Wednesday 17 July 2019

Thames Ghost stories

The ghost of Gentle Annie

Gentle Annie, seen from Totara looking across Thames Racecourse, 1910
Auckland Libraries, NZG-19101026-28-6 '

In the Kauaeranga Valley, Thames rises the mountain Gentle Annie who allegedly got her name from a terrible tragedy. 

In the very early days of the district’s settlement, before gold was discovered, two brothers named Wilhelm and Charles with their sister Annie, began ascending its slopes.   Having climbed more than three quarters of the way up, the boys decided to outdo each other and began racing to the top.

In their determination they forgot about Annie who was some way behind them, and on reaching their goal they looked back but could not see her.  They searched the whole slope thinking that she might have got lost in the surrounding bush but no trace of her was ever found.

The brothers, tortured by guilt, joined the military at the time of the Land Wars, both being killed in the storming of the Rangariri Pa. 

Some time after this it was said that this hill in the Kauaeranga became haunted.  At certain seasons the sound of  mournful singing floats down from the hills.  It is supposedly Annie crying the funeral dirge of her brothers.

 It was said, too, that should any young man under the age of 21 be on top of this hill between sunset and sunrise on the third day of the moon, Annie would appear to him, dressed all in white. Silently she would present him with a red rose, to be given to his love. She then vanishes, leaving behind an echo of entrancing music.

This story was told to a visitor to Thames in 1886 who was spending the Christmas holidays in Grahamstown with friends.   It was written up for the Thames Advertiser under the name ‘Polydore’.

Polydore went for a walk one hot afternoon to the Booms at Parawai.  The sky was cloudless, apart from the haze of smoke from the batteries and bush fires.   Polydore inspected the Kauaeranga water race then began walking up the hill called Gentle Annie.   Having often wondered how the hill got its name, Polydore fortuitously met an old miner who had long lived there and related the above story.

Although referred to as a ‘hill’ in this story, Gentle Annie is a mountain with an elevation of 144 metres above sea level and is one of highest peaks in the hills around Thames.

There are no verifiable stories of a girl going missing in the Kauaeranga area in the pre-gold discovery days of Thames.  Nor is there a mention of a Wilhelm, Charles and Annie. 

The strange combination of names suggests Wilhelm may have been a typo for William, a name which sounds more consistent with those of Charles and Annie.

The storming of the Rangiriri Pa happened 21 -23 November 1863 which places  the disappearance of Annie in the late 1850s. 

The Waikato Land Wars, during which the Pa fell,  spanned from 12 July 1863 to 2 April 1864. There were many deaths of both British and Maori in several skirmishes.

On the database Soldiers of Empire, a project by Victoria University, there are dozens of Charles's and William's, but no Wilhelm.  Not every man who served as a British soldier in New Zealand  is listed though and many names are indecipherable. 

There were several ‘Gentle Annie’s’ in New Zealand, the name usually being an ironic misnomer for inhospitable areas.

Two areas named  Gentle Annie  and Roaring Meg near present day Arrowtown were evidently named after two notorious barmaids.

Meg was a tall, nice looking, red-head who was a devil to the diggers. She possessed a terrific temper and a harsh voice and was not averse to whacking men over the head with a bottle if they offended her. Annie was smaller, dark and exotic looking, an appearance which belied an even worse temperament than Meg’s.

The Gentle Annie name may have transferred to the Kauaeranga mountain when South Island miners came to Thames in search of gold.

The Maori name for the Gentle Annie  mountain is Te Puke-O-Rakamaomao or “The hill of Rata”. Rakamaomao was a descendant of Hoturoa, the great chief of the Tainui waka.

 Puke-O-Raka/ Gentle Annie lies in the middle of the legendary canoe of Hauraki.  The canoe extends from Mt Moehau to Mt Te Aroha and rests upon Puke-O-Raka/Gentle Annie.

Ngati Maru tradition says that when there is a local death, the person is said to have fallen in the midst of the canoe under the shadow of Puke-o-Raka.

