Spooky Nights or Trails of the Living and Departed
It was the last Thursday of March 2016, and Mmabatu and Candice joined seven other brave friends on an evening tour of our famous haunted places. It was a balmy early autumn evening in Middelburg, South Africa a bright moon lit the way for the explorers.
The minibus stopped under the ancient cypress trees that lined the lane to the oldest graves in the old graveyard, the first stop of the outing. It was dark and spooky in the graveyard and as the squeaking door of the bus opened the intrepid friends gathered their nerves and followed Corine, the tour guide along the defined walkway. Flashlights were ready to be lit, the evening air smelled dry and dusty as Mmabatho and her friends walked past the eerily glistening graves. Is that a cellphone’s light reflecting on the gravestone or was it the shadow of a ghost’s ectoplasm?
The cemetery was established at the end of 19th Century, a turbulent time in our town’s history. In the midst of the Anglo-Boer War, a British Army Garrison occupied Middelburg. The Garrison was made up of thousands of soldiers from all over the world, such as Australians, Canadians, and even American Scouts stayed in Middelburg at that time. On an interesting side note, the Irish and Irish Americans fought alongside the Boers against the British.
In a corner of the graveyard surrounded by a silver picket fence was a tomb, with a pith helmet and a sword. The dark evening creates a feeling of being inside a thee e-dimensional black and white photograph as Corine tells you about the great love story of this soldier and his fiancé. Lt Rainy Anderson has three grave sites, this one, a place in London and his actual grave site on a farm outside town. Rainy’s fiancée came to put flowers on his grave every year until she passed away when she was in her 80’s. This was such a testimony of everlasting love that the Moths (Memorial Order of the Tin Hats) took over his fiancé’s role and continues to put flowers on his grave every year on Armistice Day (11 November).
The next story was also one of love, but this time for music. Corine stopped a large grave, surrounded by black and white tiles. This was the grave of Lilly de Kock, who died aged 80. She loved music. After her death, her husband donated her birthday money of £1 626 to the White Church to purchase an organ. Twenty years earlier the total cost for building the Synagogue was only £800. This church organ is still played at every service. One evening in October a few years ago Doctor Terblanche, who lives in her old home, was asked to go and investigate the strange light shining in the church. The late spring evening was clear, pleasant with a slight breeze and the stars twinkled brightly in the night sky, the White Church stood out stark and white against the black of the evening. As he approached the church, he heard organ music.
The old wooden entrance creaked as he opened the doors, the familiar smell of scented furniture polish and the musty smell of the building greeted him like an old friend. Pouf, the light vanished, and the organ stopped playing. Well, he did what any polite person would do, and wished Lily a happy birthday, locked the church and walked back to his home. As he entered his house, he saw the familiar black and white tiles on his veranda and of wondered if the black and white tiles on her grave and veranda were done at the same time, or which event came first
The explorers had special permission to enter the Courthouse, next to the White Church. They descended the stairs into a cold, dark and stale smelling passage that lead to a waiting room and the holding cells for the prisoners of war or common criminals. The hair on your neck stood on end when Corine told the story of a large man that suffocated in a narrow passage leading to a house opposite the courthouse, he got stuck trying to escape. The tunnel was constructed so that Ladies of the Night could visit the magistrate without being seen. It seemed he was a very hard-working court officer that worked very long hours.
Thank goodness the house with the blood dripping from the wall is no more. Otherwise, Corine would have insisted that the group entered the building. Everybody stood in the street looking at the spot where the house used to be. Corine said it was her childhood home, and her father believed the blood on the walls were from the women and children killed by the British in the Concentration Camps. Lord Kitchener signed the Scorched Earth Policy in that room. The document that resulted in the murder of thousands of women and children. In Middelburg alone over 900 children died of dysentery and starvation.
The bus stopped at the drop off point and Corine invited the explorers to the next Ghost Haunt Tour and to hear about the stories of the Battle of Brakpan that happened twice, of a trap, a misunderstanding between a colonel, a bugler, and an international scandal.
Maybe we will have enough courage to go on the tour next month, to hear what happened when the Australians missed a soldier when they reburied their fallen comrades in the 1950’s.
The Ghost Haunt or Spooky Tour are held once a month, when the moon is full. There are many more spots to visit and many more stories to hear. Book your spot on our Spooky Tour with Mmabatho at the Middelburg Information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 013 243 2253.