While South Africans haven’t taken to the ghoulish celebration like other countries, we have our own fair share of interesting ghost stories and macabre mysteries.
So, if you aren’t into dressing up as a witch, wizard, or other weird character, hit the road and check out some of these places in South Africa that have their own intriguing myths, legends, and ghost stories.
The Flying Dutchman at the Cape of Good Hope (Cape Point)
The Cape of Good Hope is a beautiful and treacherous rocky headland on the Atlantic Coast of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa.
Often mistaken for being the southernmost tip of Africa (which is actually 145 kilometres away at Cape Agulhas), the Cape of Good Hope was first discovered by Portuguese explorer Bartholomew (or Bartolomeu) Dias in 1487 while attempting to establish a direct trade route to the Far East.
Dias named the rugged peninsula “Cabo das Tormentas” (Cape of Storms) due to the high winds and massive seas that forced him to sail over a thousand kilometres off-course, and around the southernmost tip of Africa. It was later named “Cabo de Boa Esperanca” (Cape of Good Hope) by King John II of Portugal.
The Cape of Good Hope continued to wreak havoc on ships attempting to sail around the “tip of Africa”, gaining the notorious title of the “Graveyard of Ships”, which is now home to nearly 3,000 sunken vessels, the most famous of which is the legendary Flying Dutchman.
The Legend of the Flying Dutchman
The legend of The Flying Dutchman is known to all, made famous in films, opera, books, and television, and still to this day, is a portent of doom and bad luck in ocean lore.
Born from 17th-Century nautical folklore, the Flying Dutchman is a legendary ghost ship captained by Captain van der Decken who was returning home from the Far East in 1641 when a sudden desire to start a colony at the Cape overcame him.
Deep in thought, he did not recognise the immense storm brewing ahead of the ship and only reacted to the screams of the lookout when it was too late.
The storm smashed the boat onto the nearby rocks of the peninsula, yet van der Decken was determined not to give up his dream and cried that he would “sail around the Cape, even until Doomsday!”
His cry thus became his curse, and he was doomed to sail the seas around the Cape forever. Since then, many sailors and ocean goers have claimed to glimpse the “floating” ghost ship on foggy days around Cape Point, which is taken as a sign of bad luck and doom.
Matjiesfontein and the ‘Haunted’ Lord Milner Hotel
The small town of Matjiesfontein in the Karoo has a rich and colourful history that includes many stories of ghost sightings.
Believed to be the most haunted town in South Africa, Matjiesfontein was founded in 1883 as a health resort for people with lung complaints could recuperate. It was also the headquarters of the Cape Command during the South African War (the Anglo-Boer War), a refuge for Jamieson Raid reformers, and the venue of controversial war crimes hearings.
The Lord Milner Hotel rests at the heart of the town and is said to be the home of two residents and apparently quite friendly and energetic ghosts, Lucy and Kate.
Lucy is a timid ghost who has never checked out of her hotel room on the first floor and patrons who have encountered the spirit say they have heard quarrels can be heard coming from her room late at night.
Kate is the ghost of a 19-year-old nurse who enjoyed playing cards with British soldiers garrisoned in the old turret room. Patrons and hotel staff have reported strange happenings in and below the old turret room.
Uniondale’s Hitching Bride-to-Be
One of South Africa’s favourite ghost stories is that of Marie Charlotte Roux, a young bride-to-be that was tragically killed on the outskirts of Uniondale in the Karoo.
According to urban legend, Marie Charlotte Roux got engaged to Giel Oberholzer in 1968 and the loving couple hit the road for a getaway over the Easter Weekend of that year.
Roux was asleep on the backseat of the car when her fiancé lost control of the vehicle in stormy weather and the car rolled on the Barandas-Willowmore Road, about 20 kilometres from the Uniondale, killing Roux.
Today, motorists have reported seeing the ghost of Roux waiting on the side of the road, either waiting for her long-lost fiancé or a lift to nowhere.
The Honeymoon Couple of Uitkomst Farm, Machadodorp
Uitkomst Farm is located about 20 kilometres outside of the Mpumalanga town of Machadodorp and has a beautiful waterfall that was the scene of a tragedy.
According to legend, a young honeymoon couple was hiking around the waterfall when the woman slipped and fell to her death. A year later, her distraught husband returned to the same spot and took his own life. On moonlit nights, it is said that the couple can be seen at the top of the waterfall.
The Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town
The Castle of Good Hope is one of the oldest colonial buildings in Cape Town and is reported to have several intriguing phenomena, such as flickering lights, ghostly apparitions, mysterious footsteps in the windowless dungeons, and ghoulish spectres, including one of Lady Anne Barnard, the castle’s first hostess.
Ghost stories at the Castle of Good Hope include that of a soldier who hung himself with the bell-rope in the bell tower, which was walled up after the incident.
Sometimes the bell can be heard the ringing of its own accord. Visitors have also reported seeing a black dog approaching them and then disappearing. Governor Pieter Gysbert van Noodt was cursed by one of the soldiers he sentenced to hanging and later that day was found dead at his desk, having died of a heart attack.