Your Guide to the Ghosts of Kimberley
Kimberley's Big Four
When it comes to rattling chains and phantom lanterns, this historic settlement can say boo with the best of them. Kimberley's ghost population is said to bustle about in 350 haunted buildings. The capital of the Northern Cape province is known for mining shafts, including the iconic Big Hole measuring 463 meters wide. The town began as Vooruitzicht before being renamed after the British Secretary of State for the colonies—Lord Kimberley.
Its volatile past left behind fascinating stories about spooks. This article will introduce you to Kimberley's best known paranormal activity.
- The Black Watch
- Suicide of the first librarian
- Rudd House
- The Kimberley Club
- Additional tales.
Author's boo: Please note that I have not visited any of these places. Although paranormal investigators declared over 100 locations as "authentic hauntings", the above tales should be viewed as lore. The article was written for those who enjoy a good ghost story, not as facts proven by myself.
Memorials At Magersfontein
The Black Watch
To hear Scottish bagpipes play in an African field is rightly odd. However, a bloody event might have left behind a ghostly piper and the lanterns of those who tried to help. In December 1899, the Anglo-Boer war reached the field below a hill called Magersfontein Koppie. At the time, Kimberley was under siege and the resident British decided to break the stranglehold. After three skirmishes, the Boers withdrew. But not for long. Their commandos reached Magersfontein, located 30 kilometers to the south of Kimberley. British forces correctly sensed the Boers were about to make a stand. Tragically, they assumed it would happen at the top of the hill. Heavy artillery smashed into the mound for two days. Perhaps under the impression that the Boers were injured and dying, the first soldiers advanced on the hill.
They belonged to the Black Watch. It was a Scottish division complete with bagpipe players. The Highlanders were 400 meters away when the Boers revealed their true position. They had been waiting in trenches dug at the base of the hill. The surprise attack massacred most of the Black Watch as well as the Gordon Highlanders, a second Scottish unit. The dead were the lucky ones. The injured suffered - left on the battlefield under a hot African sun while snipers picked them off. When darkness fell, stretcher-bearers worked the whole night to rescue the survivors. That day,, over 200 Scotsmen died and 87 Boers. It is said that the phantom piper plays at night and many visitors claim to have seen swinging lights, thought to be the lanterns of the stretcher-bearers.
The Africana Library
The Librarian's Tale
Bertrand Dyer died painfully. As the story goes, he arrived in South Africa in 1900. Originally from the United Kingdom, Dyer once worked at the Queen's library and settled in as Kimberley's first qualified librarian. The building, the historic Africana Library, remains one of the city's most breathtaking structures. Among spiral staircases and chandeliers, Dyer kept busy. He restored and cataloged incredibly rare books. Unfortunately, he could not resist the temptation of cooking the library's financial records. When the fraud was discovered, Dyer killed himself. Either shame or the fear of prison drove the librarian and he drank cyanide. Most paranormal experts agree that a traumatic death could keep spirits from crossing over. Dyer's end was no fairy tale. The poison took three days to finish him off.
Today, Dyer is said to remain among the staff. Modern librarians at the Africana claim that if they want a particular book, it will crash to the floor. Often, afterward, somebody can be heard walking away. Books mysteriously move or rearrange themselves. Pacing can be heard between rooms. Dyer's ghost appears to be fond of the section with printing and manuscripts dating back to the 17th century. Ever British, tea cannot be ignored—even in the afterlife. Some claim to have heard the sounds of teacups at four in the afternoon. Several witnesses have identified Dyer from one of his pictures, after seeing a man in Victorian clothing wander through the library.
Welcome to one of the most haunted houses in South Africa. Rudd House has a strange disposition. It is not just the eerie old look, framed with verandas, square angles and tin roof, but how it became to be so "active." There's no clear answer to the sightings and sounds at Rudd House. Only one ghost is known and that is Percy Rudd, one of the original owners. Built in the 1880s, the house remained in the Rudd family. There lies the strangeness. While Percy floats around in the sick room of the building, the Rudd family could, or would not, explain the rest.
The building expanded with the Rudds and eventually totaled 22 rooms, each with a strange story. Nobody knows who the woman in white is or why she stands on the balcony. But it was the noises that drove the Rudd clan to abandon ship. There was the constant shock of hearing shattering crockery. Even more unnerving, somewhere in the house, a baby would not stop crying. Why an infant would haunt Rudd House is anyone's guess or, for that matter, the sound of breaking plates.
The activity became so disconcerting that it drove the last generation to move out in the 1970s. The building was donated to the local McGregor Museum. Not everybody is freaked out by what goes on in the wooden rooms. International researchers and enthusiasts frequent the centuries-old building on a regular basis. Visitors have reported orbs in photographs and a child's agonized screams from the nursery.
The Kimberley Club Hotel
The Gentleman's Club
A hotel that burned down twice, the old Kimberley Club was once an exclusive members-only residence. Now open to the public, it serves as a hotel, boutique and restaurant. In 1881, Cecil John Rhodes, 28 at the time, founded the Club as a meeting place for influential figures from the diamond industry. The hotel soon earned a reputation as a millionaire's clubhouse. It was completely destroyed by fire in 1886 and 1895.
After it moved away from being a gentleman's club, the elite menu and rooms remained. But its reputation changed to that of a haunted hotel. There is reportedly a long-dead waiter in the dining room and an elderly male ghost patrols the passages upstairs. The Kimberley Club's beautiful interior includes magnificent stained-glass windows. Near one of them, guests have seen a woman clad in Victorian dress. She apparently haunts the wooden staircase nearby. At least one of the spirits has been identified and that is the man in the Reading Room. In life, he was Joe Van Praagh, a rich philanthropist who was a little on the eccentric side (he insisted on a private bathroom to be built for him at the Club).
- At the Clyde N. Terry Hall of Militia museum, an artifact moves around on its own. Never seen in action, the old trunk is also said to rattle. The museum sometimes experiences inexplicable wafts of strong herbs. But more creepily, the sound of a tin trunk shutting (or opening) while a baby wails.
- The lights at Dunluce House flickers and a woman wearing pink walks through doors, even when they are closed.
- The Old Main graveyard is a popular stop during ghost tours. Visitors are told to be on the lookout for the apparitions seen there in the past.
- A ghost makes lights swing at the old De Beer offices where windows and doors open on their own. A spirit dog can be heard howling on the porch.
- The McGregor Museum, which owns Rudd House, has its own resident haunting. Originally a sanatorium, it was turned into a convent in 1933. Inside the administration offices, a nun in white wanders through the corridors.
- Sometime in Kimberley's past, a traveling group known as the Trekboers made camp near Hull Street Theater. They wanted to rest before heading north but tragedy struck. An illness broke out and many of the children died. Some claim to have seen a little boy, fondly referred to as George. He apparently loves playing hide-and-seek with visitors between the theater's ruins.
© 2017 Jana Louise Smit