The Secret of Hanging Rock

Chapter 18 Summary

'The Secret of Hanging Rock' was first published in Australia by Angus & Robertson Publishers in 1987. This was about twenty years after 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' was published, and a few years after the death of it's author Joan Lindsay. This publication has a chapter titled Chapter Eighteen that is supposedly the original last chapter of 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'. The official story is that the original publishers of 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' thought the novel was better without Chapter 18 and it was decided to leave it out. (Can anyone confirm this, I wonder...?) The general public did not know of its existence.

'The Secret of Hanging Rock' has about 50 pages. Chapter 18 takes up about 12 of these. The remaining pages taken up by an introduction, a chapter by John Taylor (who owns the copyright to Chapter 18), and a commentary by Yvonne Rousseau. The book is more like a booklet, with quite large text, so Chapter 18 is really more like about 6 pages of normal text. There's not much to it!

Many of the sentences are actually just re-worded parts of Chapter 3, so it seems likely that parts of “Picnic at Hanging Rock” were rewritten after it was decided to leave out Chapter 18.

Summary of Chapter 18:

  • Edith runs off as the other girls push on through the dogwoods.
  • Irma looks down to the plain and describes the people looking like ants.
  • As the girls walk past the monolith they have some sort of supernatural sensation of being pulled "inside out" and of being dizzy.
  • They walk on past the monolith where they lay down and fall asleep.
  • Miranda wakes up.
  • A woman comes crashing through the undergrowth and falls down amongst the girls. This person is never called Miss McCraw but we are led to believe that it indeed Miss McCraw even though the girls don't seem to recognise her. She is not wearing a dress, just her under-garments.
  • Miranda loosens Miss McCraw's stays to help her breath as she seems exhausted.
  • The girls all decide to get out of their corsets.
  • They throw their corsets over the precipice, but don't see which way they fall.
  • Miss McCraw points out that the corsets seem to be magically hanging in space besides them (not at the bottom of the cliff).
  • Miss McCraw suggests that the corsets are "stuck fast in time".
  • Miss McCraw suggests that they all "go on". Miss McCraw seems to know what's happening...?
  • Miss McCraw suffers giddiness momentarily.
  • They all see a "hole in space", some sort of mystical supernatural phenomenon.
  • The "hole" seems to answer all of the mysteries of life, though they don't really ask it any questions.
  • A little brown snake appears and disappears down a crack in the rock.
  • Miranda and Marion try to find the snake.
  • Miss McCraw suggests that she "goes first" (down the crack in the rock to follow the snake).
  • Miss McCraw magically transforms into a small creature like a lizard and crawls into the crack and disappears.
  • Marion, and then Miranda, performs the same "magic" transformation and disappears down the crack.
  • One of the large boulders slowly tilts over and covers the hole where Miss McCraw and the two girls have gone.
  • Irma is left by herself. She is "tearing and beating at the gritty face on the boulder with her bare hands".