Busting Auckland's ghosts
There have been rumours for years. Whispers of more than just clothes and perfume lurking in the walls of Smith and Caughey's department store.
They were stories Mark Wallbank couldn't ignore.
The man behind Haunted Auckland, a group of like-minded locals searching for the truth about the afterlife, recently spent an evening in the Queen St shopping institution. And what he found brings more questions than answers.
While the team are still in the process of reviewing the footage and audio from the time they spent in the building's basement and top floor, Wallbank said it seemed as though something else was there with them in the bowels of the building that evening.
"There were three people in the room, and they all felt something chilling at the exact same time," he said.
Smith and Caughey's is just one in a very long list of Auckland buildings Wallbank and his team of paranormal investigators have spent time in, including The Civic, The Masonic Tavern and Ewelme Cottage in Parnell, which is regarded as one of the most haunted places in Auckland.
Armed with cameras, voice recorders, thermometers, torches, motion detectors, electro-magnetic generators, parabolic audio receiver dishes and military-grade glow sticks, the team of 10 (four men, six women) spend anywhere from an hour to a whole night in buildings.
Either they contact the owners - like Smith and Caughey's - or, as is the case with most private homes they visit, the owners call them.
It might be because of the building's history, or a general bad vibe, that they are needed. Or there may be some physical issue the occupants are experiencing.
"We have gadgets that measure electrical and magnetic fields in the air; things that may cause hallucinations, paranoia, uneasy feelings, things that may be misunderstood as being paranormal.
"If you've got a leaking power box next to where you sleep, that's going to be giving off electronic and electrical readings, which can affect you."
That's right, even the ghost hunters believe it's 50/50 in the race between supernatural and perfectly natural.
But Wallbank said it's not always that easy to find the root cause.
"We go in with our cameras and our gadgets and we film empty rooms. And you never know, there's a chance we could capture something but it's about being in the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment aimed in the right direction really."
That luck of the draw hasn't put people off wanting to join the hunt though.
"There's a lot of people who want to get involved. They have been influenced by TV and want to be ghost hunters. But they have no idea what to expect - they expect exciting things when they go out, but actually it can be quite boring. If you took away all the soundtrack stuff from a TV scene, not a lot would happen - it would just be a creaking floorboard or something."