New Zealand’s Most Haunted Hotels

In part three of Believe It Or Not Laura Macfehin dials up some ghoulish room service in five of New Zealand’s haunted hotels!

Hotels seem to collect ghost stories like boy scouts around a campfire; maybe because like that campfire in the darkness they give hotels an added frisson that makes the stay that little bit more interesting.

With all the comings and goings and associated drama that takes place within their walls it is not surprising that they might hold on to some extra energy– or that some guests simply refuse to check out.  New Zealand hotels are no exception– here are five that are considered our most haunted.

The Masonic


The Masonic Hotel in Napier is a gorgeous Art Deco structure- part of the city-wide rebuild after the 1931 earthquake that gave Napier its special character and draws visitors from all over the globe today.  This present incarnation is in fact the third Masonic to stand in this spot– the first being a three-storey Victorian building that went up in the 1860s and was destroyed in a fire at the end of the nineteenth century.

It was rebuilt in 1897 as one of the grandest and most up to date hotels in the country until the earthquake that laid low so much of Napier in 1931.  In 1932 it was rebuilt for the third time- the Art Deco design by Wellington architect W. J. Prowse is what still stands today.

Perhaps this turbulent history is part of the reason the Masonic has a reputation for being ‘unsettled’ in a paranormal sense too!  As well as the fire and earthquakes the Masonic has seen its share of human upsets– the usual hotel casualties both natural and less so– including the death of a Maori chief in a bathtub and of a regular patron in an elevator.

Staff and guests alike report unexplained lights and music, lights that turn on by themselves, spooky whispers and cold spots.  Still if you are willing to risk a chance encounter with a ghost the Masonic is the perfect place to do it while enjoying some unique architectural history!

Check it out here

The Masonic Hotel is an important part of Napier’s art deco heritage

The Chateau Tongariro


Tongariro National Park was given by Paramount Chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, Horonuku Te HeuHeu Tukino IV to the people of New Zealand in 1887, in order to protect the sacred peaks of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.  In 1925 a new road opened up the area to visitors and The Chateau was built to cater to these visitors’ needs.

Like the Masonic it has had a vibrant history.  It was a government-run hostel which saw a lot of action during the ‘roaring’ twenties and thirties, then it was temporarily sequestered as a women’s asylum in the 1940s after a severe earthquake damaged the Porirua Hospital.  Towards the end of the second world war it was used for the recuperation of returned serviceman before opening to the public again.

Unsurprisingly a lot of the ‘unusual’ happenings at the hotel are linked to its use as an asylum and convalescence home for World War Two airmen.  Staff believe that a nurse named Charlotte who died there still continues her rounds and is particularly fond of room 308.

Guests and staff have reported seeing objects move by themselves, doors lock and unlock on their own and taps turn on in empty bathrooms.  This spooky reputation does not deter guests though– it would take a lot more to put people off such comfortable hotel in such a stunner of a setting. 

Check it out for yourself here

skiing chateau
Skiing from the front doors of the Chateau, NZ Herald 23 July 1931

The Riccarton Racecourse Hotel


The Riccarton Racecourse Hotel leapt into the headlines and the national consciousness in the early thirties when the proprietor Donald Fraser was shot to death in his upstairs bedroom by unknown assailants.  The murder had the appearance of a (perhaps contract) execution with two loaded shotgun barrels being emptied into the sleeping man’s chest.

Despite the fact that Fraser had made many enemies through his quick temper over the years the investigation baffled detectives and to this day the case remains unsolved.

The Victorian built Racecourse Hotel and Motorlodge still offers affordable accommodation to this day, conveniently set- as the name suggests- adjacent to the Riccarton Racecourse.

Be aware though- despite having been dispatched in such an efficient manner in 1933 Donald Fraser does not seem to have departed entirely from the place.  There have been numerous reports of encounters with him roaming the corridors– perhaps looking for rowdy punters to toss– or perhaps searching for his killer? 

You can check it out here

The Vulcan Hotel St Bathans

vulcan hotel

The Vulcan Hotel in St Bathans is a mud-brick building dating from 1882 — although like the Masonic a previous wooden hotel stood in the same spot before being destroyed by fire.  Although now a quiet place in its mining heyday St Bathans was home to some two thousand miners as well as farmers, families and those entrepreneurs supplying the infrastructure to support their endeavours.

It may appear that all that is left of this ‘wild west’ time is the seemingly placid man-made Blue Lake and some Victorian architecture, but many claim some of the town’s more interesting characters stayed around long after the mines closed.

The spirits of long gone miners are said to rise from the depths of Blue lake at night, which is also said to also hold the restless spirit of a barmaid who drowned herself there.  The most famous haint in the place though is a resident of room one of the Vulcan Hotel.

There have many reports over the years of disturbing visits by a female spectre who sits on the chests of men and attempts to throttle them.  She has also been seen reclining on a chaise in the hotel, and apparently has no problem with lady guests who come to stay.  Legend has it that she was a prostitute known as ‘The Rose’ who was strangled by a john on the premises. 

If you are game to step back in time in Central Otago you can check it out here


The Waitomo Caves Hotel

waitomo lodge

Set in the tiny tourist village of Waitomo in the strange and beautiful King Country region of the North Island The Waitomo Caves Hotel is both New Zealand’s most haunted hotel and one of my favourite places on earth!

Originally built in 1902 on the site of British fort ‘Waitomo House’ was taken over by the government in 1905 and renamed as a Government Hostel (as The Chateau would be also).  The limestone cave system with its underground waterways and glowworms has continued to bring in tourists ever since, and the hotel added an art deco wing in 1928.

The Waitomo Caves Hotel as it stands today, showing the 1920s wing

The bloody history and the limestone cave system might be enough to ensure an ‘active’ site, but The Waitomo Hotel has legends of its own.  A Maori Princess is said to walk the halls and moan, and young boy killed in the kitchens can be heard giggling.  Many strange incidents have been reported over the years.

Filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro credits his stay at the hotel for inspiring a particularly bloody scene in Crimson Peak involving a bath tub.  I have had my own far less gruesome experiences there– there is a former matron who continues to keep an eye on the place!

Despite recent renovations the hotel maintains much of its character and charm and ghosties aside I can whole-heartedly recommend it as a unique place and catch up with some reading or check out some glowworms. 

Find out for yourself here

Waitomo guides
Early Waitomo Caves guides

That’s my round-up of some of New Zealand’s most haunted hotels.  Have I missed any doozies?  Have you got a ghost story to add?  Let me know!

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