Smuts house

Former Home of South African Statesman Rumored To Be Haunted

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The farmstead of General Jan Smuts on the outskirts of Pretoria, is reputed to be one of the most haunted private homes in the country, according to Mr Mark Rose-Christie, raconteur and social scientist, who regularly takes brave visitors on a tour of haunted sites on his mystery ghost bus.

Mark Rose-Christie introducing an apparition experienced by a journalist in the house.

Brief biography

Jan Christiaan Smuts was born in 1870 in Riebeeck West, South Africa.  He graduated in law from Cambridge and was appointed as State Attorney of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek by President Paul Kruger in 1898, a year before the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War.  In 1919 he became Prime Minister of South Africa and in 1939 he led South Africa into the Second World War. In 1941 he was appointed Field Marshall by King George VI and in 1943 he resided over the British War Cabinet, while Churchill met with Roosevelt and Stalin in the Middle East.  He died on his farm Doornkloof in 1950. A century after his death in 1970, Lord Todd, Master of Christ’s College, Cambridge stated that the College was proud of three outstanding students in its five hundred year history; namely John Milton, Charles Darwin and Jan Smuts. 

History of the Haunted House

Jan Smuts acquired a portion of the farm Doornkloof, just south of Pretoria, from the Erasmus family in 1908 at a cost of £900.  The house, a wood and iron building, was originally prefabricated in Britain, shipped to India and reshipped to South Africa, where it served as an officers’ mess for British soldiers in the town of Middelburg.  After the war, Smuts bought the house for €300 and had it transported by rail and ox wagon to his farm Doornkloof in 1909.  His wife, Mrs Isie Smuts and their children moved in, while General Smuts was in England on state business. 

A dark passage extends from the haunted dark room to the old billiard room, which General Smuts converted into his study and library.

A dark passage extends from the haunted dark room to the old billiard room, which General Smuts converted into his study and library.

A ghost in the library?

The parlour was the heart of the home, were besides children and grandchildren, many famous persons were entertained, by Mrs Isie Smuts playing her piano.

The parlour was the heart of the home, were besides children and grandchildren, many famous persons were entertained, by Mrs Isie Smuts playing her piano.

After several years of matrimony and raising seven children, General Smuts and his wife decided to occupy separate bedrooms.  Smut’s unpretentious bedroom was located right next to the library, but he often preferred sleeping on an iron bedstead on the veranda outside, with his Greek testament next to the bed.

General Smuts preferred sleeping outside on the veranda

General Smuts preferred sleeping outside on the veranda

Royal guests

Leading from the parlour was the Best guest room where the British and Greek royal families were hosted during their visits to Doornfontein. 

Royal guests slept in this bedroom

Royal guests slept in this bedroom

Jannie Smuts, one of the sons, recalled his memories of the old house: “In summer the house was hot and in winter bitterly cold, with water freezing in the bedroom jugs, and chilly draughts filtering through the walls…  Wild bees discovered the virtues of the house, and numerous swarms made hives in the partitions between the wood and the iron… so at the cost of occasional painful stings, we have had an inexhaustible supply of honey within the walls.”

Dining room where the family would have enjoyed the honey.  Mrs Smuts apparently hid important documents in the bamboo curtain rods.

Dining room where the family would have enjoyed the honey.  Mrs Smuts apparently hid important documents in the bamboo curtain rods.

Family bedrooms and war rooms

Grandmother Isie Smuts’ equally unpretentious bedroom was located close to the children’s wing, which are today converted into the war rooms, displaying documents of General Smuts’ illustrious career as statesman.

Photos of President Paul Kruger, Mrs Smuts’ brothers and sisters, her children and her husband adorn Mrs Smuts’ bedroom.

Photos of President Paul Kruger, Mrs Smuts’ brothers and sisters, her children and her husband adorn Mrs Smuts’ bedroom.

A new kitchen and pantry were added in 1918 but Mark Rose-Christie reports that someone still uses the old kitchen to this day.

Rescuing the house from dooming ruin

General Smuts died in 1950 in the house and his wife, Isie passed away in the house in 1954. The widow of one of the sons, Mrs Kitty Smuts, inherited the big house, but she could not maintain it.  Members of the Smuts family removed furniture, sentimental objects and Smuts’ documents and donated them to various institutions.  Mrs Kitty Smuts sold the property and 25 morgen of land to Mr Guy Ashley Braithwaite, who endeavoured to save the home as a memorial to the Smuts couple and Smuts’ ideals.  He wanted to preserve the heritage for “hundreds and thousands of men and women in Great Britain, the United States, the Commonwealth and Europe who have been brought up to regard Smuts as one of the great men of the 20 th century… they will be prepared to make a pilgrimage to Pretoria just to visit the old house.”

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