Everyone likes a ghost story and this house has one of the best in Cape Town.
This is the beautiful Tokai Manor House, just below Elephant’s Eye, in the Tokai forest.
Built in 1796, it was designed by Louis Thibault, a Frenchman, who was South Africa’s first architect and who designed many of our finest buildings – The Granary, Groot Constantia, Koopmans-De Wet House, and The Drostdy in Graaf-Reneit are just a few of the best still standing. He also redesigned what is now the Slave Lodge and the caricature on the pediment is his little dig at the hostilities between the French and the Brits. Thibault had a hard time of it here because every time the government changed he lost his job, only to be reinstated when they realised he was good at what he did. As time went by he became somewhat isolated from European architectural trends and this is reflected in some of his work which, according to those in the know, shows individualism and deviations from the norm.
Back to the Manor House. The owner was financially ruined after building it and the estate was bought by the Eksteen family. At the time it was considered to be the most outstanding homestead on the peninsula. It’s unusual in that the front stoep is raised, a feature not seen in normal Cape-Dutch architecture.
The Eksteen family liked a good party and their wine cellars were renowned. The first Eksteen owner eventually went bankrupt but the lavish parties continued with his brothers who took over the estate. One New Year’s Eve they hosted the usual fabulous bash with many guests. Eksteen Senior dared his son Frederick to ride his horse up the stairs and into the dining-room. Frederick was game and proceeded to prance around the dining room to the delight and encouragement of the guests. I doubt the servants were impressed after they’d spent all day polishing the floor but there is no record of their feelings on the matter.
Eksteen Junior finally departed the room on horseback and, in full view of all the guests, the horse slipped on the very steep steps and both horse and rider fell to their deaths.
To this day, a ghostly horseman is often seen and heard in the house and surrounding forest, especially on new year’s eve.
The government of the time acquired the property in 1883 and used it as a reformatory for a while. In the 1960s it underwent massive restoration and was declared a National Monument.
Now, it is the very new home of the Table Mountain National Park. Their offices are often closed without explanation and phones go unanswered – blame the ghost!
Here’s a very cool site for Cape history and old photos Historical media