Waiouru Military Camp

Waiouru Military Camp is a camp of the New Zealand Army in the central North Island near Waiouru. All New Zealand Army soldiers complete their initial basic training at Waiouru Military Camp.

Waiouru Military Camp
Waiouru Military Camp


In mid-1940, 800 construction workers from the Ministry of Works built the training camp with capacity for 7000 soldiers. Within six weeks 25000 tons of building materials had arrived at Waiouru Railway Station. 450,000 tonnes of earth was shifted to make a flat area. At the same time, hundreds of soldiers camped under canvas in the snow and completed extensive field training.

By Christmas 1940, there were 230 buildings constructed, served by 20 km of streets. By mid-1941, seven regimental camps housed 7000 soldiers. There was a bakery, a hospital, two theatres and five “institutes”, each with a concert hall, library, writing room and tea-rooms. However, there were no bars; soldiers had to go to Taihape to buy a beer.

More land was required for the camp by 1949. Plans were made to upgrade the Desert Road track through the artillery range to a major State Highway and build a high-voltage power line to transfer power up the Moawhango valley. The Army Schools at Trentham were to be transferred to Waiouru, compulsory military training was about to commence and, as defence responsibilities shifted to South-East Asia, the Army needed forests for jungle warfare training. These considerations resulted in another 250 square kilometres of land to the north and east of the camp being acquired by the New Zealand Government.

Compulsory military training was carried out at Waiouru from 1950 to 1958, and balloted national service from 1962 to 1972. In 1978, the National Army Museum opened at Waiouru, and in 1985 the Officer Cadet School of New Zealand. These were busiest years at Waiouru. 100 recreational clubs were active in the 1970s and 80s: the Ski Club alone had 300 members. At the time, Waiouru had a population of 6,000 people, including 600 children.

Reported Hauntings

Army recruits stationed at the camp have reported seeing shadowy figures at the end of their bunks at night as well as sounds of tapping on their metal bunk frames. Faces have been seen outside the windows at night after curfew.

In another tale, a presence known as “Harvey” has been felt in one of the shower blocks were a young man was said to have hanged himself, and his spirit is said to appear each year on the anniversary of his death. On one of these anniversaries, several recruits reported an intense feeling of cold in the middle of the night, and a pressure forcing them down on their bunks so that they could not move or speak. One also reported the sight of a dirty white mist, blurred and vaguely human-shaped but without arms or any identifying facial features.

Whether these stories are true, or just tales to frighten new recruits, we may never know. But many agree there appear to be something lingering in the barracks and dormitories of the Waiouru Military Camp.


  1. Ror

    It’s worth mentioning that the Waiouru military camp cinema was used to house the bodies of the deceased from the Tangi\wai Disaster. Even during the summer this cinema is refrigerator levels of cold, unsure if that’s because of the design of the high ceiling and lack of insulation, or something else.

  2. Soldier X

    Definite things go bump in the night, barrack blocks (& barracks shut down because of sightings or other), lone figures on parade grounds, old medic hospital (most hauntings), Maori land zones (helo’s falling out of the sky), troops in the field being violently woken by Maori warriors, missing WW2 sections & soldiers roaming the training area & linking up with modern troops on exercises & plenty more!!!! Enjoyed my time there & these “stories” are very real, ghost bush was my most surreal experience!!!

    1. James

      Helicopters falling out of the sky? When did that happen? Ive also never heard of troops being awakened by Maori warriors.

      As for being pinned down in beds, that I can confirm definitely happens there. Yes, I am acquainted with sleep paralysis. However, when it happens to all ten guys in one room at the same time and for such duration as it did, theres something more going on.

    1. Canterbury all the way

      Can relate to the feeling of being weighed down and weird stuff going on the barracks. Some interesting things go on all right, but it’s still a very cool place

  3. Wilky

    I guess no one has heard of sleep paralysis? I know soldiers who have experienced it in just about every camp in the country. After a couple of guys had it in Burnham we had the barracks ‘blessed’ by the padre. Hocus Pocus. Seeing faces outside the window after curfew? Wow.. didn’t anyone ever sneak out at night? At least come up with some better stories for your article. What about the 2/1 waiouru weather curse put on the battalion by a mad waiouru witch. Havent heard that one in a while..

    1. Nigel

      Actually there is truth to this. Some of the claims sound far feached like missing sections, helicopters falling out of sky???? Never heard about those in my 5 years there.

      But I have experienced the cold spots, frozen to the spot and the appearance of a fuzzy “bowling pin” shaped figure at the end of the bed.

      You can explain some things away but when you experience it first hand, then you know there is something to it.

    2. Mutley

      Wilky, You’re dead right about sleep paralysis. Suffered it all thru RF Cadet School and beyond in Waiouru but didn’t know what it was, and thought I was being haunted. The Camp Hospital was the most haunted place at ATG. Ambulance drivers rostered to sleep there overnight would often hear doors closing, footsteps, chairs creaking as if someone was sitting down, and on investigating there was nobody there.

