Safaris, surfing, and supernatural encounters? The latter may not be a sought-after South African tourist experience, but check out any of the following buildings, castles, or even roads listed here, and you might just feel something brush by you at night. Here are 15 of the most haunted places in South Africa.
1. Smuts House, Pretoria
General Jan Smuts, a renowned philosopher, scholar, botanist, statesman, and soldier, lived in this very idyllic house for over 40 years. Also known as Doornkloof, it is now a museum with scores of indigenous trees planted by Smuts in the garden. However, many visitors have reported seeing an old man floating around on the grounds, sporting a “Kruger-like” mustache. Many believe him to be the protector of a hidden Boer fortune somewhere on the property.
2. Nottingham Road Hotel, KwaZulu Natal
If you’re roaming the halls of this elegant countryside hotel an hour outside of Durban and you meet a young woman named Charlotte, best to scurry back to your room — especially if you’re a man. Charlotte was scorned by her British-soldier-lover at the turn of the last century and decided that a leap from the balcony of Room 10 was easier on her heart. Now her activities are arranging bedsheets, flower bouquets, and mirrors in the room. And oh yeah, sometimes she rings for room service.
3. Rudd House, Kimberley
Known as one of the most paranormally active houses in the country, it was built in the 1870s by H.P. Rudd, chairman of the De Beers Mining Company. Multiple wings were added over the next 100 years, and generations of Rudds inhabited the building until they apparently couldn’t take the sounds of a baby wailing and silverware clanging and moved out. Renowned clairvoyant Dr. P.K. Le Sueur studied the house for years, claiming to witness glowing orbs and strange manifestations. Another story documents three journalists sitting around a table getting their photo taken. Only two appeared in the developed picture!
4. Victoria Hotel, Pretoria
Built in 1880 and originally named the Hollandia Hotel, it’s now renowned as one of the oldest lodgings in Pretoria, situated along the classic railway connecting Transvaal to the ocean. After 10 p.m., should you be ascending the main staircase to get some shut-eye, you might feel a ghostly presence and see the elegant “gray lady” making her way down. But then there’s little Alfie, who likes to turn the taps on and off (off when you’re ready to bathe), and is known to make quite the racket in the kitchen.
5. Africana Museum, Kimberley
Originally the Kimberley Public Library built in 1882, it’s now an old, decadent museum, with lavish, spiral staircases. A catalog of more than 14,000 books is remarkably still intact that were featured way back when. And, way back when, there was a librarian named Bertrand Dyer who liked to make a profit off of misrepresenting the prices on books. As the story goes, Dyer’s scam was uncovered prompting him to drink cyanide, and while taking more than three days to perish, left his soul behind. If you ever need to find a book, just shout out the title and he’ll get it off the shelf for you.
6. Lord Milner Hotel, Matjiesfontein
Reportedly, the entire town is a place of supernatural partying, especially at this beautiful Victorian Hotel. Except this time it’s really a ghostly shindig — apparently the sounds of billiards balls clacking and men chuckling can be heard reverberating through the lounge walls. There’s also Lucy, who wanders the first floor halls sobbing in a negligee. And finally there’s Kate, a young Boer War nurse who loved to play cards (through the century, it seems). Sounds from “Kate’s Card Room” can still be heard from the second floor.
7. The Old Gaol, Grahamstown
Grahamstown is a lively college town and backpacker’s destination these days, but the stain of violence and execution still exists. Built in 1824, this former jail and gallows still has cells one can crouch down into, to get a feel for the cold darkness of brutal times gone by of course. Or, you could brush by Henry Nicholls, the last person publicly hanged there in 1862 on rape charges. The fact that rape was not punishable by death is what’s said to be the reason for the roaming, untethered spirit of Nicholls, who’s said to traverse back and forth from gaol to gallows.
8. Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town
The country’s oldest and most historical city is bound to have some haunts. The most ancient standing colonial building in South Africa is the Castle of Good Hope, a fort built by the Dutch East India Company in 1666, and now a tourist site visitors flock to. According to ghostly lore, the bell in the bell tower rings independently, a black dog runs at visitors and then vanishes, and screams and footsteps are heard from afar. Then there’s Lady Anne Barnard, the colony’s former First Lady (who likes to show up at parties held for dignitaries, even though she’s been gone for centuries).
9. Port Elizabeth Library, Port Elizabeth
Seems like the spirits like to keep their book clubs going. The building was erected in 1902, but a fire next door in 1896 burned Police Constable Maxwell to death. His memorial stone was moved to the new library’s gardens, which he apparently disapproved of posthumously. He haunted Room 700 until the stone was put back. Then there’s former caretaker Robert Thomas, who died in 1943. He loved the library so much that he still continues his work of shutting the doors properly and stacking books on the floor.
10. Uniondale, Eastern Cape
Don’t pull over to pick up the Uniondale Hitchhiker. Legend has it that one cold Easter night in 1968, a young couple crashed a car on a lonely road outside of town at the Barandas turnoff in the Eastern Cape. The man survived, but Maria Roux’s life was cut short. She decided to stick around, however. Every witness says the same thing: they pick up a pretty brown-haired girl on a cold winter’s night; she gets in the car, laughs loudly, and disappears, leaving the scent of apple blossoms behind. She’s trying to get to her parent’s house to announce her engagement, you see.
11. Tokai Manor, Cape Town
Don’t be tempted to attend a New Year’s Eve party at Tokai Manor. In the early 19th century, Petrus Michiel, son of Hendrik Oswald Eksteen, rode his horse up the steep steps and into the dining room of the manor on New Year’s Eve during a party, to win a wager. The horse bolted, and both Petrus and the horse fell to their deaths. Drunken laughter and whinnying of horses are said to be heard on New Year’s Eve while others claim to hear thudding horse hooves and a high-pitched whinny before the night falls deathly silent.
12. The ghost of Verlatenbosch, Cape Town
Legend tells of the governor of Western Cape who irritated one of the citizens who presented the governor’s son a beautiful flute as a gift. What was not known was that the flute had been the property of an old leper, and soon the boy had contracted leprosy and was forced into exile. He lived in a lonely hut in the forests of Table Mountain until he died. The ghost of Verlatenbosch (Bush of the Forsaken) tells the tale that when the sun sets, a hauntingly sad sound of the flute can be heard on the slopes of Table Mountain.
13. Daisy de Melker of Turffontein House
Daisy de Melker is infamous as being the first ever serial killer to be convicted in South Africa. In the 1920s, she murdered two husbands and a son — either with arsenic or strychnine. Finally discovered, she was convicted and hanged in 1932. But her home in Club Street in Turffontein is still there, and people have reported a figure peering out the upstairs window or a ghostly hand appearing at around six o’clock in the evening moving the curtain. It is presumed that she is waiting for one of the husbands to return home.
South Africa has its fair share of love tales gone wrong, such is the tale of Sergeant Larley. A young British soldier, legend says he was wounded in the Anglo-Boer war, and nursed by a young Afrikaner girl named Magda. Love took its course, but Magda’s Boer family were horrified and locked her away. The sergeant, with a broken heart and still wounded, soon died. While Magda sat patiently at the Dullstroom Inn for many years, waiting for him to come and fetch her away. Today if you stand outside the inn around sunset, you may hear the sound of thundering hooves as Sergeant Larley comes to take Magda away to a new life.
15. Khayalami Hospital, Kempton Park
Many consider this place quasi-haunted, as it is just plain creepy looking. It was closed down on the day after Christmas in 1996 after it was declared underutilized and in a bad location. There have been plans to re-open it but the hospital remains abandoned — probably crawling with ghosts and ghouls.