All towns have their ghost stories. Real or imagined, they form part of the folklore of the town. In Port Elizabeth’s case, it has its fair share. Apart from perhaps one, none are real ogres.
Being a sceptic of the metaphysical world and paranormal phenomena, I do not place much credence on these inexplicable tales. However, given the interest of various people in these alleged phenomena, this blog covers the most important ones.
Main picture: Richly House formerly Langford Lodge. Is it the most haunted house in Port Elizabeth?
Richly House: The most haunted house in PE
Recently a woman in PE actually won an epic battle with her insurance company after her home burnt down in a suspected case of arson. She was cleared of any wrong-doing and the probable cause of the fire was attributed to a… wait for it… a poltergeist.
Built by William James Wills in 1906, Richly House, a row of terraced houses, is claimed to be the most haunted house is. Richly House has been used for many different purposes over the years, from a general nursing home to a World War II brothel and a post-war boarding house – giving it many different resident ghosts.
People have had encounters with a nun, who is accompanied by the chilling cries of an unseen baby. A woman and a child in period clothing are often passed in the hallway and a grumpy man in a grey coat storms through the dining room to the kitchen where he rattles pots and pans in an unknown frustration.
Most of these ghostly inhabitants are fairly oblivious to their human onlookers, except for the one that appears in the domestic quarters and tries to strangle the staff members…
In order to live up to its reputation, Richly House should have looked like this.
The Cleghorn, Harris and Stephen’s building, next to where the present Port Elizabeth Public Library later built, burnt down on 6 May 1896. Police Constable Maxwell was killed when stone coping fell onto him while firemen tried to put out the fire.
A remembrance stone was placed on a low wall in what was to become the Library grounds. When construction of the Library started, the stone was moved to the Library gardens. From then on, his ghost haunted Room 700 until the stone was returned to its original place, after which no more sightings were reported.
The ghost of Cradock Place
Cradock Place is said to be haunted by the uneasy spirit of a young slave girl who was horrifically murdered by her lover.
Nobody knows why, but one day her lover was overcome by insane jealousy and attacked the young woman. In a fit of rage her threw her into the great oven in the kitchen, locked the door and built a huge fire to power the oven.
She had been employed in the house and had quickly impressed with her care and thoroughness, which won her the task of dusting the drawing room. Her favourite item was the room’s piano with which she took particular care.
After her death, the piano’s keys seemed to take on a life of their own and soft music was often heard to fill the drawing room – without anyone there to take credit for it.
The ghost of Old Mount Road Power Station
In the 1880s, there was serious conflict between the British and Irish. A group known only as ‘The Invincibles‘ took it upon themselves to protect Irish interests from interfering Britain. When the seemingly incompetent Lord Frederick Cavendish was chosen as the new Chief Secretary to Ireland, the group was enraged and Cavendish was assassinated in a heinous manner.
However, Dublin-based James Carey turned state witness against the assassins and sent five of ‘The Invincible’ leaders to their deaths. In exchange, he was granted a new name and life in South Africa.
When he boarded the Melrose Castle bound for Durban, Carey was followed by an ‘Invincible’ assassin. The loud and large Carey did not keep to his cabin, but rather celebrated his escape on the lower decks. The assassin simply shot him when a passing fishing boat caused a distraction. The assassin was arrested, but Carey’s body was left on the ship and eventually buried in a pauper’s grave in Port Elizabeth.
Shortly after his burial, the cemetery was moved to make way for the new power station. An employee tasked with the moving the remains from the cemetery took a liking to Carey’s skull and its clean bullet hole, using it for many years as an ashtray and candle holder.
The long-dead Carey still finds this offensive and refuses to leave the boiler room or the site where the cemetery once was, instilling fear in all those who work there.
Another Library ghost is caretaker Robert Thomas, who died on 6th February 1943. He was a bachelor and started looking after the Library in 1912 until his death. Staff say doors open and shut of their own accord, books are removed from shelves and stacked on the floor, and books fall for no reason. Others felt his presence, including one man who hid in the building in the 1980s at night as a dare and had to call the police to let him out.
Serves him right.
Ghost Busters in Operation
The following is a report by a Paranormal Investigator in Port Elizabeth by the name of P.I.P.E. Having watched a number of similar episodes on DSTV whereby PIs evict some metaphysical phenomenon from a client’s property, this episode follows a similar pattern
This story unfolded in a house in Rowallan Park.
The “activity” was predominantly in her 2 year old son’s room (which is next to their main bedroom). He often woke up and sat on his bed crying while pointing at the opposite corner. They have seen a dark shadow figures in the room, experienced sudden temperature drops and heard noises on occasion (knocking and scratching). The toy piano in his room would suddenly start playing in the middle of the night and then suddenly stop on its own (it has buttons that activate pre-programmed songs to start playing, and a button to stop the song from continuing).
Their cat refused to enter the room. Furthermore, when one carried the cat into the room, she clearly got distressed and ran out. They reported having sudden strange feelings in the adjacent main bedroom as well as though someone was watching them.
The tenant complained that the activity had become worse and, they were getting more frightened. At this point PIPE began a full investigation.
Our photographer, Vicky, was taking digital photographs of the rooms and passage while our other team members were setting up the equipment. The client’s husband carried the cat to show us how frightened the cat was of coming into the boy’s room – the cat immediately became agitated the moment it was carried towards the doorway.
One of the photographs that Vicky had taken in the passage way, showed a strange anomaly.
