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A history of horror stories

Halloween is a time to tell scary stories, and Wairarapa is not without its own. MARK PACEY of the Wairarapa Archive exhumes three more chilling tales from our past.

The Beast
In January 1878 something came ashore at Lake Ferry. Something big. Something very big. It was described as being “so large that five feet of water did not cover it.”
People came to see it to try and work out what it was. Some believed that it was a giant squid, a seldom seen and much feared creature of the deep. Just two years before, the newspaper reported an incident where a schooner came across a giant squid while sailing, and although they were warned not to hurt it by one of the crew, they proceeded to attack it. It did not end well for the schooner. As a survivor later said “this brute struck us, and the ship quivered under the thud. In another moment, monstrous arms like trees seized the vessel and she heeled over”.
Other theories said the Lake Ferry beast was a whale or a giant herring. Whatever the thing was, it was no longer alive and had been that way for a while. It started to go bad. “The effluvia from its dead carcass has been something awful”.
People didn’t want to go and see it anymore, the smell was so bad. Because of this a detailed study of the creature didn’t happen. Was it a giant killer from the deep? Or just a poor beached whale? That mystery was never solved, and the focus shifted to its aroma. Half a newspaper article on the beast was devoted to its aroma, stating that the smell alone “would poison an ordinary individual a mile away”. An interesting thing to read in the newspaper, but it must have been quite unpleasant for anyone at the Lake Ferry Hotel until the creature and its pungent odour finally disappeared from the beach.
The Devil’s Face
For centuries the faces of God and Jesus have appeared in all kinds of unexpected places. Fruit, clothing, plaster, pizza, even on Google Earth, the face of the Lord has delighted thousands. But He isn’t the only one that can make an appearance.
The dark side also has the power to appear in the human world, and God’s fallen angel chose Wairarapa to make an appearance.
In 1958 forestry workers were cutting down a tree in the Wairarapa region. After they cut off a large branch and it fell to the ground, a sinister face stared back at them from the severed limb.
The workers were stunned. Signs of divinity had been well documented, but signs of the Devil? Knowing people wouldn’t believe them, the workers cut off the part with Beelzebub’s face and had it preserved. It later was hung in an office at Carter Holt in Masterton and was known to all as the “face of the Devil”.
In Numbers 6:24-26 it is stated “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace”.
But what of the face of the Devil? Resting quietly on a wall in a Masterton office in the 1970s, did people realise that this image could have the opposite effect? Where God looks out and shines forth graciousness and peace, was this Wairarapa town under the gaze of something else? Something dark, sinister, and dangerous? As yet there have been no dark omens from this effigy, or is the Devil just biding his time?
The Visitors Return
In 1909 Wairarapa was visited by beings unknown who flew their craft in the night skies before suddenly leaving. Fifty years later, they came back.
On November 22, 1959, something was seen in the night sky above Masterton. It was described as a “fiery green object”, and was first seen on that night by several witnesses before it disappeared over the hills.
The visitors did not confine themselves to Wairarapa. On the following night they were seen near Rotorua. This time a fuller description was published from those that had seen it.
“A slow-moving Maltese-cross shape light which later appeared to change shape as it gathered speed” was seen by at least three men travelling along the road. They stopped their car to observe it and then continued to drive along the road, the object keeping just ahead of them, still travelling quite slowly before it disappeared over Whakatane.
The same night as the mysterious object was seen by the three men near Rotorua, there was another sighting in Wairarapa. This time in Martinborough.
It was a bright light in the sky traveling slowly and was witnessed by a Martinborough local travelling in a south-westerly direction. Again, it was travelling slowly and gave off so much light it was described by the man as having the effect of someone shining a torch into his bedroom window.
Most dramatically of all, two weeks later, several people got a real good look at one of the objects.
One witness said that this one was “much bigger than a DC3. It was longer by far and looked just like a saucer looks when placed upside down on a table only it was the same thickness all along”.
Seemingly satisfied with their latest visit the mysterious craft disappeared and no further sightings were reported, at least for a while …

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