I have always been fascinated by stories of ghosts and hauntings. A few years ago, Nick and I went for a holiday to Central Otago in the South Island of New Zealand, where we visited a small town called St. Bathans. I had seen it on TV, on an episode of Ghost Hunt, and I couldn’t wait to see it for myself.
St. Bathans was a gold mining town in the 1860s. In its heyday during the goldrush, the town had a population of more than 2000. It had more than a dozen hotels, and numerous dance halls and brothels. Today, it has a poulation of 7, a blue lake, a Post Office, and a haunted hotel.
St. Bathans lies in a tranquil setting in the middle of nowhere, and it really is like a ghost town when you first arrive there.
We were met outside the hotel by a black dog, who we later learned was called Jack. Jack became our tour guide and began by leading us down to the Blue Lake, which was formed from extensive mining, and later allowed to fill with water. The minerals in the surrounding rocks give the water its beautiful turquoise colour.
Jack then led us back to the main street and took us on a tour of the historic buildings. A pamphlet we had picked up from the hotel gave us a brief history of each one. Many of St Bathans’ buildings were made of stone or mudbrick, but unfortunately few of them remain today. Those that have survived include the old mudbrick hall, a church, the billiard saloon, the Post Office, and the Vulcan Hotel, which dates back to 1882.
Many people believe that the Vulcan Hotel is haunted by the ghost of a murdered prostitute. One night, back in the town’s gold mining days, an itinerant prostitute called The Rose rented the front room of the hotel. In the morning she was found raped, robbed, and strangled to death. Over the years, The Rose has been seen and felt by both staff members and guests at the hotel. There have been many reports of lights going on and off, doors creaking, drops in temperature, phantom footsteps, ghostly apparitions and mysterious shadows seen at the foot of the bed. Male guests in Room 1, the room in which The Rose met her untimely death, have reported feelings of being held down and throttled.
We had lunch at the Vulcan Hotel, which had a wonderful old-time atmosphere. I thoroughly enjoyed our visit. The beautiful surroundings and haunting ambience of the small town linger in my memory to this day.