Underground chambers at 36 Laurel St, Germiston, may still harbour the spirits of Chinese mine labourers.
The building dates from the nineteenth century, and was built to be the home of a Cornish mine manager. Several legends are associated with the site, but the most tangible mystery relates to three underground rooms that once housed Chinese mineworkers. Asian labour was imported to the Witwatersrand in the early twentieth century because, at the time, there was actually a shortage of African labour. A secret staircase takes you to the chambers, which have been described as dungeons. I doubt that they were literally dungeons, but they may have been used to hide unregistered labourers. Labour smuggling was big business in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the smugglers, known as "blackbirders", traded in people as though they were slaves. Mr Joff van Reenen, a local auctioneer who researched the history of the house, believes that three tunnels, now sealed off, once led from the chambers to gold mines in the area.
It is many years since the secret rooms have housed people, but, in the hours of darkness, the voices of the Chinese labourers may still be heard.
There is nothing to fear, however, and the house became the Old as Gold Guest House. It may still be a guest house but I have been out of touch for a long time, so I do not know its current status.