Cumberland College. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A "sighting"of a ghost known as the Grey Lady has
terrified residents at Cumberland College, and staff have
called in the University of Otago chaplain to calm students at
the hall of residence.
Students at the college, which accommodates more than 300,
said a significant number of residents had slept with their
lights on and shared rooms with other students in the
aftermath of the sighting.
The "ghost" has been linked to the story of the Grey Lady,
which in one account involves a tragedy at the now closed and
nearby Queen Mary maternity hospital.
The story goes that the woman haunted a nurse who stayed at
Cumberland College when it was a nurses' home, after the
nurse took her baby for being an unfit mother.
College resident Mareck Church said the "ghost sighting"
happened on the night of Saturday, May 5, when two female
health science students noticed a weird smell and a chill in
the air as they walked down the hallway after coming back to
the college from studying.
"One of the girls saw a black figure beside the fire hydrant,
turned to the other girl to point it out and as they both
turned round, they felt a cold whoosh of air pass them," Mr
The two women were left very shaken after the incident and
immediately told the college's deputy head, Rosemary
In the week following, a "substantial number" of female
students at the college had slept with their lights on and
shared rooms with other students.
Some of the other students, Mr Church included, took
advantage of the situation to play pranks on other residents,
including going around the corridors with pillowcases over
The situation had calmed down since staff arranged a blessing
on May 10.
University chaplain the Rev Greg Hughson said he and a
local kaumatua were brought in to calm students after they had
been through a "genuinely frightening experience".
"We reaffirmed God's presence and God's love and God's peace
and God's power in that place and then we said the Lord's
In his 12 years as university chaplain he had twice
previously been asked to do blessings after "ghost
Resident Catherine McKessa said students had noticed "other
things" since the initial incident. Another girl had seen a
black figure at the end of her bed.
Owner-operator of Dunedin ghost tour company HairRaiser,
Andrew Smith, said there were a couple of stories involving
the Grey Lady and there had previously been sightings at the
recently moved psychiatric unit in Dunedin Hospital, as well
as at the site of Dunedin's first hospital.
It was "very fashionable" to name ghosts the Grey Lady in
Victorian times, Mr Smith said.
"It was believed that a new ghost would be quite bright white
and that over time, as the ghost was seen more often, it
would fade to a greyish colour."