 A urupa (burial reserve) is at the base of the mountain, behind the Thames racecourse grandstand.  Many important chiefs of the area are buried there.

Polydore did not have any unusual experiences on Gentle Annie.  Polydore most likely was a man as the name comes from Polydorous of Troy.  The story of Polydorous is an example of the fluid nature of myth and perhaps his use of the name indicates he is telling the story in a mythic vein. 

Unfortunately he ends the story of his excursion to Gentle Annie  by descending into an incomprehensible hodge podge of Greek names and myths - 

“before I descended I offered an appropriate sacrifice to the nymph Annida. This consisted of a few crimson and white flowers with a leaf or two of trefoil, placed on top of a stone. I prayed the Phoebus would, with his burning beams, set alight the sacrifice. After a fitting interval, I also offered in a similar manner, a like oblation to my tutelary nymph, Helliwakla, and again I prayed that Phoebus would with this burning beam, fire the offering. As it was getting late in the afternoon, I did not stay to see the end of the rite but I doubt not that the god, 'ere he kissed again the lips of Tethys, would extract the hidden essence of the flowers, which, as ethereal air, Helliwaka might breathe and thence deserve new life.”

The reference to Annie appearing “between sunset and sunrise on the third day of the moon” doesn’t appear to have any significance to mythic calendars, traditions or rituals.

This story is likely a miner’s tale embellished by a verbose visitor to Thames. 

There is no doubt, though, the Gentle Annie does have an aura as a mountain of mystique.

On 25 October 1874 a total eclipse of the moon took place as she rose.  On first making her appearance over the hill tops the sight was arresting, as the moon looked like a large lantern balanced on one of the peaks of Gentle Annie.  The darkening  shadows passed over the moon before she reached her zenith and before midnight, she shone forth in full splendor. The night was very cold.

On 12 October 1889 about 7.30 pm a brilliant meteor was seen.  It seemed to shoot up from the north west and descend in the direction of Gentle Annie.  When at its extreme height it appeared to burst like a rocket and balls of fire dropped.  The effect was stunning over Gentle Annie. 

(There is also a branch of the Mata Creek at Tapu which the early gold miners named the Gentle Annie.)

Gentle Annie today
Mike Hawkes Photo


Late1860s - early 1870s

Grahamstown late 1860s
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 4-858

In the late 1860s - early 1870s a party of men were sitting in the parlour of a Grahamstown hotel drinking and talking as diggers did. Suddenly the door opened and a young man they knew, who lived at the hotel, walked in and without speaking a word, seemed to speed across the room and disappear through a doorway on the opposite side.

A sudden silence fell upon the group, one looked at the other in blank amazement, until someone said he would go and see where their mate went. In less than a minute he was found fast asleep upstairs. On being woken and questioned he vowed he had been asleep for more than an hour. The poor fellow met with a violent death the next day in one of the mines.

Men who likely lived in hotel accommodation and who were killed in mine accidents during this time frame were -

Seymour Gilbert Hall, formerly of Dunedin, who had lived three years in Thames. Married but separated, his wife had gone to England, ostensibly for health reasons.  He belonged to a wealthy family but had fallen into dissipated habits.   In August 1871 Hall was killed in the Tookey mine after falling 100 ft down a shaft and breaking his neck.  It was a mysterious incident as the shaft was covered by trap doors.  Hall had lodged at the Fountain Hotel. Grahamstown,   for about 11 months but had left six weeks previously, likely for new boarding accommodation at  Moanataiari Creek.  
He was "in difficulties" although not financial  they were more marital,  He was noticeably sad and heard crying.  

Thomas Dunstan
 was crushed to death in the Caledonian mine in a shocking accident in September 1871.  Thomas was highly respected and a first class workman. He left a wife and family who resided in England, with the exception of one son who worked in the mine but was in Auckland at the time of the accident.   

William Evans  was killed in July 1872  the upper levels of the Una Mine when he went into the stope after the exploding of a blast.  The  ground caved in on him. He was dug out alive but died on the way to hospital. William was 35 and a single man.

