Ten spine-tingling Norfolk ghost stories

PUBLISHED: 15:51 21 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:51 21 September 2020

Six-year-old Gemma Wiles points out the

Six-year-old Gemma Wiles points out the "doorway" in her bedroom in June 1983.through which her ghostly visitors arrived. Picture: Archant Library

Archant

Ten Norfolk ghost stories to enjoy this Halloween

Mann Egerton's showroom in Prince of Wales Road in Norwich. Photo: Archant archiveMann Egerton's showroom in Prince of Wales Road in Norwich. Photo: Archant archive

Fans of the strange and spooky will already doubtless know of Norfolk’s most famous paranormal residents – Anne Boleyn at Blickling, the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, Father Ignatius of Elm Hill – but today we introduce you to some of their lesser-known colleagues.

Weird Norfolk, the Eastern Daily Press’ resident authority on the strange and unexplained in the county share some haunting stories including a cursed goat’s head, a haunted caravan in Great Yarmouth and a ghostly nun in a boiler room.

1) We’ve all heard of Casper the Friendly Ghost: but did you know that Norfolk boasted its own sociable spirit in Harleston? A strange tale from the Eastern Daily Press of June 24 1983 tells the story of Gemma Wiles, who made an unusual friend at her house close to the centre of town, a house several hundred years old with many stories to tell. Weird Norfolk got in contact with Gemma who gave us her blessing to share her story. “At first we thought it was her imagination,” said Gemma’s mother, speaking to reporters at the time. We would hear her talking and giggling. She was never frightened and said he was her friend.” Then the rest of the family – Carol’s husband, Malcolm, and their three sons, Steven, Mark and Jonathon, began to get the message that they had a visitor. Footsteps were often heard going down the stairs and the kitchen door opening, but on investigation the door was shut and no one there. The ghost of an old man would also entertain Gemma with pranks. Eventually, a medium was called in who asked a contact in the spirit world to take the ghost, called Albert, to his final resting place. Gemma felt bereft for years…

Hunstanton Hall, scene of ghostly goings-on. Photo: Archant archiveHunstanton Hall, scene of ghostly goings-on. Photo: Archant archive

2) A family hoping for a holiday packed with sun, sea and sandcastles in Great Yarmouth were surprised to find a guest had already taken up residence in the caravan they had been renting for four days - an invisible entity which made it perfectly clear it wanted them to leave. A restless spirit plagued the Dunford family from Cambridgeshire when they visited Seashore Holiday Park in June 1971 for a break in caravan B77. The caravan was cold in patches, family members were poked in the ribs and their dog refused to enter the ‘van. When it was removed from its pitch, within six years there was another incident in the same area in a new ‘van with the same number…

3) Spixworth Hall once boasted a host of ghosts. Visitors reported seeing a night watchman carrying a lantern who disappeared when spotted and then a woman standing at the foot of guests’ beds, carrying a candle who also disappeared when seen. Finally, there were reports of shrieking, a phantom hearse driving to the hall at midnight and pianos played in the night by ghostly fingers. Demolished in 1950, the night watchman was still being seen in the footprint of the site in 1964…

The Goat Inn at Skeyton. Photo: Archant archiveThe Goat Inn at Skeyton. Photo: Archant archive

4) When the temperature dropped in the boiler room, Mr Pullinger knew what was about to happen: one might say it became somewhat of a habit. In what was once the main depot of Mann Egerton and Company in Prince of Wales Road in Norwich, the ghost of a nun was seen in the 1940s and 1960s. In the EDP of December 9 1960, the unusual sighting was noted and the witness, a Mr AWP Pullinger of Trix Road in Norwich, interviewed. Mr Pullinger, an engineer, told a reporter that he had seen the ghost of a nun in the basement and then the boiler room of Mann Egerton three times in one year and once before World War Two.

5) Two churches stand side by side in the village of Kirby Bedon, one a ruin, the other standing, both haunted by the same ghost, a white lady riding a white horse. In The East Anglian Handbook of 1885, a story is told of “…a very tall woman in white, mounted on a white horse, who rides slowly first around one churchyard and then the other.”

Rollesby Hall, shortly before demolition in 1950. Photo: Archant archiveRollesby Hall, shortly before demolition in 1950. Photo: Archant archive

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6) A ghost with a blood-soaked face that is said to haunt Rollesby – but is the blood the ghost’s own, or that of the victim the spirit murdered? Two ghosts are said to have haunted the since-demolished Rollesby Hall, a building which dated back to the mid 16th century and which finally fell to the wrecking ball in the 1950s, leaving only a garden wall and some outbuildings. “Old Red Face” and his wife are – or were – seen, it was said, on the second Monday of each month at midnight, a day believed to have been linked with a tragedy at the hall.

