With music by Cyndi Lauper, several Tonys and a Laurence Olivier Award
8 Creepy Cape Town Ghost Stories That’ll Send Chills Down Your Spine
Read these at your peril and be prepared to see some of the Mother City’s historical sites in an eerie new light
There wasn’t a whisper of wind that night, not even the softest sigh. A colleague and I had found ourselves overnighting in a grand old Herbert Baker-designed homestead on the edge of Stellenbosch while visiting the town for work, and as we crept up the pebble driveway after a late dinner, we couldn’t help but feel a little rattled by the eerie, all-encompassing stillness.
By day, this double-storey manor was majestic: an architectural gem complete with high ceilings, mahogany floors and at least 12 rooms the size of royal chambers. By night though, the house creaked with the unnerving weight of centuries of history. Dark corners and closed doors taunted the psyche and the emptiness of a mansion meant for 20 but only housing two seeped under our skin and made it crawl.
Shuddersome thoughts scuttled through our minds, but we tried to call on logic to stay calm and managed to simmer down our apprehension to just a mild sense of unease. That is, until our bedroom window suddenly flew shut, with not even the lightest of breezes outside to account for this. Then the floodgates of panic opened.
We spent the rest of this endless night frigid with angst, our eyes pinned shut out of fear that if we opened them, we would find the shadows of long-passed former residents standing over us.
When daylight broke – bringing with it peace – we left Herbert’s manor behind for good and sought the busyness of town for comfort. Only then, while chatting to locals, did we discover the haunting stories behind this age-old homestead, which is said to be frequented by tormented spirits who have been known to taunt former guests in the pitch-black corners of the house’s mammoth rooms.
And then more stories emerged. As it happens, when you dig a little deeper, there are several hair-raising tales surrounding the Cape’s many landmarks and historical buildings – it seems we who live in current times are not the only ones passing through the streets and hallways of this city. To keep you in the know and appeal to your morbid fascination, we’ve rounded up eight of these stories below. Now you know which sites to avoid when the sun sinks and darkness blankets the seemingly innocuous metropolis of Cape Town.
THE LAVENDER LADY THAT HAUNTED THE LORD NELSON HOTEL IN SIMON'S TOWN
There's a painting of her in the SA Navy Museum's basement in Simon's Town. Find out if it's possible to take a full photo of this painting. Learn about the wailer ghost on St George's Street, the baby killer of Black's Lane and many more haunting tales during this ghost walk in Simon's Town. Read more about Simon's Town Ghost Walks.
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8 CREEPY CAPE TOWN GHOST STORIES THAT’LL SEND CHILLS DOWN YOUR SPINE
The Green Point Lighthouse Spectre
Built back in 1824, the red-and-white-striped Green Point lighthouse is the oldest working beacon in South Africa, and like most things with a lengthy history, it comes with a bit of eerie intrigue. Rumours have long swirled that the tower is inhabited by a one-legged spirit called ‘Daddy’ West, and the fact that there was actually a lighthouse keeper by the name of W.S. West working here from 1901 (it’s unclear when his term ended, or why) does lend the tale some spooky weight. The current lighthouse manager claims that she’s never personally experienced anything odd, but then she does acknowledge that she’s never there after dark. Plus, we must admit, this recording of a disembodied voice by the Cape Town Paranormal Investigations unit, who ran a few tests here in late 2014, is spine-chillingly convincing.
The Ghostly Horseman at Tokai Manor
It’s a well-known truth that the grand Cape Dutch-style Tokai Manor, which sits within Tokai Forest, is home not just to the Table Mountain National Park admin office but also to the spirit of one Frederick Eksteen. This young man was the son of Petrus Michiel Eksteen, the owner of the house back in the mid-1800s and a lover of wild, drunken parties. As the story goes, one New Year’s Eve, while Petrus was entertaining a number of guests in his large dining room, he challenged Frederick to ride his favourite mare up the steep steps of the manor and into the house. Young Fred did this proudly and all the guests cheered, but as he turned to trot back down the stairs, a slave rang the bell to signal midnight and the horse spooked and tumbled down the steps, dragging Frederick down to his death. Ever since then, people who’ve worked at the house have reported hearing strange sounds, like those of drunken laughter or horse hooves, and some have claimed to have seen a man in period clothing galloping along on horseback in the forest outside the manor, particularly on New Year’s Eve or in the dark early hours of the morning.
The Spook House in Rondebosch
Looming eerily above the other residences on Rondebosch’s Milner Road, this striking, three-storey Edwardian dwelling not only looks like something out of a horror movie (particularly at night, when it almost always sits in darkness), but has inspired a number of its own terrifying tales too. Rumour has it that in the 1970s the house was a base for a cult group, and it seems that their activities left an ominous energy behind. Apparently, throughout the years, passers-by have spotted a translucent old man walking around inside the house and those who have dared to wander near enough have heard doors swinging open and closed again for no earthly reason. Needless to say, even those who don’t believe in ghosts hold their breath for a few seconds when driving or strolling past this spooky abode.
