A Matjiesfontein Ghost Story: Kate
Matjiesfontein is reputed to be the most haunted town in South Africa. The history of this Karoo oasis includes; fortification during The South African War (formerly known as The Anglo-Boer War) as headquarters of the Cape Command, refuge for Jamieson Raid reformers, and the venue of controversial war crimes hearings.
With such a colourful history, many stories abound of ghost sightings, though they are after all just stories—or are they?
There are no malevolent ghosts here. The ghosts of Matjiesfontein are said to be both playful, and even mischievous, or they are totally unconcerned with events around them
We last introduced you to Lucy; now meet Kate.
The main staircase goes up one storey then divides into two and turns back to climb to the second. From the landing on the second floor a steep little staircase goes up. There’s a door at the top, and a plaque saying “Kate’s Card Room”. This leads to the room inside the central turret that was used as lookout and guard room when the hotel was an army hospital. Two sash windows give a clear view of the railway station, and beyond it the khaki veld where the remount camp used to be.
The little room is furnished with a writing desk, chairs, and an octagonal wooden table. On one side is a locked wooden door which gives access to the ladder to the roof, used every day by hotel staff when the flags have to be hoisted or lowered.
Who was Kate?
Kate, as the story goes, was a young nurse who used to enjoy playing cards in this room with convalescent patients. Whether this was in the days of the British officers’ hospital, which seems unlikely if it was a lookout, or later when the hotel was popular as a health resort, is not clear. But play cards Kate did, as part of the therapy for the people she was looking after.
Then Kate, aged 19, died mysteriously. And strange things have happened in the turret room and below it ever since. One young hotel guest saw a woman floating around one of the lower passages at about 7.45 one evening. A few minutes after that the guest and her friend went up the narrow steps to the card room. “I felt that there were people in there”. And as they walked into the room, which was empty after all, the locked door leading to the roof started rattling and carried on for about a minute.
One of our housekeepers had another experience, a woman not given to hysteria or over-imaginativeness, who went into the card room at the hour of 12.30pm. Something brushed past her. She turned around and saw a woman in a long white dress or a nurse’s uniform. Almost immediately the apparition faded away. The housekeeper also scuttled down to the other members of staff, gasping out her story while her hair, she said “stood on end”. Kate, looking for her patients or perhaps a game of cards?
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