The Ghost Wagon Of The Great Karoo: 1887

Several old South African maps show the region between Ceres and Beaufort West as the “spokeveld” (ghost region). It was said to be one of the most heavily haunted areas of South Africa. In 1887, Major Alfred Ellis of the West India Regiment documented a tale in South African Sketches which, he said, had been told to him by a man named Lutterodt. One November, Lutterodt and three companions – a man named Seururier, another called Anthony de Heer and a visitor from Cape Town – were travelling from Ceres to Beaufort West. Along the way, one of the wagon wheels gave trouble. They had to stop to fix it, so their trip was considerably delayed. It took the driver most of the night to fix the wheel and they were only able to set off in earnest at about 03h00. They had not been underway for long when they noticed that their horses were becoming considerably agitated, yet there was no other vehicle in sight. Suddenly the horses froze and were only encouraged forward by a series of clicking and coaxing noises made by the driver. Then, quite unexpectedly suddenly everyone heard the sound of a wagon hurtling towards them, but they could not see it. Amid the noise of pounding hooves and rumbling wheels, they clearly heard the shouts of the driver, and his cracking whip. Then a wagon pulled by 14 wild-eyed mules hurtled into sight. It was headed straight for them. Their horses screamed. Lutterodt, Seururier and the Captonian threw themselves from the cart. De Heer grabbed the reins and managed to haul their vehicle out of the way of the on-coming cart. “Where do you think you are going? he shouted. “To hell,” cried the other driver, “To hell!” The on-coming wagon vanished into the night. What they did not know then, said Lutterodt, was that anyone who challenges the driver of the phantom wagon is doomed. De Heer paid the price. A week later his body was found beside the remains of his shattered wagon and dead horses at the bottom of Hottentot’s Kloof.


© Rose’s Roundup, vol. 2, no. 64, January 2009

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