The team checks in to New Zealand’s most haunted hotel, looking for evidence of those who never checked out. See the findings of our joint investigation with Wellington’s Strange Occurrences team.
Location & History
Waitomo Caves Hotel was first originally called Waitomo House, then in 1905 the Tourist Department bought it & renamed it the Government Hostel. Waitomo Caves Hotel is situated upon a natural high-point in an area of limestone rock honeycombed with natural caves and underground streams. Many of these caves are regarded as Tapu (sacred) by the local Maori and are said to be inhabited by Taniwha, guardian or predator beings that live in deep pools in rivers, dark caves, or in the sea, and Patupaiarehe, who according to Maori folklore are pale-skinned spirit beings that live in deep forests and mountaintops in New Zealand and who are said to lure people to their doom with ethereal flute music and singing. The Maori have historically used the caves as a burial ground.
The Maori occupation of the land dates back to 1350, with 2 massive battles fought in the area, as well as localised skirmishes between tribes. This area was also the site of the battles between the Maori King Movement (Kingitanga) and the British Army. Waitomo Caves Hotel is built on the site of a British Fort, that was used during the these battles, due to its defensible position, and foreboding slopes.
A legend of the Maori princess dates from the Kingitanga versus Britain era. The daughter of a high-ranking Maori chief became enamoured with a British soldier, and one evening, while making her way up to the fort for a romantic rendezvous with the solider, she was mistaken for a warrior by one of the British sentries and was shot dead. Her spirit is said to haunt the Victorian wing of the hotel which houses the Honeymoon Suite. She has also been reputed to taking up residence in a particular hotel attic, and her moaning can be heard coming from this area.
The story of the Ghost of Room 14 relates to the tale of the Maori Princess. A young male guest at the hotel, felt what is reputed to be her spirit passing through him, and after telling the tale to several guests staying at the time, he retired to his room and committed suicide. He is said now to wander the corridors as well. Hanging is commonly said to be his method of choice, however, in Room 14, it is said to that the bath has been seen dripping with blood. The adjacent Room 12 is also said to be frequented by the princess, with moving lights reported in the en-suite bathroom and guests having bed sheets pulled away and toes tickled during the night.
The ghost of Cat Alley is attributed to an accident that happened in the 1930s. Cat Alley is a cluster of small rooms and corridor, which catered to the workers and maids. It connected these rooms to the kitchen and restaurant. One night, a boy (one of the maids boys that was smuggled in at night) was skipping through the kitchen and knocked over a pot of boiling water, that burned him so badly he died. The staff have been calling him Daniel. He is said to be heard giggling, skipping and children often complain about being followed by a weird boy.
Room 12a (a common hotel euphemism to avoid rooms and floors numbered 13) is reputed to be a hotbed of activity, with footprints forming on talcum powder spilt on the ground and objects being moved about. Room 25 is an area the staff don’t like to go to, with reports of bad feelings, screams and further movement of objects. This room is said to be associated with a former staff member or Matron who is said to still try to keep order in the hotel’s Art Deco wing.
The Haunted Auckland and Strange Occurrences teams had rooms booked within close proximity of one another in the Art Deco wing of the hotel. Matthew in Room 12, Barbara and her husband Stu in Room 12a, Kris and Emily in Room 14 and Mark, James and Patrick sharing Room 18. Team members Kris and Emily arrived the evening before other team members, at 11:15p.m, and were greeted by Jazz, the concierge, whom Emily interviewed regarding the paranormal events he had experienced while working in the hotel. Being of Maori ancestry, he passed all this activity off as just “stuff that happens”, and as nothing unusual. He said that it was a “part of the land” in the Waikato, considering its history. They made their way to Room 14, in the Art Deco wing of the hotel. Upon entry of the wing, Kris claims he was “taken by a sudden rush of energy to the head, and everything went a rusty colour. I wasn’t light-headed or anything, and then everything went into a film negative like effect. Whether that was associated with anything spiritual, or whether that I was just tired, I have no idea”. Over the period of the night, there felt like there was a lot of activity in the room in general. Kris comments “I heard sounds of wind being disturbed, as if a bird with very soft wings was flying around the room.”
The other members of the teams started arriving at the hotel around mid afternoon the following day. After unpacking and settling in to our rooms we all started a loose exploration of the hotel, to generally get our bearings, get a feel for the place and to sort out the places we would investigate later on that night.
“At a spot, in the middle of the room and at the foot of the left most bed, I felt a massive sinking sensation. Like when you go over a bump in the road, and leaves your heart in your mouth. It felt very different in there to other parts of the hotel. This was my first feeling of dread in the place. Until then, we had felt embraced. This felt uncomfortable, more in that room, than the bathroom, and definitely more in that area of the room.” Kris also reported above average EMF fields in this area.
“The next place we visited was the under renovation wing in the art deco block. I felt drawn to the last room on the right down the main corridor. This was another area that gave me the willies. Of all the other rooms in this wing, this was the one that made me feel the weirdest, and the bathroom here most of all. It felt like we weren’t welcome here, and that I was interrupting somebody’s peace and quiet.”
A little later in the Room 25 suite, (1st floor, large “suicide” room, 2 smaller rooms adjacent, corridor with arched windows at both ends), James and Mark spent about 30 – 40 minutes doing an EVP session, as the room was going to be occupied later so could not be investigated that night. Whilst doing an EVP session in a storage room in Cat Alley, Barbara and Patrick hear an odd scratching movement which seemed to be in reply to one of their questions. A quick search around and outside the room reveals nothing. Within minutes after, they then capture a what appeared to be a EVP of a man’s voice on their audio recorder.
The teams adjourned to a local cafe/bar for dinner at around 6.30pm, returning to the hotel after sunset to begin the night-time investigation.
