Many people are curious about ghosts from the past. Pretoria surprisingly has many tales (or truths) to tell.
Feeling a chill as something passes me at Pretoria’s second oldest hotel or shrieking at the sound of inexplicable footsteps at Erasmus House is not exactly my idea of fun. Still, to many this is a whole new level of adventure. You also needn’t go far to find this excitement, as Pretoria has its own ghost production on wheels, which makes for some spine-tingling experiences with stories that will keep you up at night and unexpected sound effects that catch you by surprise.
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Die Pretoria Spookbus Toerproduksie hosts a monthly ghost tour through the dark streets of Pretoria – a theatrical production on wheels. Journalist and writer, Jaco Hough-Coetzee, acts as one of the storytellers and much research has gone into the history of Pretoria and its ghosts. The production touches on well-documented ghost tales from across South Africa, but it also tells stories about Pretoria-based ghosts. Stories about the Erasmus girls who come out to play will give you the chills while standing at the enormous Erasmus House’s gate and a visit to the site of the Belgrave Hotel, where a young girl was murdered, will keep you on your toes. (At least you get to calm your nerves by having a drink at the hotel’s small, intimate bar, even though the site is currently under construction). Die Spookbus also gives you the opportunity to visit Church Square at night, where you can experience a glimpse of the old Capitol Theatre (now a parking garage with a star-studded roof, a gallery and a stage), while hearing the story about the Church Street bomb victims.
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Another (still standing) haunted theatre, is the Breytenbach Theatre. Established as a German community hall, it was later used as a temporary hospital during the flu epidemic in 1918. The building was eventually turned into the Breytenbach Theatre, which staged its first production in 1958. Today actors share the stage with Nurse Heather who is always looking for children to assist, asking: “Where are my children.”
Of course, a ghost tour is not justifiable without a cemetery thrown into the itinerary. The Rebecca Cemetery is home to many, spirits and the ideal end to an informative evening about Pretoria’s heydays, the people who lived and worked here and those who can’t let go.
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Pretoria is home to a couple of other ghosts too. Alfie, the Victoria Hotel (Pretoria’s oldest hotel, originally known as the Hollandia), is quite mischievous. He is also not this hotel’s only resident ghost. An old, grey lady often brushes shoulders with guests on the hotel’s majestic staircase. Pretoria Railway Station is also home to a soldier from the Anglo-Boer War, who has been seen roaming the area.
Whether you’re curious about Pretoria’s history or its ghosts, this might be the adventure you are looking for. The next production takes place in February and bookings can be made online.