Paul Scheepers: Rosalind Ballingall
Speaker: Paul Scheepers
In 1969 When I was a student at UCT there were other students who shared our cafeteria. There was one striking girl. Six foot tall, slim very pretty with red hair and wore a hippy dress down to the ground
This was Rosalind Ballingall, studying for BA drama, second year, 20 years old.
She was part of the “Cosmic Butterfly” group of hippies. Some say they were involved in drugs, spirituality and orgies etc.
Us Architecture students were a down to earth bunch so we did not chat up these Hippy chicks, so I never spoke to her.
In 1969 she and two friends came to Fisanthoek,, next to the Garden of Eden for a long weekend break. They stayed at “Sugar House” a Hippy Commune.
The story goes that she took a bible, went for a walk in the forest, and was never seen again.
Later when I moved to Plett I got interested in the whole matter as I was one of the only people who knew what she looked like. I spoke to many locals about it but they did not know too much.
In 2005 Nicole Schafer, a student at UCT made a DVD documentary for her Masters in film and TV production, called “The Ballad of Rosalind Ballingall”.
She did a huge amount of research on the whole matter.
Here is her documentary DVD ( from UCT Archives)
These were the days of the Hippies, drugs, anti-Vietnam protests, major restricted censorship under Apartheid, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.
There are some things that I found strange.
- Rosalind was part of the Cosmic Butterfly group of Hippies who were into spirituality etc. It is strange that she would take a bible and go for a walk?
- Nicole tracked Rosalind brother and sisters in the UK and they would say nothing. She also tracked those who were there and they too would say nothing. She also contacted the original owners of Sugar House but they would also say nothing.
- The Police file on the matter has gone missing
- Rosalind was only reported missing 24 hours after disappearing why did they take so long to report it?
- While everyone was searching in the forest for Rosalind, her boyfriend sat on the stoep at Sugar House and played his flute!
- Rosalind’s dad was an executive at Rand Mines in Johannesburg so very rich and came to Plett to help in the huge search that was done. According to a report in the Press, Rosalind’s Dad believed that her boyfriend had made her pregnant and then murdered her.
- Also in 1986 the Cape Town High Court confirmed that Rosalind was declared dead so that a life policy could be paid out?
- In 1986 a body was found at Fisanthoek.. On investigation it was found that it was a female between 45 and 60 years old but only 1.5 m tall so it was not Rosalind.
One weekend I Googled Rosalind and found a 2 year old mail from a lady in the UK who wanted to see Nicole’s DVD. I sent her a copy. I then asked why well after 40 years she was interested. She replied.
“My boyfriend and I were driving from PE To Knysna. In those days there was hardly any traffic on the road. Just an endless road and trees. Before we got to the big tree we saw a couple walking down the road with no backpacks or even a bag. Like they were taking a stroll in a park. It was weird. Both were tall and slim, one with long blond hair and the other with short reddish brown hair. So cool.
We spent the night in Knysna and then went to Cape Town.
We read that Rosalind had gone missing in the local press. We were going to report the matter to the police but in a later press it stated that Rosalind was seen at the George Post Office so we didn’t worry. I then got a letter from Rosalind’s mom who tracked me via the Knysna hotel and asked if we had seen anything on the road. I told her what we saw and all I got was “Thank you” in response. The next press release said that the sighting in the George Post office was a mistake.
I am convinced that it was Rosalind we saw on the road.
No follow-up or search was done on the road.
One day a local accountant, a down to earth guy who believes in nothing, was on his way to Knysna. As he entered the Garden of Eden the hair on the back of his neck stood up as realised that there was someone sitting behind him in the car! He nearly wet himself. He kept driving and when he exited the Garden of Eden the person was gone.
Also, the family of a local dentist were on their way to Plett. On entering the Garden of Eden their son in the back seat started screaming. The parents were shocked and asked what was wrong. Their son said that a lady was sitting next to him in the car.
I wrote an article in the CX Press asking if it was perhaps Rosalind?
I was then contacted by a guy from the UK who had read the article. He told me that he grew up with Rosalind. He had written a book about growing up together. He emailed it to me 350 pages. (Guess what? He went to school with the husband of the lady who contacted me from the UK.)
He also told me that he knew a lady who knew Rosalind, who said that she knew what happened to her. They had some drinks in JHB and she got drunk and told him nothing. I tracked the lady down. I asked her to tell me what happened.
Her reply was, “should I tell you what happened the same will happen to me”
Then to the various stories
There were so many rumours going around that she was seen in Long St Cape Town, in Durban and even in Kenya but nothing was ever proved.
Then there was a story that there was a love triangle.
Perhaps with drugs things went wrong and she was killed. That’s it.
So if you are travelling to Knysna and someone joins you in the car do not be afraid as it may be Rosalind, a lost spirit looking for closure.
Link to UCT archive where one can order a copy of the DVD and the dissertation. https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/8135