Napier Prison Ghosts, Haunted New Zealand

Napier Prison Ghosts

Napier Prison Ghosts – New Zealand

Napier Prison ghosts, do they exist, and who could they be?  As we were flying to New Zealand to visit friends, how could we not also visit and explore these ghost stories for ourselves? We weren’t sure what to expect, but what an amazing place this was.  We were met by the very lovely Ali and Holly, who proceeded to take us on the grand tour of Napier Prison.

Napier Prison prior to 1906
Napier Prison prior to 1906

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Brief History of the Prison

Napier Prison was opened in 1862, and it is the oldest prison in New Zealand.  It is located in the town of Napier, Hawkes Bay, which sits on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. It originally housed men, women and children and remained a functioning prison until 1993.  When it first opened its doors, it held a mixture of 25 men, women, children and prisoners with mental health issues. In the early days, it continued to hold around 30 prisoners, but as time went on, the numbers grew, and by the time it closed, it held over 120, which was a lot for such a small prison.  They decided in the 1990s that a new, larger prison was needed, and Napier Prison was closed.

The cells were basic cells, which, right up until the end, had no toilets.  Like our own Adelaide Gaol, the use of buckets remained until the end, so the conditions weren’t the best.  As you walk in, the first cells are the segregation/isolation cells, which were padded.

The Napier Prison even survived the devastating earthquake of 1931.  Prisoners in one section couldn’t get out of their cells for quite some time due to the damage done and you can still feel the impact of the Earthquake when you walk through this section of the prison today, as the floor is still buckled.


Napier Prison execution yard

Deaths and the Napier Prison Ghosts

Officially four hangings took place there.  The last person to be executed was buried just outside the original wall to warn others that if you took a life, you paid with a life.  However, the beautiful stone wall, built in 1906, which stands there now, possibly stands on top of that grave.  Unlike the Adelaide Gaol, prisoners were buried standing up as part of the punishment, and it is where the saying comes from, “No rest for the wicked”, alluding to the fact they could never rest in peace.  The first took place in 1872, and the last was in 1889.

Roland Herbert Edwards - Napier Prison GhostsOne such person executed was Roland Herbert Edwards on 15th July, 1884.  He was 34 years old and an ex-Ormandville train station employee.  He had murdered his wife, Mary Ann and four of their children.  Suffering from delusions brought on by drinking and, more importantly, alcohol withdrawal, he believed that people were coming to burn them all in their home.  He had not wanted his family to feel the pain of burning, so did what he thought to be the kindest; he knocked them unconscious with a piece of heavy wood so they would not feel the pain of his knife when he cut their throats.  On being arrested, he confessed and fully understood that he would be hanged for his crime but finished his confession with, “I hope they won’t keep me long.  I want to meet my wife and family.  I think I will go to the same place as they and they will forgive me”.  Roland Herbert Edwards is the best-known of the Napier Prison Ghosts.

There is a plaque on his grave now, but it is said the remains had been removed and put into a paupers grave in the Ormondville cemetery.

Keropa Te Rau - Napier PrisonAnother possible candidate is thought to be Kereopa Te Rau, who was hanged in 1872 for the murder of a German Missionary, Carl Volkner.  The Government had killed Kereopa’s wife, his two daughters and his sisters, and he believed Volkner had assisted the Government in this.  Volkner was captured and hanged.  To top the crime off, it was said that Kereopa Te Rau had swallowed both of Volkners eyeballs, naming one ‘Parliament’ and the other ‘The Queen and British Law’.  In 2014 Kereopa was pardoned for his part in the death of Volkner.

Ali told us that there were the usual doors opening, footsteps heard in the hallway and the feeling that unseen people are walking beside you or behind you.  Ali herself had experienced the sensation of tugging on her clothing and the feeling that somebody is leaning right in on her when nobody was there.  She even felt a swipe, like air suddenly going past her face as if somebody is taking a potshot at her.  She also told of when Basil, the prison cat, went to the toilet in one of the cells, and Ali had to clean it up.  She obviously was annoyed with the cat, but later that day, when she went to open to door to feed Basil, it felt like suddenly a person was standing right in front of her with a heavy BO smell.  She said it was very frightening.  This wasn’t the last time Ali would experience this.  She did admit to singing and talking to the Napier Prison ghosts as she goes about her work there.

Napier Prison Ghosts - Paranormal Investigation

The Paranormal Investigation

Our search for the Napier Prison Ghosts began, and we started to get a few happenings even before officially starting the investigation.  As Kag and me did our own walkaround, I stepped into the execution yard to take some photos, only to find that the camera started to glitch and kept returning home before I could take a photo.  This appeared to happen only around Roland Edwards’s gravesite.  We also managed to accidentally capture two EVP, one being a male voice when no male was on site.

We settled down to investigate, but still, I was having problems with our cameras.  Ali and Holly were invited to join us for the night, and it wasn’t long before our E.D.I. (a device with different environmental sensors) was triggered.  Ali explained that where it was sitting, it was close to where they thought Kereopa Te Rau had been held before his execution.

We started to do an EVP session and were having a bit of harmless fun at first before we apologised and asked if they like to have fun too.  We captured a male E.V.P. which appears to say, “Watcha doin?”.  Interestingly this was clear on the audio recorder but was not captured on the video camera that was recording at the same time. We tried the ghost box but only got a couple of ‘maybe’ responses.

E.V.P. seemed to be the thing in this prison, as when moving to our next location, we had yet another male voice whispering.

Finally, we settled ourselves in the cell where Kereopa had been held.

Before we even started, the Ovilus came out with “Interest” and “None”, which boded well that they didn’t want to communicate.  Again we switched on the ghost box and tried to explain how it worked to whoever was there, and not far in, a male voice came out with “F#*k the people”.  Another response, this time a female, clearly said, “Go away”.  It definitely started to look like nobody was interested in communicating with us, and this appeared to be confirmed by the “Goodbye” that followed shortly after.  Just to be sure, and like those annoying people that can’t take a hint, Kag continued with, “If you want us to leave, say clearly ‘Get Out”.  Almost immediately, a clear male voice repeated, “Get out”.  Ali explained to them that they talk every day and it is alright to talk to us too.

One of the most interesting was when a child’s voice came out saying, “you’ll be dead”.

With Ali having mentioned earlier that she sang to them as she walked around, Kag suggested that if they want us to sing too, they could light the flashing cat ball up.  Indeed the ball did light up in response.  So we went out into the hallway, where Ali and Holly sang a traditional Mouri song but got no response.  We went to another era, this time WWII, with Vera Lynn. On finishing, the Ovilus said the words “Arms” and “Sad”.  Did arms refer to the guns/battles of WWII, and was that era upsetting?  Just in case, we moved to a more modern era with a rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, which Ali and Holly were amazing to listen to.  We then turned on the Ghost box to see if anything would respond to our singing.  The only response was when we asked if they enjoyed Ali singing to them, and it came out with a clear ‘Yes’.

With that, it was the end of the night and time for us to leave.  We would like to thank Ali and Holly for hosting us, as they were so much fun to be with and also Napier Prison ghosts for putting up with us for the night.


Watch the video of our Paranormal Investigation at Napier Prison


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Photos – Copyright Adelaide Haunted Horizons
Other photos were taken at the time of the tour in Napier Prison

Information sourced:
History Tour conducted by guides and the website of Napier Prison
Trial of Rowland Edwards

©Adelaide Haunted Horizons 2022
No reproduction without permission

Written by Alison Oborn
Author, Paranormal Investigator, Tour Operator

Alison Oborn - Adelaide Haunted Horizons