A news photographer’s ghost story

Newspaper offices, they say, are full of ghosts. Long dead editors walk newsrooms late in the night. Ghoulish sub editors scream for copy long after the printing presses have grown cold and the reporters gone home.
But sometimes it is the journalists who happen across the ghosts, this while they are out gathering the news. This is one of those stories….

La Catrina – In Mexican folk culture, the Catr...

Image via Wikipedia

There was one hotel room available in Rustenburg that night.
Soccer World Cup fever had gripped the North West mining town, and journalists and fans had grabbed whatever accommodation they could get.
But a room in the three-star hotel remained empty.


Later Bongiwe Mchunu would learn why.
Star newspaper photographer Bongiwe and reporter Thandi Skade had come to the mining town on a story.

They were meant to be there for the day, but time caught up with them and they were forced to overnight.

They struggled to find accommodation and by the time they found the hotel, with its single unoccupied room, night had fallen.

There was just time for a dinner of sandwiches before they headed to the room.

With the sliding door locked and the windows shut, they went to bed and fell asleep.
Then sometime in the night something caused Bongiwe to look across to Thandi’s bed.

Sitting on the edge of the bed was a woman.

Startled, Bongiwe asked he what she wanted.
“I want this girl, she told me.”
The woman wore a shiny blue dressing gown, with red trimming. Her head was turned, so Bongiwe couldn’t see her face.
“No you cant take her,” Bongiwe replied
“If you take her, then I will be in trouble.”
The woman, said Bongiwe, spoke to her in Zulu.
“But I want this woman,” she told Bongiwe.
“Then you will have to take me as well,” Bongiwe replied.
All the while Thandi slept.


“The woman was becoming aggressive,” recalled Bongiwe “I became aggressive too.”
“Listen, I said, you can have her, but I first want to see your face. I need to see who you are.”

The Spirit of the Dead Keeps Watch

Palul Gauguin's Manao tupapau (The spirit of the Dead Keep Watch)Image via Wikipedia

The woman in the blue gown got up and walked to the bathroom where the light was on. Bongiwe followed her.
In the light Bongiwe saw her face.
“She was beautiful, she had long black shiny hair. But her skin was the colour of ash. And her eyes…” Bongiwe shivers for a moment and buries her face in her hands.
“Her eyes were like a cat’s, they were terrible.”
“The next minute I am upright in my bed. I hear the click of the sliding door as it closes.”
There is no woman.
She checked on Thandi, who was still in her bed asleep.
Back in Johannesburg Bongiwe heard about the ghost in the hotel room in Rustenburg. The story told by the town’s folk is that the woman in the blue gown, caught her husband cheating. She ended up murdered in that hotel room, and took with her to the grave an intense hatred for woman.
“Was I awake or was I dreaming, I just don’t know,” said Bongiwe.

About Shaun Smillie

Journalist, with a love of bones, fossils and other things dug up. Fisherman and occasional beer maker.
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3 Responses to A news photographer’s ghost story

  1. amandzing says:

    Spooks and ghosts, nightmares and spirits, the ‘other’ realm…we are not alone….*sepulchral voice*

    on a more serious note, who’s to say the spirit world doesn’t exist? the rules are different when we die, it’s only while we’re alive that those rules don’t apply to us and we don’t understand them because…well, we’re alive…

  2. jillian says:

    And what said Thandi of this tale?

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