Return to The Auckland Civic Theatre

We return to the famed Auckland Civic Theatre in search of the former staff and performers said to linger in the grand auditorium.


We were lucky enough to get another shot at the grand Civic Theatre for a segment that was to be shot for 20/20. This ended up being swapped for a segment on another paranormal group in another part of NZ that has been receiving a large amount of press at the moment, due to the amount of paranormal claims and attention.

Theatres make great places to do investigations. Not only are they sound proof from the outside world, but they make places where completely opposite feelings are felt. Dreams are made, or torn apart in theatres. Not only would they make a wonderful place to come visit again, to relive happier times, but also they are a place that would have torn many a person back down to size and shattered their dreams, when shows don’t go according to plan. When the place is full, The Civic is a humming, very busy place. When it is empty, is it really empty? Does the Civic store the energies of the living, to relive moments when the place is quiet enough for people to notice?

A lot of the staff remark that when they are in the place, and the place is quiet, that they are very much not alone. Ushers speak of a rather rowdy “Doorman D” that is said to be lurking, making noise and being felt around the place.

Also worthy of mention, is the so-called “White Lady” that has been attributed to Freda Stark, a dancer at the civic, during the war years. She was in a relationship with Thelma Trott, a fellow dancer at their Mount Eden home, and Eric Mareo, a try hard composer, that performed at the old St James Theatre and the Civic. Mareo was convicted for Trott’s murder by poisoning, sentenced to death by hanging, spent months on death row in Mount Eden Prison, but later commuted to a life sentence, being released in 1958. Mareo’s life was never going to reach the glory he had dreamed of after his reputation was dashed.

There is a nice wee section that is maintained by Friends of the Civic that has an area dedicated to the memory of these dancers, Freda included. Freda was recently buried with her friend, Thelma Trott in Waikumete Cemetery.

Before its life as the Civic, the grounds were the site of a large market square, which burned down, with only one casualty that died on the corner of Wellesley and Queen Streets.

In the mid 1930’s Colin Anderson, the first managing director of The Civic, left the UK and journeyed to NZ via South Africa. In South Africa he met Lady Blythe who accompanied him to Auckland where they built Tamaki House in Kohimaramara, 40 acres of landscaped gardens with a Marie Antoinette farm. High society, racehorses, and a business associated with ‘the Kelly gang”, a group of Auckland Racing Club, Beer Barons, Hotel proprietor business men who had  bankrolled Thomas O’Brien (creator of the Civic Theatre), led to them being among the elite of Auckland Society. Colin’s wife died in an ‘unfortunate tragic accident’, and he was offered the management and a directorship of the Civic, and was spectacularly disliked, not being suitable for the role. His traditional garb of a grey suit, led to the coining of the nickname “Grey Ghost”, together with his habit of spying on staff from the foyer balcony.  A subsequent scandalous liaison rocked Auckland society.  Jewels, gambling, scurrilous allegations and a court case led to him being dismissed as the Civic manager/director. He shot himself.


The Investigation

The group was split up into two teams, Team One consisting of Matt, Lisa, Kel and Kris, whilst the other one (Team Two) was

made up of Mark, Barbara and Jay. The group was to be filmed for an upcoming 20/20 television article, so we had the company of Producer Mark Sleeman, Reporter Emma Keeling and Cameraman Chris along for the night.

Team one went off to start their session in the main auditorium with T.V crew following them, whilst team two started the investigation by entering the dressing rooms and lower areas. Needless to say, this was different to any investigation that has happened before, as we had cameras and their lights following us around and asking questions. This made some people in the group feel self-conscious and under pressure to give results. It also affected people’s levels of concentration, and with so many people running around, made is a little busier that what we are normally used to. However, a good night was had by all, and once we had warmed up to being filmed, started to get flowing after that.



At one point whilst Team One were upstairs being filmed, Mark, Barbara and Jay were downstairs documenting the surroundings and recording for E.V.Ps.

Mark states “I was using the Parabolic Dish and a Night Shot video camera with Infrared Lamp filming and recording. I asked that if anyone was there, could they please come and touch me. Almost immediately I felt an icy cold chill breeze brushing across my right arm. Barbara was photographing me and at that moment captured a series of photos showing movement of a pinkish orb in front of me. We tried to find the source of the icy breeze but were unable to at the time. There were no air conditioning ducts or other outlets that would have accounted for this.”

