Christine Nicholls’ Blog, 13 December 2011

We had such a windy night in Oxford last night, with 70-mile-an-hour gusts, that I awoke with a start at the sound of a crash. I thought, in my sleepy, state, that there must be a poltergeist in the room. This reminded me of the Ghost of Leven House, in Mombasa. In 1888 Sir Frederick Jackson and Ernest Gedge, appointed by the Imperial British East Africa Company to find a safe route to Uganda, were staying in Leven House, a small compound on the edge of the low cliff a few hundred yards north of the Customs House in Mombasa. Immediately below it was a shallow arched vault containing a well. Tradition had it that a Swahili woman had been murdered by her lover, a Goan cook, and thrown down the well. She haunted Leven House. After dinner Jackson and Gedge were reading when they heard shuffling, but they could see no one. This happened again, but there was no one in the room. Two nights later they had been in bed for a while, but were still awake, when a woman, dressed in Swahili fashion and with a shawl over her head, entered by the door, walked past the bed, and went into the bathroom. They shouted at her, but there was no response. They assumed she was the ghost. It was also in this house that Mrs Krapf, the wife of the missionary Dr Krapf, had died shortly after childbirth. She was buried on the mainland opposite Mombasa harbour. The house became known as the Mombasa Mission House, and the CMS missionaries lived there until they built a house a Kisauni, on the mainland. The CMS passed the house to the British in 1891. It became a boys’ school, but degenerated into a dilapidated state and was demolished early in the twentieth century. The site is now part of the Customs establishment.