Sarita, is that you? The intriguing Puhinui Homestead.

Photo by Haunted Auckland's Sam Collier
Photo by Haunted Auckland’s Sam Collier

In 2010, we began our research and investigation into the almost regular unusual occurrences that have been reported through the years at the grand, and much loved, Puhinui Homestead; nestled in the beautiful surrounds of the Howick Historical Village.

‘’Puhi’’ are the decorative plumes used on Maori war canoes; ‘’Nui’’ meaning large – Apparently relating to an incident in which a concealed canoe was discovered when someone caught sight of the distinctive plumes on its prow. There are claims the discoverers were soundly defeated in a following skirmish.

Puhinui Homestead was originally built on Thomas Morris McLaughlin’s 1152-hectare farm in Wiri, which he bought in 1845. In 1861, Thomas’ second son William built this fine piece of real estate lovingly named Puhinui, also called the McLaughlin Homestead. The family retained the house and land for many years, but after the industrialisation of that area, in 1980, the house was offered to the Howick Historical Society and moved to the village on February 12, 1982.

The 160-year-old house was cut into five pieces and shifted to the village in 1982. It was carried from its Manukau home on five trailers and, with the help of two large cranes, reassembled.

Through the years, there have been sightings of a woman, ascending the stairs. Nothing else, just climbing, from the bottom to the top. The same women (well, it’s surmised it’s the same woman) has also been seen in the master bedroom at the top of the stairs. It is thought that the mystery woman could be William McLaughlin’s Daughter, Sarita.

An obituary in the Auckland Star, Volume LXXI, Issue 243, 12 October 1940, Page 12 reads; Many Auckland people, and particularly those connected with the older generations, will regret to learn of the death of Miss Sarita McLaughlin, which occurred at her residence in Remuera last evening. Miss McLaughlin was born on the Puhinui estate in 1870. It was while she was young that her father, the late Mr. William McLaughlin, founded the Pakuranga Hunt Club and was its master for many years. Miss McLaughlin was a fine horsewoman and hunted regularly with the hounds. A large circle of friends will always remember Miss McLaughlin’s many kindnesses. Her generosity was distributed to all classes and without thought for herself. She visited England and the Continent several times and a few years ago spent some months in South America.

Sarita Niccol McLaughlin passed away at seventy years of age.

So far, the team have conducted six investigation visits of the village, as well as two public ”ghost hunt” events, a presentation evening, as well as being regular helpers at their annual Halloween events. You might say we have a loving lifelong connection with the village.

During an investigation of the house, back in 2010, the building was in the process of some renovation and a repaint. Scaffolding surrounding most of the exterior.

Earlier in the day, prior to the team’s arrival, a ghostly encounter was reported by a painter who was working on renovations to one of the buildings on site. The painter reported seeing a woman in colonial attire, walking up the stairs as he was painting a window frame and happened to look in. The homestead was locked up at the time and no one had gone in. Unfortunately, the team were not able to interview this individual directly, so further specifics of the encounter could not be obtained.

As the building was undergoing re-painting of the exteriors, it is believed within the some within the paranormal communities, that construction or renovations can be a trigger which can potentially stir up ghostly activity.

During that investigation, one of the team placed a coin on a sheet of paper in the children’s bedroom and traced a circle around the edge with a pen. Then, any ‘children’ present, were asked to please come forward and move the coin. The coin was then left while the team investigated elsewhere in the house. Upon returning, the coin had indeed moved outside the confines of the tracing.

In addition, one team member reported seeing the movement of one of the curtains in the main parlour of the house. The curtain was large, at least three metres tall and made from a heavy velvet material. While it was a windy day, and the window behind the curtain had been removed for renovation (the gap left covered in tarpaulin), the movement seen appeared to be a deliberate tug, rather than movement caused by the wind.

Multiple incidents of clear, loud sounding Footsteps being heard were reported by the team. Walking ‘’with purpose’’ down the length of the downstairs hallway, as well as upstairs in the various rooms.

A team member was ‘’poked’’ awake during a solo overnight stay.

The most physical occurrence being a flat, heavy torch that was somehow ‘’thrown’’ down a spiralling stairwell in the early hours of a solo overnight vigil. This was captured on film. As was a full 12 minutes of clear audio recording of movement, scraping, clunking, footsteps and furniture shifting.  Other interesting audio collected, were various snippets of EVP, (Electronic Voice Phenomena) spoken word phrases, captured on audio recorders during communication attempts.

An intriguing and beautiful old homestead. Is Sarita still residing there?

If you get the time to go visit the wonderful Howick Historical Village, spend a little time in the Homestead.

You just never know; Sarita might just pop the kettle on and want to chat a while!

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