It was later concluded that the pink orb was in fact lens flare caused by Mark’s Infrared lamp which was aimed in Barbara’s camera direction.

In the dressing rooms Mark, Barbara and Jay all commented that they felt there was ‘something’ in there with them. Mark states “We could all feel it. It was a strange feeling. Like someone was watching us .I spent a while aiming my night shot camera into the mirrors as it really did feel to me, like there was someone behind the mirrors watching. Like a one way mirror. I was hoping to capture some movement through the glass, but was unsuccessful.”


“I had the constant feeling as if there was something around, but never anything negative. It felt as if something was curious about who was snooping around their theatre, but it didn’t want to attract any attention. For me, the wheelchair spot, the maze of corridors and some of the bathrooms felt the busiest. I didn’t feel anything in the Winter Garden, which is a spot that is famous for being haunted, especially by the White Lady. The spookiest place I was is in the bathrooms between levels, which is where I got my best EVP. I know the stories talk a lot about a white lady, however, I get the feeling that there is more of a general residual bustling, but more noticeably from a male entity.”


Barbara had a general feeling of something being there. She recalls “I don’t really consider myself a sensitive, but I did get a very strong impression in the upstairs theatre of a man, near the top of the stairs. I got an impression of him falling or dropping to the ground.  He had a heart attack and died in the theatre.  He came from Napier and “never went home” (he told me that).”

“In row R sitting near 5 and 6 where the wheelchair seats are, I felt like I was sinking, and had the sensation of falling forward. I felt a presence of an older male, but I did not receive a name when I asked. Sitting closer to the stage I felt presence, Lisa and I tried some trigger tests by asking the entity to move the curtains in the box seats, however nothing happened and I received some negative words.

Upstairs in the circle level, I felt a male presence however I did not receive a name when I asked.

In row P when sitting in seat number 27, I was receiving a lot of energy and I received a lot of communication, talking and whispering at the same time. However I could not pick up one conversation in the babble. I had to move from seat 27. I sat near Barbara I felt a male presence and received a name Riley.
Up in the catwalks above the theatre, I received a name Andrew however I think the entity was playing with me, and giving me false information.
In the bathrooms that service the theatre, I felt a presence of an older lady just watching Barbara and myself.”

Jay :
“Unfortunately during this investigation I had nothing abnormal stand out on any of my photos, videos or personal experiences”


Combined Experience:

Kris Relates: “We did get some weird EMF (Electromagnetic Field fluctuations, which some believe may indicate a presence of ‘ghosts’) levels and action, in the Wheelchair Allocation of seats, in Rows P, Q and R. The levels went from 300mG, which is normal, right up to 1300mG for about 5 minutes, and once this attracted the film crew, died back down to being normal. This was also captured by Matt and Lisa’s EMF meter, and caught on the TV crew cameras as the levels were on the way back down. This is in the spot where I managed to obtain a couple of nice wee unexplained voices last time we were here. This was also a spot, where our sensitive, Kel, was getting some activity. This happened on two other occasions, both by door D (which is reputedly haunted), and upstairs in the circle.” 


Audio Evidence:

The following piece of audio evidence was recorded by Kris in one of the men’s bathrooms. Between 7 and 12 seconds a voice can be heard which Kris reacts to, thinking he was being called, however there was no one else present or trying to call him.

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Here the audio is repeated, with the section between 7 and 12 seconds amplified by 20dB.

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Video Evidence

The following video was taken the main auditorium our investigator Barbara. In the lower right-hand corner of the frame during the first second of the video, a faint semi-transparent orb-like shape can be seen moving swiftly upwards from between two rows of seating. The there were no visible insects at the time of the investigation, and air-conditioning to the auditorium was switched off, creating a still environment.


 Final Thoughts

The general feel of things, is that this place has seen a lot of life and drama throughout the years, and some of this has imprinted itself to the building. Whilst we all had the opinion that we were being watched, nothing came out to clearly say hello. Most of us here at Haunted Auckland believe the place is residually haunted. This means, that whilst we can sometimes get glimpses of the past, it is not haunted by intelligent, thinking or self-aware entities. If it is, then it likes to be kept out of the spotlight, as it quietly wanders, minding its own business.

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  1. Pingback: Haunted Locations: Auckland Civic Theatre | Haunted Auckland

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