How Cartographers for the U.S. Military Inadvertently Created a House of Horrors in South Africa
The visitors started coming in 2013. The first one who came and refused to leave until he was let inside was a private investigator named Roderick. He was looking for an abducted girl, and he was convinced she was in the house.
John S. and his mother Ann live in the house, which is in Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa and next to Johannesburg. They had not abducted anyone, so they called the police and asked for an officer to come over. Roderick and the officer went through the home room by room, looking into cupboards and under beds for the missing girl. Roderick claimed to have used a “professional” tracking device “that could not be wrong,” but the girl wasn’t there.
This was not an unusual occurrence. John, 39, and Ann, 73, were accustomed to strangers turning up at their door accusing them of crimes; the visitors would usually pull up maps on their smartphones that pointed at John and Ann’s backyard as a hotbed of criminal activity.
John’s grandfather had bought the three-bedroom home in 1964 in a quiet, sedate neighborhood then popular with civil servants, and planted nectarine and peach trees in its large backyard. For the first 50 years, everything was more or less fine.
Kashmir Hill at Gizmodo spins this compelling story — and puts a remarkably human face on an ugly chapter in American history.