This old desolate farmhouse not far off the main road somewhere between Cookhouse and Cradock was built long before a highway and not so easily accessible. For more than a century, it was used as a working farmhouse, where allegedly there had been sightings of a young girl and whispering phantoms. There have been poltergeists moving things, mysterious footsteps, scratching on the walls and a coldness that chills the bone. Since the previous owner died, no one has claimed the house, and now it stands empty, peering out at you between overgrown shrubs and trees.

Although there have been many sightings and stories over the years, the only documented event was In 1990. A young couple, Alex and Lucy, were on their way home from visiting a family member in Pretoria, South Africa. Their car overheated and broke down right in front of the house. The couple left the steaming car on the sidewalk and cautiously walked down the gravel driveway to the front of the house.  The owner of the house, Ms Fourie, unlatched it and kindly offered them a place to stay for the night. It would be too late for them to get the car up and running and back out on the road. The couple describes Ms Fourie as an elderly woman, possibly in her 70s; her smile was weird though, they couldn’t put their finger on it. She was clearly beautiful in her younger days, but her smile was just “off.”

She smelled of musky peppermint, and when she spoke, she had strings of saliva glisten between her teeth.   As soon as they stepped foot into the house,  the happenings began. Or were they always there?

They documented their experience.  It was so cold. Strange as the Karoo in the day was boiling hot. Lucy looked for a jersey at the bottom of her bag. Ms Fourie, on seeing Lucy scrambling for a jersey, said that “she didn’t believe in healers.” The young couple was accompanied by Ms Fourie down a wooden corridor. At the end of the passage were two doors next to each other; one was closed and the other open. Alex and Lucy stepped inside; there was nothing but a bed base and netted curtains, no mattress or bedding. Ms Fourie suggested that they took the mattress and linen from the room next door. Alex tried to open the door, but Mrs Fourie called while moving down the passage that it was locked, and she was fetching the keys. She unlocked the door, and Alex stepped inside and took out the bedding and mattress. The door was quickly locked again. The young couple both wondered why they couldn’t merely stay in the room already made up. They accepted the bare room and started to make the bed.  Ms Fourie hanged the bedroom keys on a hook in the kitchen and left.

While Alex and Lucy tried to get comfortable in their unfamiliar surroundings, odd things began to happen. Lucy took a hot bath to warm up, and while the water was running, she was confident that she heard Alex calling out her name. Lucy stepped outside the bathroom, but Alex was nowhere to be found. Lucy could see him through their bedroom window, looking at their car looking outside the bathroom window. So, she thought the old clunking of the ancient water system must be the reason for the voices. Around the same time as the sun was setting, Alex, outside looking at his car, noticed Lucy waving at him through the bedroom window. He hurriedly went inside to find her in the bath, not in their room where the figure was waving. Both denied calling out names or waving through the window. That evening, the three of them settled in for the night. Ms Fourie had made a stew. Lucy wanted to get to bed early and try to get warm underneath the blankets, so she said goodnight and headed down the hall to her room. Alex stayed up chatting to Ms Fourie, asking her about living in the middle of nowhere. Ms Fourie always gave very little information. While Luce prepared herself for bed, she heard scratching on the wall from the room next door, she waited a while, and the scratching stopped. She quickly dismissed it as rats and fell asleep. Mrs Fourie went to bed early, and Alex followed suit; he noticed there was only one pillow on the bed, used my Lucy.  He went to the kitchen to get the keys to open the next room door to grab one. 

While he was in the kitchen, he heard footsteps behind him, thinking he had woken Lucy. He turned to greet her, but there was no one there… only the shadows of the hallway. He unlocked the bedroom door and grabbed a pillow… leaving the door open.

That night he barely slept.  As he lay awake, blowing out misty air as the night grew colder and colder, he heard what sounded like a gentle humming from the room next door. It started to get louder and louder as though it was coming into their room.  Before Alex could turn on the bedside lamp, something sat on the end of the bed. Startled, he froze. It was pitch black; he couldn’t see a thing. And he felt stuck, unable to move. The humming got louder and louder.  He felt the heaviness of something moving up his body, pressing him deeper into the mattress. He tried to wake Lucy, but no sound would come out of his mouth. Eventually, the presence lifted and left the room. He didn’t sleep a wink that night. Morning broke, and the couple were relieved to have made it through the night. Neither of them spoke about their experiences. The smell of fresh bread filled the house, and Lucy and Alex went to the kitchen; they found Ms Fourie and her cat preparing a lovely breakfast. Ms Fourie seemed annoyed when serving them and abruptly asked who unlocked the room last night and where the keys were.

