Mark Rose-Christie, owner of the ever-popular Mystery Ghost Bus of South Africa, launched a new paranormal production called Mystery Ghost Dinners, which opened in Irene last year. This unique concept has now been launched for Johannesburg as well, where an ‘Opening Night for the Public’ will be held on Saturday, 9 June, at the historical & haunted Sunnyside Park Hotel in Parktown.
The Sunnyside Park Hotel was once a Parktown mansion, a few of which still stand today. It was built for Hennen Jennings, an American mining engineer, whose skills were so respected and so sorely-needed regarding the gold ‘cyanide extraction process’ of the day, that a mansion was built for him to stay in South Africa to assist the mining industry. After Jennings left, during the Second Anglo-Boer War, Lord Milner occupied the premises, gathering with his colleagues in a meeting room that is today known as ‘The Club Room’. It is here that one sometimes catches the whiff of Milner’s cigar smoke, others saying that they have seen Milner’s full apparition in the room at times.
Apart from Milner, many other spectres are introduced to the guests during the first part of the Mystery Ghost Dinner evening, which is an historical tour of the hotel, where after a drink at the pub, Rose-Christie begins with a brief history of the ghosts of some of the leading Parktown mansions, whilst soaking up the graceful gardens outside the hotel. Then the tour proceeds inside to see everything from the old pub and old elevator to the grand wooden staircase and old ball room, whilst all along enjoying the warm ambience created by the chandeliers, wall paintings and various old-worldly artefacts dotted here & there, as one moves from one section of the hotel to the other.
After a thrilling visual scare at the climax of the tour, dinner guests may not feel nearly as well-grounded when they led away from the ground floor and ever upwards into loftier areas such as ‘The Attic’, where the dinner is served. After starters, Rose-Christie presents a Victorian séance act with vintage props from the period, ranging from a teleportation cabinet to messages from the ashes, and to such well-known devices of the day such as the ‘Spirit Slates’. Here, even though an audience volunteer holds the two slates tightly pressed against each other, and encased in a silk cloth, a small piece of chalk trapped between the two slates somehow manages to write on the slates. Even more eerily, the slates come up with the correct answer to a key question.
After a main course, Rose-Christie and his son, Kyle, who acts as a trance medium, present the famous ‘Spirit Cabinet’, just as it was performed during the Vaudeville era. And it’s more than just spirit-writing this time, in fact the act is so impossible that it even had Houdini fooled back in the day, which then led him to becoming an escapologist.
All manner of manifestations take place in the spirit cabinet, ranging from ringing bells to rattling tambourines, even though two strong male audience volunteers had tied the medium up with ropes so securely to the chair inside the cabinet from the outset – hands, arms, legs, you name it, they are all securely fastened. And every time a manifestation occurs, the two audience volunteers check the knots only to find they are the same knots – in fact one can pour sealing wax onto the knots to show they aren’t disturbed.
Mark Rose-Christie | Mystery Ghost Bus of South Africa
What is always so astounding for the audience is that the spirit cabinet curtain is opened very quickly after it is closed, yet all these manifestations occur, making it impossible for the medium to untie himself from all the knots so quickly in order to perform all the manifestations, and then still re-tie all the knots, and then on top of it, still return to his chair and resume his position – let alone have time to make all the manifestations occur.
During a more comical segment in the act, an audience member is invited to sit inside the spirit cabinet whilst all the manifestations are taking place, leading to an hilarious outcome. But what is so utterly mind-boggling, is when one of the audience member’s jackets is tossed into the cabinet, where a moment later the curtain is opened, and the medium is wearing the jacket – yet he is still tied up. Yes, the medium is wearing the jacket, even though his hands are still firmly bound. How then did the jacket pass through the ropes & knots around the wrists if not due to ‘Dematerialisation’?
After dessert & coffee is served, Rose-Christie wraps the evening up with a chilling conclusion, which turns even the most hard-nosed skeptic into a believer, where he utilises a scientific explanation to explain how certain types of ghosts can exist. A surprise visual effect pops out on nowhere at a certain time, but it’s no use saying just when, or from whence it comes, as that would be a spoiler.
The Mystery Ghost Dinners will in future only be held for corporate & private groups of 30 – 70 persons, so grab this chance to attend the once-off public dinner on 9 June at the Sunnyside Park Hotel. The three course meal and three entertainment pieces cost only R 595 per person all-inclusive then, the evening running from 7pm to 11pm, with a cash bar available. All details & bookings are on the website at www.MysteryGhostBus.co.za where you need to click on the ‘Ghost Dinners’ icon.