The curse of Karangahake Gorge

Rebecca Nuttall —  24/03/2015

By Rebecca Nuttall, Historic Intern

The best thing about researching historic places are the strange stories that seem to crop up out of nowhere. Case in point, my recent dive into the history of Karangahake Gorge, one of DOC’s extensive historic gold mining sites.

View looking down to Karangahake Gorge. Photo: Rebecca Nuttall.

View looking down to Karangahake Gorge

An Auckland Star article from 1904 claimed an “apparent suicide of horses”.

Auckland Star, Volume XXXV, Issue 17, 20 January 1904.

Auckland Star article from 1904

There were two things that struck me as odd about this story. One, horses don’t generally commit suicide, and two, no one was actually there to witness this incident. Was Karangahake Gorge cursed? Were the locals just having a laugh? I figured it was time to investigate the rumours. The rumours I potentially just started.

When we arrived, the day was fine and the mood far too good for a spooky historic site. People were everywhere, biking, swimming and exploring the surviving batteries of the gold mining companies. Did they not know about the weird happenings of Karangahake?

Visitors to Karangahake Gorge enjoying a swim. Photo: Rebecca Nuttall.

Visitors enjoying a swim

As we wandered through the bush and along the river I kept my eye out for possible 300 foot jumping spots. Sure it was a steep drop, but would a horse really have “dashed to pieces”?

Crossing the bridge at Karangahake Gorge. Photo: Rebecca Nuttall.

Heading over the first swing bridge

The rail tunnel seemed like the perfect place for some strange activity. Cold, draughty and dark, the walls seeped water and the air whistled past our ears. Smaller mining tunnels were just as creepy. Hearing voices got my hopes up for a great story about the haunted gorge but it turns out we weren’t the only curious visitors traipsing through the dark.

'Windows' tunnel at Karangahake Gorge. Photo: Rebecca Nuttall.

Exploring the ‘windows’ tunnel

After a refreshing swim and some more exploring, I gave up trying to find anything out of the ordinary in the Karangahake Gorge and enjoyed the beauty of the area instead. There certainly weren’t any animals behaving strangely. But I still have my suspicions.

Maybe you have your own story of the (supposedly) cursed gold mining region?

Rebecca Nuttall


Rebecca is an intern for the Historic and Cultural Heritage team at DOC. Failing to get her autobiography up off the ground, she shares other people's stories instead. "Aotearoa New Zealand history is rad" - someone, somewhere, at some point.