By Marlin Keys for I Blog
Whether these things are stranger than fiction, or too strange to be anything but fiction, there are some genuinely creepy urban legends that have done the rounds in South Africa.
A country rich in diverse cultures also means it’s rich in legends. But how many stories handed down over the years – the ones that make us gasp, and see our jaws drop – could actually be true?
Urban legends may be disproved 99% of the time. Yet that 1% might as well have two more zeroes on the end. If just one thing previously thought to be myth actually happened, then it opens the doors of possibility to every other ghost, ghoul and shadowy figure that has haunted Mzansi over the years.
South Africa’s creepy urban legends:
1. Adam’s Calendar, Mpumalanga
If you visit this spot in Mpumalanga, you’ll see something quite remarkable. Around 75,000 ago, dwellers on the land created stone formations that look pretty innocuous at first glance. But as we’ve learned more about the universe, it would seem the designs correspond perfectly with star signs and equinoxes.
Did ancient South Africans craft a celestial calendar millennia before the likes of Galileo? Or did they get a helping hand for somewhere else? Much like the perfectly-crafted pyramids of Giza, the design is just too advanced for that time period.
2. The Pinky Pinky / Umdlwenguli Obomvu
You may remember this one from your childhood, because it spread like wildfire back in the day. The ‘Pinky Pinky’ is an androgynous, jarring creature with rose-tinted skin, eyes, and shocking pink hair.
It targets girls, particularly those dressed in pink underwear, just to torment them. Usually spotted in schools, the apparition’s legend grew as parents used the story to stop their kids from breaking curfew, or stopping out too late; if you weren’t home by a certain time, The Pinky Pinky would make you their next victim.
3. Mermaids of the Karoo
The mythical creature is thought to occupy the pools of the Buffelsjag in the Karoo waters. It’s a belief strongly held by many locals, who point to a number of unmarked grave in the areas as proof that victims are being lured to a watery death.
If you thought mermaids were meant to be nice, forget it. These lot use every trick in the book to add to their body count. According to legend, the creatures make people believe they have whatever their heart desires. Pale skin, long black hair, and red eyes are listed as the mermaids’ features (oh yes, there’s more than one).
4. Murderous bird-men of the Eastern Cape
A deeply spiritual place, the Eastern Cape is home to a higher concentration of witch doctors than anywhere else in the country. Some sangomas dabble with arts no other dark sorcerers would even consider, though.
The Impundulu (Lightning Bird) is man-sized, and can switch between human and ornithological forms. When it attacks people, it sucks the blood from their bodies like a terrifying squawking Dracula.
5. Afterlife imprisonment at The Castle of Good Hope
Have you heard the one about Governor van Noodt? It’s another popular story that has made it through the castle’s walls over the years, and sends chills down the spine…
Whilst overseeing the hanging of several soldiers – an execution he ordered – one of the men cursed him before meeting his demise. The curse was to condemn van Noodt to an afterlife trapped in the Castle of Good Hope, where he imprisoned and tortured so many others.
According to the urban legends, he still roams the halls, looking on towards spooked visitors. He casts a keen eye over those who dare enter, as if he was looking on towards the condemned again.
6. Highway Sheila
Decades ago, a girl named Sheila was trying to flag down help for her broken down vehicle on the N2 highway. A group of men pulled over, but they weren’t in the mood to help her out. They committed a brutal gang rape, murdered her, and abandoned her by the roadside.
Sheila can still be spotted, on this same stretch of road. She’s trying to hitch a ride home in the dead of night. Her legend has persisted over the years, with Chatsworth residents (a town close by) swearing by her existence. If you are making your way around KZN, it’s perhaps a wise idea not to pull over for anyone pale or glowing.