South Africa’s oldest building, the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town, has played host to supernatural phenomena since 1653, when court records report the mysterious movement of a Bible, interpreted by onlookers as proof of an accused thief’s guilt. Even more dramatic, however, have been claims that a variety of ghosts haunt the castle.

One of the ghosts is known as the “lady in the grey hood.” A typical encounter took place around 1860, when a young woman called Emily Daniel saw a lady standing at her bedroom door. At first she thought it was her mother, but a second look revealed a shadowy figure wearing a long grey cloak, with her face buried in her hands. Emily sat up in the bed and called out, “What do you want?” The figure reached the foot of the bed and then melted away. Her sister saw a similar apparition some years later.

The same grey lady is believed to haunt Government House, about a kilometer from the castle. In around 1880 when Sir Bartle Frere was governor of the Cape, his wife was sitting in her boudoir when her husband’s aide-de-camp came to deliver a message. He opened the door, saw that she had company and left. When he returned a little later he apologized for having interrupted her and was stunned when Lady Frere insisted she had been alone. “Madam,” he said, “I saw a lady in grey standing next to you and leaning over your dressing table.”

Legend has it that there is an underground passage running between the Castle of Good Hope and Government House and that this has been blocked up for generations. Such an obstacle would presumably not hamper the movements of a ghost, and this would account for the “double haunting.”

Another of the castle’s ghosts is said to be Governor van Noordt, a nineteenth-century political figure remembered for his sternness and cruelty. As recently as this century soldiers at the castle claim to have seen it. One evening in July 1947 two guards encountered a misty yet recognizably human shape, over two meters tall, in the battlements.

 


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