The church at Kirby Bedon, pictured in 1961. Photo: Archant archiveThe church at Kirby Bedon, pictured in 1961. Photo: Archant archive

13 strange and spooky Norfolk tales

7) While they were essential to an enchanting Arabian Night, magical carpets aren’t just confined to folklore and far-flung lands – in Norfolk, the thread of a story of one such carpet and its Tudor home has been embroidered through the centuries from the 1700s. At Hunstanton Hall, a grey lady ghost has been seen, supposedly furious at the destruction of her beloved Persian carpet. Dame Armine Le Strange, who lived at the hall in the mid-18th century, loved the carpet so much she made her feckless son Nicholas promise not to gamble it away after her death. Nailed into a wooden crate to protect it, the rug was left in a forgotten room until 1888 when the new mistress of the Hall, Emmeline, started renovations. On finding the carpet, she decided, philanthropically, to cut it into rugs to distribute to the poor of Hunstanton. A mistake. The ghost of an older lady, grey, angry and unmistakeably a Le Strange matriarch began to appear in the Hall, pacing the corridors at night. Scared, Emmeline and her husband, who knew of the legend, collected the pieces of carpet and had them sewn back together: but it was too late. A furious Dame Armine is said to remain at the Hall, still cut up about her cut up carpet.

Spixworth Hall has been lost to time, but it was once haunted by ghosts who visited in strict order. Picture: Denise BradleySpixworth Hall has been lost to time, but it was once haunted by ghosts who visited in strict order. Picture: Denise Bradley

8) For centuries, The Goat Inn at Strumpshaw was at the heart of village life – in 1908, the landlord’s wife, Mrs Newton, took a fancy to a white goat brought to the pub by a passing pedlar. She bought it, had it killed and its head stuffed, mounted and placed behind the bar. There ‘Old Capricorn’ hung for 60 years, loved by some, hated by others who said the goat brought bad luck. In 1967, landlord Frank Walpole removed the head, claiming it was linked to a series of strange events including mirrors flying off walls, the pub piano playing itself and ghosts manifesting in the bar. A young man who touched the head died the next day. Other villagers claimed it was the removal that was linked to the activity, so Capricorn was brought back: more bad luck followed, so Mr Walpole weighted the head and threw it into a river. Reedcutter Alfred Stone found the head and passed it to a friend, Dennis Loades: more bad luck followed and Mr Loades hastily gave the head back to The Goat Inn. In August of 1972, the head was found in a shallow grave at Strumpshaw gravel pit and… there would be no prizes awarded for what happened next. Awful events followed the discovery after which, the trail went cold – somewhere, the cursed goat’s head of Strumpshaw lies, waiting to be found…

9) It was when he approached the till that he noticed the shop was strangely old-fashioned: despite it being 1973, the lady behind the desk was in Edwardian dress. The wonderfully-named Mr Squirrel had popped into a Great Yarmouth shop after a recommendation from a friend – when he stepped inside, he noticed it was completely silent and quaintly old-fahsioned. He bought the envelopes he needed and left, returning a week later for more – at which point he found a totally different shop on a paved not cobbled street and an assistant who had no idea what envelopes he was talking about, none had been sold at the shop for decades. Had Mr Squirrel visited a ghost shop?

10) In the eerie marshland in an isolated corner of the Fens stands a church which boasts an unusual ghost watched over by little wooden saints and imposing marble noblemen. The redundant church of St Mary the Virgin in Wiggenhall boasts its very own haunted organ. An article in Norfolk Fair in the summer of 1986 recalls the strange story of St Mary’s haunted Victorian organ: “…an atmosphere of unease was said to pervade it when it was in use. What was so astonishing was not any spectral apparition but the fact that strains of organ music would be heard, as if some outstanding performer were seated at the instrument. Upon investigation, however, no-one could be found…Sometimes the organ behaved so erratically the organist had to give up playing. On one occasion, workmen carrying out repairs to the fabric were scared out of their wits when the organ started playing of its own accord. They fled the church in panic and only with great difficulty were they persuaded to return.”

*More tales – and podcasts - from Weird Norfolk can be found at edp24.co.uk

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