'People have heard and seen things': Auckland Museum when the lights go out

When the sun has set and the visitors have vanished, you can still hear the echoes of footsteps through the Auckland War Memorial Museum's stately halls.

The beam of a flashlight and the crackle of a walkie-talkie sounds out: "Gaurav to control".

Gaurav Karakia and Denis Riseborough are night custodians, patrolling the halls of the iconic Auckland museum from dusk 'til dawn.

"People often ask me, 'Is it like that film Night At The Museum?' and of course I say, 'Well it's like that, and much worse'," Mr Riseborough says.

The 89-year-old building is creepy at night. The dimly lit face of a mannequin wields a machine gun in the shadows; a cold concrete bunker houses a World War II fighter; large Mesozoic skeletons stand in ominous silence.

"Any scary thoughts that might come into your brain, you've just gotta put them out," says Mr Riseborough.

"It took me a little while to get used to walking around by myself at night in the dark.

"It can be a little bit scary if you let your mind wander too much. There's enough light to see, but only just enough."

As with many old buildings, the museum has its share of ghost stories - although Mr Riseborough has never had such an encounter, he told us.

"Other people have heard and seen things at night, they've seen movement," he explained.

"There was an Asian man that videoed something by the hut in SCARS 2 of half a body - a torso and legs - and showed it to some of the visitor hosts, and they were all pretty horrified."

But come dawn, when the sun is piercing through the central stained-glass roof and warming the grand foyer, all thoughts of the nights apparitions are forgotten.

School children crowd the halls, the staff return and the doors, halls and galleries are opened for a regular day at the museum.

"It doesn't matter how much you've been here or how many times you've walked around - there's always something to learn," Mr Riseborough said.



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