I knew before I arrived at Waitomo Caves Hotel that I was going to love it. I ogled the chandeliers, the four poster beds and the bathrooms that time hadn’t touched for at least 50 years on their website.
I showed my young work colleague who looked sceptical at best – it’s going to be a dump he said. Admittedly the photos on the website are taken very sympathetically, hiding the ripped wallpaper and worn carpet but it wouldn’t have mattered one bit to me – I was hooked.
I started researching a bit more. Bad reviews started coming up. And with each review I read I wanted to go even more. Dated – great, bring it on. Needs a refresh – don’t you even.
And then I stumbled on the “haunted hotel” stories. I’m not a fan of ghosts. I’m too scared to even go in Spookers and I hate horror movies but it still didn’t deter me. I did decide not to do any more research down that avenue until after I’d been there though.
But sometimes when you are not researching information still comes to you. Our 11 year olds friend came over and when she heard where we were staying she told us about the scary night she had there with her parents. Never going back there she said. Especially not to room 14 – that’s the haunted room.
I shrugged it off. It’s going to be great!
And even when they handed me the keys to room 16 I had no qualms.
James was less than impressed (he likes new) but I was enamoured by the Goldie prints glowering under the chandelier.
And the odd blue lights that seemed to appear every time I tried to take a photo in the stairwell or in the hallway by room 14 and the lamp shades that seem to be askew every where I look.
As soon as we put our bags in our room I was off and exploring every part of the hotel.
Down by room 25 in the strange little hallway with paper peeling off the walls.
And through the Victorian wing with the creaky doors and groaning floorboards.
I headed outside to get my tripod to take some photos at night and batted at my ear as it felt like a wind tunnel nagged at the tip of my ear – trying to get in. Not going there I smiled at the night.
As I was taking photos the last staff member was going around turning off all the lights. I found out the next morning that they all sleep off site in the staff quarters out the back so it’s just the hotel guests at night and a bell to call if anyone needs anything urgently.
It’s dark and the walls are paper thin and I can hear noises in room 14. There’s people staying there so off course we’re going to hear noises.
James runs a bath and I remember reading something about baths mysteriously heating up and not cooling down so I yell out to watch the temperature. He, completely unaware of my researching, yells back “it’s great – it’s so hot – you totally couldn’t handle it this hot” Eye brows raise I wish him luck.
We head off to bed. I’m reading The Woman in the Window – a thriller. I get to the murder scene in my book and drift off to sleep. I have a great sleep.
I’m up at 6 as I always am when we’re away. Too much exploring to do. I grab my camera and head out again. The main lights are out and there is no one around.
The floor creaks, the doors bang, the mist hangs around the hotel and those pesky lights follow me when ever I try to take a photo. Moving this way and that although I stand quite still.
I head outside in the fog and explore outside.
I find a path up a small hill with an old wishing well, a few seats and a couple of broken ornaments. Crimson camellia petals turn the paths pink and stop it from being somber.
The view from up there with the hotel shrouded in mist is sensational and soon I’m joined by another person out taking photos too.
At 7 the lights turn on and the front desk is once again manned. I head over and say hi. “Do you know much about the history?” I ask. She looks cautious.
“How old is it?” I venture. Visibly relaxed she hands me some information of the wall detailing how the Victorian Wing was built in 1908 and the Art Deco Wing added in 1928 when the hostel was no longer able to keep up with demand. There’s no mention of ghosts.
So I ask. She doesn’t like to talk about them she says but she’s never seen them. She asks which room I’m in. I tell her Room 16. She looks at me oddly – “It’s okay, I didn’t see anything and I had a great sleep” I tell her.
She tells me a little about how some staff don’t like to go down to Room 25 – in fact some refuse. So I go and check it out myself. And still nothing. I still really like this place. And no ghosts.
I decide it’s time to find out a bit of the history behind these ghosts so I do some googling while James sleeps beside me.
You can find out more of the history on any of the ghost hunting sites but the abridged version is a Maori Princess who was shot in a case of mistaken identity long before the hotel was built was the first to haunt the hotel. She was later joined by a young man who, after being haunted by her, hung himself in Room 14. And then it gets more tragic still as a young boy is burned to death downstairs.
Room 14, Room 12a and Room 25 are the apparent hotspots for haunting activity with reports as extreme as blood running down walls and baths and as benign as toes being tickled and blankets pulled off.
I go back to reading my novel and wait for James to wake up. When he does we head off to breakfast downstairs and then check out.
I send a few pictures to my Mum and sister and my Mum comments that it’s unlike me not to be scared. And it is. But really, I wasn’t scared one little bit.
But then as I write this and as I look through my photos with the moving specks of lights I do feel a little scared. I know that if I had of let that fear in when I was there I would have got a lot scared. So who then is haunting who?
So what’s our verdict on Waitomo Caves Hotel?
Haunted or not? I say yes, but not in a scary way. Especially if you’re not scared.
Dated? Yep, you betcha. But that’s kind of the point. You’re not going there because it’s brand new – you’re going there to experience a little bit of the past. The main thing – the beds are comfy and the rooms are warm.
Worth going? Absolutely!