Legends & Lore

The Midlands MagazineDecember 12, 2023

The Midlands area has a long, rich history, with some buildings dating back to the 1800s. So, it is no surprise that myths, folklores and ghost stories are tied to many sites within the small towns. We dive deep into two popular myths that have been contested for decades by Midlands residents. Whether you’re a sceptic or a believer, why not read more and make up your own mind?

 

The Howick Falls Monster

Part of the Umgeni River, Howick Falls is around 95 metres high. Many tourists visit the viewing platform to see this majestic spot, but it is more than just a beautiful waterfall. Many visitors also hope to catch a glimpse of the mystical water monster, the Inkanyamba.

 

This beast is known to have a horse-like (or sometimes zebra-like) head with a snake-like body and a crest down its extremely long neck, regarded as a ‘giant serpent’. It resides in the pool of the falls, however it is not confined there. It has also been placed in Midmar Dam and dams in the Dargle area. The Inkanyamba supposedly causes seasonal storms when it is angry, most active in summer.

 

Because of the creature’s supernatural powers, the local Zulu residents feared this aquatic “rain animal” and have great respect for the waterfall (called KwaNoggaza which means “Place of the Tall One”). It is known that only sangomas can safely approach the falls and sacrificed goats and chickens to the monster and offered it prayers to keep it happy.¬†According to Xhosa folklore, once a year, the Inkanyamba leaves the falls in the form of a tornado and searches the sky for a mate. On a more sinister note, after a girl was pulled under the river and vanished roughly 30 years ago, the monster is said to eat those that drown in the falls. The creature has also been connected to unexplained disappearances of domestic animals.

 

There have been many sightings of the Inkanyamba, including in 1962 when a Conservation Services Ranger saw a monster with a horse-like head on a sand bank near Midmar Dam, but it disappeared into a river when he approached. Interestingly, the caretaker of a nearby caravan park saw the Inkanyamba twice in 1971 and 1981, when it allegedly raised its head and neck 10 metres out of the pool.

 

Most sceptics believe the Inkanyamba was confused for a group of giant, carnivorous eels, and it is highly improbable that a huge monster lives in the pool. But one can always wonder…

 

The Ghost of Room 10

Affectionately known as “Notties Hotel”, Nottingham Road Hotel dates back to 1854 and has the oldest pub in the KZN Midlands. With a building that old, it’s no surprise there is a resident ghost!¬†Nottingham Road Hotel is said to be haunted by Charlotte. She is a friendly ghost who roams the halls and stairway but spends most of her time in room 10. The story goes that she died when she was pushed (or jumped) off room 10’s balcony during the Second Anglo-Boer War, although no accurate record of her death has been found.

 

There are conflicting stories as to who Charlotte was and what happened to her, but the most popular versions pose that she was a beautiful lady of the night who often entertained the British soldiers who visited the inn and tavern (or a chambermaid, depending on who’s telling the story!). Charlotte either got into a vicious fight with a client who refused to pay her and was pushed over the balcony, or, more poetically, she fell in love with a British soldier and, after hearing he was killed in battle, was so heartbroken she jumped from the balcony and died as a result of her injuries.

 

Although Charlotte met a terrible end, she is described by many visitors and even the hotel’s owner as gentle and friendly. It is believed that she rearranges or moves flowers and mirrors on the walls, which some suggest is an effort to show off her best features. Guests of room 10 have sometimes been lucky enough to have their suitcases unpacked by Charlotte, clothes tidied and neatly folded, and the bedding straightened. She is also known to turn the taps on and off and remove pictures from the walls and put them on the floor. Creepily, Charlotte loves to ring the room service bell for room 22 – a room that doesn’t exist. Along with the usual noises of knocks, footsteps and shuffling, some have seen Charlotte in the (ghostly) flesh or in their photographs, and children have spoken of talking to a “nice lady”.

 

Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, the sightings and doings of Charlotte have been eerily consistent. Why not stay a night in room 10 to find out for yourself?

 

Words by Jordyn Trollip