Everybody loves a ghost story, and they’re especially valued in the Karoo. This is, after all, a wide-angle world of lost spaces, unidentified flying objects, a roadside flash of faces in the night – and total mystery.
So when you ask the folk at the Swartberg Hotel in Prince Albert about their ghosts, they’ll tell you about flying vases, characters moving about in old paintings and the doings of a late-night poltergeist in the corridors. Ghosts, you see, are good for business.
There are hotel ghosts and there are travelling ghosts. The Swartberg Pass has Chrisjan Swanepoel, a furious ghost and an erstwhile passenger in an Oudtshoorn-bound coach who was accidentally shot by a very stupid and boastful jail-wagon driver passing by. Should you find yourself walking the pass by night, you’re sure to feel Chrisjan’s hot breath at your neck.
A long, long time ago, a man murdered his wife in a riverbed near Beaufort West. Ever since then, people have seen a fast-moving light running up and down the river. They say it’s the angry spirit of the dead woman. One transport rider who rode towards it ended up in a lunatic asylum.
One night long ago, four travellers heading from Ceres to Beaufort West were suddenly confronted, at 3am, with the sight of a wagon and ‘14 wide-eyed mules’ storming down on them. They managed to dive to safety and shouted at the driver:
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“To Hell,” the anguished man replied, as he passed in a flash. “To Hell!”
The most famous travelling spook, of course, is the Uniondale Hitchhiker. On a stormy night in 1968, an Air Force officer and his fiancée crashed in their Volkswagen Beetle just outside the town in the Kamanassie Mountains. He was badly hurt, she died instantly. Since then, people travelling the area on rainy nights have picked up a woman hitchhiker – who then simply disappears into the darkness again.
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