Haunted Cape Town
The Mother City is the oldest city in the country, so you can bet we got plenty of ghost stories. Here are some of our favourite places to spot the restless spirits haunting the city.
I am a fan of horror. The more ghosts, zombies and screaming prom queens the better. Halloween is my favourite time of the year and Cape Town is a breeding ground for tales of the macabre… sure, there might not be too many zombies – not in the traditional sense at least – and screaming prom queens, but ghosts? The Mother City is the oldest city in the country, so you can bet we got plenty of those. Here are some of our favourite places to spot the restless spirits haunting the city.
It’s an intriguing Table Mountain tale… a distant governor of Cape Town made enemies of a citizen who proceeded to offer a fine-looking flute to the governor’s son as a gift. The flute was once used by a leper and so the boy contracted leprosy. He was forced to live in exile in a lonely hut in the forests of Table Mountain and to this day the gloomy sounds of his flute can sometimes be heard on the slopes of Table Mountain.
THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
Visitors to the Cape could find the southern coastline very creepy with around 300 to 400 shipwrecks dotted around the Peninsula dating as far back as the 1500’s. The Shipwreck Trail can be followed from Cape Point Nature Reserve starting at Olifantsbos Bay, and includes the most famous wreck of all – the Flying Dutchman. Legend has it that the Dutch ship was making its way around a stormy Cape under instruction from a drunken Captain. A fight ensued and the captain killed the crew leader and threw his body overboard. As his body hit the sea, a shadowy figure appeared on board, cursing the captain to sail the seas for eternity, never reaching port or having a moment’s peace. Today, it is believed that the Flying Dutchman appears out of the mist and then suddenly disappears again.
Presiding over the City Bowl, Leeuwenhof Estate dates back to the earliest days of European settlement in the Cape and is now the official residence of the Premier of the Western Cape. Throughout the history of Leeuwenhof there have been tales of lights inexplicably going on after they were switched off and an older woman is said to haunt the ground floor. It is told there is also a ghost of a young woman who died of heartbreak when her family disapproved of her lover.
THE GHOST HOUSE OF RONDEBOSCH
Jac Loopuyt House, also known as The Ghost House of Rondebosch, is a picturesque Edwardian residence nicknamed “The Spook House”. It is rumoured that a strange cult resided there in the 1970’s and there are stories of doors being opened and closed inexplicably and a transparent elderly man wandering around.
An ornate building dating back to the late 1700s, Rust-en-Vreugd, is now an art museum where it is not uncommon to hear visitor accounts of ghost sightings. Some guests hear footsteps, some see a woman drifting between the downstairs rooms and others see a different woman staring down on them from an upstairs window. It is reported that dogs often snarl at the painting of British Governor of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset.
TOKAI MANOR HOUSE
Jittery witnesses at Tokai Manor House report seeing a re-enactment of a New Year’s Eve spectacle from the early 1900’s when a young nobleman was dared to ride his horse around the living room. Due to a large amount of alcohol consumption and loud noises that spooked his horse he was unable to control the animal and the horse galloped out the door and toppled off the high veranda, killing both the horse and the nobleman.
CASTLE OF GOOD HOPE
As one of Cape Town’s oldest buildings, the Castle of Good Hope has many a tale to tell. Workers and visitors report hearing voices and footsteps in the windowless dungeon and in the narrow corridors of the building. The bell in the Bell Tower, which was walled up centuries ago after a soldier hung himself with the bell-rope, sometimes rings of its own accord. A black dog is also said to haunt the property and has been known to approach visitors and then disappear.
Lady Anne Barnard is another of the Castle’s ghostly residents. In the late eighteenth century, Lady Anne lived at the Castle as the colony’s First Lady and end 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. Another known ghost story is that of Governor Pieter Gysbert van Noodt, who was apparently a strict and militant man, once sentencing seven soldiers to die by hanging. One of the soldiers is said to have cursed him. Later that day, Van Noodt was found dead at his desk, having died of a heart attack.
GROOTE SCHUUR HOSPITAL
Groote Schuur Hospital is believed to be haunted by a number of apparitions. A young nurse who contracted a terminal disease during World War Two and shot herself still roams the corridors, a Sister with white eyes apparently walks around the hospital, a young man who fell to his death while trying to escape from the upper floor also continues to haunt the hospital and a grey lady, named Sister Fatima, tries to help the nursing staff on their rounds.
There are many ghost stories to come out of Simon’s Town too. The Simon’s Town Museum is said to be home to a haunted painting of a young lady – photos of this painting cannot be developed. Admiralty House is also well-known for its spirits of deceased naval officers and a woman in a grey dress.
Built in the 17th Century, the manor house at Groot Constantia is one of the oldest buildings in the country, so it is not all that surprising that is comes with a ghost story. Simon van der Stel and his wife were among the earliest settlers in the Cape and Van der Stel was super attached to the land. So much so, it seems he still doesn’t want to let it go. Van der Stel has been seen strolling to the swimming pool on summer mornings to go and have a dip…
One of the most recognised landmarks in Green Point, the red and white lighthouse dates back to 1824. A favourite for camera-toting tourists and the starting point for many a run or cycle along the promenade, it is also believed to be haunted by a one-legged lighthouse-keeper. That will make you run a little faster!