Haunted Houses and Ghostly Granges of the Cape

Please remember that unless a house is identified as a museum, hotel or restaurant, it may not be open to the public.

The homestead Klein Schuur ("Little Barn") , in Mowbray, became the official residence of South Africa's Minister of Justice. If you remember the end of the film A Fish Called Wanda, you will know that Kevin Kline's character, Otto, became Minister of Justice in South Africa, in which case he would have lived here. A room in the basement, where slaves were housed, is haunted.

Also in Mowbray, on Westoe Road, is the house Westoe, dating from the seventeenth century, but with eighteenth century additions. A bedroom with a four-poster bed is haunted by an old man in eighteenth century clothes. Another bedroom, called the Chinese Room because of the decor, has unfortunately been demolished. Before that, it was for many years kept locked because of terrifying manifestations experienced in the room.

The suburb of Mowbray was once called Driekoppen ("Three Heads"), because the heads of executed slaves had been placed on spikes here. The howls and cackles of hyenas added to the horror of the scene.

The late seventeenth century house Leeuwenhof ("Lion's Den") became the official residence of the Cape Province's administrators. Here, the judge Sir John Kotze saw the ghost of a woman in an upstairs passage. Dressed in white, she had brown hair and blue eyes. The haunting is said to focus on a teak staircase, carved by Chinese craftsmen. Sometimes, the ghost is holding a baby, which it shows to those who encounter her. An older woman haunts the ground floor sitting room.

At the top of Hof Street is Waterhof, a stately Cape Dutch mansion. In the grounds, a phantom dog hunts for buried pirate treasure. The ghost of a bearded old man roams the house at night, and the story of children hidden in an oven, to escape murderous slaves, has also been associated with this house.

In the grounds of St. John's Hostel, near Upper Kloof Street, is Bellevue, another reputedly haunted house, in which the kitchen especially has an atmosphere of fear. There is evidence that the hiding of children in an oven, to protect them from rampaging slaves, really did occur here, or possibly in one of the other houses owned by the Smuts family.

In Newlands Avenue, Newlands, is Hiddingh House. It had been the officer's mess of a cavalry regiment, in the time of Lord Somerset. At different times, the famous South African artists Gregoire Boonzaaier and Frank Spears lived here. Lights are turned on and off by an unseen hand, and the spirit of a woman is seen. Somebody is said to have been walled up in the house, but another explanation of the haunting is that a maid fell down the stairs, during a drunken revel by the officers.

At 99 Milner Road, Rondebosch, is the picturesque Edwardian residence Jac Loopuyt House. Its nickname is "The Spook House". It was used in the nineteen-seventies by a strange cult. Doors are heard opening and closing inexplicably, it is said, and a transparent elderly man wanders about.

In the city centre, at 71 Bree Street, was an eighteenth century house haunted by a grey spectre, an elderly woman in a long dress. She was seen by many people, even by the contractor who demolished the house in 1950. A seance revealed that she was Martha Cilliers, whose child Henrietta had been buried in the garden. I do not know whether she still haunts the site.

In the Tokai Forest Plantation, popular with riders and the Cape Hunt (who dress in the traditional English style), is Tokai Manor, once the home of the Eksteen family. It is at the end of Tokai Road. Here, without earthly explanation, drunken laughter and the neighing of horses has frequently been heard during the night. The homestead is unusual among Cape Dutch houses, in that the verandah, or "stoep", must be reached by climbing steep steps. Eccentricity can be fatal. Here, the ghost of the young Frederick Eksteen rides up the steps on one side of the verandah, and into the dining room. Then the rider returns, but on the way down the steps on the other side of the verandah, the horse stumbles, and the rider is thrown. Thus is re-enacted an event which took place at one of Tokai Manor's many revels, as the result of a wager. Some say that New Year's Eve is the night of the spectral horseman. The arboretum behind the manor is open to the public.

The homestead Kronendal, in Hout Bay, is on the main road (M6) between Constantia Nek and the Hout Bay beach. The front side of the interior is haunted by Elsa Cloete, whose ghost has dark hair and wears a long dress. Objects have been moved without the help of the living. She sometimes looks through a window onto the avenue of oaks. This avenue is haunted by a British soldier, who hanged himself in the eighteen-forties, after being barred from the house and the woman he loved. In spite of the tragedy, Elsa's spirit is friendly. My most recent information is that the house is still a popular restaurant, but it may be worth checking.

The Cape's most famous stately home, and almost the oldest, is Groot Constantia, built in the seventeenth century. This was the home of the well-loved Simon van der Stel, a gift from the grateful Dutch East India Company. Simon van der Stel, son of a Dutch official and his East Indian wife, was among the first settlers to retire to the Cape, and was the first commander of the settlement to be given the title Governor.

For many years, South African school history books did not mention the fact that Van der Stel was not white, and would have been barred from many rights and facilities in twentieth century South Africa. When this fact became more widely known, after the dismantling of apartheid, some Afrikaners claimed it as evidence that it was the British, not the Dutch settlers, who first introduced racism to South Africa. There is much evidence to the contrary, although the British settlers were little or no better than the Dutch ones in this regard.

Initially, racism was directed towards the indigenous Khoisan peoples, and freed slaves had no legal impediments to their advancement, regardless of race. At Groot Constantia, permission may be obtained to visit the fine homestead De Hoop Op Constantia, owned in the eighteenth century by Johannes Colyn. Colyn was the son of the freed slaves Evert and Anna of Guinea, but after obtaining De Hoop, he married into the very respectable Cloete family. When he died, his son inherited a home with twelve male slaves. (It is a curious fact of human nature, that individuals who should have a particular abhorrence of something, are sometimes inured to the horror of it. Apparently, there were at one time, in the southern United States, freed slaves who became slave dealers in their own right.)

Simon van der Stel was obviously very attached to the country which he had worked so hard to develop. Although he had retired to Groot Constantia, his wife, Johanna Six (her name, not her number), lived in Holland. His older son, Wilhem, became governor after he retired. Wilhem's administration was marred by corruption and incompetence, however, and he and his brother Frans were banished from the Cape in 1708. Simon continued to live at the Cape until he died, in 1712. There is a clue regarding his consolations. Shortly before his death, he freed the slave Christina van Canarie. He must have left instructions that she was to be well cared for, as in 1713 she bought the house and estate of Stellenberg, from Simon's exiled son Frans. Stellenberg still stands on Stellenberg Avenue, in Kenilworth.

Above Groot Constantia is an ornamental swimming pool, and Simon van der Stel is still seen on summer mornings, strolling along the avenue of oaks on his way to bathe. A visit to Groot Constantia, still a thriving wine farm in spite of being a museum, is a must for any visitor to Cape Town. There are restaurants at the house.

Also in the suburb of Constantia, on Peter Cloete Avenue, is the haunted Alphen Hotel, mentioned on the web page entitled "A Mysterious Doctor".

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