The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest and largest of South Africa's colonial buildings. Work on the castle began in 1666, and it was occupied in 1674. At that time, it was so close to the sea that the moat was filled by the high tide. It should have impressed the stone age indigenous peoples of the area, but the Khoikhoi (once called "Hottentots") simply called it "Kui Keip", which means "stone kraal". Dividing the castle is the Kat, or curtain wall, in which is embedded a fine residence. This was once the seat ot the colonial governors. Now it is a museum housing part of the fine William Fehr collection of Africana.
There are cells with graffiti, but the most dreaded was the Donker Gat (dark hole), a windowless dungeon that also served as a torture chamber. Lady Anne Barnard recorded that during winter floods, the water rose three feet within a minute, drowning some of the convicts who were chained to the dungeon walls. For a time, the Zulu king Cetewayo was imprisoned in the castle, along with some of his wives. Convicts and drosters (escaped slaves, outlaws and rebellious natives who banded together) were executed within the castle. Restoration work has occasionally uncovered rooms that had been bricked up, and architects, after careful study, reported that the castle must contain others still undiscovered.
Naturally, the castle is haunted.
In 1915, an unidentified two-metre tall figure was seen on the castle's battlements. It was seen again in 1947, when it was observed to leap over the battlements. This semi-luminous ghost was seen over a period of weeks. It walked between the Leerdam and Oranje bastions, and was seen leaning over the parapet, looking into Darling Street. Some parapsychologists believe that when a ghost makes its presence known at unpredictable and widely separated intervals, the spirit may have been disturbed by some event or alteration in the environment. Much more frequently, inexplicable footsteps have been heard in the same area of the castle. This may be the same ghost which rings the castle bell from time to time, since a guard hanged himself with the bell rope hundreds of years ago.
A large black hound also haunts the castle, leaping at visitors but vanishing at the last instant. In the Buren bastion, lights are switched on and off without human assistance. Near the guard room, the voices of an unseen man and woman have been heard arguing. Upon investigation, only a shapeless figure was seen. The ringing of an electric bell in the guard room is connected with a suicide in the earlier part of the twentieth century.
The spectre of governor Pieter Gysbert van Noodt is also seen in the castle, and heard cursing. Captain Rudolf Allemann gave a first hand account of Van Noodt's death, which occurred in April 1729. Seven soldiers were unjustly and illegally condemned to death for desertion, after the governor overturned the council's more lenient sentence. One of the soldiers, a theological candidate, stood on the gallows and called Van Noodt to divine justice. That same day, Van Noodt was found dead in his chair. (The chair is in the Koopmans-De Wet museum, itself a fine example of Dutch colonial architecture.) According to Allemann, the official account of events was false. Van Noodt, he claimed, was buried in a cheap coffin, in a secret place, as the council did not want him buried in sacred ground. A coffin of fine quality was used for the public funeral. A German traveller, Otto Mentzel, confirmed Allemann's version of the events. I suspect that on this occasion, divine justice was aided by earthly conspiracy.
Another haunt of Governor Van Noodt is the house Rust-en-Vreugd ("Rest and Gladness"), on Buitenkant Street. The antiquity of this house rivals the castle's. Some have called it the most haunted house in Cape Town. The house now displays the other part of the William Fehr collection. It is said to be linked to the castle by a secret passage. The ghost of a woman appears at an upstairs window, next to a ghostly cot, watching for the return of a seafaring lover. A floating woman in a long dress has been seen on the ground floor, and an invisible hand taps people on the shoulder. Mysterious footsteps are heard. Residents of Penkridge, Staffordshire, may be interested to know that the beautiful wrought-iron gates, at Penkridge Parish Church, are from Rust-en-Vreugd. They were snaffled by a governor, Sir Henry Bartle Frere.
Lady Anne Barnard is the castle's most romantic ghostly resident. In the late eighteenth century, she resided at the castle as the colony's first lady. (The governor, Lord Macartney, had left his wife in Britain, and he lived outside of the castle, leaving the colonial secretary and his wife to do the entertaining.) Lady Anne left, in letters to the Secretary of War, and in journals and fine drawings, a full record of life in the Cape Colony. She made the large hall of the Kat residence into a ballroom, which was used for that purpose until the South African Army vacated the castle in quite recent years. Here, Lady Anne's curly-haired but transparent ghost would appear at parties held in honour of important visitors. Ghost hunters may find that the restoration of the relatively secluded Dolphin Pool, where she bathed, has improved their chances of seeing her. The pool was reconstructed from Lady Anne's own drawings and descriptions.
