Sunday, September 15, 2013

New Zealand: The Grey Lady of Cumberland College

Cumberland as nurse's home 1916

Cumberland College is a student residence hall run by the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Cumberland was established as a residence hall in 1989 but the building has a long history. It was originally built in 1916 across the road from the Dunedin Hospital and the Queen Mary Maternity Hospital. It was used as a nurse’s hostel or home. Today Cumberland College is still linked to these two hospitals via underground tunnels.  Renovated in 1989, Cumberland houses 328 students today.

The building has one permanent resident, a ghost known as the “Grey Lady”. Her presence dates from when Cumberland was used as a nurse hostel.

In May of 2012 a media-frenzy took hold when it was reported that several students and staff at Cumberland had seen the Grey Lady. These sighting scared the residents to the point where they were keeping their lights on all night and rooming with others so they would not be alone. One sighting involved two female students who at 1:00 a.m. one Tuesday morning encountered the ghost as they made their way to the laundry room on the first floor.

These two women smelled “something weird” so they turned around. They felt a cold spot then they saw a large figure in the middle of the hallway. They described it as being dark but glowing at the bottom. These two women were not the only witnesses. Kitchen staff and an RA had also seen this apparition that same month. One resident of Cumberland even took a photo of the Grey Lady as she stood looking out one of the resident hall’s windows, silhouetted by the room’s light.

These most recent sightings resulted in a lot of students being frightened--the university did not make an official comment about the matter--but at one point Cumberland was put on “lock down” mode. * The media was encouraged not to use terms, such as “utterly petrified” and “sheer terror”. Most students at Otago do not know the history behind this haunting but many of the 7000 students that have lived in Cumberland since it opened in 1989 have seen the Grey Lady.

She is believed to be a woman who was a patient who gave birth at Hayward College--when the building was Queen Mary Maternity Hospital. It is stated that this woman was deemed “unfit to be a mother” at which point the nurse who was attending her took her baby away. This patient died shortly after this. The nurse who had been ordered to take her baby then started to complain the ghost of this woman was haunting her where she lived. She was staying at the nurse’s hostel that is today Cumberland.

Cumberland today
Cumberland College in an attempt to restore calm “amidst the hysteria” called in some outside help. On May 10th the University Chaplain Reverend Greg Hughson and a local Kaumatua ** visited the college to lead a prayer and bless both the area and the students in order to reaffirm “the presence of God”. Hughson afterwards stressed that he had not performed an exorcism. This was the third time Reverend Hughson had been called in to help with the ghost, which had scared students in the past during the years he has worked at the university.***

* This climate of fear was not helped when student pranksters started to take advantage of the situation. They were successful at rattling people’s door handles etc. This worked, for many students became afraid to even go to sleep.

**  A Kaumatua is an elder among the native New Zealand Maori. They are leaders that impart guidance and wisdom. Their role in the modern world is similar to grandparents.

*** In my humble opinion--At some point what Cumberland needs to do is just sit down and be honest with these residents. This ghost has never harmed anyone--with the right perspective these students instead of being afraid could be re-educated just to ignore or even accept living side by side with this restless spirit. 

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