    3. James

      Wilky, when did they have a Padre have barracks in Burnham blessed due to sleep paralysis events? I’m ex 2/1 RNZIR and I never heard of this occurring. Mind you, I’ve been out for a long time. Can you give me an idea of roughly when it would have been?

  4. KLF

    On my basic training as a recruit in 99 we had an entity in our barrack block. Sudden cold and doors slamming in front of us in the room where the hanging and shooting took place in our female block. In my years of service I’ve learnt Waiouru should be given the utmost respect. Onward.

    1. SDG

      303 had an event. One of the recruits saw something that made him scared enough to leave one night. Plenty of witnesses to the aftermath and his state of mind. Plenty of bangings and knockings goin on at night with noone around. In saying that was a tough place during stressful times.

    2. James

      I was up there at that time. There were definitely reported incidents. Mind you, one of the recruits going through at the time seemed to be a magnet for this kind of stuff. Later on on an exercise down south there were multiple paranormal happenings that members of his section witnessed. Also in his sections part of their barracks at 2/1. For some reason, the spirits or whatever they are seemed to be attracted to or just more active around him.

  5. Was posted to Waiouru, Edn Welfare Section in 1987. One day there, my then partner (of Sth Island native decent) had an over whelming urge to drive and visit the 25 meter range area to investigate a strong sense of a possible child death. Hocus pocus to me then but as much as she walked the area alone she came back in silence but still with a sense that something did happen. In my 5 years posting there I did have a change of heart due to tahe Historical and sacred cultural nature of the entire Camp settings itself.

  6. Daz

    Hard out we stayed in the older barracks down by the grenade range and all of the doors opened and shut in the middle of the night. NOONE THERE! Also we had the people who quit stay in another barracks and get the old ‘pinned down’ treatment.

    1. Dave

      When I did my basic in 90 we were told of a Sgt and a person he supervised being killed by a grenade so your story made me see if that was true… https://nzhistory.govt.nz/page/new-zealand-soldiers-brave-sacrifice
      “On 13 February 1974, Hudson was supervising a live grenade practice when the soldier in his bunker, Sergeant Graham Fergusson, accidently armed the grenade he was about to throw. Realising the danger, Hudson ordered Fergusson to get rid of the grenade immediately. When Fergusson hesitated, Hudson reached for the grenade in an attempt to throw it out of the bunker. Tragically, it exploded before he could do this, killing both men.”
      Waiouru is a place like non-other.. such a spiritual place.

  7. BrO & Gersh

    i always blocked that shit out, and it never did get to me, i loved everything about waiouru, the training everything, i wish the camp was in full force again, it went dwnhill once logistics left

  8. Buck

    Spent many years in Waiouru. 1985-87,93-95, 98-2000. Walked, drove or rode over most of the thousands of acres of the area. Many good friendships made and alot still there in the ground op the Marae. Special place.

  9. Dean

    Yea was up there with doing live fire with mortars for an MFC course. Stayed in the old barracks. Three of us all were pinned down in bed, with a cold weight on our chests. On different nights. One night, one of the boys woke up, hit the lights and asked why none of us would help him (he had something pushing his chest holding him down), no one heard him. Another night, one of the beds dragged into the middle of the room.
    Some weird shit going on there. But hey, it’s all character building.

  10. Matt

    “Seeing shadowy figures at the end of their bunks at night as well as sounds of tapping on their metal bunk frames”

    Those exact things were reported by recruits during my Recruit course in 2005, I also remember going to the toilet once during the night and as I washing my hands I felt an intense feeling of somebody standing right behind me,I avoided looking into the mirror in case I saw something behind me and ran out.

  11. Hikihiki

    Was a relief to read all the comments. I find it unfair all the paranormal activity and nothing has been done FFS we not only have to deal with the living’s bullshit we now have to put up with deads bullshit.

  12. Shandrah

    I was a kid when my dad was posted there (2Sigs) in 1981. We (the neighbourhood kids) wouldn’t go into certain parts of the cinema and although we’d go muck around at the end of Thornton Tce, we’d all be making sure we left well before sundown. A lot of us had seen or heard things that weren’t living while we were out there playing hide n seek.

  13. jacqui kennedy

    I trained here and never knew of the history, but we saw faces outside the windows and in the shower block at night, felt a presence there.

  14. Army Wife

    We used to live in the housing area and had a ghost I called Charlie, we’d have all kitchen cabinets opened in the night. Seeing him in a mirror once and feeling his presence. Even my husband who previously didn’t believe in ghost felt him.

  15. Ross Westgate

    Yep I remember being held down in the barracks while on exercise one night, drawers in the bedside cabinets being pulled out and dropped on floor while whole platoon were sleeping. Real freaky never experienced something like that before.

