The former gold and coal mining town of Saint Bathans, lies deep in the heart of the Maniototo District in New Zealand’s Central Otago Region. The town was named for the Scottish Borders village of Abbey Saint Bathans by early surveyor John Turnbull Thomson; the Scottish village was the birthplace of Thomson’s maternal grandfather. The area had previously been known as Dunstan Creek. The town itself once boasted over 2000 miners and no less than 13 pubs. Today the only remaining Hotel – the Vulcan Hotel dating back to 1882 – is the primary tourist attraction for the area. It still provides accommodation and meals for passers-by.
Close to the Vulcan Hotel is the Blue Lake, a legacy of heroic gold miners. Beginning in 1864, miners chipped and sluiced their way through the quartz rock of the 120 metre high Kildare Hill. From the 1880s the miners used hydraulic lift technology – like a giant vacuum cleaner – to suck water and gravel out of the pit to where it could be worked for gold. They kept working until, in 1934, the hill had become a huge 68 metre chasm. Later, the chasm filled with water. Mining has long since ceased, and it is now a sleepy and tranquil holiday escape.
The Vulcan Hotel is a restored, and reputedly haunted, public house, located on the main street of St. Bathans. Originally called the Ballarat Hotel, it was built in 1882 of mud brick. The shamrock, which can still be seen on the front facade, is a relic from the times of the rivalry between the Irish settlers from St Bathans and the Welsh settlers from Cambrian just down the road. This rivalry was known locally as “The War of the Roses” and at one time the acrimony between the two villages was quite bitter. Some years ago a television film crew claimed to have encountered the ghost. They were sufficiently frightened that they left St Bathans without finishing their filming – and never returned.
“Rose” Room One of the hotel is reputedly home to the spirit of a young woman, thought by some to be a prostitute known as Rose, who was strangled to death in the hotel in the 1880s, and allegedly still appears from time to time. The thing is – she only haunts men. One night, back in the town’s gold mining days, an itinerant prostitute called ‘The Rose’ rented the front room of the hotel. In the morning she was found raped, robbed, and strangled to death. Over the years, Rose has been seen and felt by staff members and guests alike at the hotel.
I’m told of a few male patrons reportedly being woken, and held down with hands around their throats, and an overwhelming sense of fear. These are the more common reports. A theory being that The Rose might be getting back at men for causing her death.
There have been many reports of lights going on and off, doors creaking, drops in temperature, phantom footsteps, ghostly apparitions, and mysterious shadows seen at the foot of the bed. Groaning is heard in hallways, kettles boil without being turned on, and doors lock themselves. The spirit is often seen reclining on a chaise longue in the dining room. Male guests staying in Room One, the room in which The Rose met her untimely death, have reported feelings of being held down and throttled.
An overnight investigation of the Hotel was conducted on Nov 28th 2015. This investigation, along with some intriguing revelations and findings were reported quite extensively in Mark Wallbank’s Haunted New Zealand Roadtrip book. (New Holland Publishers)