I was one of those incredibly stupid (or naive) young people, that didn't read the fine print before 'signing on the dotted line'! I found myself hundreds of kilometres away from where I had intended, at the gates of Kroonstad Prison. Thankfully, not as an inmate, but as a new prison wardress.
I had decided to join the Correction Services, in the thought that I would be stationed in Johannesburg, where my fiancé was stationed as a police man. What a fiasco! Karma had other plans for me.
Kroonstad is a predominantly Afrikaans city, with all the staff of this medium security, long-term prison, being Afrikaners'. I, on the other hand, had never had to use Afrikaans in a conversation, outside of school. English was my home language, and still is.
I decided to make the best of a bad situation and 'knuckle down'. I was allotted a room (to share with another wardress) in a house across the wide dirt road from our Lieutenants' house. It was August, the windy month here. It was also the year of the great drought, 1966. Sometimes the wind and dust were so bad that the Lieutenants' house was barely visible as I stepped out in the mornings, to walk the short distance to work. The red dust was suffocating, playing havoc with my sinuses.
As a novice, my first duty was as a gate-keeper. I was given a 'Union' key, which opened the gate to the main corridor, leading to the court-yards and kitchen. I was only allowed to let uniformed personnel in or out. At first, I took a great interest, watching the comings and goings of the staff, hearing snippets of their conversations, and trying to string together the meaning of their words.
I soon tired of this, as I became accustomed to the language. After a couple of weeks, I was sent for fittings for my uniform. (I was still wearing 'civvies' at this point.)
Seeing that I was in civvies, and did not need to change out of uniform, my Lieutenant ordered me to guard a prisoner, whom had to go for treatment at the doctor in the city. I soon learned that this prisoner was the only English speaking woman (of the 16 whites, at that time) in the prison.
Fraternising with prisoners was expressly forbidden. On the ride into Kroonstad centre, when this woman heard that I was English, it was as if the flood gates opened. She poured into my ear, the tale of how she and her husband had been 'nabbed' for fraud. Both had been sent to Kroonstad Prison to spend their sentences. Both in the same prison, but widely separated from each other; seemingly never to see each other again.
On the ride back to the prison, this woman told me how she had been sent to the sewing room, within the prison walls, to help make postal bags. According to her, this room had a window (or windows) very high up, near the ceiling, to let in sunlight. One day, while working in there, she heard a noise coming from the roof. (It is a high one story building.) She looked up to see what was going on. To her utter amazement, she espied her husband, dangling from a rope, outside the window. He saw her, let go of the roof and waved to her. Suddenly, he let out a yell, and disappeared from sight; this was followed by an ominous thud.
She was shocked and alarmed by these events. She later learned that her husband had been sent on a maintenance detail, to fix something on the women's side of the prison. (I don't remember what.) He had by great chance, seen his wife through the window; while waving to her, the safety rope had broken, and he had plunged to his death.
It was allegedly through this experience, that this woman had to go for treatment. I never found out if this was all true, because I was too scared to admit to any of the staff, that I had spoken to her, or even listened to her. I did not want her (or me) to get into trouble.
I don't know if listening to this woman's story, had any bearing on events which followed. I will leave it to my readers, to be the judge of that.
A month or so later, I was assigned to 'first night shift' (4 until 12pm). I was shown the route I was to follow, clocking in at various points, to prove that I had actually done my rounds. This route led through the kitchens, near to the sewing room and chapel.
At first, I had no problem with this. It was actually great! I had the whole day off (until 4pm) then had to report for parade, and then go on duty. I could even put reverse calls through to my fiancé from the Lieutenant's office; but we fought a LOT over the phone. I started to become very 'nervy' and somewhat depressed.
Suddenly, my trips through the kitchens, (2 LARGE ones back to back) became a nightmare! I got a feeling of dread every time as I approached them. I could not pin-point the cause. It was not that I saw anything out of place, or heard anything unusual. Under the harsh electric lighting of the long corridor, all that was heard was that damnable wind, howling through the eaves, and my scurrying foot-steps. I was just plain scared sh*tless!
I would feel my palms become sweaty as I clasped my large key; my heart would feel like it was clutched in an ever tightening icy grip. As I entered the first kitchen, it would seem as if all the hounds of hell gathered at my heels, to gnash at me with their fangs. This caused me to make a frantic dash to reach the other side, and the 'safety' of the other side of this phalanx shaped building. There to continue my rounds and afterwards, turn around and retrace my steps, back through the dreaded kitchens.
This eventually became too much for me. My sanity was hanging on by a thread. I started self-medicating on pills. I felt as if something very evil resided within the walls of those kitchens!
My health took a sudden dive. My nerves and sinuses could no longer take the pounding! On the insistence of my superior, I visited the doctor. After listening to me, he hhrruuffed a few times; then made a phone call from another room. On his return, he wrote something on what looked like a report sheet; wrote something else on a note pad, which he tore off and handed to me. I learned that I had just got a medical discharge from the Prison Services.
The next day, I was on my way to Randfontein, courtesy of the Correctional Services bus. The Correctional Services Band was on its way to Johannesburg, Pretoria etc., and the driver was very obliging. He made a small detour, and dropped me off at my future mother-in-law's house. She was, of course, very surprised to find me on her door step, but very welcoming. I boarded with her until my wedding the next March.
Thank you for reading my tale of terror. I have no idea if any of this was paranormal, your input would be most welcome!