Wellington ghostbuster a sceptic

Nick Hill, the youngest member Strange Occurrences, with group leader James Gilberd and his wife, Denise.

Nick Hill, the youngest member Strange Occurrences, with group leader James Gilberd and his wife, Denise.


Nick Hill may be one of New Zealand's youngest ghostbusters, but the Karori man is still a sceptic. 

It's not the average hobby for a 24-year-old but Hill, who studied phycology and religion, said the world of the paranormal had always interested him.

The hospitality recruiter became the youngest member of Strange Occurrences, a paranormal group which investigates haunted buildings and photos, when he joined nine months ago.

"I joined to see if I could have an experience which I couldn't explain, because I am more towards the sceptical side," he said.

He isn't convinced ghosts exist. 

"As convincing as a shadowy figure might be, that doesn't convince me. It's an experience, but just one bit of data." 

Group leader and co-founder James Gilberd, a photographer by day, said he wasn't sure, either. 

"We are not ardent believers. We are not seeking to prove ghosts exist," he said.  

"We know people have experiences and we would love to find out what the nature of that is and help those people."

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That's not to say Gilberd has never had an experience that has left him wondering. 

In 1997, Gilberd and his wife, Denise, woke on New Year's Day in a Whanganui motel to an unexplained black mass fighting them and holding them down.

"It was very scary. It took weeks to shake off and we had no-one to talk to."

The experience led to the self-proclaimed agnostic starting the group in 2005, after he'd watched a ghost hunting show on television. 

Although their movie counterparts have a neverending list of cases, Gilberd said it was often a slow business, with a case every few months. 

Most of their work is in houses or flats, but a few historical buildings have the spookiest memories. 

"We usually find natural causes for things, but not everything."  

The group use electromagnetic field meters, sound recording and night vision to investigate. They also look into a place's history.  

Gilberd said the freakiest experience they'd had was at the Fever Hospital, now home to the SPCA, in Mt Victoria. 

One night he and another team member were there when a door slammed. They checked the door, latched it and started walking away when it slammed again. 

"That was really scary. We couldn't explain it." 

Telling people he was a ghost hunter had raised few eyebrows, Hill said. 

"Some of my friends think it's cool, some think it's cooky and some don't have an opinion. It's not something I bring up in conversation all the time, but I don't hide it." 

 - The Wellingtonian


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