The murder of Margaret Burke in 1871 was, in its day, sensational enough but in the many years that followed, the appearance of a bloody handprint on her gravestone led to shudders down the spines of those who saw it.
Margaret, 21, daughter of John Burke and Mary O’Malley, had come from County Galway, searching for a better life. She was a maid, living and working in the house of William “Ready Money” Robinson - called that because he paid for a huge estate with cash.
He was wealthy and well-known in the Canterbury district and famous for racing horses.
During his world travels, he had taken on a man in Panama as his butler, Simon Cedeno, part African-American and part Indian.
He and three girls were the servants in the Robinson home.
Cedeno had been courting a woman called Mary who he intended to marry.
Margaret and another girl, Catherine Glynn had teased him about her several times, mainly about whether she even existed.
This angered Cedeno - who was doubly troubled because he had apparently already asked Margaret - who had said no.
On January 9, 1871, Robinson’s wife Eliza had been entertaining a guest when they heard screaming in the hallway.
Margaret burst into the room followed by Cedeno holding a knife. As he attacked her, the guest Patrick Campbell tried to restrain him, but he stabbed her several times, even as Campbell’s hand was on the knife to stop him.
Margaret died and they found Catherine, also bloody and stabbed, but alive, hiding in her room.
Cedeno, who was prone to fits of anger, was arrested and taken to trial.
He was found guilty of murder, attempted murder and threatening murder and was sentenced to death. He was hanged at Lyttelton gaol in April that year.
Margaret was buried in the Barbadoes Street Cemetery in Christchurch with a headstone put up by the Robinson family.
It was a month later that what appeared to be a bloody handprint appeared on the stone.
The stone had come from Halswell quarry and the type of stone was known for flaws, including showing a red liquid when it rained.
The grave became an unlikely attraction with people travelling to see it. When the original headstone had to be replaced there was shock when the handprint appeared again.
It was not until 1962 that the story faded away. The stone was smashed by vandals and it was removed to be repaired but the pieces were lost and now there is no headstone.
Before they were lost however, it was found the sandstone used became red when wet.
But does that explain it? (Happy Halloween everyone)