A South African Ghost Story – Pilgrims Rest

Part 1

Ahh, ghost stories, you just gotta love em. I can remember sitting around with my friends, cousins, whoever, telling ghost stories when I was a child. Those ghost stories haunted me for days. At the ripe old age of 26 I am still terrified of all things freaky and scary, its seems I never outgrew the “there is a booegy man under my bed” stage. Its for this reason that I still refuse to watch anything even remotely scary, as I just cannot forget and those images haunt me whenever I can sit long enough to think about it. I have that “out of sight,out of mind” approach to the scary stuff. Ghosts… do they exist? Well this is my experience, fright night Pilgrims Rest style. 

After a really nice week break that my fiance and I took along the Mpumalanga Route about a year ago, we thought we would end our holiday off on a high note and thought a ghost tour was just the ticket. As I have already explained, I don’t believe in scary things, let alone ghosts as I don’t watch those types of things and therefore never ever think of them. In my mind, they don’t exist, especially in a small, quaint little town called Pilgrims Rest. Or do they? 

Friday July 13th 2012

(ah only realized the relevance of the story and the date now), anyways, pressing along. We started our tour around dusk. We loaded into a bus, just the tour guide, my fiance and I. The tour started off with a trip in and around the small town (which is really only one street), the guide told us all about the history of Pilgrims Rest and the few real pioneers of the town. We slowly made our way out of town, over the Blyde river towards the Alanglade (Alan Glade) House Museum which is situated just north of the main town of Pilgrims Rest. We drove up a long dirt road and out of nowhere this spectacular house comes into view.


I have recently started doing some research on different architectural styles and this one is a classic Sir Herbert Baker style. In the 1900’s most all of the houses in this area were made out of corrugated iron which were shipped in sheets and constructed into a house. The first residents of the Alanglade house were mine manager Mr Barry and his wife Mrs Barry. The Alanglade house was a real modern house in those days because of Mrs Barry who ensured the house had all the features and finishes of a modern home. Even her decorating style was apparently modern, following the clean lines of those of the art deco era. 

Back the to the story. I must also state for the record that all the photographs have been taken with a standard digital camera and have no filter adjustments. 

We entered the house and its freezing cold inside. I naturally shrug this off as “hello, its a big old house, its going to be cold” we start walking through the front of the house which contains and entrance hall, a study, dining room, butlers serving room, dairy and cold storage and finally the back of the house and stairwell.







This picture above is of the sitting room. It really amazed me how some of the rooms were indeed freezing cold and the room next to it a normal almost warm temperature. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a picture of Mr Barry’s study and it was one of my favorite rooms, because my camera refused to switch on in that room. But it was also one of the coldest rooms in the entire home. 



In this photo above I can just imagine how the ladies probably sat out here to drink their tea and eat cake. Perhaps not true, but its what I would’ve done. 


This is the dining room, which apparently has seen a lot of “activity” and this mirror is where most of the orbs have been photographed. An orb can be described as a ball of energy, I have a photo of such orb (but you will have to wait to see that one).


I must also point out that my macho fiance was far more scared than I was. I am just the happy snapper. 


This is the butlers serving room which is adjacent to the dining room. This is such a dark room. Further along the passage is the kitchen, equipped with every kind of kitchen “appliance” and gadget.




The picture below is of the staircase at the back entrance. Now in those days children and servants were not allowed to access the house from the front and would have to use the back entrance. I actually stood there looking at these stairs for quite awhile.They are the scariest, most uninviting stairs I have ever seen. 


As we made our way outside the guide told us this story.

On one of the tours with a family of three, their 3 year old daughter went missing on the estate while the parents were touring around the house. After hours of searching their little girl was finally found. When she was asked where she had been, she replied: “a girl asked me to come play with her” the parents were really puzzled as they were the only ones at the house. My fiance at this point wants to leave. I am still however skeptical.



This is the pet cemetery, under that big tree lies the Jock of the Bushveld. As we stood there atop this hill at the back of the grounds, trying to still process the story we were just told, I had a feeling like a hair standing up on the back of my neck, I turned around and this is what I saw… Image


The house from the back. The house has a presence which I cannot really explain, its just old and eerie. I stared with such intention into those black holes willing there to be someone staring back, wanting to look away but having that feeling deep in the pit of my stomach like we were being observed. 

Back inside we go…


This is a photo of the main staircase leading to the floor above. It is reported that at this exact spot people have seen Mrs Barry standing on the landing. 



The governess room and play room for the children. We walked around upstairs entering each room observing the things that have been placed so neatly in and around the rooms. 

This house has a very symmetrical shape to it. The style allows you to stand in one room and partly see into another. We first entered Mrs Barry’s room which was beautifully kept. Her room is comprised of her sleeping quarters and walk through dressing room onto her balcony which over looks her rose garden below. Her room had a somewhat interesting experience. We walked through her room, at her bedside is a wrought iron swinging crib, the guide leading the way, my fiance and I right at the back snapping away. Once we had come around the room into the hall way I caught a glimpse of the crib gently swinging back and forth. Now I was last at the crib and I know I never touched it. At this point I kept trying to figure out did I really see it swinging or did it just appear to be swinging?

My camera was up to all types of tricks in this house. My camera wouldn’t switch on at all in the rooms up stairs, only allowing me this final picture before it totally gave up.


This picture hangs on Mrs Barry’s balcony/sitting room. It was her favorite and no matter where you stand in the room she looks at you. 

Mrs Barry and Mr Barry had separate rooms, like I think most people did. His just down the hallway and across had a receiver which Mrs Barry would ring from her bedroom which would let him know if he was welcome to join her in her room. 

In Mr Barry’s room we had a real frightful experience. We were standing in his room listening intently to what the guide had to say and as we were making our way out of the room, the wooden wardrobe door gently opened. My fiance was standing right next to the wardrobe and he practically jumped onto the guide standing next to him. It was almost as if Mr Barry was nudging us out his room. 

The Barry’s were blessed with many children. Mr and Mrs Barry lost all their sons which they say, broke Mrs Barry’s heart. 

We made our way into the other section of the upstairs rooms which were the rooms of Mrs Barry’s daughters. This room I doubt I will ever forget. It was green in colour, I cannot remember if it was the furniture or the walls that were green. Just remember it being green. This was the most peculiar room. Mrs Barry’s one daughter died of Meningitis in this very room. I had a change of batteries for my camera and  proceeded to put them in, my camera refused to work in this room, new batteries and all. I walked out into the hallway and it switched on, walked back into the room and it switched off. It was really strange.

By this time pondering our thoughts of the house and the people who lived there we slowly made our way back down stairs and out of the house. This is the last picture I took before leaving.


We loaded back into the bus, the sun just peering out from the horizon. As the guide went back into the house to switch off the mains and set the alarm (which is upstairs) my fiance and I breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t us that had to go back in there in the dark. 

As we drove away back down the dirt road, I turned in my seat gazed back at the house which stands alone atop a hill in a abandoned ghost town, preserving moments in history – a heritage I hope will last for a long time to come. 




One thought on “A South African Ghost Story – Pilgrims Rest

  1. Pingback: A South African Ghost Story – Pilgrims Rest | "No black clouds for Dee"

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