pictured) is believed to be the reason why so many young men’s lives have been taken at the site, according to Aboriginal mythology

Brisbane father Shannon Hoffman (pictured), 37, was swimming with a friend at the off-limits swimming site at Babinda Boulders, south of Cairns, when they disappeared below the water's surface at 6pm on Monday

 Brisbane father Shannon Hoffman (pictured), 37, was swimming with a friend at the off-limits swimming site at Babinda Boulders, south of Cairns, when they disappeared below the water’s surface at 6pm on Monday

A warning sign in front of Devil's Pool reads: 'This creek has claimed many lives'

A warning sign in front of Devil’s Pool reads: ‘This creek has claimed many lives’

The undercurrent has been described as a ‘washing machine’ which sucks people under and makes it near impossible for them to swim to safety. 

According to Aboriginal lore, Babinda Boulders is haunted by the spirit of Oolana, a young woman from ancient times who drowned in that very spot. 

The legend says Oolana was from the Yindinji Tribe, and had been promised to a respected tribal leader when she was of age.

But she met a handsome young warrior, Dyga, who belonged to another Queensland tribe and fell in love with him.

Knowing she wouldn’t be able to stay with him, the couple fled their respective tribes and escaped into the wilderness, where they relied on the land to keep them alive. 

The couple remained in love and continued their affair while Elders searched high and low for them.

After some time, they were captured. 

Madison Tam, 18, disappeared while paddling at Devil's Pool - an off-limits swimming site at Babinda Boulders, south of Cairns

Madison Tam (pictured), 18, died on April 6, 2020, after she was sucked below the surface and her body was found days later

Madison Tam, 18, disappeared while paddling at Devil’s Pool – an off-limits swimming site at Babinda Boulders, south of Cairns 

Sign (pictured) in front of Babinda boulders details the indigenous legend at Devil's Pool 

Sign (pictured) in front of Babinda boulders details the indigenous legend at Devil’s Pool 

Mr Hoffman's friend was found safe but the search for the father (pictured) continued before his body was discovered in the water by police divers at 10:15am on Wednesday

 Mr Hoffman’s friend was found safe but the search for the father (pictured) continued before his body was discovered in the water by police divers at 10:15am on Wednesday

Dyga was dragged away and, out of despair, Oolana flung herself into nearby springs, which later became known as Devils Pools.

Legend says Oolana’s spirit haunts Devils Pools, luring men to the springs before dragging them under water and to their deaths as part of her endless search for her lost love.

Of the 19 known deaths that have taken place at Devils Pools since the 1940s, 17 victims have been men. 

The latest victim, Mr Hoffman, went swimming in the pool on Wednesday afternoon with a 32-year-old friend.

When a strong current swept through, the friend was able to get out of the water, but Mr Hoffman never resurfaced.

His 18-year-old daughter, Tia, said the loss was debilitating.

‘My dad is my hero. I can’t live my life without him… He could light up every room he walked in and was the sunshine of my life,’ she said.

‘I am broken.’  

Pictured: Rescue teams searching for Ms Tam earlier this year before her body resurfaced

Pictured: Rescue teams searching for Ms Tam earlier this year before her body resurfaced

A search operation involving Queensland Fire and Emergency Services swift water rescue team, SES volunteers and the Rescue 510 helicopter was launched in hopes of finding the teenager (police at the scene)

A search operation involving Queensland Fire and Emergency Services swift water rescue team, SES volunteers and the Rescue 510 helicopter was launched in hopes of finding the teenager (police at the scene)

Just six months earlier in April, 18-year-old Madison Tam was swimming in the gated-off spot with six other friends when a current dragged her under.

Five days after she disappeared, her body resurfaced, making her the first female on record to have died at the spot. 

The last person to die at Babinda Boulders before Ms Tam was Tasmanian man James Bennett in 2008.

Friends claimed the 23-year-old was swimming in calm waters when he was pulled backwards by an ‘invisible force’ towards the rapids at the end of the pool.

He reached for a branch, which snapped, before his head went under.

Former Babinda emergency services member Don Lawie, said at the time: ‘It’s always brave young men, good young men, who die doing these silly things. 

‘They call it the Washing Machine where he went in because it goes around and around.

'If you listen closely, it’s thought you can still here Oolana’s cries for her lost lover,' the Indigenous legend claims

‘If you listen closely, it’s thought you can still here Oolana’s cries for her lost lover,’ the Indigenous legend claims

The pool was officially declared a no-go zone after a 2008 death, with signs telling swimmers about the dangers of the site

The pool was officially declared a no-go zone after a 2008 death, with signs telling swimmers about the dangers of the site

‘It’s all bubbles so there is no buoyancy. It’s dangerous water. It sucks you under,’ Mr Lawie previously told the Townsville Bulletin. 

The pool was declared a no-go zone after Mr Bennett’s death with signs telling swimmers about the dangers of the site.

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.’  

Other known victims include a tourist from Adelaide in 2004, Sydney businessman in 2006 and eight-year-old boy in 1940.

In 1933, a man named only as Mr T Winterbottom disappeared nearby, while Aboriginal locals say another young man vanished after he kicked a plaque commemorating the dead. 

Other known victims include a tourist from Adelaide in 2004, Sydney businessman in 2006 and eight-year-old boy in 1940

Other known victims include a tourist from Adelaide in 2004, Sydney businessman in 2006 and eight-year-old boy in 1940 

Why Devil’s Pool at Babinda Bouders is ‘cursed’

According to Aboriginal folklore, a young runaway bride who fell to her death at Devil’s Pool is the reason so many young men’s lives – especially male tourists – have been taken at the site.

The legend begins with a young woman named Oolana who married an elder from her own Yidinji tribe. Shortly after they married she fell in love with another man named Dyga from a touring tribe.

The two lovers, Oolana and Dyga, ran away from their tribes and fled to what is now known as Devil’s Pool where they were captured by the elders. 

Oolana broke free and leapt into the creek waters calling for Dyga to follow.

She hit the water crying out for Dyga which shook the water into action. The land vibrated, sending boulders flying into the creek and causing the water to plunge forward.

Legend has it that Oolana’s cries for her lost lover can still be heard and her image appears in the water. 

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