I remember seeing a TV show about a group of ghost hunters searching for evidence of the supernatural in the sleepy old gold mining town of St Bathans, New Zealand. They didn’t find anything (apart from a photo that looked like it was digitally enhanced), so I took it upon myself to find out if the rumours are true; are there really ghosts in St Bathans?
A pie, and an answer
It was long past lunch time when I ventured into the Vulcan hotel for a classic NZ pie. The Vulcan hotel is apparently home to a prostitute ghost named Rose who has roamed its hallways and bedrooms ever since being murdered there in the 1880s. I got talking to the woman behind the bar and the conversation naturally turned to ghosts. “Have you ever seen one?”, I enquired, trying to hide my journalistic intentions. “No, I’ve never seen a ghost here”, she said, before adding that she should probably just say she had as it would be good for business. I could have just left it there, eaten my pie and admired the awesome scenery that St Bathans is equally as famous for, but I’d heard rumours of a blood-red pond and I had to check it out.
The pond of blood
I can tell you’re a bit sceptical right now…surely that can’t be blood! Well, it might be. I’d actually left my test tubes and Bunsen burners at home and therefore had to use the science of “best guess”. It fits with the poorly thought out and researched ghost angle I’m going for with this article, so let’s just call it blood. The pond is just behind the big car park by the lake – definitely check it out but I’d probably advise against swimming there.
The (not so) Blue Lake
The Blue Lake of St Bathans was actually bright blue at one point, but something made it lose its shine (maybe the ghosts did it…). The lake is still great to look at though; it’s surrounded by golden hills and interesting rock formations. There is a walking track around the lake and I recommend doing at least a section of it – the views really are amazing and the scenery is so different to what you’d expect in New Zealand. The Blue Lake was actually man made; it’s a relic of Central Otago’s gold mining glory days. Apparently the lake is home to many dead miners who never got a proper burial and people claim to have seen ghosts emerge from its depths.
The old town
You wouldn’t know it now, but St Bathans was a bit of a boom town back in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Only a few of the old buildings remain, including the supposedly haunted Vulcan Hotel, the bank, post shop and the ruins of a school. It’s a fascinating place to look around and is actually a bit creepy – if you’re ever going to see a ghost then St Bathans seems like the kind of place it could happen.
Getting to St Bathans
Assuming you’re in the vicinity of Alexandra, Clyde, Cromwell, Ranfurly etc, it’s a fairly quick drive to get to St Bathans. If you’re a foreigner planning a trip to New Zealand you might not have heard of any of those places – this area is more popular with local tourists but it is fairly close to Queenstown and Wanaka. Public transport isn’t great in this region and you pretty much need your own wheels to visit St Bathans. You can combine a day trip there with a visit to the historic town of Ophir and the Poolburn Dam, a Lord of the Rings filming location.
Further reading: For more information about the history of St Bathans, check out this article.
I didn’t see any ghosts in St Bathans but it’s always a fun place for a day trip. I’ve probably been there about 5 times now (I grew up in Dunedin, which is pretty close) and I’m sure I’ll return in the future. My ghost hunting days aren’t over; I will one day prevail. To be continued…
Have you ever seen a ghost? What is the creepiest town you’ve visited? Let me know!
In case you’re interested in the episode of Ghost Hunt I was talking about, here it is…
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Saturday 16th of January 2021
Hi John The photo I am talking about is in the video clip you have on your page. It is the "miner in the window" shot. I can send it to you if you like. I will have a copy somewhere Regards Barbara (Thomas)
Friday 29th of January 2021
I saw it -- definitely creepy! I've never really believed in ghosts but maybe that'd change if I stayed there!
Monday 21st of December 2020
Hi there my name is Barbara and I was with my ex husband when he took the photo of the "old Miner's" face in the corner of the window at St Bathans Hotel. Ex husband was a clairvoyant called Barry Newman now based in Timaru. We only noticed the face after we came home from our holidays and saw it there so clearly. I give you my word it was not at all digitally enhanced-my ex husband was severely dyslexic and was not capable of doing anything like that. My computer skills were minimal at that stage and I would have had no idea how to do it. A friend had to enlarge the insert. I hope you were not thinking that this pic was enhanced it certainly wasnt. Kind regards Barbara Thomas
Monday 28th of December 2020
Hi Barbara, thanks for the comment! I don't think I've seen that photo but it sounds interesting. Is it published anywhere? I did a quick Google search but couldn't see it.
Friday 7th of August 2015
Would love to see this place someday—I love out-of-the-way gems like this. Thanks for sharing!
Monday 10th of August 2015
Cheers Cory, there's lots of these kind of places in New Zealand that not many tourists go to.