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.