Alex, ashamed, said the keys were next to his bed and went to fetch them. They were not there.  He tried to explain to Ms Fourie about the pillow and that he had forgotten to lock the room. Ms Fourie walked down the corridor and into the second room; Alex followed; she went straight to the bedside table where an old Weetabix tin sat. Inside the container, Ms Fourie pulled out the keys. It was as though she knew she would find them there. She locked the room and placed the keys in her pocket, and put the tin back on the shelf where it looked like it clearly belonged.   There was silence the rest of breakfast.

Both Alex and Lucy explained how they were secretly praying that the car would be ready to get them back on the road. They felt uneasy in that house like they were being watched. While Alex checked on the car, Lucy sat with Ms Fourie on the front porch. “If you have to stay another night, I suggest you keep the room next door to you locked.” Ms Fourie spat out almost in a threatening tone. Lucy prayed they wouldn’t need to spend another night. The car was ready to go, but unfortunately, the night before would not be their last experience. While Ms Fourie washed the dishes after breakfast and Lucy prepared the car, Alex asked if he could return the bedding to the locked bedroom. “Keep the keys on you.” She said, thrusting the keys into his hands. Alex, tense and uneasy, walked down the corridor towards the room; he grabbed the bedding and quickly started placing it away in the other room. The clanking of the dishes stopped, Alex heard footsteps and the same humming from the night before coming towards him from down the hallway. He froze; instantly, the room grew cold. It must be Ms Fourie, he thought to himself; when he felt a presence standing behind him, he turned to look, but there was no one there.

He left the room in a hurry and locked the door behind him, not wanting to break the already agitated Ms Fourie’s rules. But in his panic, he left the key in the keyhole. He ran outside to find Lucy and Ms Fourie talking. Lucy looked like she had seen a ghost.  Alex turned to walk maybe run a little toward the back door to the car when he heard the sound of footsteps running along the passage towards him… As Alex got to the back door, the running stopped. He turned around and saw nothing; he looked down the long passageway and saw that the locked bedroom door was wide open. The shaken couple abruptly thanked Ms Fourie, who gave them a tin of homemade rusks for the road. They jumped in their car and drove off. Neither said a word for the first 20 minutes of the trip. Eventually, Lucy started speaking. She said that Ms Fourie apologised for being annoyed and gave them rusks for the drive. Then she hesitated and continued to tell Alex that she was told by Ms Fourie while waiting outside for Alex that something sleeps in the room next door to theirs. If the door isn’t locked, it causes trouble. It comes out at night, sits at the end of Ms Fourie’s bed and hums to her. She doesn’t always mind, but some nights she wants a good night sleep, so she locks the door.

Alex froze. He went pale. He looked at Lucy and said, “ I know.”  They drove in silence all the way back to Port Elizabeth,  with the heater on in the middle of the December Karoo heat.  For weeks the haunting continued in their tiny one-bedroom home. They would hear whispering and humming, heard their names being called out, but both denied calling one another.  One evening Alex got up to go to the bathroom; on his way back to the room, he felt Lucy walk past him brushing her body against his.  When he stepped into their bedroom,  Lucy was sleeping on their bed. The next day Lucy was telling a friend about the happenings and their experience in the Karoo. The friend said how obvious it was that whatever was living in the house in the Karoo had come back to their house. The biscuit tin, the one belonging to Ms Fourie that came home with them. Lucy called Alex immediately, and as she mentioned the biscuit tin, a gust of wind blew through their tiny apartment, opening and closing all the doors. The biscuit tin landed on the floor. In a state of panic and fear, Alex picked it up and threw it out of his window into the night sky. That would be the last of their phantom dealings; they say they think the whispering has stopped, but both hear humming from time to time.