'Ghost' drives students out of private girls' school
Two boarders at the troubled Turakina Maori Girls' College have left the school saying they have been threatened by a resident ghost.
Parents of the girls are angry that the Rangitikei school - which faces closure by Education Minister Hekia Parata - has accused them of exaggerating or fabricating the ghost story.
The ghost, or kehua, is said to take the shape of a man in a black cape and hat and has been seen in the boarders' hostel.
Kamaka Manuel, who is the head of the Maori department at Cullinane College in Whanganui, said he picked up his year 11 daughter from the hostel late at night last week and she would not return until the family was assured it was a safe environment.
"The site needs to be blessed and it also needs consistent follow-up to ensure the girls are kept spiritually safe."
Sightings of ghosts at the hostel date back at least 20 years. Former student Kelly Sliepen, 38, said she and her friends once saw a cup move across a table by itself and smash on the floor. After that incident a minister blessed the building, but later she saw an apparition on the stairs.
"I literally saw this lady walking down the stairs, a white ghost, I remember it clearly. I wasn't scared, it was more like, what the f...?"
But the male ghost is said to be threatening and violent and one of the girls who left the school last week claimed she woke up with a fat lip.
Manuel said he was concerned by the way Turakina had handled the incident.
"We feel they are genuine and the girls are not exaggerating. We are disappointed that's the view of [the school]."
He said his family were strong followers of the Ratana Church and after he picked up his daughter she was taken to the church temple to be prayed over.
"I think it would be a frightening experience for anybody. It was enough to scare her and put the chills down her spine."
Manuel said the kehua had caused girls in the hostel to wake up frightened and hyperventilating. Some had reported feeling heavy pressure applied on them and hearing the spirit speak. "He's spoken about wanting to get them."
He realised some people would find the claims ridiculous, but he was firm in his beliefs.
"I believe that Satan, kehua, omens are about and attack vulnerable people, usually young people. As a parent you support your children. I believe my daughter is not making anything up. I strongly believe she's been through an experience."
He said his daughter and her friends should be concentrating on NCEA exams. "This is an added burden."
He wanted the school to create an "open forum" for families to voice their concerns.
Another parent, Manawai Martin, said the school was "in denial" about the kehua. When some of the girls called their parents two years ago to report seeing the spirit, the school confiscated their cellphones as punishment, she said.
Parents are upset that the Reverend Wayne Te Kaawa, moderator of the Presbyterian Church and chair of Turakina's board of proprietors, has suggested that any kehua were created by the girls themselves.
Te Kaawa went to the school on Friday to discuss the kehua with staff, students and parents.
He said the school land was purchased in 1927 and was blessed by Presbyterian and Ratana ministers. "All said there were no kehua on the site. There was no pa site there, there were no burial grounds."
In recent years ministers had blessed the hostel.
"We don't do exorcisms because there are no bad spirits there as far as we are concerned. We have blessings, we bless the whenua, we bless the buildings and even the girls themselves."
None of the ministers who had visited the site had reported the presence of kehua, he said.
"Where it's coming from, we don't know. One of our ministers said a rumour was started a few years ago by one of the girls that there was a ghost there. It could be that sort of thing happening again."
But Te Kaawa said he was concerned about reports of a girl being assaulted.
"We're talking physical now, not the spiritual realm."
Turakina's roll has fallen from 152 in 2003 to about 54 this year and it's trust board is in serious financial difficulty. Submissions over its future closed on Friday.
Asked about the kehua, Parata said: "Students' cultural values are important. How schools acknowledge them is a matter for schools and parents."
- Sunday Star Times