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The Ghosts of Cape Town’s Past
7 spooky stories - from the Castle of Good Hope to Groote Schuur
The Western Cape has a plethora of these myths and folklore to tell. From haunted houses to ghost ships, ghost riders and even mermaids, here are some of the best known stories from Cape Town; you can go to these sites – if you have the courage.
GHOSTS ARE WELCOMED AT THIS RESTAURANT
Kitima Restaurant is a tidy Hout Bay Asian eatery situated on The Kronendal, a 17th century former Dutch homestead … with a history. Part of that history is Elsa Cloete, a Dutch woman who lived in the homestead in the mid-1800s.
Story has it that the young Elsa and a British soldier were madly in love, but her father wouldn’t allow them to see each other. So the young soldier hung himself from a tree, and the young girl died of a broken heart.
According to reports from Kitima Restaurant staff, Cloete may be dead, but she isn’t gone. The staff have seen pots fly off wall hooks and lights dim without explanation. Guests have also reported sightings of a spectral female figure in one of the manor windows. The young soldier’s spirit also lives on as guests have reported sightings of a man’s outline lurking between the manor’s oak trees.
Out of respect for the doomed lovers, the restaurant sets a table for them with food and wine every night.
Kronendal Estate | 140 Main Road | Hout Bay | +27 (0)21 790 8004
THE LEGEND OF THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
For centuries, seafarers have reported a spectral ship sailing around the tip of Cape Point on stormy nights. Witnesses say that if you hail the ship, it releases rowboats with phantom men who approach you with letters to deliver to their loved ones.
These accounts are linked to the tale of a vessel called The Flying Dutchman that was caught in a storm in 1641 near Cape Point while journeying to Holland from Indonesia. The captain reportedly refused to turn back, swearing he would round the jagged tip of Africa if it was the last thing he did. It was. The boat was destroyed and all the crew drowned that night.
There have been sightings from Cape Point and Cape Agulhas, but don’t be so keen to see for yourself: witnessing the Flying Dutchman is said to be a bad omen.
Cape Of Good Hope | Cape Point Road | +27 (0)21 780 9526
NO ONE STAYS THE NIGHT HERE
Just past Kalk Bay Harbour is a Building called Spring Tide. The name is on the door, which hasn’t been opened for years. Legends about it abound, of buyers upping and leaving the property, tenants moving in and not staying one night. Even when abandoned, opportunistic vagrants wouldn’t sleep there.
One of the standout stories from this house is from the mid-90s, when the house hosted a crèche. One day during nap time, a teacher heard a loud scream followed by the children crying. One child described how a woman came halfway down the stairs, then stopped and uttered one, guttural scream.
The crèche didn’t last long, and stories surfaced about a love triangle that had turned ugly. Some time ago a woman had found her lover murdered by her husband after he had discovered her infidelity. That moment of discovery is believed to be the apparition the children witnessed that day.
Spring Tide is currently being refurbished. At the moment, builders are only doing exterior cosmetic work. Whether they’re going to work inside remains to be seen.
168 Main Road | Kalk Bay
NO MATTER HOW FAST HE GOES, HE NEVER GETS AWAY
Some say he’s headless, others say he’s completely clad in black, but many Mitchells Plain residents will vouch for the existence of the ghost motorcycle on Spine Road, which cuts its way through Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha right through to Blue Downs.
The part of the road in question is a bridge, bordered by the Mitchells Plain subsections of Portlands, Tafelsig as well as Spine Road High School. Legend has it that on Friday nights, just after midnight, a phantom motorcycle speeds over the bridge.
Not many have seen him, they say he moves too fast, but on a quiet, windless night, he can be heard speeding by. The strange thing is that the motorcycle never stops accelerating, they say: you hear it work through the gears and then accelerating at a high speed, engine whining. But it’s as if he never gets off the bridge, no matter how fast he goes.
The myth is linked to a true story about a motorcycle rider who, speeding down Spine Road on a Harley Davidson, crashed at the foot of the bridge, and died.
BEWARE THE BEAUTIES OF THE KAROO
From Aquaman to Ariel, mermaids are portrayed as the good guys. But not all mermaids are honourable. British folklore says they are bad omens, and in eastern Europe they’re said to be undead brides who drowned and tempt men to the same fate.
In central, west and southern Africa they’re known as Mami Wata (Mother of Water), female humanoid fish who lure men to their deaths.
As a matter of fact, the Karoo dam of Bufeljags is teeming with them, according to local stories. Locals point to several unmarked graves around the banks of the dam, believed to be men lured to the slaughter by the mermaids.
Locals say that the creatures seduce men with beauty: tapping into their psyche and portraying any beauty features that would lure them. There are no reports on how these men meet their end, because no one has lived to tell of the encounter.
CEMETERIES ARE HAUNTED … DUH
Here’s a stupid question: who would walk through a cemetery in the middle of the night? Well, apparently two friends thought it would be a good idea to walk through a graveyard in Claremont – the night before Halloween in 2014.
One of them started snapping photos on a camera and, when checking the screen, noticed that the images were covered in orbs. Spook-story enthusiasts will tell you that orbs, or backscatter, represent some sort of supernatural presence. Science says it’s dust and insects that the camera can’t focus on. But we think the supernatural angle won the argument on this night. On closer inspection the two friends noticed a blurry figure lurking in one of the pictures. It was a man with a white beard and red clothing.
Flabbergasted, they researched and discovered that Sir John Molteno, the first Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, is buried in this cemetery. Sir John was renowned for his long white beard and had joined a Boer commando to fight in the Cape Frontier War. Historical portraits of that war show that Boer soldiers fought in red attire.
Saint Saviours Anglican Church | Bowwood Road & Main Road | Claremont
OUTSMOKING THE DEVIL
Ever notice how clouds often cover the top of Table Mountain like a blanket? Capetonians fondly call it the tablecloth. But there is a famous, 120-year-old story attached to this phenomenon.
According to a poem by 18th century poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti called Jan Van Hunks, the first ever tablecloth was caused by the smoking pipe of the prolific Dutch pirate the poem is named after.
As the story goes, Van Hunks lived at the foot of the mountain and wasn’t allowed to smoke in the house, so he would smoke outside on the mountain side. One day, Van Hunks met another smoker and the two dueled to see who could smoke the most – Van Hunks claimed no-one could outdo him. The second smoker turned out the be the devil.
Van Hunks won the duel but not before the two covered the entire mountain top with their pipe smoke. Whenever Table Mountain is covered with the “tablecloth”, some Capetonians still tell their children that Van Hunks is dueling with the devil again. There’s also a long-standing belief that this duel is the reason Devils Peak has its name.
Table Mountain Aerial Cableway | Tafelberg Road |+27 (0)21 424 8181
Images by: Haunted History, Harley Davidson Tygervally, tablemountain.net, Face2Face South Africa
Video by: Unsolved Mysteries & Paranormal Activities
FOR FURTHER READING
Discover more haunting tales during the Simon's Town Ghost Walk.
Speaking of old buildings filled with history and possible hauntings, take a peek at our overview of museums in Cape Town.
Try out these new spots in Cape Town.
Discover these 7+ things to do this weekend.
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