A Ghostly Tale
Here is a ghostly piece which is very much a part of South African History.
It has all the pieces of a good thriller hehe.
if you enjoy a little intrigue, mystery and a little history this is the story for you.
December is the month of school holidays – When I was younger, my favourite places to visit was Cape Town. Of course The Cape has many heritage sites to visit. Being the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa, The Cape Town Castle or Castle of Good Hope is not only steeped in our country’s history; it is also well known for visits of the spiritual kind.
The pentagon-shaped castle was constructed between 1666 and 1679 by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as a maritime replenishment station. Another reason for building on the shore was so that high tides would fill its moat. From 1678 it was the centre of civilian, administrative and military life at the Cape, until the settlement grew and some functions and activities moved away from the Castle. Today the Castle is the seat of the military in the Cape, and houses the Castle Military Museum and Iziko Museums of Cape Town (William Fehr Collection).
The area in the castle which held the eeriest presence and the worst place for me to enter was the Donker Gat (dark hole) a dungeon used to hold prisoners, who would be chained to the walls and tortured. Tours are taken into the dungeon and the lights are turned off. I was lucky to have a decent tour guide, who allowed me to leave the dungeon before this part of the tour was completed. He explained that when the lights are out, it is not possible to see your hand in front of your face. If the darkness alone was not enough to scare the wits out of prisoners, there is a hole in the floor in the centre of the room. If the captives fell through it they would fall to a certain death.
If an extra-large wave came crashing up the shore during high tide, the hole could fill with water within seconds and drown the prisoner chained below. One can imagine the mental anguish of hearing the waves getting louder and louder as the tide rose—hoping the next surge doesn’t fill your watery tomb.
According to some stories prisoners held in this windowless cell were left there for days and eventually were brought out blindfolded. Once out in the sunlight the blindfold was removed and the prisoner was forced to look directly at the sun causing them to go blind.
The Castle also has other prison cells which are far kinder in comparison. Once again a presence is palpable. Graffiti from the prisoners of yesteryear still remain on the walls and doors.
A more of an intriguing tale is that of the spectre of Governor Pieter Gysbert van Noodt who is apparently seen in the castle, and heard cursing. Seven soldiers were unjustly and illegally condemned to death for desertion, after the governor overturned the council’s more lenient sentence. One of the soldiers, a theological candidate, stood on the gallows and called Van Noodt to Divine justice. That same day, Van Noodt was found dead in his chair. (I have heard that the chair is in the Koopmans-De Wet museum) It has been said though, that Divine justice was aided by earthly conspiracy.
A lady in grey haunts both the castle and Tuynhuys. She may be connected with a woman’s skeleton which was unearthed near one of the castle’s old “sally gates”. The “Grey Lady” was said to travel along a collapsed tunnel between the two buildings. Rumour has it that after the skeleton was dug up in the 1940s; the Grey Lady has not been seen since.
In 1915, over the course of 3 nights at 3 day intervals, there were sightings of an 8 foot, semi-transparent apparition. It was seen again in 1947, when it was observed after being approached by the guards on duty it jumped off the battlements and disappeared into thin air above the old moat. This semi-luminous ghost was seen over a period of weeks. It walked between the Leerdam and Oranje bastions, and was also seen leaning over the parapet, looking into Darling Street.
Before reporting the incident to the commander, however, a Corporal decided first to eliminate the possibility of the ghost being a soldier playing a practical joke. To do this, he ordered a Private to “haunt” the battlements while covered in a sheet. Unsurprisingly, the soldiers who had gathered to be haunted were not convinced and with much raucous laughter, dispelled the idea of a joker in a sheet being the culprit.
The last night the ghost appeared; he not only hovered but also rang the bells in the guard-room. The troops were now no longer laughing; they were in a cold sweat of fear.
Much more frequently, inexplicable footsteps have been heard in the same area of the castle. This may be the same ghost who rings the castle bell from time to time, which was walled up centuries ago since a guard hanged himself with the bell rope.
A large black hound also haunts the castle, leaping at visitors but vanishing at the last instant. In the Buren bastion, lights are switched on and off without human assistance. Near the guard room, the voices of an unseen man and woman have been heard arguing. Upon investigation, only a shapeless figure was seen. The ringing of an electric bell in the guard room is connected with a suicide in the earlier part of the twentieth century.
My last mention goes to Lady Anne Barnard who is the most romantic of the Castle’s ghostly residents. In the late eighteenth century, Lady Anne lived at the Castle as the colony’s First Lady and often entertained important dignitaries. Lady Anne’s ghost is said to have appeared at parties held in honour of important visitors as well as at Dolphin Pool, where she bathed – some say in the nude.