Once again, BayBuzz has asked our resident explorer of the alternative, Mark Sweet, to take us somewhere few of us generally go. Or in this case, maybe all of us … eventually.

It’s a cold night. Frost is growing on car windscreens and my breath freezes into mist. But inside, the room is warm, and soon over twenty people have gathered for a meeting of The Spiritualist Church.

We are welcomed. Prayers, a reading, a reflection, and singing follow. And then those in the congregation who require healing are asked to come forward. They sit on the chairs provided and behind them the healers stand. Hands are laid on backs, and chests, and shoulders. Sometimes the healer doesn’t touch. Instead, palms scan, and settle.
Afterwards, two healers describe what they have seen.

An elderly woman, tall and lean, dressed in a fine wool suit came to support a man with a limp, who walked with the aid of a stick.

“Do you recognise her?” the healer asks.

“Yes. My mother,” the man replies, emotion choking his voice.

“Oh, this is interesting,” the healer says, “A friend has just come to me. I think she’s come to give me a name. This happens sometimes. Her name is Mary. Does that …”

The man is nodding.

“Mary was your mother’s name?”

“Yes,” the man says, and cups his head in his hands.

“Your mother came with love and joy,” the healer says.

Other messages follow. Messages from the living and the dead; animals too. And I am transported back thirty years to a house in Maraenui.

“Goodness me, you’ve got a chatty one,” Mrs McAneny said soon after I sat down.

Miranda started giggling. It was her idea we visit the clairvoyant.

“He’s Chinese.”

Miranda burst out laughing. “Sorry,” she said, “I better wait outside.”

Mrs McAneny was very clear. She said my Chinese companion came to New Zealand as a prospector for gold. He left his wife behind with the intention of sending her money for her passage, but gambling was his vice, and he died without seeing her again.

“He wants you to take him back to China,” the clairvoyant said.

Miranda and I scoffed and giggled all the way home. Two weeks later a job was advertised in The Dominion. I applied and was successful. The job was in Hong Kong.

Everything is planned

Bev Bailey, Minister of the Napier Spiritualist Church, remembers Mrs McAneny. She has no doubt my Chinese companion helped me on my way.

“Everything is planned. Nothing happens by chance. People talk about coincidences but there’s always cause before the effect. And miracles are natural occurrences.”

But why would a spirit need me to take him back to China. How does it work?

“I can’t answer that. But I know earth-bound spirits often latch onto people for the experience. For instance, heavy drinkers – alcoholics – will often have hangers-on from the spirit world because they want the experience of drinking and pubs and so on.”

Bev & Peter Bailey

Am I to assume my companion enjoyed the experience of traveling with me in China and at some point decided to stay behind?

Bev Baily had been a member of the Spiritualist Church for 15 years before becoming a minister in 1987. Her work is unpaid and she has selflessly dedicated her time and energy in service.

“Spiritualism came into being so we could give people evidence of survival in order to give people hope when their loved ones die. Many people come to me and say: ‘Is my mother alright? Is my father alright? What’s happened to my baby?’ So I give them a reading if that’s what they need. I tell them I don’t want to know what’s happening in their lives. I don’t need to know about them. I just say, ‘Let’s do the reading and see what happens’.”

“For instance, a woman from Havelock North came to me. She wanted a reading and I could tell she was needing something but I didn’t know what. A boy came in, fourteen or fifteen. I didn’t know her son had been killed. But I was able to tell her all the things he had done. And I named his achievements. And then she started to cry. I said, ‘Give me a hug, because your son is with me, and you will feel him’. She hugged me, and said, ‘Gosh, I can feel him’. That’s what she needed to hear and she was comforted.”

Bev met her husband Peter through the church. He’s a deep trance medium. Peter accepts spirit into his body and talks on their behalf. He has no recollection of what he says.