Photograph #1: Light Anomaly
The above photograph was taken by our investigator Kris in the hotel dining room, looking back towards the lobby. A light anomaly can be seen on main stairway through the glass doors. There was some debate within the team over whether the anomaly is positioned on the stairs themselves, or whether it is simply a reflection in the glass doors. Photographs taken from other angles did not provide any evidence to back up the reflection theory, so we have included this photograph as being unexplained.
Photograph #2: Wardrobe Mist
This photograph, taken by our investigator Matthew, shows what appears to be a mist inside a wardrobe in one of the unused rooms in the wing of the hotel undergoing renovations. Some stickers on the walls indicated that this may have previously been a child’s bedroom. Below is a contrast-enhanced copy of the photograph which shows the mist in more detail. A possible alternate explanation for this anomaly is light bleeding on the camera sensor from the over-exposed areas of the image.
Photograph #3: Broken Necklace
This photograph shows a cross belonging to our investigator Barbara who stayed in Room 12a. Barbara woke in the morning to discover her necklace had broken and immediately took a photograph of it to document as evidence. Barbara is certain the necklace was in one piece when she placed it on the table, and that it must have somehow broken overnight.
E.V.P. #1: Cat Alley Voice
The odd voice in the above recording was captured during an E.V.P. session conducted by Barbara from Haunted Auckland and Patrick from Strange Occurrences in a storage room near Cat Alley. An out-of-place, gruff male voice is heard 2.5 seconds into the recording, as well as several other instances where there appears to be a third person talking over top, or in the background. The recorder was stationary for the whole EVP session (shown in the photograph to the left).
E.V.P. #2: Room 12
The recording above was made in Room 12 by our investigator Matthew while he was alone in the room. A whispering female voice can be heard at around 15.5 seconds, saying 3 syllables. The team could not reach a clear consensus as to what is being said so we leave it up to the listener to draw their own conclusions.
All audio samples and images can be downloaded via the links above. We invite independent analysis and welcome any opinions from other paranormal investigation groups or the general public. Feel free to get in touch with us via our contact page.
Replication of Room 1 Light Anomaly
Note: The above image is not photographic evidence of the paranormal. This image is an artistic representation of a light anomaly experienced by our investigator Matthew during an E.V.P. session in Room 1.
The team had attempted to book Room 1, due to the history of activity associated with the room (one such event is documented in Spooked: Exploring The Paranormal In New Zealand by James Gilberd), however the room was being used as accommodations for the hotel manager.
The light anomaly appeared as a circular orb in the doorway to the en-suite bathroom where, at exactly the same moment, another investigator Kris who was sitting in the en-suite experienced an energy passing through this torso via his back. Nothing unusual appeared on our photographs or audio during this time.
While alone in the renovation wing, Patrick from Strange Occurrences experienced what he described as a knocking on the window of the 2nd room on the left as you enter the wing. While further investigation showed that the window was loose and could easily be rattled by a breeze, there was no significant breeze that evening, and force of the knocking was rather unsettling to Patrick.
Kris also felt sensations in the renovation wing “This was really scary. I ran out of the area 3 times in a very manly fashion indeed. I saw shadows moving around the stairwell and a general ominous feeling all-round. I do admit that when I start freaking out, more stuff seems to happen. It is like there are some predatory energies that can tell when you are scared, and feed off that. Seeing as that is a common trait in animals, I don’t think this is too far fetched an idea.”
Victorian Stairwell Presence
After briefly leaving Room 1 to fetch a Tri-field Meter, James states “I decided to use the stairs in the old part of the hotel to get back down there, and had a rather strange feeling while descending, from about the mid-level landing to the bottom, into the corridor. I felt there was something present, watching me, but I saw nothing. It felt a bit like walking back into the past. There was no one else present at this point, as our group was still in Room 1 and Richard [the manager] was elsewhere.”
Movement On The Stairs
Patrick had earlier reported seeing a dark streak move left to right across the landing by the first set of doors (top of stairs that lead down to Frederick Mace Restaurant): “This time, each time I looked toward this area, I thought I could see some kind of movement, either near or behind the table lamp, or in the shadow area in the middle of the corridor. I was alternating my view, looking down the corridor to the left (back toward the main landing above the entrance foyer, Room 12a) and down the corridor to the right (there’s about a 45 degree angle between these two corridors, Rm 18 is at the angle). Each time I looked to the right, I thought I saw movement. I took a number of photos. I saw no movement in the other direction, even though the architecture and lighting conditions were very similar (glass doors at the end, table lamps down the hallway).”
After reviewing the two groups’ files of around 2000 photographs, 20 something hours of audio and over 10 hours of static video footage, we were unable to document any conclusive evidence to prove the existence of a ghost, or ghosts present within the walls of the Waitomo Caves Hotel.
Both Haunted Auckland and Strange Occurrences team members did notice a few unusual sensations during the physical investigation. However, this does not necessarily mean that the hotel is haunted, as we were unable to capture anything definitive, at this investigation. Staff and visitors to this wonderful old hotel have been witness to many incidents and experiences through the years. It is likely at the very least, that the hotel does contain some residual phenomena, considering the amount of visitors staying there and the activities that have taken place within its walls through the decades.
The two teams had a great time investigating the hotel and we highly recommend going there to stay if you’re ever passing through. It’s a wonderful piece of history with such mystique and character and an underlying sense of retro style and luxury. The staff was friendly, helpful and very welcoming which made the whole experience extremely pleasant, relaxed and very refreshing. We hope to visit the Waitomo Caves Hotel again soon and would like to extend our thanks, gratitude and best wishes to all there.
The Waitomo Caves Hotel is, in our opinion, worthy of further investigation.