Chinese whispers blamed on ghost

NOT BOTHERED: Baker Maurice Piner has been working alongside what may be the ghost of a Chinese immigrant who hanged himself  in 1891 on the site of what is now Phil's Bakery on Gresson St, Greymouth.
NOT BOTHERED: Baker Maurice Piner has been working alongside what may be the ghost of a Chinese immigrant who hanged himself in 1891 on the site of what is now Phil's Bakery on Gresson St, Greymouth.

The tragic tale of a Chinese thief may explain the ghostly goings-on at a West Coast bakery.

Baker Maurice Piner has been bothered by mysterious voices, creeping shadows and things going bump at Phil's Bakery in Greymouth.

"When I was working on my own in the morning, I would see shadows going around the bakery and ovens and that," Piner said.

"Sometimes you could hear banging and crashing upstairs, and sometimes you can hear whispering and talking in the bakery.

"You look around to see if there's anyone there, and you can't."

However, a Greymouth tourist operator believes he can shed some light on the mystery.

Paul Schramm, manager of Wild West Adventures, has been researching a new tourist attraction where visitors are guided around the town by an audio device that uses GPS positioning to tell stories as they enter different areas.

During his research, Schramm came across the tale of Ah Shing, a Chinese miner, who hanged himself in the boarding house that used to stand on the site of the Gresson St bakery.

On October 17, 1891, the Grey River Argus reported that Ah Shing's body was found early in the day hanging from a rafter in the boarding house.

It said Shing had earlier pawned a "silver lever watch and chain" that he stole from a friend, Bernard Gallagher.

Julia Bradshaw, author of a book on the history of the Chinese on the West Coast, said it was likely Shing was driven to the crime by debt.

"When the Chinese came out here, they would usually have a debt from the journey and sometimes run up a debt in stores or take out loans to send money home," she said.

The area around Gresson St became known as Chinatown in the 1890s because of the many Chinese living there, she said.

Bradshaw believed Shing may have been overcome by guilt after stealing from his friend.

Piner said it was interesting to have a theory to explain the whispers and shadows, but it would not put him off working alone.

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The Press