Other Simonstown Hauntings

The building now called Admiralty House has been standing since at least 1740, although there have been significant alterations to the house's appearance, especially after it was damaged by a storm in 1853. Like the Residency, it is on the main road, St. George's Street (on the M4).

When Rudyard Kipling visited the house, he recorded that the Admiral kept turtles tied to the jetty, so that they could swim about in the sea until the soup ingredients were ready for them.

During the American Civil War, the house was visited by the captain of the Confederate raider Alabama. This visit inspired Daar Kom Die Alabama, the best known of the songs sung by Cape Town's Muslim community. H.M Stanley called in, on his way to find Livingstone, as did Captain Scott, while on his way to the Antarctic. In 1947, The Royal Family attended a garden party here.

In the nineteen fifties, Lady Campbell, wife of Vice-Admiral Sir Ian Campbell, saw the ghosts of men in naval uniform on the stairs. In the nineteen seventies, Mrs. Johnson, wife of Vice-Admiral J.V.Johnson, also experienced weird happenings, including an invisible gentleman who opened a door for her, and closed it behind her.

Admiralty House is also haunted by a woman with brown hair, who wears a long, grey dress (it must be the uniform of the afterlife). Some say that it is the same "grey Lady" which haunts the Residency, and another naval residence, Ibeka. The three buildings are supposed to be linked by tunnels. The haunting at Ibeka, however, may be linked to a governess who hanged herself on the attic landing. Also at Ibeka, the spectre of an old man, sitting on the toilet, has been seen. Ibeka is on Cornwall Street, on the hill.

The fine Georgian building called Palace Barracks, on the brow of the hill, was once linked to the seashore by a cable car. It is haunted by an old sea captain, who disturbs officers in their billets. The sounds of drinking and billiard playing are heard from the billiard room, even when there is nobody in it. Upstairs, the ghost of an elderly woman bends over beds. An unusually dangerous ghost lifted an officer from his chair, and threw him across the room. (Obviously, this seat was was already taken.) The entity which sits on people's chests and tries to strangle them, however, is such a common worldwide phenomenon that doctors have a name for it. Of course, having a name for something is not the same as having a satisfactory explanation.

Another ghost at Palace Barracks is that of Mary Kingsley, the famous explorer of West Africa, much admired by Trader Horn and Rudyard Kipling. The jungle experts had advised her to wear male clothing, but always a lady, she took more feminine attire. The thick skirts saved her life when she fell into a spiked game pit. Of course, this sensible attitude would work just as well for men. As a matter of fact, Lord Baden-Powell wrote in a guide for Boy Scouts, that the nimbleness he acquired as a young man, by dancing in long skirts, saved his life when he had to flee from the Matabele in the rocky Matopo Hills. So, intrepid explorers, pop into your local branch of Transformation, strip off your prejudices and your trousers, and put on a dress. It may save your life! But I make no promises.

In 1900, at the age of thirty-seven, Mary Kingsley volunteered to nurse Boer prisoners during an outbreak of enteric fever. She contracted the illness herself, but her indomitable spirit does not know that she died, and remains in the building.

Between the main road and the sea, is the alley called Black's Lane. On this alley was, and possibly still is, Mafeking Terrace, a group of three houses. If it is still there, the house which was once number three is haunted by the voyeurish spirit of a tall, dark man, nicknamed "Wilbur" by the family which lived there. In life, the ghost was Robert Coupar, who, while a boarder at the house, strangled his lover's baby and threw it in the sea. He was later hanged. According to Margaret Williamson, Mafeking Terrace was deserted in 1992, and unfortunately, I did not have the chance to check on it during my visit to Simonstown in 2001.

In the naval dockyard is St. George's Church, the "Sail-Loft Church", on the upper floor of an eighteenth century stone building. As the name suggests, sailmakers once plied their trade in what is now a church. This building, with its clock tower, and gable decorated with an anchor, is worth seeing for its picturesqueness alone. The doors at the entrance are of stinkwood, and the floors are yellowwood. These are South Africa's most prized timbers. There is a mural by the South African artist Joy Collier, who is one of the people to have heard ghostly footsteps in the church.

The former rectory of the Anglican Church (the one on the main road, next to the Simonstown Museum), is a stone-built residence, and another place where ghostly footsteps and banging doors have been heard. In 1949, a Mrs. Martin was the wife of the Anglican minister. In a letter to the Cape Times about the haunting, Mrs.Martin also mentioned a ghost called the "white lady", which haunted a house a few doors down in the same street.

More detailed accounts, of most of the above hauntings, can be found in Margaret Williamson's book Haunted Corners. It is, unfortunately, out of print.

COPYRIGHT © March 2002 : No material on this site may be copied by any means, without the author's permission.


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