Ghost stories of Lyttelton: From the friendly gardener to spine-chilling encounters

The Post and Telegraph Office on Norwich Quay, Lyttelton (1885). Photo: Supplied
The Post and Telegraph Office on Norwich Quay, Lyttelton (1885). Photo: Supplied
Reporter Samantha Mythen compiles scary stories from the Lyttelton – Ain’t No Place I’d Rather Be! Facebook page.

Helen Shrewsbury lived in the stone cottage on St Davids St, and tells of a friendly ghost story: My son, Jak, was four-years-old when we moved into the old stone cottage on St Davids St. My husband was spending the week working in the south, and one Tuesday afternoon Jak was sitting at the kitchen table drawing while I went into the garden to collect washing from the line. As I came back into the house Jak announced, “dad’s home”. I was a little surprised and went to the front of the house to see whether his car was outside. There was no sign of him, so I went back to the kitchen and asked Jak, “what made you think dad was home?” He replied, “because I saw him”!

I looked around the house and found nothing, eventually returning to the kitchen and asking Jak where “dad” had gone. Almost without looking up, Jak said, “he went into the bathroom”. The door to the bathroom was next to the kitchen so I very gingerly opened the bathroom door. No sign of anyone. 
I returned to Jak and asked him what “dad” had been wearing. Without hesitation he said, “green trousers and a brown top”.
That could’ve been the end of the story, but we later discovered a previous inhabitant, Albert Fox, had regularly worn the clothes described when tending to his garden. He also went daily from the garden to the bathroom to wash his hands. He had lived there for around 50 years before passing away in the house.
We ended up moving next door and built a house on land that had been Albert’s garden. Over the years there were a few sightings of a man digging or walking in our garden and we would just shrug and say, “it was probably just Albie”.

Linda Horan lived next door to the stone cottage: Albie Fox was a lovely man. We lived next door all our lives and I would feel so at peace if I was witness to Albie’s presence.

Cressy House, built in the early 1900s, has seen many inhabitants pass through its rooms. But...
Cressy House, built in the early 1900s, has seen many inhabitants pass through its rooms. But some may have never left. Photo: Supplied
Cressy House, Cressy Tce

Locals believe Cressy House is haunted. The large house was originally built as the caretaker’s home of the old orphanage prior to 1906. It was then renovated in 1933 and opened as the Lyttelton Maternity Hospital. It has been a rest home and is now a boarding house.

Monique Silva who lived there said: We heard somethings stomping up and down the hallway yelling at each other, it was awful. People would stay and think Glen (husband) and I were arguing but it was just the angry hallway ghosts. Also my eldest daughter stood on a wiggly tile in the bathroom, it flipped up and there was a note under it that said, “Sophie you will die in this room” . . . Holly had for a long time begged me to change her name to Sophie. This gave us all chills.

Another poster said: People have hung themselves in there and I’ve been told by people who live there that they have seen dark spirits in the hallways at night. And there are multiple writings on the walls saying RIP this person and RIP that person.

Silva also has experienced a ghost when the family moved to her Ripon St home two years ago. When we first moved into Ripon St two years ago, our youngest called out crying, her first night in her room. She said there was a witch in her room but that she was nice. We settled her but she kept sitting up pointing at the corner of the room saying “daddy can you see her? See the old lady in my room”. It was so creepy!
We had a small ceremony the next day and politely asked the witch to leave us be and that we would look after the house and that our children needed sleep without her there. We haven’t had a problem since.

Other posters tell of a corner in Lyttelton haunted by a young girl who was horrifically murdered in 1875, her body was dumped in the bushes along Ripon St: The 1875 newspapers called it, “The most horrible murder ever perpetrated in Canterbury.” Isabella Thompson, 13,  had left her home in Dampier Bay in the late afternoon to walk to her school where she bought tickets to an upcoming picnic day in Riccarton. Afterwards, she was spotted crying and walking alongside an older man. She was never seen alive again. Just after 6pm, two young boys noticed a white handkerchief poking from behind a fence on Ripon St. At investigating further, they saw the blood-stained face of the little girl. Her dress had been torn and her throat was cut. A man was caught and the jury took just 12 minutes to find him guilty of murdering Isabella. He was hanged.

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty
Helen Peterson used to live in Dampier Bay in a house that was built as a school called Fergusons in 1859. She said it was occupied by a presence, often hearing footsteps going up and down the stairs. She wonders if it was Isabella.

The Loons building

Alex Wright works as a duty manager at the Loons building and believes it is haunted by a presence: I had finished work and was sitting at the end of the bar having my staff drink, I looked up at the monitor which has the CCTV and I could see something moving in the camera. It was a humanoid shape but moved like smoke and was translucent. The temperature felt cold and I could feel a chill run up my spine and I felt a strange aura. It wasn’t sinister but there was a feeling of sadness, like the presence there wanted to be left in peace. I promptly skulled my wine and left whatever the presence was in peace. Other strange things have occurred like doors randomly opening and something triggering the upstairs alarm when nobody is up there. Someone apparently hung themselves in the upstairs bar/venue many years ago.

51 Canterbury St has some chilling tales told by numerous people who have lived there over the years: One resident said: I remember when my uncle had 51 Canterbury St. Apparently, a presence who occupied the house was an old sea captain. People that were looking after the house one time left after they were freaked out by odd noises. Or was it their over-inflated imagination. Another resident lived there and her children felt a presence, As adults today they still chat and ponder about it.

London St, Lyttelton (1900s). Photo: Supplied
London St, Lyttelton (1900s). Photo: Supplied
Linda Horan’s brother had the minister perform a ceremony at the house. She said: “We often felt a presence in the house. It was not scary rather it was just letting us know it was there.”

Another local tells a sweet tale of a dog connection between worlds: Some of my ancestors are buried in the cemetery in Lyttleton. We went for a walk there years ago and had our dog with us. As we were walking through, the dog lay down and played dead on someone’s grave. Turns out that the grave she had laid on was a fireman who had been buried with his dog. She must have picked up on it as that was the grave she went straight for out of all of the graves and she wouldn’t leave. She was whimpering as well.

The Lyttelton Hotel hosted more than just tourists

The old Lyttelton Hotel burnt down with a boarder sleeping. When the new one was built, the ghost came with the building. It used to walk in and out of the dining room and into the lounge, even during the day. It would go into the bar lounge and the owners of the hotel at the time had a small poodle and it would run around and bark at what we thought was nothing. The bar lady (Gloria) at the time said it was in the bar all the time and she would talk to it. My daughter felt its presence one day in the dining room and wouldn’t go back in it.
Previous owners often heard someone playing pool and when they went to look, no one was there. This always happened prior to them opening business for the day.

Lyttelton cemetery. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Lyttelton cemetery. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Lyttelton Museum

Bill Edminstin used to live upstairs of the Lyttelton Museum, working as the caretaker for many years. It used to be the old seaman’s mission, built in 1911. Bill said he used to hear strange eerie sounds and the security alarms went off at all hours for no apparent reason. It was always spooky when he had to pass the ground floor displays as he headed up to his flat at night.

Lyttelton is filled with quirky historic buildings over 100 years old that are still lived in today – with more than just the living it seems

Suzanne Ormandy said: My daughter went to Lyttelton Main and saw a woman from another time sweeping the lower school area, they looked at each other. We lived up in a manor house up on Cunningham Tce, built in 1880, the first day we moved in, I saw a lady move from one side of the hallway to the next, she was nice and gentle. There was also another entity there which was angry, aggressive and freaked the bejesus out of us, we had the house cleansed, however, the darkness lurked around in the shadows.

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