Sunday, August 7, 2016

HGB Ep. 141 - Waitomo Caves Hotel

Moment in Oddity - George Wyman's Journey
by: Bob Sherfield

George Wyman crossed the Sierra Nevada, following a route from San Francisco to Reno, in 1902 and during that journey he decided to do something amazing. He had made this current journey so that he could race on his motorbike at a county fair. The motorcycle he road and hoped to race had only 1 ¼ horsepower. During the ride, Wyman realized that no one had ever travelled across the USA in or on a motorized vehicle, and he decided to be the first to achieve it. Wyman departed San Francisco on May 16, 1903, leaving from Lotta’s Fountain on the corner of Market and Kearny at 2:30pm. He had promised The Motorcycle Magazine (a periodical of the time) that he would document and publish an account of his journey. He rode a California Moto Bike that was for all intents and purposes, simply a bicycle frame with an engine motor attached. It was capable of 25mph, and could cover 75 to 100 miles on a tank. Wyman carried with him surprisingly little in the way of equipment. He took warm clothing, money, a water bottle, oil and gas cans, a camera, cyclometer, a small set of tools and spare parts, and a long barrelled revolver. Fifty days later, on July 6th, he rolled into New York City. His motorcycle was so broken by the time he reached Albany, that he had been forced to pedal the last 150 miles using a path reserved for licensed cyclists. He had completed his journey and he was the first person to undertake and complete a transcontinental crossing on a motor vehicle. It had taken him 51 days to cover the 3800 miles. Then, just 20 days after he arrived, Horatio Nelson Jackson completed the same journey in a car. Jackson’s cross-country trip had taken longer than Wyman’s. He had two companions with him, one human and one canine, and the journey took 63 days from the west coast to the east coast. To the American people, it didn't matter that Horatio's journey took longer. He had captured their imagination because he had done it in a car. For this reason, most people do not know that Wyman was the first man to cross America on a motorized vehicle. That such a pioneer could be almost forgotten because he accomplished the feat on a motorbike, certainly is odd!

This Day in History - The Whiskey Rebellion
by: Kristin Swintek

On this day, August 7th, in 1794, US President George Washington invokes the Militia Acts of 1792 to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion. In hopes to reduce the national debt which was incurred during the American Revolutionary War, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton imposed the first tax on a domestic product, distilled spirits. Whiskey was the most popular distilled drink in 18th-century America and this tax became known as the Whiskey Tax. This tax was resisted by farmers who distilled their grain and corn into Whiskey and used it to barter. Many of the resisters were also war veterans who believed in the principles they originally fought for: no taxation without local representation. Throughout Western Pennsylvania, federal officials who attempted to collect this tax were met with violence and intimidation. In July of 1794, 500 armed men attacked the home of tax inspector General John Neville. In response, Washington sent peace commissioners to negotiate with rebels and called on governors to send militia forces. With 13,000 militiamen, George Washington rode at the head of the army to suppress the insurgency. The rebels left before the the army’s arrival and there was no confrontation. The Whiskey Rebellion showed that the new US government had the will and ability to repress violent resistance to its laws. The Whiskey Tax was repealed when Thomas Jefferson came to power in 1801.

Waitomo Caves Hotel (Suggested by listener Erin Olivia)

Waitomo is a beautiful natural location on the North Island of New Zealand that is known for its lush bush area and sea caves. The original people of this land, the Maori, have developed a culture rich in legend. A main draw for people from around the world are the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The caves are not only known for their natural beauty, but for the creature for whom they are named: the glowworm. A popular tourist destination needs lodgings for the visitors and that is where the Waitomo Caves Hotel comes in to fill the need. The hotel has existed for over a hundred years. Situating a hotel in a land rich with lore, limestone and strife has led to rumors of this hotel being haunted. Join us as we share the history, lore and hauntings of the Waitomo Caves and their hotel!

Waitomo is a Maori word that means "stream which flows into the hole in the ground." The name makes sense when considering that beneath Waitomo winds a series of caverns formed millions of years ago. Limestone bluffs shoot up above the ground, dotting the landscape. The Maori have been here since 1350. They claim to have come from the mythical Polynesian land of Hawaiki. In reality, they came by canoe from Eastern Polynesian islands. They settled on the shores of what would become New Zealand and they hunted seal and moas, which are a type of bird now extinct. They spread out and lived in small tribal groups. The Europeans arrived in the 1800s and initially it was mainly missionaires. They converted many of the Maori to Christianity. There was peace until the British tried to establish rule and set laws.

