What's lurking inside New Zealand's most-haunted locations

A lady dressed in white, shadowy figures dipping out of sight, disembodied footsteps and bathtubs brimming with blood - these might seem like things that only occur in Hollywood's imagination - but depending on who you talk to, and what you believe,  they're happening right here in Aotearoa. 

Mark Wallbank has been investigating the paranormal for almost 40 years - he's been across the world hunting spirits and says while he's not a believer, there's more to life than what meets the eye.

New Zealand has dozens of allegedly haunted locations and Wallbank has seen almost all of them. But which ones have the most activity?

Waitomo Caves Hotel 

Originally called Waitomo House, the Hotel is said to teem with ghostly activity - bathtubs drip with blood, spirits walk straight through guests and those brave enough to stay the night could feel something jump on them, or pull their bedsheets away.

Wallbank told Newshub the stories of the hotel were intense.

"We heard stories from the people there - even if management didn't admit it," he said.

"A staff member said she went into one of the rooms to clean it, and the bathtub was just filled with what she said looked like blood. She ran out to get another person to look, but when they came back it was completely clear," he said.

"People just don't make things like that up. 

"For us, it's all about the stories. We're going in to find out whether the stories about these places are anything tangible."

Wallbank and his Haunted Auckland team, accompanied by the Wellington Strange Occurrences Society, were brave enough to stay the night.

The hotel.
The hotel. Photo credit: Haunted Auckland

They say a slew of uncomfortable experiences followed them. Sinking feelings "like when you go over a bump in the road"  were felt, a ball of light passed straight through one of the investigators, and multiple people felt as though they were being watched.

Unexplained whispers were captured using voice recording technology, and one of the investigators claims to have seen a dark shadow streak across a hallway. 

Despite the strange sensations, the team found no concrete evidence of the existence of a ghost or ghost within the walls of the Waitomo Caves Hotel.

Wallbank says conclusively proving the existence of ghosts would be hard.

"We'd have to be using the scientific method as much as possible - so you'd need really good quality video, photos, in a controlled environment. Then of course you'd need to replicate it."


Kingseat Psychiatric Hospital 

Auckland's Kingseat Psychiatric Hospital, a former mental hospital turned haunted house attraction, is a foreboding building.

The sprawling complex is imposing, and formerly housed hundreds of mentally ill New Zealanders until it was closed in 1999. In 2005 haunted attraction Spookers took over. 

Doors are said to lock by themselves, temperatures plummet without reason, doorbells ring without any touching them and furniture is said to move.

"[The building] is old and dark and full of rot and decay," said Wallbank. 

Kingseat Psychiatric Hospital.
Kingseat Psychiatric Hospital. Photo credit: Haunted Auckland

Wallbank says the team experienced "a lot" of activity in the building - most notably a kind of "conversation" with something or someone still in the building.

Using an EMF recorder, Wallbank told Newshub the team were able to spell out the full name of a former nurse by running through the alphabet and noting down the letter at which the meter spiked.

One of these names was Alexis Jackson, who allegedly committed suicide aged 27. 

"We got names, ages, occupations - it was incredible," he said.

When asked whether the name of Jackson lined up with records of the hospital, Wallbank said he wasn't sure.

"You run into privacy issues and things like that," he told Newshub.

But according to the Haunted Auckland website, Jackson died at the National Women's Hospital in 1974, and is said to haunt the building to "look after the other patients left behind".

Using the EMF reader, Jackson's spirit also allegedly confirmed the number and sexes of all investigators in the room 

Kingseat was reportedly the home of real-life horror. Ex patients of psychiatric hospitals in New Zealand in the 1960s and 1970s claimed systemic abuse included beatings, sexual assault, and misuse of electric-shock therapy and drugs as punishment. One of the most high-profile of these horrors is the death of Clement Matthews - an 11-year-old who was reportedly beaten to death.

Inside the building.
Inside the building. Photo credit: Haunted Auckland

His official cause of death was pneumonia but a friend told NZME he watched as Clement was kicked in the back by a male nurse for stealing bread.

"I had heard something snap. It was like a branch breaking. I knew at the time his back was broken."

In 1967, two more young boys disappeared from Kingseat, never to be seen again. Police say they found footprints leading into the water of the Manukau Harbour, and a single shoe in a nearby paddock - but neither body was ever found. 


Puhinui Homestead, Howick Historical Village

Built in 1861 in Wiri, the Puhinui Homestead was moved to where it now sits in 1982. Over the years there have been sightings of a woman in white ascending the stairs, footsteps have been heard from the halls with no one around to make them and the sound of objects being dragged across the floor has reportedly echoed through the empty halls.

Wallbank stayed overnight in the Homestead to try and see whatever was going bump in the night for himself.

He says there was a feeling of being watched, but it didn't make him feel afraid. As the night alone in the old building progressed there were sounds he couldn't explain - scuffing sounds and swishes.

"It's like there's something just around that corner," he wrote in a journal at the time.

"Hiding or doing something. I'm thinking of a rat but I can't see one."

The house
The house Photo credit: Haunted Auckland

At around 3am, Wallbank heard a bang, as though something had fallen over - turns out the torch he had set up on a chair upstairs had fallen or been knocked over. Footage shows the torch "flying" down the stairs, as though it had been thrown. But there's no camera on the torch itself - so just how it moved like that is still a mystery.

Video footage of the stairs doesn't show much - a slight shadow maybe. But it's the audio that's odd - loud noises that sound like a cabinet being dragged across a wooden floor, a series of footsteps and several loud clanking noises "similar to that made by a metal bucket".

"I should be very excited about this capture," Wallbank said. 

"But something just doesn't feel right. Nothing seems to make sense. The building layout, the distance the torch moved, the angles, the force, the types of noises then there's the fact; to which I'll probably spend eternity kicking myself for. That there's no camera aimed at the torch to capture that money shot!"

Napier Prison

Constructed in 1892, New Zealand's oldest prison overlooks the ocean. Tales of shadowy figures walking in and out of cells, whispers in the dark and disembodied faces appearing out of nowhere have all been reported from those brave enough to visit the prison.

Wallbank says his own experience at the prison was "an interesting one". 

"I was trying to set up a Facebook live feed, and I just could not get it to work," he told Newhsub.

"Everything just kept shutting down, so I had to give up."

During his visit, Wallbank says he saw shadowy figures darting down the halls of the derelict prison, and heard footsteps echoing through the abandoned building. 

The halls and a cell in Napier Prison.
The halls and a cell in Napier Prison. Photo credit: Haunted Auckland

The Haunted Auckland team attempted to communicate with the last person to die in the prison - a young gang prospect called Wayne who took his own life in his cell.

During the investigation, the team were trying to speak with Wayne while using an EMF reader to measure the electromagnetic field of the room.

The theory behind EMF is that ghosts either emit an EMF or they can manipulate the field to cause a change - it's often used in paranormal investigation.

Investigators noticed whenever the name of the gang Wayne was allegedly affiliated with was mentioned, the EMF reader spiked.

Wallbank says the prison would definitely be worth another visit - as he says all locations become more active the more time you spend at them.

"With repeat visits, it's like whatever is there becomes more familiar with you, and the more things start to show themselves."