Woman's tour of Karori Cemetery unearths a trove of astonishing stories

A woman who took her dog Dixie on daily walks throughout Karori Cemetery in Wellington has unearthed a trove of stories about the fate of those who lay below her.

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The rather unusual hobby is in fashion around New Zealand right now, tour guide included. Source: Seven Sharp

There are, at the very least, 83,000 New Zealanders buried at the cemetery - that's the population of Palmerston North.

And among those thousands also lie thousands of stories. Something Barbara Mulligan began to realise as she took her daily walks amongst the plots.

“I started walking day after day after day, eventually started reading headstones and I read one that said 'accidentally killed by skylarking' - it caught my attention. I had to look up and decide what the story was behind it,” she told Seven Sharp.

"This chap fell out of a pub window," she says, pointing at a particular gravestone. "Three stories up, so the story goes."

“He was having a fun time with some colleagues in one of the rooms. They all said at the inquest they hadn't been drinking, we'll believe that or not,” Barbara says.

“It seemed to me if there was a story behind that headstone, a simple headstone, there were probably other stories,” she says.

There are the usual big names, six prime ministers and a well-known television host.

“One of the very big media stars in both television and radio was Selwyn Toogood,” Barbara remarks.

But it's the regular folk who surprised her the most - like the unmarked grave of Susan Skinner, mother of nine.

“Susan then hooked up with Isaiah Fake who, as it turns out, left a wife and kids back in England when he migrated here, migrated with his mistress and some children, I'm not sure if they're hers, or theirs or his. He then abandoned his mistress, took up with Susan who he married so she became Susan Fake.

"But it was not a happy relationship. He then tried to kill her with a shotgun, got her through the windpipe, she survived. He then turned the gun on himself through the heart, killed himself,” she says.

Find out more about the hidden stories in Karori Cemetery by watching the video above.