This ceremonial adze has been part of the Cook Islands Library and Museum collection since 1964.
Three eminent academics of the time (Duff, Skinner and Buck) said it is one of the finest specimens ever found in Rarotonga and is similar to two others, one found in Nassau and the other in Rakahanga. Both of those are northern group atolls with no stone so the adzes must have been taken there by early voyagers from Rarotonga.
The late Percy Henderson, who was assistant master of Avarua School at that time, wrote a report about the more unusual properties of this adze.
“Adze was taken to Mr Graham’s Education Officer house for safe keeping.
From the day it was taken there – queer noises were heard every night. (Creakings, groanings and footsteps in the ceiling.)
On two occasions Mr Graham got out of bed to trace noises without avail.
As Mr Graham was to leave on a trip around the group Mrs Graham said she believed the adze was cause of trouble and asked me to take it to my room at the hotel. I did so.
I shared this room with the senior teacher of the Post Primary Department. Without his knowledge, one Sunday, I locked the adze in a cabin trunk in my wardrobe.
My room mate later had his usual afternoon nap, but after half an hour seemed to have a terrific nightmare and awoke crying out “the adze”.
When fully awake he laughed and explained he had dreamt that the adze was dragging him into my wardrobe. I then told him that the adze really was in the wardrobe (this was his first knowledge of this fact). We laughed it off as a dream.
That night at 1am I awoke to hear my room mate screaming and writhing with his body out of bed and his legs pointing to my wardrobe.
He was difficult to awake, but finally managed to sit up and said that once again he had dreamt of the adze and that its spirit was dragging him again to the wardrobe where it would kill him – this dream was most realistic. We laughed it off again.
Next night he dreamed again, this time when I awoke him he was out of bed half-way across the floor, and his first words were, “Thank God you woke me, it nearly had me that time.” Later of course we dismissed this again as a dream.
Next day unknown to my room mate I removed the adze to safe keeping in the Administration safe.
That night all was well and in the morning on awaking he said, “Well I’ve beaten it at last – never even thought of it last night.”
There were no more dreams.
Old people of the island have heard this story and explain it by saying the adze evidently was a sacred one and it had a guardian spirit appointed to it.
Why didn’t it affect me?
They replied you respect it and promised to guard it and never let it leave the island therefore why should it distrust you?
Many Cook Islanders believe in ghosts but there have been no reports of visitations in the museum. However, the library and museum building is close to Avarua school where the adze was discovered and it is certainly a valued - and respected - artefact.