Getting into the spirit...
It’s probably the only time my girlfriend would allow me to go looking for a Charlotte and a Sarah. Under any other circumstance, a trip to the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands in search of two women would result in me being on the receiving end of grievous bodily harm.
But it was allowed this time because… um… well, how do I put it, Charlotte and Sarah aren’t really people. The two damsels are, if the stories are to be believed, among the ghosts that reportedly roam the Midlands. One lives in the Nottingham Road Hotel and the other in the Argyle Arms Country Inn, in Mooi River.
I stayed at “Notties” and partied at “The Arge” last week, but, alas, didn’t actually encounter the lasses. But, it wasn’t for lack of trying – hell, I even left my door unlocked in case one of them wanted to pay me a visit.
Charlotte, according to legend, lives in Room 10 of the Nottingham Road Hotel. I stayed in Room 14 and my photographer, Sandile, in Room 12. At first, I wanted to stay in the haunted room, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t. If the story is to be believed, Charlotte was a prostitute who stalks the room and can be heard moaning through the night – although what type of moaning, good or bad, isn’t specified. Either way, I don’t think she made an appearance. Or, I slept through it.
Just 18km down the road, at the Argyle Arms Country Inn, we were taken on a tour of the hotel, which has recently been bought and is undergoing a revamp. Whether or not the renovations will disturb Room 8 resident Sarah remains to be seen.
The legend holds that during one freezing cold winter, the metal chimney got too hot, causing a wooden roof beam to catch alight and the hotel to be engulfed in flames. Sarah and her twin sister were in the room where the fire started. One girl escaped and, because she was running around outside and spotted in so many places, people thought she was both girls.
Sarah, the story goes, didn’t get out and died in the room.
“She’s an old lady now. She’s peaceful and friendly,” one rather imbibed gentlemen at the Argyle pub told me.
Whether or not you believe in such things, it certainly makes for a great story. Sitting at breakfast, a manager chatted to three men at the table next to ours.
“Did you hear anything last night?” he asked.
“What? The party at the pub? Yes, it was loud,” one of the men responded.
“What are you talking about?”
“Charlotte, the ghost who lives in Room 10. Haven’t you heard of her?” I chimed in.
“Mark from work wanted to book me in Room 10 and I didn’t know why. Bastard! I’m going to get him when I’m back at the office,” the man responded.
I’ve since found out that there are loads of allegedly haunted places in the Midlands. Fort Nottingham apparently has two ghouls that roam the grounds and there are even reports of UFO sightings.
Hilton College apparently has a resident ghost and the “Woodhouse Ghost” is reportedly seen sometimes at the Howick Museum. The Caversham Mill is apparently haunted, so is Rawdon’s Hotel.
Whether or not you believe in such things, it’s still an amazing place to visit. Mooi River in particular is beautiful and so diverse. The hiking trails and bushman paintings are must-dos and Giants Castle is simply outstanding.
Who knows, maybe you’ll even get to meet Sarah and Charlotte. - Sunday Tribune