New Zealand's spookiest stories

For a country with a short human history, New Zealand has a very long list of ghost stories.

» Click here to see an interactive map of New Zealand's spookiest places.

Some are from Maori myth, such as beliefs around Spirits Bay at Cape Reinga, but most stem from European legend and the many mysterious happenings during the country's early settler days.

Tales of spurned lovers, dead children or unhappy souls can be found in almost every town, in their run-down old buildings or spooky forests.

This could be because New Zealanders show a natural willingness to believe in the sacred and supernatural, according to Massey University research.

Lecturer Heather Kavan said a survey earlier this year showed 40 per cent of Kiwis said they have felt a spiritual force - up from 33 per cent in 1993.

"This isn't particularly surprising as all through history people have been looking for a way to connect with something beyond themselves," Kavan said.

Or, the proliferation of ghost stories could just be because we have so many scary-looking places, says Auckland ghost tour guide Anthony McAnulty.

McAnulty runs a two-hour tour around the central city focussing on the macabre and the bizarre - and he says there is plenty of material to work with.

He believes one of the scariest places in his city is the Civic theatre, which is purportedly haunted by a spirit called the "Grey Ghost."

"The man supposed to be the ghost was deeply in love with a chorus girl, who spurned his advances so he committed suicide. Now he wanders the building," McAnulty says.

However, McAnulty says no matter what ghosts haunt homes or hotels there's still nothing as scary as a cemetery at night.

"You ever been to one after dark? It's spooky, let me tell you that," he said.

To help you have your own ghostly experience this Halloween, Stuff has compiled a list of some of New Zealand's scariest places.


1. Kingseat psychiatric hospital, Karaka.

Kingseat is a former psychiatric hospital where many patients claim they experienced maltreatment, and a number of patients died during their time there. Its reputation for hauntings spread so far and wide it is now run as a "haunted house" tourist venture by a company named Spookers.

2. Racecourse Hotel, Riccarton.

The ghost of former licensee Donald Fraser is said to walk the corridors of the hotel looking for his killer.

According to The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, in 1933 Fraser was killed in the middle of the night in his bedroom, where his wife was asleep, by two blasts from a double-barrelled shotgun.

The movements and circumstances of everyone in the house at the time, and of guests at a party held in the hotel earlier in the evening, were checked and rechecked but no one was ever found guilty of the murder.

3. Larnach Castle, Dunedin.

New Zealand's only castle is reportedly haunted by several spirits including the William Larnach himself and one of his vengeful wives.

Larnach shot himself in the head in 1898 after learning of an affair between his young third wife and one of his sons from his first marriage.

Both the first and second Mrs Larnachs, who were half-sisters, died in the castle at age 38.

Larnach's daughter Katie is said to haunt the ballroom, built to celebrate her 21st birthday in 1886. She died just a few years later from typhoid.

4. Waitomo Caves Hotel, King Country.

This is New Zealand's most haunted hotel.

Bathtubs reportedly drip blood, orbs bounce around the driveway and a Maori princess is reputed to stalk the corridors, according to

The website says some people have experienced the dining room going cold, laughter, the feeling of 'something' walking through them and even the noise of a maid's trolley going along the long stretch of hall in the lower part of the hotel.

5. The Vulcan Hotel, St Bathans.

The Vulcan is haunted by the ghost of a murdered prostitute named 'The Rose'.

A review of the hotel from Suite 101 says the tale begins when, one evening in the early 1880s, The Rose invited the wrong customer back to her room.

Her body was found the next morning on the bed where she made her living. Her killer was never caught. She now haunts the room where she was killed, targeting male guests with her nasty nocturnal visits.

6. The Abel Tasman coast.  

This legend dates back to the late 1820s when Maori chief Te Rauparaha and his allies sacked the Waimea pa in Appleby, and found the hiding place of the magnificent waka Te Awatea.

A Nelson Evening Mail article says a phantom Maori canoe, with a warrior crew chanting, can be seen in the area on still nights.

Sightings of the canoe are often accompanied by the sound of wailing women, representing the laments of the Ngati Apa people as their beloved waka was paddled away.

7. Waimate Hospital, Waimate.

Waimate Hospital is closed, but a tortured spirit dwells within.

It is the Grey Lady, and she is restless. The Christchurch Press wrote about the haunted hospital in 1996, saying locked doors were found open, the sound of breaking glass was reported but nothing found, and ambulance officers had told of disturbing encounters with a spirit.

Former nurses believe the Grey Lady is the spirit of a former woman patient, who died at the hospital, seeking company in an afterlife.

8.  St. James Theatre, Wellington.

There are numerous ghosts reported to haunt this theatre.

According to, one of the more regular sightings is the ghost of Yuri, a Russian performer who supposedly fell to his death from above the stage.

Yuri has been encountered playing with the lights, in particular switching them all back on again once the theatre has been locked up for the night.

There is also the 'Wailing Woman', a frequent apparition who is said to wail and moan about, and a boy's choir who is said to haunt the theatre.

9. The Masonic Hotel, Napier.

The Masonic was built in the 1860s, then rebuilt after a fire in the 1890s and again after the 1931 earthquake.

In the hotel rooms there have been several natural deaths as well as suicides - and a chef once died in the hotel's bath. Witnesses report music that comes on by itself, lights that turn on without being touched, and apparitions that appear in the night.  

10. Spirits Bay, Far North.

Perhaps New Zealand's most famous spot for supernatural beings, Spirits Bay is believed to be a jump-off point for spirits leaving this world.

According to Maori legend, during the night hours, groups of spirits and individuals can be seen moving down the beach to a certain point and than disappearing. These spirits are very focused on reaching a particular part of the beach and will not be distracted from their goal.


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