John Lawlor  was killed in the Caledonian mine  in July 1872 when a  large flake of mullock came away and fell on his back, crushing him dreadfully.  A large flake weighed about ten hundredweight.  John was a single man, aged 27,  understood to have no relations in the colony.


The Moanataiari Mine ghost

Late 1870s

Moanataiari gully - mines and murder?
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 4-3681A-45 w

In the late 1870s Jack Shepherd and Tom Parsons, both young men full of bright expectations, came to Thames in search of gold.  The boom times were over but they came across  an abandoned six acre claim up the Moanataiari Creek.  There was some work to be done to it but there was a comfortable little hut on the ground.  They cleaned out the lower level and set to work on a reef  which contained very likely stone, but they saw no gold. 

There was some mysterious story connected with the mine which wasn't talked about. Evidently two  young English chaps had held it soon after the rush, but the younger of them disappeared and his companion cleared out soon afterwards.   Several parties had then taken up the ground and occupied the hut but none of them stayed long.

At the end of one of Tom and Jack's working days some stone came down showing good blotches of gold.   Tom decided to go back to the drive after tea and break out more stone. 

With candle in hand Tom was examining a nice piece of ore when he turned to see the figure of a young man with a sad looking face, and a wound from which blood appeared to be oozing just over the eye.

He thought it was one of their neighbours who been attracted by the light in the mine, but  as he lifted  up the candle  the figure faded away.  Panicked Tom ran back to the hut where a highly amused Jack recommended Tom change his brand of whisky. 

For the next few days they worked in the level and no apparition appeared, but Tom absolutely wouldn’t be left for a moment alone in the drive.   Late one evening as Jack was splitting some wood for the breakfast fire at the back of the shanty he saw a white figure moving through the nearby scrub. 

It was near midnight  and Tom was asleep, but the bold Jack picked up his lantern and followed the figure.

When they were ten feet apart Jack swung the lantern aloft and sure enough the figure was a human one and he distinctly saw the bleeding head wound.  But it was an unnatural human form which started leading him to the entrance of an old part of the mine. 

Jack hesitated - he was not foolish enough to follow a ghost into the old drive, with its rotten timbers and sides of crumbling earth. The figure then pointed into the old workings before suddenly disappearing.  Jack peered cautiously into the lantern lit level but there was no sign of ghost or human.

Jack and Tom, though terrified, decided to clear up the mystery once and for all.  For a whole week  they cleaned out and re-timbered the level, put in props and finally reached the face.  There was a mound of quartz they had to shovel away and with the job half through they were relieved there had been no gruesome discovery.  No sooner had they said this than Jack's shovel struck  the remains of a man whose features corresponded exactly with those of the ghost and included an identical  head wound.
The body was afterwards identified as the younger of the two original owners of the claim who had mysteriously disappeared.

Jack and Tom  never heard what had become of the other owner and the mystery was never solved.  After burial, the specter was not seen again. 

In a fortuitous twist, the old level that Jack and Tom cleaned out was the Lucky Hit reef and they made £5000 out of it.


This story was from the Observer Christmas Annual Edition of  2 December 1907, comprising mostly stories and poetry.

It was called 'Our Ghostly Visitor – a story of the Moanataiari Creek' and is probably fiction. 

There was a Lucky Hit claim but it was in the Karaka Valley, not Moanataiari. It was situated near the head of the Karaka Creek, and originally was comprised of ten men's ground and had eight shareholders. The original claim was recorded in 1868 and although modestly profitable it regularly changed boundaries and names. It was mined until 1913.

The Lucky Hit name was also used as a geographical location - the creek and surrounding spurs being used to describe other claims and mines but it is a stretch to say the area was anywhere near the Moanataiari Creek. 

There is no Jack Shepherd or Tom Parsons on Kae Lewis's Gold Miner's database. 

It does appear though, that the story could have been loosely based on a real event in 1874.
A skeleton and remains of clothing were found among debris tipped out of a wagon  during a clean up of the Prince Imperial Mine. It was  a great mystery as to how the man got in there. 

