ALTHOUGH he’s only got seven guest rooms in his little Hurunui Hotel 45 minutes north of New Zealand’s Christchurch, publican Travis Cooper says that with a half-dozen permanent guests, even on quiet days he’s never short of company – although as he likes to put it, “they’re all on another planet.”
For instance, to the staff’s annoyance Mary’s never happier than when down in the kitchen rearranging things, Mr & Mrs Hastie just like wandering around downstairs, Murray the shearer constantly smells of lanolin from sheep’s wool, there’s the alcoholic Mr Wilson, and the strange lady who Travis simply calls “that woman in the long black dress….”
And while they may sound pretty-much regular enough, Travis is quick to point out one thing: they are in fact, all ghosts.
He kids us not, and to back him up, just a couple of years ago a clairvoyant who’d dropped into the hotel for lunch while on a road trip, told him she “sensed there were spirits” in the place as soon as she arrived, and asked if she could see the upstairs living areas.
After an hour and a half and never having been in the hotel before, she rattled off precise details of all six of those “permanent guests” after saying one had actually contacted her – Mary, the one-time kitchen-hand who to this day loves rearranging and hiding things that staff are sure they’ve placed in a particular spot.
And to surprising staff and guests with friendly touches from unseen hands…
Travis Cooper says the wandering Mr & Mrs Hastie on the other hand are far less troublesome, possibly because they built the hotel themselves back in 1860, a fact that also makes it today New Zealand’s oldest continuous-licenced pub.
ONE of seven guest bedrooms in the Hurunui Hotel that dates back to 1860
And licencing rules in their day were interesting: Mr Hastie had to have at least eight guest beds in four separate rooms, a bar, dining and sitting rooms, and a waterproof shed with water, oats and hay for guest’s horses.
He also had to have yards to corral passing stock, dips to prevent disease spreading into the Canterbury Plains, a horse for travellers to cross the Hurunui River between sunrise and sunset, prevent drunkenness or disorder at his bar, and to become a Special Law Officer “to assist police and magistrates as required.”
More macabrely he had to have a morgue in case of a guest’s death… while as a good citizen, he also volunteered as something of a postmaster, holding mail and newspapers for travellers and locals, and posting their mail for them when he regularly went into Christchurch on business.
PUBLICAN Travis Cooper is not surprised by anything guests tell him they’ve seen or felt
Murray the shearer lived full-time in Room 1 a-near century ago, and although constantly smelling of lanolin from sheep’s wool, was “a bit naughty with the ladies” – with his ghost today still reputedly of the same leaning and aroma…
The alcoholic Mr Arnold Wilson actually owned the hotel in the early 1940s… until a fatal fall down the stairs drunk. His widow later married the bar manager.
But Travis Cooper says neither he nor the clairvoyant have been able to identify just who was “that lady in the long black dress,” and who’s occasionally been seen in rooms and corridors.
As well as strange sightings, guests have also sworn to the sensation of having been touched by invisible hands, of sudden cold draughts in rooms in which all doors and windows are closed, the feeling of air wafting around them as if someone has just walked past… and of such bizarre things as hearing a piano playing while no-one is in the room, electrical appliances being turned off when there’s been no-one near the power point, guests having the feeling of someone tucking-in the sheets around them as they’ve lain in bed, and even of a juke-box suddenly changing records while no-one was near it.
THE charming little bar and dining room with cosy fire.
The Hurunui Hotel makes for a rewarding and somewhat spirited visit (NZ$55 per night Single with cooked breakfast, $90 Double – communal shared facilities,) and the more-so with welcoming hosts in Travis and his team. And they’ve hearty all-day country-fare including burgers, steak and chicken sandwiches, fish and chips, nachos, pies and fries, roast of the day and children’s meals.
If you’re intrigued and would like to get into the spirit, hop onto www.hurunuihotel.co.nz
Written by : David Ellis