Ghosts don’t exist, but sometimes things happen that are difficult to explain, says Cyril Klopper.
Idon’t believe in zombies, werewolves or ghosts. For me, those things equal little green men in flying saucers. But still, I’ve had a few frightening encounters that I still can’t explain. The first one happened when I went to seek my fortune in London, England, in my twenties. I worked for a few weeks as a travelling security guard until I could find a more lucrative job. One of my shifts was in a children’s hospital built during the Victorian era. The hospital closed a few years before and my job was basically to keep vandals from trashing the government building at night.
I patrolled the dark wards late at night. My weak flashlight lit up old children’s drawings – crayon on yellow-stained paper – against the walls. Empty beds stood untouched in neat rows beneath secured windows.
Somewhere in front of me in the dark I heard the patter of tiny feet. I swung my flashlight in the direction of the sound, but there was nothing. Behind me I heard a child giggling. Damn pranksters! I marched through the ward, ready to grab a teen by his ear and confiscate his spray paint, but there was nothing. The giggling followed me through the hospital. Every time I stopped, the sounds also stopped. When I resumed my patrol, so did the giggling, and rather worryingly the number of voices also increased. My marching changed to a jog – and this very quickly changed into a full-on sprint. The giggling and pattering were close on my heels while I raced past cribs in a maternity ward to the front door on the ground floor, where the sounds suddenly stopped. I completed the remainder of my shift outside in the parking lot. Was it the restless souls of the dead children? No, I realise today that it was only my imagination that got the better of me.
THERE WAS, HOWEVER, TWO INCIDENTS RECENTLY, a couple of days apart, that I can’t attribute to my imagination.
In 2016 I rode from Cape Town to Lesotho on a motorcycle. On the first night I decided to overnight close to the border and the hotel in Lady Grey seemed
like as good a place as any to sleep. It was already dark when I rode into town and the hotel’s receptionist welcomed me warmly with an offer of coffee and rusks. I also got to choose which room I wanted to stay in because I was the only guest. By 9 pm the receptionist knocked on my door.
“I’m going home now, sir. I’m locking the door but I’ll be here early to let you out.” “What? I spluttered. “Are you locking me in?”
“Yes, but don’t worry. You’re the only guest here and you’re welcome to explore the hotel as you please,” she added.
I was dead tired – it was a long day on my motorcycle and I basically passed out as opposed to falling asleep. Shortly after midnight I awoke... and I immediately felt uneasy. In the distance I heard footsteps approaching – not the sound of a sly thief sneaking around but also not the carefree march of someone who belonged in the building. They were heavy footsteps, like a man’s, with a rhythmic footfall. Doof, doof, doof...
The footsteps came closer and closer and stopped outside my door. I lay frozen. Soft moonlight shone through the lace curtain, just enough for me to see the room door heaving. Someone on the other side was repeatedly pushing and releasing it, push and release. The movement reminded me of the upper body of a sleeping dog. The person on the other side didn’t turn the handle.
“Hello, is someone there? I asked in a husky voice, but it come out a few octaves higher than I had planned. The door stopped moving. I lay and waited for what felt like an eternity for a response, but none came. After a while I decided that my imagination was yet again running away with me. I turned on my side to sleep.
But sleep evaded me and every now and again I checked the time on my cellphone. About half an hour later I heard soft breathing outside the door. This time my nerves were completely shot and I was ready to jump out of bed, storm to the door and confront whoever was on the other side of it. Suddenly the floorboards in the hallway creaked and the footsteps moved away and faded in the distance. I carefully opened the door and peeked out into the dark passageway, but there was nothing. The next morning I asked my hostess about my visitor. Her answer? “Now you know why I don’t sleep here...”
THE NEXT NIGHT in the Sehlabathebe National Park in Lesotho I looked forward to overnighting in their new lodge. But when I arrived there was not a soul in sight. I parked my bike and walked to the lodge’s main building. All the doors were locked. I peered through the windows into the empty dining room: There were tables and chairs, but no guests. All the bungalows were furnished but they were otherwise empty.
“Can I help you, sir?” a voice mumbled behind me. Only after I got my voice back and unclenched my jaw could I turn around to see what gave me such a start. A Sotho man dressed in a red T-shirt and brown slacks stood not a metre from me. How did he manage to get so close without me hearing him? His expression was dull, his back slightly crooked, and his arms hung limp at his sides like a marionette between shows. I asked if I could pitch my tent in the campsite but he insisted that it was too cold at night to camp and that I should rather sleep in a bungalow. Just as in Lady Grey I was the only guest, but because of my apparent inability to learn my lesson, I agreed. While I carried my bags to the bungalow the man with the crooked back and limp arms stood to the side gawking at me.
I later took my camera and went for a walk in the mountains to photograph the beautiful park. From afar I could see the man standing there looking at me. When I looked back, he had shifted position. First he was at the main building, then at the bungalows, and then somewhere on the grounds near the lodge. When the sun started setting I ambled back to the lodge. The man was gone. In my bungalow I fried some baked beans and soya mince in a pan on my gas stove. As I looked up, I saw the man right up against the window, looking at me. “Flip!” I shouted (okay, I used a different exclamation). The limp man simply turned and walked away.
After dinner I locked the door and got into bed. At about three in the morning I awoke with a start, remembering that my GPS was still mounted on my bike’s handlebar. I couldn’t afford to lose it since there were countless mountain trails that I had to navigate. In my long johns and riding boots I walked out the door. It was freezing outside and frost crunched underfoot. I was glad not to be camping. There stood the limp man... Through the dark and icy cold we stared at each other for what felt like an eternity. I carefully removed the GPS from my motorcycle and slowly backed away. I bolted the door to my room and started packing. As soon as the sun reared its head, I’d be out of here.
Three hours later, as dawn broke, I heard the droning of an engine. A bakkie with two occupants stopped outside the main building. The limp man was nowhere to be seen. The driver introduced himself as the lodge’s caretaker. With him was the chef. They were away all of yesterday to buy provisions. I explained that the nightwatchman gave me permission to sleep in the bungalow.
Their response gave me the chills: “What nightwatchman?”
The footsteps came closer and closer and stopped outside my door. I lay frozen. Soft moonlight shone through the lace curtain...