This mine was on the edge of Pollen Street, Grahamstown.  The shaft hadn't been worked for about two years.  Work had recently resumed  and men were employed clearing out mullock and accumulated water from the bottom of the shaft.

The shaft was in such a state that no one could have accidentally fallen into it. The victim was Patrick Kinivan, unfortunately addled by drink, and assumed to have somehow got himself down the shaft only to die a horrible death. 

No connection to a Jack Shepherd or Tom Parsons was found for this incident either but they may have been among men cleaning out the mine, if they existed at all.


The haunting of Hape Creek

Hape Creek and ranges
From the album Views of the Thames Gold Fields; American Photographic company
1869-1876, (Auckland). Te Papa (O.031349)

Cups and saucers flung violently across the room, chairs and tables dancing jigs, beds - empty or  occupied -  being hauled about and loud, invisible rappings from walls were the terrifying manifestations of the dead at a Hape Creek house in 1872.

The strange occurrences were so convincing that even the most level headed had to admit they seemed supernatural.

Rumours ran riot through Thames and it was said the people living in the house were planning to move and rent it out but keep their reason for doing so a strict secret.

Strenuous efforts had been made to discover the cause of the horror.  Men sat up all night with loaded pistols to no avail.  They were completely flummoxed by the knocking which was plainly heard by them on every side, and even in the gaps between places they were sitting in. 

Most ghosts were ultimately traced to anything but a supernatural source and there was confidence  that the same would be the fate of the Hape Creek ghost.

Despite a veneer of discretion, the Thames Advertiser announced  "we have a certain delicacy about mentioning the exact situation of the house in question"  then identified the house as not many minutes walk away from Greenway's Battery which was near the mouth of the Hape Creek. 

The poltergeist activity at the Hape Creek house was dismissed by  an elderly lady  who declared that  Dr Carr was at the bottom of it all.  "There were no ghosts until he came to Thames," she said.

Dr Guthrie Carr was a performer touring New Zealand that year with his seances, hypnotism, phrenology and laughing gas exhibitions, bafflingly advertised as "experiments on the mysterious agencies evoked by modern science."

During his Thames visit he demonstrated the effects of laughing gas at the Academy of Music.  Several well known Thames men were induced to inhale the gas, producing a scene that was intensely absurd.
Unfortunately Dr Carr was later unmasked as a shameless charlatan.  He was regularly on the wrong side of the law and was charged with rape.  

That same year James Martin Peebles, an American spiritualist was also touring New Zealand.  Peebles was a physician although he held a fraudulent diploma from the Philadelphia University of Medicine and Science,  He was chairman of a health institute that sold a dubious epilepsy cure.

Spiritualism ran its course from the 1840s to the 1920s. Fraud was widespread but despite this the appeal was strong.

Spirit rapping was an alleged form of communication with the dead made popular by the Fox sisters from New York. The three sisters were successful mediums for many years until unmasked as frauds in 1888 when one sister confessed it had all been a hoax. Regardless, spiritualism continued to grow.


The Shortland Spook

Shortland cemetery
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 35-R1446 

At Shortland a resident who had recently lost his wife endured hair raising manifestations in the days before her funeral.  The widower and a friend staying with him,  both heard strange noises and witnessed stranger sights.  Heavy footsteps were heard through then house, windows and doors opened and shut on their own and then all the plates and dishes were removed  from  the dresser and deposited  in a tub in the back room  The two men were reportedly frightened out of their wits. 


The strange case of Dr Perston 


Ghost engraving  (1804)From Kirby's Wonderful and Scientific Museum
Public Domain 

In January 1880 there was a very odd connection to Thames with the haunting of a house at Whangarei.

A new owner of the house was regularly disturbed at night by strange noises.  Initially he thought it was rats or wind but the morning after the horses in the stockyard would be trembling and shaking violently as if frightened.

The house had been formerly rented by a settler and his wife who complained that there was something wrong with it and unexplained noises were frequent.