The Spirits of Groote Schuur Hospital
As a site where many unlucky individuals have met untimely deaths over the years, Groote Schuur Hospital is, apparently, full of restless souls who are doomed to spend their days wandering the wide hallways of this historic building. Patients have made mention of being tended to by nurses who none of the staff have ever heard of and apparently a sister with what’s been described as ‘white eyes’ roams the wards. Similarly, a rather friendlier apparition of a nurse named Sister Fatima reportedly tries to assist the hospital staff with their chores, most notably by giving drinks to the patients from trolleys that are standing unattended. We have no doubt that doing night duty at this large institution, which has had thousands of sickly individuals pass through it since it was first opened in 1938, must make staff’s hair stand on end.
The Ghost of Elsa Cloete at Kitima Restaurant
Elsa Cloete was a young Dutch woman who lived in the age-old Hout Bay homestead that now houses Kitima restaurant back in the mid-1800s, and despite the passing of over 160 years, many report that she still dwells here today. As the story goes, the poor lass was once in love with a British soldier who hanged himself from an oak tree near the manor when her father prohibited them from dating, and soon after, she too died from a broken heart. Nowadays, apparently, Kitima staff members occasionally witness bizarre occurrences, like pots flying off their hooks on kitchen walls and lights dimming inexplicably, and similarly, guests have claimed to have seen the eerie figure of a woman standing at one of the manor’s windows as well as the outline of a young man lurking outside between the property’s oaks, staring longingly at the house. Out of respect for the doomed duo, the restaurant sets a table laden with food and wine for them every night, and many will tell you, you can sense the pair sitting and supping here.
The Flying Dutchman Ghost Ship at Cape Point
Over the past few centuries, a number of seafarers have come forward with reports of strikingly similar sightings of a ghoulish ship sailing in the wild waters around the tip of Cape Point on stormy nights. According to witnesses, the galleon releases rowboats filled with phantom men into the ocean and they approach passing ships with letters that they want delivered to their loved ones. The accounts have been linked to the tale of a vessel called the Flying Dutchman that was caught in a storm near Cape Point while journeying to Holland from Indonesia in 1641. The captain reportedly refused to turn back and swore that he would round the jagged tip of Africa even if it was the last thing he did. Which it was. The boat was destroyed and all the crew drowned that night, only instead of disappearing from the earth for good, they remained in phantom form and now haunt the waters that stole their lives… or so the unnervingly frequent sightings suggest.
The Castle of Good Hope Hauntings
Built in the late 1600s, the ancient stone Castle of Good Hope has a rich and rather bloody history that’s seen many lose their lives in particularly violent ways. So it comes as no surprise that numerous visitors to the fort – and those just walking by on dark, misty nights – have claimed to have witnessed the spirits of tormented souls roving its cold passageways and glaring down from its battlements. The most famous of these apparitions is the angry, cursing ghost of Governor van Noodt, who supposedly died of a heart attack while several soldiers were being hung on his order. One of the men reportedly cursed the governor just before being executed and now his soul is doomed to never leave the walls of the fortress he ruled so harshly. There are also reports of a tall wraith of a man leaping off the castle wall, a big black dog that disappears as it gets close and the sounds of voices and shuffling in the Dark Hole, a windowless underground space once used as a prison and torture chamber. In addition, the bell in the bell tower apparently rings on its own every now and then, despite the fact that the turret was barricaded years ago. Word is that the restless soul of a soldier who hung himself from the bell rope centuries back is responsible for the eerie, inexplicable chiming.
The Mysterious Residents of Rust en Vreugd
Once the home of a despised, corrupt official of the Dutch East India Company, Rust en Vreugd is now considered one of the Cape’s most haunted dwellings. Today the old double-storey building functions as an art gallery that houses a private collection of water colours, etchings and lithographs, and a number of guests have reported encountering more than just a few pretty pictures during visits. Specifically, numerous visitors have felt a tap on the shoulder and found no one behind them when they turned around; others have caught glimpse of a floating woman hovering between rooms in the downstairs part of the house; and some have seen an apparition of a lady staring out of an upstairs window, with an empty cot at her side. Stranger still is the fact that dogs reportedly take a great dislike to a painting of Lord Charles Somerset (a British governor of the Cape who also once lived at Rust en Vreugd), clearly picking up an odd energy beyond human perception.
Images by Maciej Soltynski, Danie van der Merwe, Debbie Louise and Raymond Ellis.
Speaking of old buildings filled with history and possible hauntings, take a peek at our overview of museums in Cape Town.
These are only a few of the happenings in Cape Town and surrounds for the month of May, so be sure to check out our events section for an up-to-date overview of happenings in Cape Town. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter.
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