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The Ghosts of Southern Africa’s Past

The following is a guest post from Oliver Hyde. Thanks to him, we’re able to vicariously jaunt to Africa’s southern reaches and get a look at some of its haunted places.

I have been to southern Africa many times, but it was only recently that I found out this wild land is plagued by a number of bewildering phenomena. Yes, I am talking about ghosts and haunted houses: though I am not a big fan of the paranormal, I saw quite a few places that sent shivers down my spine, and heard dozens of stories about possession and strange sightings. I travelled far and wide along the paranormal map of southern Africa, and I can assure you: despite pristine beaches, charming sunsets and scenic landscapes, this region is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Dhow in the sunset
Dhow in the sunset

The Marine Museum, Mozambique Island

During my tour of the Mozambique Island, I visited the local Marine Museum, situated on the ground floor of the Palace and Chapel of São Paulo. Now a graveyard of shipwreck remains dating back to the 16th century, the building interiors exudes awkward silence and solemnity. Here, you can see precious cargos gone amiss: from ship navigation instruments and gold coins to strikingly well-preserved Ming porcelain sets that never reached their final destination, the place seems to be guarded by spirits of doomed mariners and greedy pirates.

Palace and Chapel of São Paulo, Mozambique Island

Formerly a Jesuit college and a governor’s residence, the Palace and Chapel of São Paulo offers an insight into the 18th-century high life, with authentic Indo-Portuguese furnishings and quaint tidbits brought from India, Arabia, Portugal and China. I dread to think what starless nights feel like here: as I look out the window, the hairs at the back of my neck stand up. Rusted cannons and Maxim guns lie sinisterly across the courtyard, a living monument to human greed, violence and bloodshed. The tall altar evokes the era of missionary quests and daring explorations of the Dark Continent – I bet that on nights of full moon, you can see apparitions of priests praying around the pulpit.

Chapel of São Paulo
Chapel of São Paulo

Prison Island, Zanzibar

A few miles off Cape Town, Prison Island is nowadays a popular tourist attraction, but its history is far less enchanting than the first impressions may show. Back in the 1860s, the island served as a penitentiary for rebellious slaves, and the prison complex was later transformed into a quarantine hospital where sailors infected by yellow fever sought refuge and remedy. Hundreds died amidst those walls: I swear I half heard their subdued whispers echo across the hallway as dusk crept up across the waters.

Africana Library, Kimberley

Over in Kimberley, the Africana Library is home to the ghost of the city’s first librarian, Bertrand Dyer, who committed suicide in the building when caught red-handed committing fraud. Though I did not chance to see Dyer, I was told that he still loiters around the shelves rearranging the books, and numerous sightings of a man cloaked in a Victorian garb have been reported. Librarians say that footsteps can sometimes be heard at night as Dyer paces around looking for misplaced books – and based on the ominous atmosphere of the place, I almost believe them.

Africana Library
Africana Library

The Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town

One of the oldest colonial structures in southern Africa, the Castle of Good Hope was once a jail where many a convict met their untimely death. There are stories of flickering lights, uncanny footsteps, strange murmurs and specter sightings, and the most famous ghosts that frequent the Castle grounds include that of the building’s first hostess, Lady Anne Barnard, and a black hound.

Though I do not feel comfortable knowing that I may well be treading across ancient graves and execution sites, I will be coming back to southern Africa soon. Still, I would strongly encourage brave tourists to stay on guard and look for ghost-free lodgings via real estate portals such as On the Dark Continent, you never know whether the apparition is a friend, foe or just a desperate soul stuck in limbo.

Author bio:

Oliver Hyde is an experienced business consultant from the UK. His job allows him to travel, which also happens to be one of his greatest passions. Being a wanderer, he rarely stays at the same place for a long time, but Africa stole his heart. You can follow his travel adventures on Twitter.


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