On another occasion two men staying in the house had the bedclothes pulled off them.  Each man blamed the other but then both watched in horror as the bedding was again pulled off.   Next they saw the ghost of a man pass through the room.  The men's hair stood on end and they were paralysed with fear. 

The house was owned by Dr William Perston, a doctor at Thames, who had recently died.  But the ghost was not that of the doctor.  

The two men recognised the apparition, who was dressed in his usual grey clothes,  as a friend of Dr Perston's.  The doctor had made out his friends will and for some reason this was said to have troubled the deceased.  Even more convolutedly the disturbances in the house only started to take place after Dr Perston's death at Thames.

The death of the man who appeared to haunting Dr Perston's house  was said to be a sad one.  The circumstances of his life led superstitious people to think it inevitable that his ghost was doomed to walk the earth.

Although most respected, the  man in life had been addicted to liquor and in fact killed himself with it.  His body was brought in to Whangarei for burial but the clergyman refused it rites of burial.  It was then buried on the estate, not far from the house which was now said to be haunted.

Dr Perston afterwards committed suicide.  He was recognised as a very clever man, but eccentric, and lunacy ran in his family.  There was something the matter with his friend's will which was never explained, though no blame was cast on Dr Perston who was a most honourable man. 

Both their deaths were tragic and both had led remarkable lives.  The ghost stories were fully believed and testified to by all parties affected. 

The new owner of the house intended  building another house in consequence of the one he occupied being haunted. 


There is not much truth to this odd little story.

On 28 January 1871 an Andrew Strang  died suddenly at the house of Dr Perston in Whangarei where he was living for the benefit of his health.  Strang had been sent from Glasgow  to New Zealand  by friends in the hope that a change of climate would benefit him as he was suffering from consumption.  He arrived in NZ in November 1870 and came to  Whangarei via Dunedin, Taranaki and Auckland.   Evidence showed he was very far gone with the disease when he arrived in Whangarei and a verdict of death from natural causes was returned. There is no suggestion he was an alcoholic or that alcohol had anything to do with his death.  A search of  22 Whangarei area cemeteries databases reveal no record of an Andrew Strang.  Perhaps he was buried on the property, something not uncommon at the time.

In April 1878  Dr William Augustus Perston, house surgeon of the Thames Hospital and one of the most successful practitioners at Thames, died suddenly from an overdose of chloral.

Dr Perston was 50 and suffered from bouts of ‘overwork’.   He had a form of rheumatic gout
but enjoyed fairly good heath and was able to keep his practice until the day before his death when he was obliged to take to his bed.

He never fully recovered from an attack of rheumatism which prostrated him at New Year's and demands on his time were trying.   He was an inmate of his own hospital for awhile.

He was in the habit of taking chloral hydrate in dangerous quantities to allay his pain and get some rest.  He died at his residence in Pollen Street a little after 11 am.  He appeared to have passed away calmly from the effects of the chloral and alcohol.  No inquest was deemed necessary.

A cloud did hang over his family - his brother,  Matthew Perston,  a Thames auctioneer, and secretary to the Kauaeranga Highway Board deliberately shot himself at his house on the eve of a board meeting in 1872.

R M Perston, nephew of the doctor, aged about 30, was admitted to the Lunatic Asylum as a hopeless case and died there.

Dr Perston had arrived in New Zealand in 1859 and settled in Whangarei where he acquired a large property.  He originally came to Thames when the goldfield first opened (1867).   He established a practice there but did not remain long. About 1870 he returned to Thames and took up permanent residence.  He was universally respected as  a kind physician, a faithful, sterling and trustworthy man, unlikely to interfere with a friend or patient's will.

Chloral hydrate is a sedative. There were many chloral poisonings and deaths by misadventure in this era.

***********************************************************************************************************************The Block 27 Ghost

Block 27 and Karaka, Thames - Home of the white specter
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 35-R1436 

During 1890 Thames was plagued with an apparition known as the Block 27 ghost due to its frequent appearances there.  This ghost also appeared in Sealey and Baillie Streets and areas of  Parawai causing considerable sensation.

