Halloween is upon us once again, and although South African’s aren’t known for celebratory trick or treating, the country sure does have some interesting ghost stories of its own.
South Africa is a complex land of mystery and wonder, an amalgamation of the beautifully bizarre as a result of a complex, and often unpleasant, history. It’s this combination of folklore and fear that mixes well in the cauldron of morbid fascination.
While the tradition of Halloween dates back hundreds of years and has its roots in Celtic, Gaelic and Pagan festivities, most nations celebrate 31 October by indulging in everything spooky and macabre.
Thanks to American influence, people don Halloween costumes, usually meant to depict ghouls, frightening apparitions or deceased celebrities. Pumpkins are carved into jack-o’-lanterns and kids take to the streets asking neighbours for treats.
It’s a time for innocuous mischievousness, which usually, for young-adults anyway, turns into a dress-up drinking party, after which most revellers experience true horror in the form of a brain-drilling hangover.
But, while these spooky shenanigans form the backdrop for Halloween festivities, South Africans can afford to cite a host of ghastly ghost stories which supersede the superficial celebratory screams. Let’s take a look at South Africa’s scariest ghost stories; myths and legends that have been passed down through the ages.
Uniondale’s lost lover, looking for a ride
Let’s start with South Africa’s favourite ghost story first – the ghost of Maria Roux, Uniondale’s infamous hitching bride-to-be.
According to urban legend, Marie Charlotte Roux had recently become engaged to Giel Oberholzer in 1968. Over the Easter Weekend of that year, the loving couple embarked on what was to become a hellride on the outskirts of Uniondale in the Karoo.
Roux was asleep on the backseat of Oberholzer’s Volkswagen Beetle when her fiancé lost control of the vehicle in stormy weather. The car rolled on the Barandas-Willowmore road, roughly 20 kilometres from the Uniondale, killing Roux.
Yet, according to some motorists, Roux can still be seen waiting on the side of the road, ostensibly, for the return of her fiancé or a lift to her final destination.
According to several reports, motorists driving along the desolate stretch of road at night come across a woman hitchhiking. This woman, who apparently fits the description of Roux, asks for a lift, and most motorists oblige.
However, a few kilometres down the road, Roux vanishes. Some shook motorists have described the woman’s laughter and a sudden cold chill in the air.
Nottingham Road’s lady of the night
Nottingham Road has the oldest pub in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and, according to some patrons, a beautiful ghost called Charlotte.
The myth revolves around the Nottingham Road Hotel, a 19th-century prostitute who plied her trade at the establishment and a handsome British soldier.
It’s a love affair which was doomed from the beginning. Charlotte, a prostitute at the Nottingham Road Hotel, fell in love with a British soldier sometime in the late 1800s. There are two urban legends which detail Charlotte’s untimely demise.
In the first account, Charlotte finds out that the soldier, with whom she is madly in love with, has recently been killed in battle. Overcome with sorrow, Charlotte flings herself off the balcony’s hotel, dying of her injuries.
The second account states that Charlotte was killed by a defaulting customer who turned violent and threw her off of the balcony.
Either way, patrons and paranormal investigators firmly believe that Charlotte still walks the halls of the Nottingham Road Hotel as a lonely apparition. She’s apparently most fond of room number 10.
Apparently, Charlotte speaks to children who stay at the hotel with their families. She also has a penchant for mischievous behaviour and enjoys unpacking bags, fiddling with light switches and turning on the water taps.
International paranormal investigators, Ghost Hunters filmed their Nottingham Road Hotel adventures in 2007. The crew believe that Charlotte is a lost spirit trapped within the establishment and that she may even be joined by a ghostly pal.
The Flying Dutchman Ghost Ship at Cape Point
The Flying Dutchman, known in Dutch as De Vliegende Hollander, is a legendary ghost ship which is said to have been commandeered by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the 17th century.
Over the last 200 years, many sailors have sworn to have seen The Flying Dutchmen, complete with period-appropriate crew and captain, sailing the world’s stormy seas. Legend has it that the ship sank off the coast of the Cape of Good Hope near Cape Point.
According to eyewitnesses, the ghostly ship appears on stormy nights, when the well is rough and gale force winds prevail. It’s been said that the ghostly crew of The Flying Dutchmen attempt to reach worldly onlookers by way of rowboats.
Urban legend claims that Dutch captain Bernard Fokke commandeered the ship around the Cape of Good Hope, but refused to turn around when The Flying Dutchmen encountered a monstrous storm. The stubborn captain swore he would pass Cape Point even if it “should take until the day of judgment.”
Ghosts of the Lord Milner Hotel in Matjiesfontein
According to some, Matjiesfontein is the most haunted town in South Africa. This tiny Karoo town is said to be home to a number of embattled apparitions, two of whom have found shelter in the Lord Milner Hotel.
Meet ghost number one, Lucy. Lucy is, by all accounts, a timid ghost who has never checked out of her hotel room on the first floor. Patrons who have encountered the spirit say she is not at all frightening, although quarrels can be heard coming from her room late at night. Naturally, when visitors enter the room to investigate the source of the disturbances, nothing and no one can be found.
Lucy is joined at the Lord Milner Hotel by Kate, the ghost of a 19-year-old nurse who enjoyed playing cards with British soldiers garrisoned in the old turret room. Nobody knows how Kate died, but patrons and hotel staff have reported strange happenings in and below the old turret room.
According to eyewitnesses, Kate is a restless soul who makes her presence known in strange ways; brushing against people’s shoulders, shuffling cards in the old recreation room and walking the narrow hallways in her old nurse uniform.
The haunting of Kempton Park Hospital
Johannesburg is scary enough without ghosts, but for intrepid urban explorers, the abandoned Kempton Park Hospital has all the makings of a horror movie.
The hospital abruptly closed down the day after Christmas in 1996. Nobody knows why, which has only added fuel to the frightening fire.
Medical files, equipment and specimen jars were all left in place. Over the years, much of that has been destroyed or expropriated by local teenagers and the city’s homeless, yet, remnants of the hospital’s dubious past still remain.
A group of local ghost hunters documented their exploration of the abandoned hospital, which oozes eeriness. According to some, the hospital’s psychiatric wing is the haunted hotspot, with some explorers experiencing strange occurrences, including ear piercing screams and dancing shadows.
The Kempton Park Hospital is due to be demolished soon, so if you feel brave enough, explore it while it lasts. Disclaimer: Don’t enter Johannesburg’s abandoned buildings; the dangers exceed the supernatural.