In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi established British law and government, but the Maori revolted and the Maori King Movement or Kingitanga, was formed. This would be the first time that the Maori had a king and that first king was Pōtatau Te Wherowhero. A dynasty was started with his coronation in 1858. This caused war, particularly in the 1860s. This war was known as the Waikato War. The Māori sought to defend their authority and lands. Eventually the Māori lost much of their land. The Kingitanga continues today and it is important to understand that this was not something formed against the British Crown as much as it was formed for the Maori. *Fun Fact: The Maori perform traditional dances called hakas. The most well known, particularly to Diane and I, is the Ka Mate Haka. The dance dates back to the early 1800s. We are going to play a portion of the audio for the Ka Mate Haka.*

The Maori consider the caves of Waitomo to be Tapu or sacred. They believe the caves are inhabited by Taniwha, guardian beings that live in rivers, in the sea and dark caves, and Patupaiarehe, whom are pale-skinned spirit beings that according to Maori folklore, live in deep forests and mountaintops in New Zealand and are thought to use ethereal flute music and singing to lure people to their doom. Similar to the Sirens of Greek mythology. It is thought that the caves have been used as a burial ground for the Maori. The caves are believed to have formed some 30 million years ago. Fossils and other deposits gathered on the sea floor, forming sedimentary rock. Volcanoes erupted and the shifting caused earthquakes and through this process huge slabs of limestone were lifted out of the sea. The rocks had cracks into which water flowed creating caverns that are the caves we see today. Inside the caves, visitors can see limestone crystal deposits, stalactites and stalagmites. Exploration of the caves by Europeans began in 1877 when government surveyor, Fred Mace, floated on a raft into the caves.

The caves are home to the glowworm. The caves are perfect for the glowworms because they are sheltered in a damp area where a river brings plenty of insects for food. These glowworms are the larvae of a species of gnat called Arachnocampa luminosa. This gnat is unique to New Zealand and resembles a maggot, growing to the size of a matchstick. They glow because their tails are bioluminescent. Oxygen in the air reacts with a chemical that they secrete and the result is a glowing light that appears to be bluish in color. They trap their food in a similar way to spiders by spinning a thread and then using their light to attract the bugs who become caught in the threads. *Fun Fact: Playskool makes a glowworm toy that plays lullaby music.*

The Waitomo Caves were first discovered by the Maori and it would be local Maori Tane Tinorau and his wife that would build a hostel near the caves for lodging. They picked a spot where a British fort had formerly been located. They completed construction in 1904 and called it Waitomo House. New Zealand had established the Department of Tourism and Publicity in 1901 and the goal of the government department was to buy up these national treasures. In 1905, the department bought both the caves and the hostel and a paper at the time claimed that a W. Rattan was running it when it was purchased.

The hostel needed updating, so wood was brought in via horse-drawn carts and utilites were equipped in special ways since the location was too remote to be hooked up to town supplies. Running water was pumped in from the Waitomo Stream and electricity, which was a luxury at this time, was generated by a dynamo powered by a petrol driven motor engine. This was completed in 1908 and now the lodgings were called the Government Hostel at Waitomo. The architectural style is Victorian and it has similar features to the mountain chalets of Europe and was designed by architect John Campbell. Guests were moved about by coach, which was great in the summer, but during the winter, the muddy pass forced the hotel to have to pull the coach through the quagmire.

This original structure still stands and is called the Victorian Wing today. When looking at the hotel, it is clear that there are two distinct buildings. The original hotel was proving to be too small to manage all the tourism. Many times, visitors would have to share rooms with total strangers. And when there were too many people for that arrangement to work, tents were set up outside. A new addition was completed in 1928 and it is known as the Art Deco Wing today. It features concrete pillars and was built in the Cape Dutch style found in South Africa and designed by architect John Thomas Mair. This style has roots in medieval Holland and Germany and most buildings built with this influence have a large distinctive front gable. The outside is clay with lime mortar and then the entire surface is whitewashed. Reminds us of old missions. This addition added twenty-four rooms to the six in the Victorian Wing. A large kitchen and dining room were added at this time as well.

In 1990, the government decided to sell the business and the hotel has transferred ownership multiple times. Wellesley Hotels and Resorts own the property today and they have been conducting an extensive renovation of the property, which was in desperate need of that according to reviews all over the internet. They have added a spa and relaxation area and most public areas have been refurbished including the reception and dining area. There are now 33 rooms and each has their own private bath. *Fun Fact: You can see the Southern Cross from the hotel. This constellation was immortalized in the Crobsy, Stills and Nash song "Southern Cross." "When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand why you came this way..."*

A land steeped in legend that has experienced strife can sometimes spawn stories of hauntings of both the nefarious and sublime. The Waitomo Cave area and the hotel are reputedly quite haunted. While the hotel would have you believe that the only thing guests will experience is peace and tranquility, the possibility of cold spots, bathtubs dripping blood and encounters with dubious shadow people are all possibilities. Staff may be unwilling to detail their experiences, but enough of them and enough guests have encountered supernatural occurrences to put this hotel on the paranormal map.