“Peter steps aside and spirit talks through him. Everybody has a different way of communicating, and everybody’s psychic. But you need to train and have discipline. When I first started to learn I saw nothing. I would sit in the circle meditating and see nothing, but my senses were on high alert. Slowly I learned to see and hear, not with my physical ears and eyes, but with my heart and mind.”

I ask Bev about reincarnation and past lives.

“Reincarnation? Of course. And I sense you have an inclination about a past life you feel?”

The three women were dressed all in white. A shirt was found for me; a big man’s dress shirt which covered me like a night gown. We sat in a circle. Candles lit the room with a soft glow. And we followed the meditation instructions.

Deep into visualising my body filling with white light, an image fixed in my mind. A man was standing on a scaffold with a noose around his neck. I was petrified with fear, and stared in horror as the man fell, but the moment it was over, I no longer felt afraid.

My fellow meditators were sure I had glimpsed into a past life experience; an experience that was holding me back in this life. Ask for a sign, one suggested, if I was unsure.

Later, I visited a friend and told him what happened. He chuckled, and told me it was all in my head. We drank whiskey and he talked about existentialism, and I agreed with him after a while.

When I woke up the next morning my neck was aching. My adam’s apple, and the gnarly bits above, felt bruised, and when I gently pressed and prodded, I found a piece of bone I could hold between two fingers, and wiggle from side to side.

On my next visit to the doctor I asked about the floating bone that had suddenly appeared in my neck. He probed, and asked, “When did you injure your neck?”

I didn’t tell him it might have been the 16th century.

Past lives

In the sitting room of her home in Paki Paki, Robyn Boag is comfortable talking about her psychic work. She is familiar with her past lives. She can recall with explicit detail her death at the hands of the man she loved in medieval Scotland, and once she was a midwife in ancient Aotearoa.

How does it work? I ask. How do you do it?

“To connect with spirit you have to be in the higher realms of vibration and the deeper and slower I breathe the more I can raise my vibration. You have to let go of the dense matter, the physical stuff, and go into that space which is pure consciousness.

“As soon as I’ve taken a few deep breaths, and I’ve opened my heart, I’m ready for what comes through.

“I don’t have any preconceived ideas. Sometimes, I’ll have information before people come to me, but more often than not, it’s not till the person’s on the table, that I get everything I need. I like it that way. I simply keep my energy open and allow whatever needs to come in. I can feel the energy in my pineal gland at the back of my head. It’s all working in that third eye area. Most important for me is the feeling that we’re surrounded by love. That tells me everything is safe and I know what’s coming through is what is needed.

Robyn Boag

“Sometimes spirit comes for healing, sometimes it is to give information.”

I tell Robyn I’m curious about a past life. I don’t tell her about Mrs McAneny, or the Chinese gambling addict, but I find myself rubbing my neck wondering if I’m in for another hanging.

Robyn asks me to visualise myself walking along a path. “Any path. Just walk.”

We come to a door which is the threshold between present and past. I walk through.

“What do you see?”

“I see trees; giant trees with gnarly roots as big as buses. And the canopy high above is filtering the sunlight.”
“Keep walking along the path until you reach a clearing.”

I follow the path toward a distant lake; a cool sapphire sitting in a blaze of jade. I hear familiar birdsong.
Robyn tells me how to connect with my higher self. We merge. It’s time to invite a past life in.

“What do you see?”

“A man is circling me, moving like a wary cat. His long hair is tied back, and all he wears is a tattered strip around his waist, and in one hand he carries a taiaha.”

“Ask him in.”

Hesitantly, the man approaches the glowing orange orb that is me and my higher self. I beckon him to join us and share his story.

Someone calls to him. He looks into a burrow at a woman and two children huddled together. He has been guarding them since their capture. Is he related to them? Certainly there is affection in his gaze. Another man takes his place, and he walks the short distance to a camp site tucked into the base of a massive tree. Roots, like buttresses to a tower, form the walls of shelters roofed with twigs and fronds.

He squats down in front of an old man whose shoulders are draped in a cloak. ‘No’, he says, shaking his head. ‘No. It is wrong’.

