The original photograph (above) is in our Society’s collection and on the back is written: “Wild Man’s Cave, Sunday School Picnic, 1906.” It shows a Sunday School Picnic group of 32 adults and children at the entrance of the “Wildman of Tallarook”‘s cave hideout. The story of the “wildman” is an interesting one and local Tallarook resident Robert Hollingworth was inspired to write a novel based on his own research. His book is entitled They called me the Wildman; The Prison diary of Henricke Nelson. It was first published by Pier 9, an imprint of Murdock Books Pty. Ltd. in 2008, and it is also available in local libraries.
Under the heading Author’s Note in Robert’s book, the opening two paragraphs read as follows:
“Henricke Nelsen came to Australia in 1861 and was not long in the colony before he began to live a secret life in Victoria’s Tallarook ranges. There he built a secret underground dwelling and this mountain hideaway became his home for more than a decade. If he had chosen to, he could have been employed on any of the stations, or at the railway, tannery, paper or flour mills, he could have lived in Tallarook and gained work there – the record shows that he was a capable man. But instead he chose a secret, solitary life unnoticed by anyone on the plains below.
In 1880 his underground abode was discovered and Nelsen was arrested. Upon investigation, the authorities found he possessed ‘every item necessary for a well-kept home’ including one or two books in English, a torn Bible, and, nearby in a deep cave a well-stocked larder. Nelsen denies living there, but the evidence found on site was overwhelming and included a dated train timetable with his name on it. Nelsen was charged with vagrancy and sentenced to six months’ hard labour.”