Upon review on a larger screen, it looks like the figure of a little boy. Interestingly, at the prelim we asked twice if the entity is a child and on both occasions there was an audible knock. Likewise, we received a knock for the same question during the ‘full investigation’.
Chantel and Vicky started with the EVP session in the boy’s room while Jan was sitting in the adjacent main bedroom.
While asking the entity to prove that it was there, and saying that it was welcome to try and scare us, Jan heard a scratching and knocking in the adjacent room.
Our camcorder spontaneously paused shortly afterward. About 5 minutes later there was a sudden temperature drop and, both the camcorder and digital camera malfunctioned at the same time.
We changed rooms – Jan and Vicky continued the EVP questioning in the boy’s room (this time in Afrikaans), while Chantel sat in the main bedroom. Unfortunately, we did not have an extra camera in the main room during this part of the investigation.
After Jan playfully asked the entity to play with one of the torches in the boy’s room, the torch lying on the main room’s bed where Chantel was sitting acted up. It switched off, on, started flickering slightly, off, on, and then completely off (this was over a span of a minutes and a half). Note, that we put fresh batteries into this torch at the start of the investigation and, that it did not act up again for the duration of the investigation (approx. another hour). The torch was lying untouched on the bed.
There was also a knocking sound afterward. There is a short whisper after Chantel acknowledges a sudden drop in temperature. When we asked whether we may take a photograph of the entity while it’s playing with the torch, we got a short very faint whisper which sounds like ‘no’ in Afrikaans ie. ‘Nee’ and a bump sound.
This was the second occasion that we asked for the entity to do something and it chose to do it in the opposite room. Jan then asks the entity to do something to Vicky’s camera. Shortly afterward she reports that her battery power had suddenly dropped.
During the investigation, we heard many knocking sounds. Some of these came from the cupboards. These were captured on both the digital voice recorder and, the camcorder. Jan joined Chantel and Vicky in the main bedroom. The camcorder was left in the boy’s room with the hope that we might get a response in the opposite room again.
While continuing to ask EVP questions in the main room, we experienced sudden temperature drops followed by knocks and bumps against the bed (these were audible and could be felt as though someone was bumping against the bed). This coincided with strange audio recordings in the boy’s bedroom – occasional taps and, it sounds like sniffing or scratching.
There is a distinct whisper towards the end of the clip. This whisper coincides with us asking why it chose to stay behind and didn’t go into the ‘light’. Jan then cracks a joke about it playing with our light and that is when the loud whisper happens in the boy’s room. Note that the giggle is Vicky laughing at Jan’s joke.
We left the recording devices in the boy’s room and went to the lounge to chat to the client.
She voiced her concerns again over how much it was frightening her and her son. She wanted it gone and asked for advice on how to go about it. We suggested that she addressed it directly by telling him/her/them how she felt and that it was not welcome in her home anymore.
More drastic measures are only necessary if this method doesn’t work.
Chantel offered to go back into the room with her and, to initiate the ‘conversation’. We realised that most people don’t sit down and talk to paranormal entities. It is sometimes more comfortable for the client if we accompany them and, help them along this part of the process.
Chantel and the client sat down and started telling the entity that it was not welcome in the home anymore. We spoke Afrikaans as it seemed to be more responsive during the investigation when questions and requests were made in Afrikaans. As it was told that it was no longer welcome, the piano started playing a portion of a song.
After the client told the entity how its presence made them feel and made it clear that it had to leave, the temperature dropped drastically. The client felt an ice cold chill next to her ear (on the side where she saw a shadow figure a few days earlier). As Chantel tried to comfort the client, the K2 meter gave a quick and sudden response at the same time that the camera went out of focus.
We believe that we have collected evidence in the form of audio and visual recordings and, had personal experiences substantiating that there is indeed paranormal activity in both the rooms. The evidence seems to point that there might be more than one entity present – a child and an adult.
Other ghostly apparitions
In her book on Port Elizabeth, E.K. Lorimer lists a number of ghost stories including a man in the dress of a cleryman in St. Mary’s Church. No additional details are supplied about whether this was pre or post the church being gutted by fire in 1895.
In another, Eleanor relates a shade that flits through the Opera House at night and queries whether the buildings stands on the site once occupied by gallows.
The last one is a dim figure seen in a house in Bird Street.
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Mad Pyromaniac
Schoenmakerskop: From Convict Station to Sleepy Hamlet
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Piet Retief as Farmer and Land Speculator
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Saga of the Drift Sands
Port Elizabeth of Yore: St. Mary’s Cemetery
Port Elizabeth of Yore: St Phillips Church on Richmond Hill
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Holy Trinity Church in Havelock Street
Mosenthals: A Metaphor for the Fortunes of Port Elizabeth
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Brickmaker’s Kloof
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Enclosed Harbour Scheme in the 1930s
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Harbour prior to the Charl Malan Quay
Port Elizabeth of Yore: St Mary’s Church
Port Elizabeth of Yore: New Church in Main Street
Rations, Rules and other Regulations aboard the Settler Ships
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Earliest Photographs
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Empire units in P.E. during the Boer War
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Defences during the Boer War
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Memorials to the Fallen in War
Algoa Bay before the Settlers: Sojourn by Henry Lichtenstein in the Early 1800s
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Albany Road
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Captain Jacob Glen Cuyler
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Growth of the Population
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Murders most Foul
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Phoenix Hotel
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Echoes of a Far off War
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Main Street in the Tram Era
Lost Artefacts of Port Elizabeth: Customs House