Lady Anne is said to have bathed there in the nude. Some prudish historians have asserted that this would have been too shocking, and that her nude bathing must have taken place elsewhere. However, illustrations of the the bathing facilities at Bath, England, show that eighteenth century British gentlewomen were not as coy as Victorian ladies (or most twentieth century ladies, for that matter). Fashionable continental ladies of the period even wore ball gowns which showed their bare breasts. Lady Anne did record, however, that an officer complained that her plunging into the pool was unladylike, and ordered the building of steps leading down into the water. The fact that Lady Anne's nude bathing aroused comment, is an indication that the isolated Cape Dutch ladies were more strait-laced than Europeans at the time (as indeed they were in the twentieth century). Lady Anne was in her forties when she arrived at the Cape, but don't let that put you off. Her portraits show that she was very pretty, and her husband, whom she had married four years before arriving at the Cape, was twelve years younger than she. Lady Anne is also said to have bathed nude in a stream on Table Mountain, and in a spring in what is now the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden (although the pool called "Lady Anne Barnard's Bath", at the spring, may have been built after she left the Cape).
It has been said that Lady Anne's five year residence at the Cape was too short to warrant her haunting the place. However, the quantity of writing and drawings that she produced, to record her stay, shows that she found the Cape fascinating. It was probably a high point in her life, especially as she had quite recently married her younger husband.
She had the chance to travel in the interior, which was wilder then, and she recorded the herds of antelope such as bontebok, and other animals, which she saw on her journeys. As a matter of fact, records show that lions were common even near Cape Town at least as late as 1801, while Lady Anne resided there. Improvements in firearms during the early nineteenth century made lion hunting much safer, and led to the extinction of the local race of lions about forty years later. Leopards are still found in mountain ranges even within sight of Cape Town, and wild elephants are still found in the Eastern Province of the Cape. To see really wild lions in South Africa, however, you will have to travel to the Kalahari, or the Kruger National Park area, or Zululand.
On her travels, she appreciated the hospitality of her Dutch hosts, but was appalled by the malnutrition of Khoikhoi labourers on farms. Referring to the way in which farmers tricked their labourers into thinking that they had no right to leave, even when their contracts had expired, she wrote "...it is a sort of law the farmers have made among themselves, and they will always support each other thro' any act of oppression." Wealthy farmers had slaves. Though brutally oppressed, their health was better cared for than that of contracted labourers, as slaves could be sold.
After her residence in the castle, Lady Anne moved to the cottage Paradise, in Newlands. The foundations of the cottage can be seen in Newlands Forest, said to have pleasant walks, but unfortunately the trees are not indigenous. Later, Lady Anne moved to the house Vineyard, also in Newlands. This is now the Vineyard Hotel, and has a fine display of Lady Anne's illustrations.
Lady Anne's drawing room in the castle has, above the fireplace, a cursed painting. Anyone who moves it will die, or so it is said. It is a picture of peacocks in a garden, and is said to be symbolic. What it is intended to symbolise, I do not know, but peacocks are symbols of Juno, wife of Jupiter. The Trojans, and even Hercules, found it dangerous to offend Juno. During the Second World War, the painting was covered with a canvas. This may have been to protect the painting from damage, in which case the following official statement may have been tongue-in-cheek : "The Authorities have made special arrangements to prevent the spook suddenly appearing and disturbing their work." Some have said that a treasure of the Dutch East India Company is hidden behind the painting. Others have said that it hides another secret passage, in this case leading to Government House (now called "Tuynhuys").
A lady in grey haunts both the castle and Tuynhuys. She may be connected with a woman's skeleton which was unearthed near one of the castle's old "sally gates". During the royal tour of 1947, the royal family stayed in Tuynhuys, and Princess Elizabeth celebrated her twenty-first birthday there. During the royal stay, the ghost was seen by several people, including, it is said, Princess Margaret. In 1949, Eric Rosenthal wrote that the ghost had not been seen since the skeleton was discovered, but he was unaware of the 1947 sighting. The grey lady has also been seen since then. Also at Tuynhuys is a portrait of the unpopular governor Lord Charles Somerset, which causes dogs to bristle and snarl. Tuynhuys may be seen from Government Avenue.
Adjacent to the castle, on the Grand Parade, is the site of Jan van Riebeeck's fort. (In my original article, I stated that Van Riebeeck was a teenager when he became the commander of the settlement, but I now know that my source was incorrect.) In the fort, Van Riebeeck, trained as a surgeon, presided as judge at his court. In one case, another
surgeon was accused of libelling a ship's captain and mate. The mate had commanded a bible to
turn of its own accord, as divine proof that the surgeon had stolen a ring. The surgeon, who had
been present, confirmed that the bible had moved without human assistance, but claimed that the
mate had used black magic. From the time of the very first settlement, the colonists had brought
Darkest Europe to Africa.