His punishment for refusing to kill the captives is banishment from the tribe; for life.

He lives by moving with his river from its source in the mountains to where it meets the lake. And he lives a long life. The last image I saw of him was of an old man curled up like a cat on a soft bed of ferns.

“What does he want? What needs to be put right?”

I can’t see him anymore. But his answer is very clear. He doesn’t need anything from us.

With Robyn’s help I reconstruct the mental state for connecting with the past. Soon, someone appears at the edge of the circle. Then another. And before long a crowd has massed.

“Does anyone want to come in.”

I look around me. It’s as if I’m a goldfish looking out from its bowl at people looking in. But they’re not particularly interested in me. They’re having too much fun greeting one another like excited guests at a fancy dress ball.

“That hasn’t happened before,” Robyn says. “If they get to the circle they usually want to come in.”

What I saw had the texture of a dream. My eyes were closed, but I was awake. It was like seeing a vivid dream yet being aware I was not dreaming; a very strange experience, which I’m inclined to enjoy, rather than analyse.


Another thread to Robyn Boag’s psychic work is ghost busting. She often works with a man who sees ghosts. I spoke to the man but he didn’t want publicity.

In our brief conversation he told me he saw his first ghost as a teenager. He was at boarding school, and one night, he saw a man reading the notice board. He was wearing a black trench coat, a hood covered his head, and where his face should have been was a black void.

Today, the man uses his skills to identify the presence of earth-bound spirits, and with Robyn’s help, sends them on their way, if that’s what is needed.

A case he recalled vividly was of a woman who was experiencing strange phenomena, like lights switching on soon after they’d been turned off, especially in the garage. Her husband had recently died but hadn’t moved on. He was young and didn’t want to leave. They found him in the garage.

I ask a friend what she thinks about ghosts. Julie is among the most grounded people I know.

“I once lived with a ghost,” she says casually. “The previous owner knew about her. She came with the house. My partner would hear her, and I saw her. I remember her green woolly cardigan and that her face was gaunt. This was
15 years ago, mind you.”

At the address Julie has given me, a man is painting the fence. I tell him my mission and he fetches the owner from inside the house. No, she hasn’t seen a ghost. But, she knows something is present. It feels like a woman, definitely feminine energy, and quite harmless. And then there’s the cat … a big black cat she sometimes sees out of the corner of her eye.

Olde Napier Prison

Famous Hawke’s Bay Ghosts

Haunting experiences at the old Napier prison in Coote Road are numerous and well documented. “I felt this mood of anger in the room. I just pretended to sleep as I felt this presence. Somehow I did fall asleep. The next morning, all the things by my bed were tossed across the room, scattered across the floor. This place is without a doubt, haunted,” wrote a young backpacker.

Who the ghost(s) might be hasn’t been firmly established, but a man named Basil who died in the south wing is a favourite candidate. He is said to have a moustache only on one side of his face. A staff member quit shortly after seeing Basil, and Basil is also the name of the resident cat.

With no other leads I asked Basil (the cat) for guidance, and immediately he mounted the gibbet, where four men were hanged in the 19th century.

Most famous is Kereopa Te Rau, who took part in the murder of missionary Carl Volkner. Kereopa swallowed his eyes, calling one ‘Parliament’ and the other the ‘Queen and British law.’ Another was Rowland Herbert Edwards, who murdered his wife and four children.

In Hastings, the Opera House is inhabited by a ‘Lady in Red.’ She is thought to be a woman who was crushed to death during a fire evacuation. She’s not particularly fond of men and it has been reported that men using the stairwell have had doors slammed in their faces.

There is also the ‘Odd Couple,’ last seen in the Grand Circle in 2004, dressed in 1940s attire. When a technician went to see them they had disappeared, and what was puzzling was that the only way out was down the stairs he walked up.

Why the Opera House should attract ghosts could be down to the entertainment provided, but might also be because the orchestra pit was used as a temporary morgue after the 1931 earthquake.

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