Whether you believe in ghosts or not, everyone enjoys a good ghost story. Here is a small selection of interesting ghosts that are said to haunt various towns and cities in South Africa.
Cape Town ghosts
The Cape Argus building
The ghost of Wilberforce, a hanged pirate, is said to haunt the building during storms. He rattles windows (or is that the wind?) and apparently he once even left a poem.
Simon van der Stel was responsible for planting thousands of vines and oak trees along with the well-known Groot Constantia manor house. In his latter years he was fond of taking a dip in the ornamental pool near the house. Some claim to have seen his ghost walking through the oak trees to his favourite swimming spot.
Now a museum, this home in the Buitenkant area was built in 1777 and is reputed to be the most haunted house in the city with sightings of unknown apparitions and eerie footsteps,. A woman floating down the stairs has also been spotted along with one who stares out the window.
Frederick Eksteen rode his Arab horse through the manor at a New Year’s party as a party trick. But this ended badly when the slave bell rang to signal midnight and this, along with the cheers from the party, startled his steed and they both tumbled down the stairs and to their death. Their ghosts are said to ride through the house whenever the slave bell is rung and at midnight on New Year’s eve.
Green Point Lighthouse
This red and white candy-striped beacon dates back to 1824 and it is believed that it is haunted by a one-legged lighthouse-keeper, known as “Daddy” West.
The Castle of Good Hope
This is the oldest building still in use in South Africa and also the most haunted. Some of these ghosts include an angry Pieter Gijsbert Noodt who prowls the castle grounds while Lady Anne Barnard prefers haunting the ballroom. There’s also a ghost soldier who rings the bell at odd times and a large black dog has been seen in the passageways.
The Old Fort
This building set in beautiful gardens was once the headquarters of the Durban Light Infantry. It is said that Brigadier General G Molyneux haunts the gardens named in his honour and the Warrior’s Gate building is home to the ghost of a soldier who likes to rearrange furniture and displays.
53 Hospital Road
Most port cities have a red light district and Durban’s Point Road is notorious for after-dark activities. Rosie Dry was a famous madam in the 1940’s who had a string of brothels and speakeasies. Her offices were on the corner of Hospital and Point Road and are rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of a soldier whom she had killed in 1944 (she dumped his body in a barrow and wheeled it to a nearby dance floor).
This Parktown Ridge mansion was once the home of Sir Thomas and Lady Annie Cullinan. She is often seen at the top of the stairs in a beautiful dress and the sounds of footsteps have been heard on the first floor. Even more chilling is the sound of someone climbing a staircase – which has long since been removed.
It is believed by some that the ghost that haunts this home in Central Avenue, Houghton, is that of a young girl known as Bubbles Schroeder. This good-time girl was popular with high society and everyone was shocked when she was found dead in a blue gum plantation near Wanderers Sports Club in August 1949. There are many theories surrounding her murder, but it is said her ghost can be heard walking around the building and howling.
The rocky knoll in Soweto
On 16 June 1976, school children assembled in school grounds in Soweto, singing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica before starting their protest march against Afrikaans at Orlando Stadium. What followed was brutal police action, resulting in the murder of Hastings Ndlovu and a schoolboy by the name of Hector Peterson. This started the Soweto Uprising, which will forever remain one of the most significant moments in South African history. According to some, the ghost of young Hector Peterson also remains. A schoolboy with his hand clenched in the Black Power salute has been seen at the foot of the rocky knoll after dark and if you listen carefully you can hear the faint sound of gunfire.
The Supreme Court
Daisy de Melker is one of South Africa’s most famous murderesses, having been accused of murdering her two husbands and son with arsenic. She was found guilty of murdering her son (she sprinkled arsenic on his sandwiches and in his coffee) and sentenced to death by hanging in 1932. It’s said that she haunts all the places she was associated with, including Court 3 of the Supreme Court where she was sentenced.
Charles Dunell Rudd was one of the many fortune-seekers drawn to the mining town and became the principal financier to the De Beers Mining Company. His red and white home with its deep shaded verandah lends air of foreboding, along with the numerous hunting trophies staring at you from the walls. The sounds of breaking glass have been heard, along with the clatter of cutlery and smashing crockery. If that’s not enough, a baby is sometimes heard crying in the nursery.
The Africaner Museum
Once the Kimberley Public Library, the Africaner Museum is said to be haunted by Bertram Dyer who was the city’s first qualified librarian. He likes to rearrange the books and is often heard pacing between the shelves.
The McGregor Museum
The McGregor Museum, was originally the Kimberley Sanatorium which opened in 1897 as a health resort for those suffering from chest maladies. In 1933 it was let to the Sisters of the Holy Family who used it as a convent. This convent may have closed in 1969, but a ghost of one of the nuns haunts the administration section, roaming the corridors in a flowing white habit.
Port Elizabeth ghosts
South End Cemetery
In the Great Gale of 31 August 1902, 21 boats either sank or were blown onto North End Beach. 41 crew and rescuers perished in this disaster and many of the bodies were buried in the South End Cemetery. Some of their ghosts are said to wander through this graveyard.
The Port Elizabeth Public Library
This building with its dramatic Elizabethan touches has two ghostly inhabitants. One is thought to be Police Constable Maxwell who is not impressed that his memorial stone was moved when the building was being constructed. The other is Robert Thomas, the caretaker of the building who was very attached to the library. His ghost is said to open and close doors and remove books from shelves, leaving them stacked neatly in piles.
Built in 1906, the row of terraced houses known as Richly House has been a nursing and maternity home, a brothel and a boarding house. It also has a number of ghosts. A nun has been seen, a woman and child in period dress have been spotted in the passageways and an angry former resident has been known to stomp through the dining room and rattle pots and pans in the kitchen.
The National Zoological Gardens
The next time you pass through these gates, keep an eye out for a few of the ghosts who are said to roam the old State Museum. Once a military hospital, the groans and shrieks of soldiers are said to be heard at night, while two angry ghosts haunt the corridors. Some claim to have been confronted by the ghost of a woman in a nurse’s uniform brandishing a scalpel.
Sammy Marks Museum
Originally known as Zwartkoppies Hall, this building was once the home of Sammy Marks who made his fortune in the Barbeton gold rush. He has apparently never left his home as his icy presence is felt along with doors that open and close on their own accord. Some have heard a baby crying in what was the nursery, which could be the ghost of one of the Marks children who died there in 1890.
This National Monument is said to be haunted by the Erasmus family who were the original owners. Staff have heard footsteps and claim taps are turned on and lights switched off. Apparently two or three of the Erasmus children, who contracted leprosy and were confined in a room under the main tower until their death, have been seen roaming the staircase and corridors.
All of these stories have been taken from the book, Ghosts of South Africa by Pat Hopkins. My mother bought it for me as a Christmas present years ago and I am forever grateful as it has proved to be fascinating reading. Never once did I think I would use it to write a blog for a travel website.
I am also grateful to Pat Hopkins for all his useful research, saving me from having to physically seek out the haunted spots mentioned. Apart from the Lord Milner Hotel in Matjiesfontein, which I did visit and may, or may not, have had an encounter with Olive Schreiner (read more about my visit here). I am still building up the courage to visit Kimberley.
Also read: Seven of South Africa’s best haunted hotels