Dark Origins – African Myths and Legends: Castle of Good Hope in the Western Cape

The Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town, South Africa, was built in 1665 and became the scene of many bloody and tragic events. The Castle came about as the result of a ship wreck, a common occurrence at the southern most tip of Africa where the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans meet.

On the 25th of March 1647, a Dutch ship called De Nieuwe Haerlem ran aground near present day Milnerton, as it journeyed from Holland to the East Indies. The ship sank and a junior merchant named Leendert Janszen was requested to stay near the site of the wreck, with about 60 crew members, to look after the cargo while the rest of the ship wrecked men boarded other ships and continued to Holland.

While he waited to be relieved of his responsibilities and return home, Janszen and his men grew vegetables, caught fish and bartered fresh fish from the indigenous people in the area. When he returned to Holland, he was requested to compile a report recommending the suitability of the Cape to serve as a refreshment station for the Dutch East India Company’s ships travelling to India and back. Janszen was in favour of the idea and so was Jan Van Riebeeck, a member of the crew of the ship that picked up Janszen and his men.

In 1651, Van Riebeeck, accompanied by 79 men and 8 women, set sail for the Cape to establish a refreshment station. Van Riebeeck built the original clay and timber fort, called the Fort de Goede Hoop, which was replaced by a new fort made of stone between 1666 and 1679. The new building which still survives and is the oldest Colonial building in South Africa, has five bastions named after the main titles of William III of Orange-Nassau: Leerdam to the west, the Buuren, Katzenellenbogen, Nassau, and Oranje clockwise from it.

Picture credit: https://castleofgoodhope.co.za/index.php/news/100-news/149-history-of-the-castle

Legends of The Castle

The Castle was used as a prison and numerous prisoners were incarcerated for their sins (real or manufactured) in the ‘Donker Gat’ [Dark Hole]. This windowless dungeon was used as a torture chamber and it sometimes flooded during the winter, drowning any prisoners it contained.

The Castle is, of course, haunted and workers and visitors have reported hearing voices and footsteps in the Donker Gat and in The Castles narrow corridors. The bell in the bell tower sometimes rings of its own accord, despite having been bricked up centuries ago. It is believed that the ghost of a soldier who hung himself by the bell-rope rings the bell.

A vicious black dog is reported to haunt the castles grounds. It lunges and visitors and then disappears.

The most interesting of the ghosts, in my opinion, is that of Governor Pieter Gijsbert van Noodt. He had a reputation for mistreating his servants and the soldiers during his tenure. On the 23rd of April 1728, Governor van Noodt sentenced 7 men to hang for desertion. He was cursed by one of the men while he hung from the gallows and, that very same day, he was found dead in his office. Workers and visitors have seen him prowling the gloomy corridors of The Castle and heard him carousing and cursing in the upstairs rooms.

Do you know of any haunted castles? Share your story in the comments below.

An interesting historical connection

The Zulu King Cetshwayo also spent time as a prisoner at The Castle. This was after he was captured in the Ngome Forest after the defeat of the Zulu Nation by the British at Ulundi in 1879.

Subsequent to the defeat at Ulundi which dealt a death blow of the Zulu Kingdom, King Cetshwayo achieved the greatest victory against the British forces ever achieved by an indigenous army at the Battle of Isandlwana.

Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cetshwayo

I have recently written two short stories about this battle, and this is a short extract from my story, written from the perspective of the Zulus, called “Hell Hath No Fury Like an Army Scorned.”

“22 January 1879

The narrow bottom of the gorge was filled with men, women, and boys. The grim, motionless ranks of over twenty thousand squatting warriors set the tone, ensuring that the several thousand uDibi boys, of which I was one, and the women conducted themselves soundlessly. The silence hung heavily, like early morning mist.

In accordance with the orders of King Cetshwayo, the Zulu army had marched the 62 miles from Ulundi at a slow pace.  It was to “attack at dawn and eat up the red soldiers.”

Now, the men were resting and waiting for the ‘day of the dead moon’ to pass. Unless it was unavoidable, the army would not fight on this spiritual day.

“White men are coming!” The young herders appeared at the entrance to the ravine, driving the cattle before them. Their cries of warning echoed off the encircling rockfaces.

Looking up, I saw several white men on horseback starring down at our camp from the top of the overlooking ridge.


The observers fired down on us, before turning their animals and galloping away.

The dust from their horses’ hooves still hung in a thick cloud over the ridge when the great UNduna sprang into action.

“Prepare for battle, men,” Ntshingwayo kaMahole Khoza ordered. “We must attack now or lose the element of surprise.”

My belly roiled with fear.

The army’s not supposed to fight today. It’s bad khama, I thought.

“I hope the evil spirits in the air won’t bring bad luck,” my mother’s whispered words rang in my head as I set off with the other uDibi boys to prepare for battle.”

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 11 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5


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