Things that go bump in the night

Today is Paranormal Day. Here are a few iconic South African ghost stories.

The ghost of Uniondale


The story goes that Maria (Ria) Roux and her fiancé had a car accident on Easter Sunday in 1968 on the Barandas-Willowmore road in the Western Cape. Ria was asleep on the backseat of the car and died instantly. On subsequent Easter Sundays, hitchhiking on the spot, Ria has been picked up by drivers only to disappear after a few kilometres, leaving the scent of apple blossoms behind.

The hitchhiker ghost of Uniondale is so well known that an Afrikaans movie was made about her in 2014.

Nottingham Road Hotel

nottingham road hotel

Charlotte, the ghost of the Nottingham Road Hotel in the Natal Midlands, apparently was a very beautiful prostitute at the beginning of the 20th century. She fell from the balcony of her favourite boudoir, Room 10.  The hotel used to be a popular stop for British soldiers on their way to the interior during the Boer War. There are several different versions of how she died. One is that she committed suicide because her love for a British army officer was not returned. Another is that  she was told that he had died in battle and that she was so heartbroken that she threw herself over the balcony. A third version has it that Charlotte was entertaining a client who refused to pay, a vicious fight ensued and she was flung over the balcony.

Daisy de Melker


Daisy de Melker was a trained nurse who poisoned two husbands with strychnine for their money in the 1920s. She then poisoned her only son for reasons that are still unclear. She was only the second woman to have been hanged in South Africa. Over the years her ghost has been seen at the window of the top storey of her house in Club Street, Turffontein, Johannesburg.

The Flying Dutchman


The Flying Dutchman is a legendary ghost ship that can never make port and is doomed to sail the oceans forever. In 1641 it sank just off the coast of the Cape of Good Hope after sailing into a fierce storm,  its cargo-hold packed full of treasures from the Far East. Legend has it that whoever spots the phantom Flying Dutchman at sea will die a horrible death quite soon. Sightings in the 19th and 20th centuries reported the ship to be glowing with ghostly light.

Lord Milner Hotel, Matjiesfontein

matjesfontein lord milner hotel

Matjiesfontein is a perfectly preserved Victorian railway village and National Monument on the fringe of the Great Karoo with many ghost stories. Many a spirit is said to haunt the Lord Milner Hotel and surrounds. The most well-known is about Kate, a 19-year-old Boer War nurse who loved playing cards with her patients, and who passed away mysteriously. She is sometimes seen staring from the hotel’s top turrets, and the sound of shuffling cards can be heard from a small room on the second floor known simply as “Kate’s Card Room”. Then there is Lucy, a ghostly figure that roams the hallways of the first floor wearing nothing but a nightgown, sobbing over a lover’s tiff.

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