Ghosts began to be sighted everywhere, at all hours , and bands of young men roamed about the greater part of the night, armed with every conceivable weapon including revolvers and walking sticks.  Ladies would not venture out after sunset without escorts.

It became an all-absorbing topic of conversation and tradesmen, miners, mistresses, servant girls and small boys interrogated each other with the question" have you seen the ghost?”   Even the police took fright and it was a very rare sight indeed to see a man in blue in the back streets at night in case he encountered the “tall, lean, form, all dressed in white".

A party of three saw a phantom flit across the road on the way to Parawai and vanish suddenly into the ground. Stealthily they crept forward, one carrying a hammer handle, another a coil of clothesline and the third a darkened lantern. When they got to the spot where the “thing” had apparently vanished into the ground, they found sitting in drain a Maori woman, with a white blanket around her, laughing in their faces.

When an old man wearing a light suit crossed the Waio-Karaka Flat to visit an acquaintance he stopped to ask some ladies directions.  They mistook him for the ghost and screamed so loudly that another man promptly arrived on the scene at once and knocked the old man to the ground. While this was happening the ghost was active in another part of town and caused a party of miners to disperse and sprint to their homes. 

It was recommended citizens not walk about in light clothes after dark and no matter what clothes they wore,  not to ask females for directions.

Mr W R Steward, telegraphist, had been attending a church meeting, and stopped to quench his thirst at a pump at the corner of Sealey Street before continuing on home around 10 pm one night. He hadn't gone far when he saw a huge form, about 7 ft in height dressed in white and with an immense broad brimmed hat.

Steward asked “Who are you? Speak!” but the specter merely continued to gaze at him and made no remark. “Speak or I’ll strike you!” threatened Steward whereupon he quickly raised his walking stick and struck the supernatural visitor across the head. An unearthly howl rose from the ghost as it drew up its long white shroud and took to its heels. Steward gave chase but the spirit gave him the slip. A crowd quickly collected with some of their number bearing guns.

There was a strong suspicion that the ghost was a well known athletic man and when he was caught it was hoped a strapping miner would give him such a thrashing so as to incapacitate him from running or jumping for some time to come.

By now the 'ghost' was recognised as obviously human and the "idiotic masquerading" and  pranks were no longer considered harmless.  Innumerable parties were out every night in search of it, but although it had been seen and chased by dozens, no one succeeded in catching it.

Then a party out boating on the Kauaeranga River spied what they believed to be the ghost on the river bank. Some among them wanted to hurry on to Shortland, but they made for the shore. Just as the bank was reached, the specter took to its heels, but after a hot pursuit the young men succeeded in catching it.

The ghost was a woman, hardly surprising given that it was frequently described wearing a woman's hat, a white handkerchief over the face and a lady's long silk dust coat.

The Observer newspaper tantalisingly said she was "none other than Miss Le M________. Rather an exposure wasn’t it?"

Ghost scares were all the rage in New Zealand at the time and sporadically in years to come. Ghosts were again spotted at Parawai, roaming the beach or over at Paeroa, where the ghost of 
the female persuasion was said to visit  gentleman's lodgings.

In 1905 it was reported Thames people had vowed to make a real ghost of an idiot who was now haunting the hills in spectral clothing behind the town.

'Ghost Scares' regularly swept New Zealand - these images are of the 'Auckland ghost' who lurked there in 1901.

Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19010822-12-1

A ghost with wings and springs on its feet shocks a couple of Auckland concert goers.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19010824-367-2

Royal Hotel 


Royal Hotel
Mike Hawkes Photo

The Royal Hotel, Thames, now in private hands,  is purportedly haunted and it may be down to the following story - 

 At six foot six inches tall 63 year old Clement J Moore was a striking figure.  He was more commonly known by the name Long Moore, and although a resident of Karangahake, he  was familiar to many in Thames.

