A national radio interview, social media buzzing – and all because of Simon’s Town’s latest attraction, its very own ghost.
The ghost was photographed on the Halloween ghost tour by Somerset West resident John-Clyde Bougas.
“My friend invited us to the tour,” said John-Clyde’s wife Helena Bougas. “I have always wanted to go. We dressed up in witch outfits, very fitting. The tour through Simon’s Town was so interesting, all the stories, and the people were so friendly.
“When we got to the graveyard, I tried to take a photo but my flash started giving problems. Still, we walked through the graveyard and snapped a few pics.
“Then on Monday my husband looked at his photos and found the ghost.”
Helen is adamant that the photo was not altered in any way. It shows a ghostly figure, perhaps a woman with long hair over one shoulder, wearing a long dress.
“We were so excited!” she said. “I have always believed in ghosts and grew up in a house with a very friendly old lady ghost so I am very used to ‘the other side’,” she said happily.
“There are always issues with photographs at the cemetery,” said Andre Leibbrandt about the old Seaforth burial ground, part of his ghost tours on Friday and Saturday evenings. “I use a little Canon Powershot on the walks and take a sequence of photos at the graveyard, using autofocus and a flash. Sometimes it doesn’t flash, sometimes it doesn’t focus … Black Lane as well, some strange things happen.”
Since he started his ghost walks a year ago, he has taken just under 2000 people through the night-time stories and histories of Simon’s Town. South Africans come from as far as Paarl and Somerset West to join the tour, and he has also taken visitors from other countries, including from visiting navies docking at Simon’s Town.
It was a year ago that Andre launched his own business, a brave step for someone who had been homeless (“Giving hope to homeless”, Echo October 29 2015). He had been a housing sub-contractor in Mpumalanga when he lost his job and decided to go as far south he could, landing up sleeping on the streets of Simon’s Town. He graduated to staying in Happy Valley shelter, marvelling about his first shower, and working for Simon’s Town Amenities Development Company (STADCO), doing painting, the odd bit of this and that.
STADCO’s policy is to get people a job and ease them back into the mainstream. Andre noticed a gap in the market: people arriving in Simon’s Town off buses with nothing in particular to do. And so he saved up money to go on a tour-guiding course.
One year, 2000 people and a famous ghost later, qualified tour guide Andre has his own car and shares a Victorian house next to the cemetery. Which could be haunted.
“I was woken in the middle of the night and saw the cat in the middle of the passage with its hair standing on end. And then one night a picture just fell off the wall. There’s no real explanation for that,” he said.
Simon’s Town resident Emma Eldridge is impressed. “He is also such a good guy, really become a fixed asset and part of the town,” she said. “He has the walks and another job, does other tours too and all the social media and marketing for STADCO, waters my mom’s plants – and she has millions! He also does a lot for community now, put up the Christmas lights, raises money for people who are in need – quite a remarkable guy!
“I just love this ghost story as Simon’s Town has been ravaged by these roadworks, and it is such a beautiful village with rich diverse history and folk stories,” enthused Emma. “We get passed through as ‘the town before Cape Point with penguins’ and it is so much more! I think the ghost walks really can help Simon’s Town get on the map. The community deserves it – and this picture is just such fun!”
Potential ghostly experiences start at Jubilee Square on Fridays and Saturdays at 6.30pm. To find out more phone or WhatsApp Andre on 076 190 4081 or see simonstownghostwalk on Facebook.