Nottingham Ghost seeks lost lover

2011-05-23 00:00

NOTTINGHAM ROAD has the oldest pub in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands and over the years, many who have imbibed copious quantities of beers and spirits in this cosy watering hole have seen strange sights as they have stumbled to bed.

But apart from flying pigs, sightings of the beautiful ghost Charlotte have been consistent throughout the years. She has often been seen in the hotel that was once her home and has become part of the legend that is the Nottingham Road Hotel.

It is said that Charlotte reveals herself only to a special few. The story of the ghost cannot be traced as records from the 1800s were not completely accurate. The hotel apparently used to be a popular stop for British soldiers on their way to the interior in the 1800s. Charlotte was allegedly a beautiful prostitute but she was in love with one particular soldier.

One story says that she was told that her lover was killed in a battle skirmish and she was so heartbroken that she threw herself over the balcony and died of her injuries. Another version says Charlotte was entertaining a client who refused to pay, a vicious fight ensued and she was beaten and flung over the balcony and died.

Fort Nottingham, an army outpost, was established to help the local farmers fight stock thieves. Farmers had no idea how to deal with the cheeky marauders — local San inhabitants who knew the land and were often able to outwit the English soldiers. Rock art in the Drakensberg depicts these fights.

The Nottingham Road Hotel, built in 1854, is situated near the railway line, which was very handy in those days as soldiers poured off the train for liquor and women. It was a gathering place to get messages, supplies and post.

Charlotte would have waited on the balcony for a sighting of her lover as the steam train rolled in. Possibly a friend of his brought her the news of his death. Perhaps, unable to contemplate a life without love, she took the plunge off the balcony.

But seeking release has only chained her to this mortal plane — Charlotte the ghost is still here more than a century later.

Clive Foss, owner of the hotel, said that guests have reported having their bags unpacked and the taps turned on and off during the night. Some have claimed that the pictures have been taken off the walls and laid on the floor, and apparently she has a penchant for re-arranging flowers.

Room number 10 has allegedly had the most disturbances. I decided to meet this fascinating person and booked in on Sunday, missing the Mother’s Day rush. I wandered into the pub for a pre-dinner drink.

Well — pubs from the 1800s and today haven’t changed much. “Have a drrriinnkkk gal!” slurred one man through his toothless grin. I smiled and declined. As I climbed the stairs the wood creaked. The room is quite ordinary with comfortable furnishings and there was absolutely nothing ominous. No chills or electric sensations. I lay down and tried to call Charlotte to mind telepathically but unexpectedly dozed off. I came to with a fright: my phone was vibrating under my thigh. My daughter had texted: “Mom are u still alive?” I answered and started to peruse the TV channels.

There was a horror film on the movie channel — I decided to give that a miss. All of a sudden, the door and windows began to rattle. I braced myself for a visitation, then realised that a train was roaring along the track outside.

I became distracted with a movie until I heard some unearthly screams down the corridor — slowly I tip-toed to the door and peered out. There, two four-year-old boys were sword fighting in their pajamas. Whew! I closed the door … and then locked it.

The beds are very comfortable. Warmly ensconced, I prepared for sleep. In the middle of the night, a dreadful sound tore me from my dream — opening my eyes I expected to face an apparition above me. Instead, I realised that someone above me was having a late bath and the pipes were groaning and moaning.

Outside, the rain began to fall, a pipe began to drip. Plop, plop, plop. As the night crept towards the wee hours the sounds became fewer and a ghostly silence enveloped the hotel, interspersed only by the odd rumble and rattling accompanied by an oncoming train. I slept deeply.

Awakening to the sound of my cellphone alarm, it was with some disappointment I realised that Charlotte and I had been like ships in the night. I had survived with no visible trauma, my bags remained in their original state and the pictures were still on the walls.

Over a sumptuous breakfast, Foss said that many visitors know about the ghost and some have unwittingly caught a glimpse of her in their photographs. “She is totally harmless and we think she likes it here,” he said.

“It’s a family hotel with traditional values and our customers think she adds a homely quality to the place. When a building is this old, it is likely that somebody has died here.”

But when the TV crew of Ghost Hunters International visited the hotel in 2007, they believed there was more than one spook in the building. Setting up equipment and sensors and voice recorders near trigger objects, they discovered that there were two entities in the kitchen that responded to voice prompts. By playing back voice recordings through special equipment they could hear a distorted male voice saying: “Ask me!” There was also a distinct chill in the kitchen — no — not the fridge!

They also discovered that the television that mysteriously switched on and off and the water tap that turned on and off were due to simple scientific explanations. But on this occasion, Charlotte was nowhere to be found.

Spiritualists have seen her, children have chatted to the “nice lady” and some have had her unpack their bags, but most people will only hear about her if they visit this rustic old hotel in the Nottingham area. Charlotte the ghost may have been notorious in her own life time but in the after-life she is mostly discreet.

* Related article: Ghostly Haunts in PMB

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