  16. Jake Pivac

    Haha I’m lying in the barracks right now reading these stories, not much going on right now touch wood.
    Waiouru is full of history alright

  17. Scott

    Oh yeah plenty going on but as always with a place of so much history we all need to respect Waiouru and what it once was in its former days. Posted there in 93, 95 and 2000-2001. Experienced the being pinned down and saw the fuzzy forms. The feelings of souls behind you in the ablutions but the favourite was definitely the being woke up by Maori Warriors in the field. Wouldn’t change it for the world. As the General said about the training area. All men need to pass through here in order to make them hard – or words to those effect. There were just different elements and forces in camp and all over to help out in the hardening process. RESPECT. Ma nga hua tu tangata.

  18. Echo

    Ex Army medic, spent most of my time posted at Waiouru, attached to the old Military Hospital on the outskirts of camp. Every wing, passage way, corridor, room, office, bathroom had a story to tell. If you were lucky enough to be rostered on the graveyard shift, you were more than likely the entertainment for the many non-living residents who had passed through the camp hospital in one form or another. A routine security check of the hospital would consist of sprinting through the corridors turning lights on and off and rattling doors to ensure they were locked. Some doors would shake furiously before you even got there and lights would flicker OFF when you know dam well you had switched it on to light your way through the darkness. To turn around and do it all again, was not an option.

    As per a previous post, bodies from the Tangiwai disaster were placed throughout the camp in make shift morgues. Some at the hospital, majority at the cinema and even the old OCS/MSI building. Certain places within the camp were more “heavy” than others, and when you discovered the history behind them you understood why.

    I loved every minute I spent in Waiouru and became part of it’s history when tragedy and death affected me personally on more than one occasion. I will always hold a special place in my heart for this sacred place and hope that she ( i reckon she’s female) continues to be the heart of the Central Plateau for all those who dare to pass through her “ghostly” but spiritual confines.

    Arohanui xxx

  19. I was also posted in to Waiouru Hosp, as well as doing a TOD in 88. I was posted to the then ATG Hosp from 91-94, so many hard to explain occurrences as per previous posts, some of our nursing officers refused to sleep in the rooms with no lights on. Some of the Medic antics may not have contributed to that at all

  20. During preparations to move the marae at the Waiouru Army base, from an old location, to a new location, Soldiers were stationed around the marae and were about to lift it up from portable foundations on the count of 1 2 3 lift!!. The guy leading the count Got to 1,2! And that marae started moving on its own ! With an impromptu start, the soldiers started lifting. I guess the marae wanted to be moved. This happened a little over twenty years ago.

  21. Hohepa Matiu

    I worked as a shift fitter at the tangiwai sawmill on the night shift in 2015, walking back to the workshop from the log yard I turned and saw a white shadowy figure, only visible from the waist upwards, walking away from me, wearing what appeared to be a night gown with fine embroided edging, she seemed distressed or saddened, perhaps lost even, I even asked her if she was ok then she vanished into the night, before this I would have laughed at anyone who mentioned “ghosts” after that my attitude changed quite drastically as I saw it with my own eyes, another worker mentioned a male entity haunting the place which I never encountered, I strongly believe that it has something to do with the Tangiwai rail disaster site being literally across the road, 151 souls died there, the night gown she was wearing was what I imagine to be something from the era, never have I had such an encounter before or since.

  22. Kevin Pennell

    I was at Cambrai Barracks in 1972 when one of our guys hung himself in the showers I later had to ID him Cambrai were the Tankies barracks we had a Tohunga in from Raetahi to bless the place.

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  24. I was an Australian exchange cadet at OCS NZ in 88/89. We used to have to do duty in the building you refer to, we called it Tebaga barracks and we referred to the ghost you’re talking about as ‘the Tebaga ghost’. I had to do duty alone in that building one night. Switched off every light, there was a large lockable switchboard on the wall, I opened it and switched off all the non essential lights then locked it up again. I locked the external doors and a set of internal double doors at the top of the corridor that led down past what were our mail pigeon holes past the old shower block where the ghost was meant to have hung himself. I then locked myself into the duty room to sleep. I put my overnight bag against the inside of the duty room door and locked the myself in from the inside. About 3am I was woken up and noticed my bedroom light was on. i rolled over and my bag had been moved aside, not just pushed in but moved to a side and the locked duty room door was wide open. Every light in the building was on. I wondered if one of the instructors had come in early for some reason, had their own keys and had looked in on me to check I was on duty. I called out and no answer. I carefully crept out and every light in the building was on, the double doors down to the old shower block that i had locked just before going to bed were wide open and all the external building doors were still locked from the inside. i still thought there must be an instructor who had come in early and opened up with his own set of keys so i quickly got dressed and called out a few times expecting a shouted answer from elsewhere in the building. As no answers came back and I couldn’t hear anything other noises )of somebody moving around) in the quietness of 3am I strted getting scared. After maybe 2 hours of sitting around terrified wondering what might appear around a corner eventually one of the instructors turned up for work, checked the logbook and relieved me of my duty. initially i thought I had been setup by friends as a practical joke but nobody evern mentioned it. Even at the 20 year reunion still nobody ever mentioned it and I’ve enver told them for fear at the time of being teased. Certainly one of the stranger episodes of my life.

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