© Cemetery Tales 1

One of my favourite memories of my childhood was the time we lived with my grandparents next to a cemetery. My grandfather was the superintendent of cemeteries in Pretoria. One of the perks of his position was free housing next to Sandfontein Cemetery It was located on the southern slope of Magaliesberg and while we stayed there, a highway was being built just to the east.

Soon after they moved in they noticed lights in the cemetery that didn’t have any electricity. My gran wasn’t one to go “Oh, Gosh! What now?” She bullied my granddad to go into the cemetery with her so that she could see where these lights were coming from. Now in those days, you got these plastic flowers that were covered with a plastic dome. The domes turned out to be the moonlight reflecting off the flowers on the graves.

The new highway included blasting through the mountain where the highway had to cross the mountain to the North. Natural habitat being invaded made the jackals and snakes retreat to the least affected area; the cemetery. Now imagine a cemetery filled with lights particularly on a full moon and jackals crying. Real monster movie material!

My uncle played guitar in a band that used to play dance music. Two-step music mostly. This was in the eighties and all the favourites were played. My cousin and I used to dance between all the adults. Boys our age not being interested at all. They preferred playing outside in the dark and getting up to various naughty things. And that is how my brother got a ticket for driving without a licence at the age of twelve.

Because of the very low living population at the cemetery, my uncle, and his band used to practice in the Rondawel next to the main house. It’s not like the neighbours were going to complain, right? They regularly practiced until just before midnight. Once they finished, they would have coffee provided by Gran. One night that they practiced the full moon came up very late. We were all well aware of what happens in that situation. But one of the band members believed in ghosts. He walked out the front door, saw all the lights in the cemetery and heard the jackals howling. For a fairly big guy, he moved with remarkable speed to his car, jumped in and locked the door.

Okay, so this is where I get my mean streak from, Gran walked over to the car, knocked on the window and told him calmly that a locked door wouldn’t stop a ghost. Right then he pleaded with the rest of the band to pleeease can they go now?

My granddad used to love practical jokes and telling jokes. So, I have no idea if this story is true or not, but…

Granddad told us when he was younger and he was working at another cemetery, they found a guy in the bottom of a grave that had been dug for the next day. When they took him out he told them what had happened after asking for a match first.

He was out drinking and when he walked home, he decided to take a shortcut through the cemetery as it would be a much shorter route. But since there were no lights in the cemetery, he fell into the open grave. This accident removed most of his drinking buzz. Try as he might he couldn’t get out of the six-foot deep open grave. He tried everything he could think off but failed miserably each time. Knowing that someone would help him out in the morning he picked a corner and took out his cigarettes only to realise that he didn’t have any matches on him. This turned into another search, but alas cigaret in hand came up empty on matches. With regret, he seated himself again in a corner. He was sitting there for about half an hour before the second guy fell into the same open grave. The new guy went through the same motions trying to get out without success. Once he gave up and took a seat in an opposite corner the first guy asked the new one if he had a match by any chance. He said in one move the new guy jumped out of the grave and he was stuck without a match again.

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I laughed out loud at these stories. I have to admit I could never live next to a grave and your grandparents were, in my view, very brave! The lights on the bulbs was so easy to imagine and so were the reactions to them. I'd be scared witless. I also loved the story about the men in the grave. What a truly terrifying experience to have someone talk to you from the dark at the bottom of a grave. I loved it. Well told, graphic and it had terrific pace. These would make great memoirs.