Ghosts of Matjiesfontein – Part 1: South African ghosts

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Call it morbid fascination if you want, but ghosts have intrigued me since I was a child. To think there is a world filled with spiritual entities and we are totally oblivious to their existence except for the few of us that are gifted with the ability to see them and even communicate with the spirits. Sometimes these spirits do cross over into our world and we catch glimpses of the unexplained. It’s then when ghost stories arise and are passed on through generations. South Africa is abundant with tales of ghosts. Today I will start with one of the most notorious of these towns – Matjiesfontein.

Matjiesfontein is a small town in the Karoo. James Logan, an official of the Cape Government Railway, arrived in Matjiesfontein in 1890 and due to health problems decided to stay. He built the infamous Milner Hotel which is unofficially the hub of ghostly activities in the town. Most of the ghosts roaming the hotel and the town originate from Anglo-boer war.

Let’s start with the joyful ghost, Kate. She was a 19-year old Boer War nurse who loved playing cards with her patients. Unfortunately she passed away under mysterious circumstances. Sometimes she can be seen standing from the hotel’s top turrets. Other days the shuffling of cards can be heard from a small room on the second floor aptly called ‘Kate’s Card Room’.

Lucy is another resident of the hotel that never checked out. She drifts through the corridors in a negligee. Some say she is sobbing after a lover’s tiff.

Then there’s Olive Schreiner who wrote ‘The story of an African Farm’ that lived nearby. According to local residents her ghost can be seen either wandering the hotel or in the garden of her home.

Even James Logan himself is rumoured to roam the town, preferring the back lounge of the hotel.

At the turn-off to Memorial Cemetery stands a British soldier with a bloodied bandage around his head and his arm in a sling. When people stop to help him, he disappears.

The fields near the hotel were the campsite for British soldiers during the war and the hotel was a hospital. Residents swore you can still hear the pounding of hoofs in the still of night from the soldier’s horses.

Of course no town should be without its headless ghost. Along the railway line wanders a headless soldier. Then there’s also a legless woman wafting through the streets.

Whether these sightings are mere figments of the imagination or the real deal is up for debate. The best advice I can give is visit Matjiesfontein and do some ghost hunting.

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My husband drowned his phone

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Now I can laugh about it. A couple of nights ago it seemed far less funny. First you have to understand my husband is addicted to his phone. It is an extension of his arm. If God gave you an option of having a hand or a phone he would choose a phone. He goes nowhere without it – and I mean absolutely nowhere.

The other night we went to bed. It was past ten and I was exhausted like all mothers out there. I crept under the sheets, closed my eyes and there it was – the scream of terror. The love of my life was in the bathroom with the look of utmost horror on his face. I did the logical thing and asked what was going on. He did look like a crocodile had attacked from the depths of the toilet bowl. He didn’t answer, pushed past me and removed the battery and sim card from his phone.

I will give you the simplified and censored explanation. Our toilet has a leak. For months it has been dripping water. I won’t go into any technical detail as I have no clue when it comes to diy. The problem is my wonderful partner hasn’t fixed it yet, so the only practical solution was for me to put a bowl beneath it. I wasn’t wasting water and neither can you hear the dripping.

That night my husband went to the bathroom and as usual took his precious phone with him. You guessed it, he dropped the phone into the bowl of water.

For the next forty minutes he diligently performed CPR on the phone which consisted of wiping and blowing with a hair dryer. I even suggested placing it in rice. I read it somewhere on the internet that rice absorbs moisture. Finally the phone returned to life.

This was however not the end. He has a Blackberry. The little troublesome device wanted an email and password to activate the phone. Email was no problem, but his highness couldn’t remember the password. It was past eleven now and I wasn’t happy. I counted the hours I had left to sleep in my head.

Hubby was now in full panic mode and I was grumpy. I knew had to save him. I switched on the computer and did a password reset for him. Another half hour had passed. I had enough. I got in bed and went to sleep while he cradled his phone and whispered something that sounded suspiciously like ‘my precious’…

My husband drowned his phone

0

Now I can laugh about it. A couple of nights ago it seemed far less funny. First you have to understand my husband is addicted to his phone. It is an extension of his arm. If God gave you an option of having a hand or a phone he would choose a phone. He goes nowhere without it – and I mean absolutely nowhere.

The other night we went to bed. It was past ten and I was exhausted like all mothers out there. I crept under the sheets, closed my eyes and there it was – the scream of terror. The love of my life was in the bathroom with the look of utmost horror on his face. I did the logical thing and asked what was going on. He did look like a crocodile had attacked from the depths of the toilet bowl. He didn’t answer, pushed past me and removed the battery and sim card from his phone.

I will give you the simplified and censored explanation. Our toilet has a leak. For months it has been dripping water. I won’t go into any technical detail as I have no clue when it comes to diy. The problem is my wonderful partner hasn’t fixed it yet, so the only practical solution was for me to put a bowl beneath it. I wasn’t wasting water and neither can you hear the dripping.

That night my husband went to the bathroom and as usual took his precious phone with him. You guessed it, he dropped the phone into the bowl of water.

For the next forty minutes he diligently performed CPR on the phone which consisted of wiping and blowing with a hair dryer. I even suggested placing it in rice. I read it somewhere on the internet that rice absorbs moisture. Finally the phone returned to life.

This was however not the end. He has a Blackberry. The little troublesome device wanted an email and password to activate the phone. Email was no problem, but his highness couldn’t remember the password. It was past eleven now and I wasn’t happy. I counted the hours I had left to sleep in my head.

Hubby was now in full panic mode and I was grumpy. I knew had to save him. I switched on the computer and did a password reset for him. Another half hour had passed. I had enough. I got in bed and went to sleep while he cradled his phone and whispered something that sounded suspiciously like my precious…

A violent blue Monday

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This morning started out as any other. Perfect blue skies with the promise of spring in the air. Another day in sunny South-Africa.
If I could only hear myself think over the roar of the police helicopter circling above. A couple of blocks from my house a Nigerian drug dealer were killed in the early morning hours. It’s still unknown who killed him and what the motive was. The problem is that suddenly a mob of Nigerians appeared, all armed to the teeth, and are blocking streets and attacking passerby’s and traffic in retaliation for their fallen comrade. Houses were evacuated as this is a suburban area. Police had to flock to the primary school amidst the violence to protect the innocent children.
My house is still far enough away from all of this, but close enough to feel restless (and hear the gunshots). If that isn’t enough excitement for the day, workers at a platinum mine close by decided that today was also the perfect day for an impromptu strike. Roads are closed and police riot vehicles are speeding up and down to contain the situation that could turn into a full scale riot at any second.
I know it’s just another day in South-Africa with the scales balanced precariously between peace and violence.
To make my day even better, we don’t have electricity. Another power outage… Yesterday there was no water…
Service delivery protests have increased from 162 in 2008 to 470 in 2012. I don’t agree with any kind of violence, but I cannot blame people with getting frustrated and tired. I’ve considered dropping my dirty washing and dishes on the steps of the municipality and toi-toi in the streets.
It’s become a way of life here to be without either water or electricity. The masses are tired of poor or no service delivery and the ongoing corruption in our local municipalities. The sad fact is that most of these protests turn violent, with already 7 people killed during these protests this year alone.
Today is a bitter-sweet day for me. A perfect day in one of the most picturesque towns marred by violence and frustration.