Location: Hotel Access Road, Waitomo Caves, Waitomo. Historic Place Category: 2
Originally built in 1904 by a prominent local Maori man, Tane Tinorau and his wife and known as Waitomo House. The government purchased this in 1905 and in 1908 added what is referred to as the 'Victorian Wing' which is an Edwardian styled villa. This came with a name change to the Government Hostel. It was so popular that in 1928 they added the 'Art Deco Wing' which is in the Spanish Mission style and you can quite clearly see the 2 different styles of architecture. This enabled the Hotel to accommodate 100 visitors at any one time and it finally became known as Waitomo Caves Hotel. In 1953 Queen Elizabeth visited the Hotel and stayed the night of December 31st in the Art Deco wing. The Hotel was owned by the NZ government until 1980 when the Tanetinorau Opatai Trust took over ownership as part of a Maori land settlement. It was operated under the Wellesley Hotel group until 2020. As of September 2021, the Hotel is currently closed whilst it undergoes further refurbishment.
There are many urban legends surrounding this Hotel and the Hotel itself is said to sit atop a limestone cave system complete with running water. There is a theory within the paranormal field that limestone and running water amplifies activity of an anomalous nature.
The first story, is of a Maori princess who was in love with a soldier from the local encampment. This local encampment is said to have been located in the valley below where the hotel stands which is now the road. One night she made her way down to the camp to meet her love and fearing an ambush, a sentry at the encampment shot her. She is reputed to haunt Room 12, or if you listen to some, the Honeymoon Suite and is said to roam the Victorian Wing of the building in general.
The location of the British encampment is reputed to have been in the valley, which is now the road at the bottom of the hotel although we are yet to find conclusive evidence of this. It is stated as legend, that the Maori village was placed on the site where the hotel now stands. This would explain why she haunts the Hotel as the Hotel was not built till some 30 years after her reputed death. To date, there has been no evidence found to confirm the occurrence of this tragedy.
Another legend is that of a young man staying at the Hotel who encountered her ghost. After telling guests of his experience, he retired to his room where he promptly committed suicide. He is reputed to haunt Room 14. The manner of his suicide is unknown with some stating hanging and others reporting he slashed his wrists.
Research undertaken by The Quantum Foundation has failed to provide any conclusive proof of this incident. We did find evidence that on the 25th March 1930, Alfred Kennedy was charged with attempting to commit suicide at Waitomo. Whether this is the incident in question is a matter for conjecture but it clearly implies his suicide attempt was unsuccessful and no death ensued as a result! We continue to research into this claim.
In the 1930's, a young boy who was the son of a staff member of the Hotel, was reputedly skipping through the kitchens. He caught a large pot of boiling water which subsequently fell on him scalding him severely and resulting in his death. He is said to haunt the hallways and rooms of the staff quarters which is commonly referred to as 'cat alley'. Reports of giggling and skipping are often heard. In some reports, it is stated the victim was a little girl that was scalded to death.
After extensive research, we have not been able to locate any conclusive evidence regarding the scalding of a child, whether male or female, at Waitomo Hotel from 1920 - 1940. Although we have encountered many death reports of children in the area from scalding, these took place in their respective homes. We continue with our research into this claim.
Further reports include Room 12a which is said to be a paranormal 'hotspot'. Objects being moved, footprints left in talc sprinkled on the floor by investigators and a boiling bath but to name a few of the incidents being reported. Room 25, which is a 3 bedroom family room on the upper floor in the Art Deco Wing, has reports of 'bad feelings', disembodied screams and poltergeist activity where objects are moved or thrown about.
Our Case Manager has experienced a number of rooms herself and agrees that in Room 25 the atmosphere is heavy and oppressive and that she could not remain in the room due to the ill feeling that pervaded it. Staff reported to her that no housekeeping staff went into that room alone and no staff liked to enter it full stop. None of the above reports can be verified as they were personal experiences.
Another paranormal hotspot seems to be the Dining Room. Reports of blasts of cold air from nowhere, doors opening of their own accord, strange lights and spectral waiters have all been witnessed.
Quantum's Case Manager was present in the Reception area with another witness. Both saw a waiter dressed in rather old fashioned dress (gloves, waistcoat and jacket tails), busily making his way around the tables. On commenting to the Receptionist regarding the waiter and how smart his attire was as well as how he was working hard, they received the response that there was no waiter on duty and the restaurant was actually closed till the weekend. Only on reflection, did both witnesses find it odd that the waiter looked so busy when the restaurant had no patrons!! When discussing this later, they discovered they had seen exactly the same thing, right down to how he was holding his tray! Again, none of the above reports can be verified as they were personal experiences.
Other reported sightings include a Maori man and a woman dressed in Victorian clothes. Who the Maori man is no one seems to know but the woman dressed in Victorian clothes has been reported by a former staff member as being a Mrs Rutherford, the wife of the original owner, whose dress caught fire resulting in her burning to death.
Tane Tinorau was the original owner and neither of his wives were called Mrs Rutherford so I think it is safe to say this part of the legend is untrue. The Victorian era in New Zealand spanned from 1870 to 1901 and as we know, the 1st part of the Hotel, Waitomo House, was not even built until 1904. The Hostel, as it was then, was bought by the NZ government in 1905 and it was printed that a W. Rattan was running it at the time of purchase. The Hotel was owned by the NZ government until 1980 when the Tanetinorau Opatai Trust took over ownership as part of a Maori land settlement. So who Mr & Mrs Rutherford were and when they were supposedly meant to own the Hotel, is anyone's guess! Either the witness mistook the clothing for the wrong era or the staff have wrongly identified the apparition or perhaps it was due to New Zealand being far behind the times with regards to fashion due to the long time frames it took to ship things here. Either way, this account of a haunting, firmly belongs in the 'Urban Legend' basket until further information comes to light.
In 2006 Quantum's Case Manager was lucky enough to have been granted a full walk through and guided tour of the hotel including the reputedly haunted rooms. She had a number of odd personal experiences while there including a time slip, apparitions sighted as well as feelings of being watched, as did her companion. She was lucky enough to have interviewed a number of staff members including an employee of some 30 years. A lovely Maori lady, initially reluctant to talk, told her that the hotel was haunted by a number of spirits but her talismans kept her safe. She proceeded to exclaim the TV program 'Ghost Hunt' got all but 1 of the haunted room numbers wrong! She also entered a room underneath the hotel that would have acted as a cellar in the earlier years. In it there was a door with a padlock securing it and a bible leaning up against the door. Nope - she didn't ask!
It is our Case Manager's personal belief, this hotel warrants further investigation and research in an attempt to validate the current paranormal claims.
Research Status: Ongoing
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