Room 14 is one of the haunted locations at the hotel and its story was inspired by a Maori legend. This tale dates back to the war between the Maori and the British. One of the daughters of the Maori king had fallen in love with a British soldier. They would meet in secret and it was while she traveled to the British fort for one of these renedevous, that she was killed after being mistaken for a warrior. Her spirit has been at unrest ever since and haunts the former fort's area. A young male guest was staying in Room 14 and he suddenly felt the icy chill of a spirit he believed to be this Maori princess. He told several guests later that day of his experience and he was quite shaken. Later that evening, he ended up committing suicide. Some say it was by hanging and others claim it was by slitting his wrists. Stories that the bath tub in Room 14 is seen dripping with blood back-up the slitting the wrists theory. The young man's apparition is seen both in Room 14 and outside wandering the hallway.

The Maori princess not only is reputed to have visited this Room 14, but she has been witnessed walking around the Victorian wing of the hotel, which features the Honeymoon Suite. She also seems to like the attic and people claim to hear her moaning in there. She frequents Room 12 as well, which is next door to Room 14. Lights move about the room and guests complain that their bed sheets are pulled off and something unseen tickles their feet. Another room with activity is Room 12a that actually is Room 13, but superstition prevents the hotel from numbering it as such. Talcum powder spilt on the floor by investigators reveals footprints later on and objects within the room are moved about.

A little boy spirit named Daniel is heard giggling in the halls and his spirit is seen skipping sometimes. Little children complain about a child that is picking on them that parents cannot see. It is believed that Daniel was the son of a maid at the hotel in the 1930s. The hotel had a small cluster of rooms that catered to the staff and a hallway that connected these rooms to the kitchen and restaurant was dubbed Cat Alley. Daniel was skipping through Cat Alley and popped into the kitchen where he hit a pot of boiling water that came crashing down on him, scalding him horribly. He eventually died of his injuries. This Cat Alley is where Daniel is most often seen.

These hauntings all seem rather tame, but there is a malevolent spirit here, usually found in Room 25. The staff dislike entering this room and claim that they feel sick and that the energy in the room feels oppressive. Disembodied screams are heard and objects are moved and sometimes thrown. No one is sure who haunts this room, but it has been surmised that a former head staff member that has taken ownership of the building is to blame. They seem to want to keep order in the Art Deco wing.

Several paranormal groups and TV shows have investigated the hotel. The Haunted Auckland and Strange Occurrences teams are a couple of them. One of the members of the teams reported this weird experience in Room14, “I heard sounds of wind being disturbed, as if a bird with very soft wings was flying around the room.” This same individual felt strange in Room 25 and said,  “At a spot, in the middle of the room and at the foot of the left most bed, I felt a massive sinking sensation. Like when you go over a bump in the road, and leaves your heart in your mouth. It felt very different in there to other parts of the hotel. This was my first feeling of dread in the place. Until then, we had felt embraced. This felt uncomfortable, more in that room, than the bathroom, and definitely more in that area of the room.”

Another investigator named Barbara was staying in Room 12a. She had been wearing a cross and she took it off and put it on the night stand before going to bed. The next morning, she found it broken and took a picture of the cross. A woman named Christine claimed to catch an EVP at the hotel during a stay in 2006:  "My hubby had just asked me if I wanted a glass of wine. I said "yes", he handed it to me, and I said "thank you" and continued to tape the room. When I took a breath, there was a very audible sigh and "argh". Neither of us heard a thing at the time & it is not my husband's voice."

Joanne on TripAdvisor in 2012:  "I could not sleep as every noise played havoc with my mind, creeping floor boards all night long, footsteps coming from the room above and then around 1.30am I heard a strange moaning, crying coming from the room above, I woke my partner up so scared and he said go to sleep it must be a dog, but I knew there were not dogs here at the hotel and the noise was definitely coming from the room above.When we returned from our holiday we examined the photographs and this one in particular caught our eye. The photograph was taken in daylight by a digital Nikon SLR camera – no flash was used, there appears to be an orange glowing ball in front of us and above our room where we stayed there appears to be a strange green light top center a little to the left."

The Waitomo Caves seem to have attracted more than just tourists. Do spirits reside here in the afterlife? Is the Waitomo Caves Hotel haunted? That is for you to decide! 


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