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Your Guide to the Ghosts of Kimberley

Jana is an 'amateur everything' when it comes to space, nature and science. She loves exploring mysteries, both classic and new.

The famous Big Hole. This was a mine shaft that eventually topped up with water.

The famous Big Hole. This was a mine shaft that eventually topped up with water.

Kimberley's Big Four

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 New Rush before being renamed after the British Secretary of State for the colonies—Lord Kimberley.

But 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 350 haunted buildings.

Its volatile past left behind fascinating stories about spooks. This article will introduce you to Kimberley's best known paranormal activity.

  1. The Black Watch
  2. Suicide of the first librarian
  3. Rudd House
  4. The Kimberley Club

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

Apart from the above monument to fallen Boers, memorials also exist at the battlefield for British, Scottish and Scandinavian soldiers.

Apart from the above monument to fallen Boers, memorials also exist at the battlefield for British, Scottish and Scandinavian soldiers.

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.

The Story

In December 1899, the Anglo-Boer war reached a 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 kilometres to the south of Kimberley. British forces correctly sensed that 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.

This first wave of men all 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, more than 600 British were injured and over 200 Scotsmen and 87 Boers perished. 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 old library is still in use and is a protected cultural heritage monument.

The old library is still in use and is a protected cultural heritage monument.

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. He was also South Africa's first librarian.

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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 catalogued 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 arsenic. 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, afterwards, 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 time cannot be ignored—even in the afterlife. Some claim to have heard the sounds of teacups at four in the afternoon. Several witnesses have also identified Dyer from one of his pictures, after seeing a man in Victorian clothing wander through the library.

Rudd House

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 the name of 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 totalled 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

Another protected heritage site, guests can still book a room at the hotel.

Another protected heritage site, guests can still book a room at the 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).

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Jana Louise Smit


Jana Louise Smit (author) from South Africa on November 30, 2017:

I find little George adorable too! :) Though I'm not so sure I'd enjoy playing hide and seek with a ghostly kid. Lol.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 24, 2017:

All of the places that you describe sound intriguing. I love the story of the little boy who plays hide and seek with living visitors!

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