 On a December morning in 1901 Long Moore appeared to be loitering about Grahamstown, occasionally in the vicinity of the Royal Hotel on the corner of Owen and Williamson Streets.  

Samuel Howard, the 41 year old licensee of the Royal Hotel, noticed him as he went about his business.  The Royal Hotel was a landmark in the district and had been built at a time when hotels were places for not only drinking but entertainment as well.  

 Around 20 to 1 that afternoon Samuel went to the hairdressing saloon of Mr Thomas Dunbar in Brown Street and had a shave. On coming out he noticed Long Moore approaching and greeted him.  Long Moore muttered something indistinctly and, shaking his head, suddenly raised his right hand in which was a revolver.  

At a distance of a few paces he fired a shot at Samuel who made an effort to get clear, but the shot glanced off his right thigh, embedding itself in the bottom of a verandah post close by. A second shot entered the upper part of Samuel’s left thigh.  The third shot missed him.  

Long Moore then calmly lifted his own hat and placed the six chambered revolver to his forehead and fired, falling dead immediately.
Although hit, Samuel managed to stay on his feet until assistance arrived.   At the hospital a bullet was extracted.   

Samuel said he knew no reason whatever for Long Moore’s action.  He had always been on friendly terms with the man and never had an angry word with him.

But Long Moore believed he had lost £250 in the Imperial mine shares  – a loss he attributed to mismanagement by Samuel Howard who at one time had been the mine manager. 

Long Moore was a single man and had no relatives in the colony.  In the days leading up to the shooting he had been somewhat morose and gruff in his manner.  His hut was found to be in a filthy condition, showing signs of absolute want when later  inspected by the police.

He was buried at Shortland cemetery.  Samuel Howard survived.

Nineteen months after the shooting, in July 1903, a housemaid discovered a defective chimney flue in  the Royal Hotel kitchen had started a fire.  The upper storey was destroyed.  

The hotel was rebuilt and re-opened during 1904/1905 with Samuel as the sub-lessee.  But Samuel was not well.   After ailing for six months he became a patient at the hospital staying there for three months.  He was still hopeful of a recovery but a sudden change for the worse set in and he died in March 1905 at the age of 45.

 Samuel left the Royal Hotel for the final time after his fellow members of the Lodge Corinthian, sombre in black dress and white gloves, assembled at the hotel to pay a last tribute of respect to their late brother. He was buried at Shortland cemetery with representatives of local bodies and mining companies in attendance.   Samuel, “very largely known both in Thames and up-country”, left a widow, Nellie, and three sons. 

Tragic bad luck and death followed the family from Thames  when they moved to Auckland.  Nellie was landlady of the Greerton Private Hotel in Upper Queen Street.

On the night 5 November 1912, in an uncanny replay of the past, a housemaid discovered the Greerton on fire. Seventeen year old Samuel Howard died after he attempted to jump from the burning building.
Poor Nellie Howard was noted as being “beside herself with distraction” and “too grief stricken to be approached” by reporters, which went without saying given the tragic bad luck and death that followed the family from those days at Thames.

 The Royal Hotel was also known as the Theatre Royal Hotel and Hotel Royal. Perhaps the  alleged haunting of the hotel is  Samuel Howard and Clement ‘Long’ Moore still settling their differences.

The full story of Samuel Howard and Long Moore can be read in the book 'Dead Cert Two - More Stories from Thames, Paeroa &Waihi cemeteries' by Meghan Hawkes (Temple of Drama)

Visiting Ghosts 
1926 & 1927 

Greetings from Greymouth?   No thanks.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 35-R538

In 1926 a ghost at Greymouth had the nation gripped.  The Greymouth Police were watching for the ghost who rapped on walls and even broke a pane of door glass.  Over eight months the odd occurrences kept Greymouth residents at a high pitch of nervous tension but the weird sounds were not heard when there was a large police presence. 

Strangely “it” was active only when one constable was on duty. This led to a case of mistaken identity when a volunteer threw a piece of timber at a lone policeman and floored him thinking the blue coated cop was the ghost.  The rapping’s were directed at the rooms in which occupants were trying to sleep.  Creaking windows and dull thuds accompanied the rapping but when a spotlight was turned on nothing was there.

