Whilst reading up on some things for one of my stories, I came across the story of the Winchester Mystery House. Not knowing anything about it, I decided to do a bit of research (which admittedly involved reading the article on Wikipedia) and found the results fascinating. The house, or mansion, really, was owned by one Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Winchester.
Supposedly, after falling and having her two children die, a medium suggested that the spirits of all the people killed by Winchester rifles were haunting her, and that only “continuous construction” would prevent the spirits from harming her. From 1884 – 1922, the house was under continuous construction, and the final structure has some 160 rooms, of which 40 are bedrooms. There are 47 fireplaces, 17 chimneys, 2 basements and 2 ballrooms.
Mrs. Winchester also had an affinity for the number 13 and for spider web motifs, somehow connected to her will to protect herself from the ghosts. In her honour, every Friday the 13th the large bell on the property is rung 13 times at 1 o’clock p.m. (13:00). Fascinating! The thought of all those ghosts haunting the person responsible for their deaths…makes for an excellent story.
While looking that up, I thought about some famous haunted places in South Africa. The one I’ve been to – Pilgrim’s Rest, a town in Mpumalanga that was declared a gold field in 1873. It still has all the old style buildings left and is a national monument. Perhaps most famously, it’s graveyard houses the robber’s grave – where all the other graves are laid in one direction, the robber’s grave is placed perpendicular to them, and contains only a cross and the words “ROBBER’S GRAVE”. I never experienced any haunting when I visited, but others have, and it’s said a particular room is haunted.
Another place that I would love to visit is Matjiesfontein – supposedly the most haunted town in South Africa. One ghost in particular is said to be a wounded British soldier who appears at the turn-off to the Memorial Cemetery with his arm in a sling and a bloody bandage around his head. The Lord Milner is also reputed to be haunted by ghosts that can be heard laughing in empty rooms.
I love reading about haunted houses and towns – it’s always fascinated me, and always gives a spark of inspiration for some creative writing.
So – have you ever been to one of the places mentioned, and have you ever experienced a haunting of your own? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!