Dare to have a ghostly encounter

Table Mountain has a ghostly tale of its own. Take the cable car up for a chance to hear a flute tune of a different kind.

The 10-year-old me would retaliate with a blood-curdling scream of my own, and then I would burst out laughing, so relieved that I was not about to die a horrible death.

Today as an adult I am proud to say that I have graduated from the scaree to the scarer.

But, having watched at least four of the six seasons of The Walking Dead, my technique has become much more sophisticated. Every now and then to the delight and shrieks of my two older kids, I lurch through the house as a zombie.

And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that a part of me loves seeing them run – at last, some respect!

Yes, I do have my moments when I worry that I am scarring them for life, but then I think back to all of those ghost stories my dad used to tell my brother and I as we sat around the braai fire during summer holidays.

As a young man my dad was a “troep” at the Castle of Good Hope and, boy, did odd things happen to him when he stood night guard there.

My dad’s stories left me with a curiosity for the strange and a healthy respect for the unexplained.

So, with Halloween just around the corner, it got me thinking – just how many spooky spots are there in and around the city? According to Cape Town Tourism’s website (www.capetown.travel) quite a few. I decided to Google four of them, starting with the Castle of Good Hope, of course.

The Castle of Good Hope

Cape Town Tourism’s website has a list of haunted hangouts in the city, believe it or not. According to the website, workers and visitors have reported hearing voices and footsteps in the windowless dungeon and in the narrow corridors of the building. The bell in the Bell Tower, which was walled up centuries ago after a soldier hung himself with the bell-rope, sometimes rings of its own accord. A black dog is also said to haunt the property and has been known to approach visitors and then disappear.

Lady Anne Barnard is another of the castle’s ghostly residents. In the late 18th century, Lady Anne lived at the castle as the colony’s First Lady and often entertained important dignitaries. Her ghost is said to have appeared at parties held in honour of important visitors as well as at the Dolphin Pool, where she bathed.

The castle, located on Buitenkant Street opposite the Grand Parade in Cape Town, may not be as scary during the day, but a visit to the Torture Chamber will run chills down your spine. Guided tours of the castle are conducted from Monday to Saturday at 11am, noon and 2pm, while each weekday at 10am and noon a Key Ceremony is performed, replicating the ceremonial unlocking of the castle in olden times. It is followed by the firing of the signal cannon. The entry fee is R30 for adults and R15 for children. For more information, call 021 464 1260/4.

Table Mountain

The iconic mountain is listed first in Cape Town Tourism’s list.

The story goes that a distant governor of Cape Town made enemies of a citizen who in turn offered a fine-looking flute to the governor’s son as a gift. The flute was once used by a leper and so the boy contracted leprosy.

He was forced to live in exile in a lonely hut in the forests of Table Mountain. Thus came to be the ghost of Verlatenbosch. To this day, the gloomy sounds of his flute can sometimes be heard on the slopes of Table Mountain.

Now I can’t guarantee that you will meet any ghosts while you are up there, but you will definitely be greeted with the best views of the Mother City, Robben Island and the Peninsula.

You can get up there the old-fashioned way by following any one of the many walking trails or you can take the rotating cable car.

The easiest way to check rates, opening hours and operating times is by visiting www.tablemountain.net

You can also buy your tickets online at this website. Adults pay R225 for a return trip, children between the ages of four and 17 years pay R125 and children under the age of four go free.

On Fridays, SA senior citizens and students can make the cable car trip there and back for R100 and R130, respectively, providing that they purchase their tickets at the ticket office. There are usually great holiday family deals so make sure to check the website for special offers.

Rust-En-Vreugd

“An ornate building dating back to the late 1700s, Rust-en-Vreugd in Buitenkant Street, Cape Town, is now an art museum where it is not uncommon to hear visitor accounts of ghost sightings,” or so Cape Town Tourism says.

It goes on to state that some guests hear footsteps, some see a woman drifting between the downstairs rooms and others see a different woman staring down on them from an upstairs window.

It is reported that dogs often snarl at the painting of British Governor of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset.

Today the museum hosts a programme of mainly South African contemporary art shows.

A permanent installation is the William Fehr Collection. I don’t proclaim to know much about art, but the museum’s beautiful grounds and grandiose old architecture is enough to conjure up a spectre of the past.

The museum is open from Monday to Friday, from 10am to 5pm.

Adults pay R20, children between the ages of six and 18 years pay R10 and SA students and senior citizens pay R10 each.

There is a family ticket, for two adults and two children, on offer for R50 and children under the age of five enter for free. For more information, call 021 481 3903.

The Flying Dutchman

A visit to Cape Point South Africa’s website (www.capepoint.co.za) delivered up this ghoulish gem. Legend has it that the Flying Dutchman was captained by a Dutchman, Hendrik van der Decken, who was headed home from Batavia (now Jakarta) to Holland in 1641.

As Van der Decken approached the Cape, stormy weather shredded the ship’s sails and waves flooded the deck.

A terrified crew implored him to turn back. He refused and lashed himself to the wheel, swearing that he would sail around Cape Point, even if it took him until Doomsday.

One version of the story goes that an angel appeared on the deck and the enraged captain drew his pistol and shot her.

Van der Decken’s wish to round the point was granted that night, but he and his crew were doomed to sail these waters for ever more.

Today, it is believed that the Flying Dutchman appears out of the mist and then suddenly disappears again.

Over the past three-and-a-half centuries, a ghostly sailing ship, that glows red in the night and has a mad, bald captain, has been sighted by a number of mariners.

Ghostly intervention may have prevented the Flying Dutchman from ever wrecking on the shores of the Cape of Storms but hundreds of other ships dating back to the 1500s weren’t so, erm, lucky.

To see some of these shipwrecks first-hand, follow the Shipwreck Trail from Cape Point Nature Reserve starting at Olifantsbos Bay.

There are two main variations of the shipwreck trail, the Thomas T Tucker Trail (3km) and The Sirkelsvlei Trail (7.5km).

And as you walk along the coastline, you may even be rewarded with the sight of the Flying Dutchman appearing through the mist Whaaagh!