“The Greymouth Ghost paid a visit to Thames last night,” reported the Thames Star with glee.  A young lady in Baillie Street saw the ghost doing its best to get in the back door.  

Thoroughly frightened she roused the whole household except for her father who refused to budge.  She gamely rushed for help to a neighbour but his search proved futile.  A reader's request for the Star to stop printing ghost stories was met with the entertaining reply “Onions and cheese should be partaken of sparingly before retiring.” 

In 1927 a ghost was very active at Waihi -  walking in front doors, frightening paper boys,  and racing around the recreation ground.

Then it came to Thames.  Heading home one night a man saw a tall figure standing on the roadway.  The man stopped and the figure advanced. “What are you starting at?”  it asked
“I think you’re the – ghost”, said the man.  Slowly and haughtily the figure undid its dark overcoat at the same time raising its face which was masked.  It's clothes glowed under the overcoat and the masked face shone brightly.  The man sprinted down the road and the figure faded away.

It appeared a farmer had obtained phosphorous for his oats which had got into the wrong hands.

Hansen House
1879 - 1965

Shortland cemetery 

In Hauraki Terrace, Thames, the Hansen house was known as the 'haunted house'.  With a unique tower on top and in a prominent position it was a well recognised landmark.

Several factors likely gave the house it's 'haunted' aura.  

Mr J E Hansen was a spiritualist who spent time at the cemetery which was only about 200m from the house. The strange tower and the house originally being about 1km from the nearest neighbour probably also fanned the flames of fear.  The whole of the area was tapu land and there was a Maori pa at the top of the nearby Shortland cemetery.  

The stories were further fueled by the family flapping bed sheets they used to wave from the tower to departing guests.  

Another possibility is Willie Hansen, who was reclusive, becoming trapped when a sash window fell on his hands.  He shouted for help but people were reluctant to approach, thinking it was a ghost at the window. 

After Willie Hansen died the house sat empty for a couple of years, and became a draw for local children. One finally "got up the courage to go inside (a window on the verandah slid up quite easily). The place was empty of furniture, and not a ghost or skeleton in sight. Quite disappointing."
The house was demolished in 1965 as part of the Hauraki Terrace redevelopment.

For the full story of the Hansen family and house -  see the Treasury Article -


Other ghosts ?

Jacob's Ladder is between Grey Street and Mount Pleasant Road. It was constructed in 1884. Local children in the 1960s believed it was traversed by a ghost which may have lived in a nearby cave or mining cavity.  

In 1939 a young boy was found lying by his bicycle near Jacob's Ladder and later died. 

Kuranui Bay - an empty plot  of land here seemed to send out a chilling and disturbing vibe to a local woman.  In 1874 an horrific  boiler explosion near Kuranui Bay killed three men.


For more Thames stories click here


Papers Past
Gentle Annie Map - Waikato, New Zealand - Mapcarta
Killed and wounded at Rangiriri -
Battle of Rangiriri
Land Wars – Waikato -
Victoria releases database of imperial soldiers who fought in Land Wars
Gentle Annie & Roaring Meg place names
Medical Practice in Otago and Southland in the Early Days.
Polydore/ Polydorous / Greek mythology– Various Wikipedia


Papers Past


Papers Past
Battery Sites on the Lucky Hit Creek,
Karaka Valley, Thames Special Area.
by David Wilton

Thames Miner's Guide E Clarke
Gold Miner's Database  online
Dead Cert - Stories From Thames, Paeroa & Waihi cemeteries by Meghan Hawkes (In horrors from the drink - Patrick Kinivan)
Chloral Hydrate -

Papers Past
Dead Cert Two - More stories from Thames, Paeroa & Waihi cemeteries by Meghan Hawkes (Temple of Drama)

Dave Wilton

© Meghan Hawkes 2019

Please acknowledge and credit this blog with a source link if using any material from it.  Thank you. 


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