Skeptics refute claimed video evidence that historic Auckland homestead is haunted by ghost

Fairfax

Mark Wallbank investigates paranormal activity at the Puhinui Homestead, Howick Historical Village.

Skeptics are scornful of new claims by supernatural investigators that they have captured video footage which could be proof of a 'ghost.'

The video shows a torch falling down stairs, filmed during a paranormal stake-out in Auckland.

Mark Wallbank, from Haunted Auckland, recently spent a night inside Puhinui Homestead at the Howick Historical Village in search of a spectre.

Haunted Auckland member Mark Wallbank, pictured at the old Kingseat mental hospital in search of supernatural activity.
CHRIS SKELTON/FAIRFAX NZ

Haunted Auckland member Mark Wallbank, pictured at the old Kingseat mental hospital in search of supernatural activity.

Following some bumps, bangs and scrapes about 3am, Wallbank's torch - which had been placed on a chair as a "trigger" object for any ghosts - can be seen on camera flying from the upstairs landing on to the stairs.

Wallbank had one camera which he had fixed on a tripod looking up the stairs with vibration triggers. He had left the torch upstairs in the hopes a ghost might switch it on. He had no camera trained on the actual torch. All that is seen is the torch falling down the stairs.

Wallbank says he was there alone on a solo vigil and he has ruled out an animal knocking the torch.

To his mind, that leaves a ghostly presence as one possible explanation - the historic homestead has a history of haunting. 

Craig Shearer, secretary of the NZ Skeptics Society, said the torch clattering down the stairs and the other bumps and thumps Wallbank heard on his vigils could have been anything.

"There's a huge leap to make from it being an unexplained occurrence to it being a ghost," he said.

"The approach we would take would be that before you believe something, there should be good evidence for it.

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"The idea of ghosts brings in all sorts of things that go against known science. Ghosts [in the house] wouldn't be the first thing that jumps to my mind."

Even Wallbank is cautious in making claims.

There was still more work yet before the house can be called "haunted", Wallbank said.

"A torch falling down some stairs isn't enough. We've got to rule out the rational before we can arrive at the paranormal."

"It was very confusing. It's an interesting one. It's a bit more than just creepy feelings and a random house creak this time.

Wallbank was there because of the homestead's history. 

"Through the years," Wallbank said, "there has been witnessed the figure of a woman ascending the stairs ... [and] in the master bedroom at the top of the stairs."

It is thought the apparition could be Sarita Niccol McLaughlin, the daughter of William McLaughlin who built the Puhinui Homestead in 1861 in Wiri.

The house was trucked to its current site at the historic village in 1982. 

Wallbank wanted to find and film that spectral woman. So in March he spent a night in the house with a camera set up on the stairs.

Three nights in the house with different Haunted Auckland members had all contained incidents of "apparent movement ... that could not be explained or identified", Wallbank said.

"I think we all came to the conclusion that there's something there, something we can't explain. It's beyond explaining at this stage."

From a skeptic's point of view, though, even if the activity was unexplained it wasn't necessarily the work of a ghost.

 

 - Stuff

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