As paranormal investigators, we often have to walk a fine line. Research needs to be done, and the best place to investigate the paranormal is in places that are reported to be haunted. The problem is, many places that have high incidents of supposedly paranormal activity are places where great tragedies happened, such as asylums, hospitals and prisons. So these are the places that many ghost hunters want to investigate, and where ghost tours usually happen. But as the popularity of ghost hunting has grown, so has the opposition from the families of the people who may have died at these locations and the community at large. Ghost Hunters International is now catching some flak from the Maori of New Zealand.
The international crew of ghost hunters secretly filming at Napier Prison have been condemned as “gauche” by local Maori activists.
The prison is the site of several hangings, including that of famed Maori warrior Kereopa Te Rau, who hanged the missionary Reverend Carl Volkner outside his Opotiki church, and ate his eyeballs.
Denis O’Reilly, a close observer of iwi affairs in Napier, said the television series ghost-hunting at the Napier Prison, a Government-owner property landbanked for possible use in treaty claim settlement, was inappropriate. “Maori history and Kereopa should be treated with respect and that’s not what’s being done with the ghost busters here, there’s no need for cheap thrills. It’s the lowest common denominator of a reality TV show, it’s gauche in the extreme, and not where we should be positioning Hawke’s Bay tourism.”
However, Mr O’Reilly said Peter Wells’ new book, Sparrow on a Rooftop, which was this week awarded the $100,000 Michael King Writers’ Fellowship, had a strong following and was exactly how the situation should be treated. “It’s great that someone is doing some research into the story of Kereopa Te Rau, it’s an important story.”
The group of about 20 Ghost Hunters International staff were reportedly attracted to the prison, which was open between 1862 and 1993, after reports of “strange sights and sounds”, said co-manager of the prison, Marion Waaka.
She said the decision to let ghost hunters film was not taken lightly.
“We have to be respectful and we take our guardianship very seriously.
Even with the ghost-hunters there it wasn’t taken lightly, and it wasn’t for any tourism aspect, it was more for us living there and making us feel comfortable and the people visiting feel comfortable,” she said.
Ghost Hunters International is produced for Sky on the Skyfy channel not yet available in New Zealand.
There are two sides to this argument, and both are valid in their own ways. But seeing as how the Ghost Hunters franchise has now become a circus of unrealistic sensationalism in the quest for ratings, I can see why the Maori people are upset. I wonder if they would be more open to a smaller, more serious team who was actually there to investigate claims of the paranormal, rather than a TV show that tries to make the viewer jump out of their seat by having investigators freak out over seeing a spider or a bat.
What are your thoughts on investigating haunted locations while still remaining respectful to the families of the deceased and the community at large?