As with most counties, Norfolk has stories handed down through the generations, tales of a big black dog called Shuck, a legend of a fiddler walking along a long forgotten tunnel, a witch whose heart exploded during her burning at the stake, headless horses, a brown lady and even a Queen of England. Here are a few of my favourite Norfolk ghost stories.
Anne Boleyn: the headless Queen
Starting at the top, so to speak, our tale concerning a headless Queen is none other than Anne Boleyn, who spent her early years at Blickling Hall. Not satisfied with having the Queen of England wandering around the Drawing Room, head in hand, the story also goes so far as to tell that her father, Sir Thomas Boleyn, was doomed to spend one night a year for a thousand years, to drive a coach and four headless horses around twelve bridges in the area. Sir Thomas is said to carry his head under his arm and flames are said to emanate from his mouth. The night that this is all said to take place, one for the diary, is 19th May as that is the anniversary of the execution of Queen Anne. Perhaps, the reason I haven’t heard of any people having seen this spectacle, is that the calendar changed in 1752 and, if nobody told Sir Thomas, he is probably going around on the wrong night!
The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall
Coming down the scale a little, we have a Brown Lady who haunts the beautiful C17th Raynham Hall. According to legend, she walks the staircase and corridors in a brown dress and has just empty sockets where her eyes should be. She is supposed to be Dorothy Walpole who married the second Viscount Townshend. It is said that Captain Marryat, who was staying at the Hall, fired a pistol at her but the bullet went straight through and lodged in a door!
Tales of King’s Lynn
King’s Lynn has many ghostly tales, it being an ancient port, within its narrow lanes and streets, there are still some dark alleys and well hidden vaults. One such thoroughfare is presently named Devils Alley and it is said that the hoof-print of the Devil himself is there, where he stomped his foot after he was seen off by a local Priest.
Another reminder of less pleasant times can be seen over a window on the Tuesday Market Place. Poor Margaret Read was burned at the stake as a witch in 1590 and the heat was such that her heart burst from her body, hitting the building that stood there. Although the building has been altered, the spot is still marked by a heart in a diamond on the brick-work above a window.
Also, in the town, beside the graveyard of St Nicholas’ Chapel, is a quaint little cottage, known as the Exorcist’s House. This picturesque cottage is supposed to be where a member of the Church lived and part of his duties included performing exorcisms.
An article on Norwich murders could fill a whole book, but surprisingly, there doesn’t appear to be as many stories relating to ghosts in this metropolis as one would expect. Another phantom coach with headless horses is supposed to be a regular traveller along the road towards Mousehold Heath and again, as with poor old Thomas Boleyn, even the coachman is headless! Why all of these poor horses have to be without their heads I have yet to ascertain, but it does make the stories that bit more gruesome!
The Fiddler of Binham
The story of the Fiddler is from Binham on the North-Norfolk coast. There was supposed to be an underground tunnel leading from Binham to Little Walsingham and a fiddler is said to have decided to trace it through the countryside by walking along it playing his fiddle while others on the ground above could follow him by the sound of his music. He took his dog along with him for company and, at a place now known as Fiddler’s Hill, the music stopped. The fiddler’s dog reappeared from the tunnel, shaking with fear and the fiddler was never seen again.
The Tale of Black Shuck
To stay with dog stories, I have to relate the story of Norfolk’s very own Black Shuck. Shuck is a huge dog, as black as night and with just one great big red eye! He roams the coast on stormy nights, howling along with the wind. A fearful sight if you should see him, not only because of his ghastly appearance, but, because those who do see him are doomed to die within the year! This story was thought to have been perpetuated to frighten the militia away from the coast, to enable smugglers to work without interruption.
A ghostly smell
To finish, a much less awful haunting for those who experience it is a smell rather than a sighting which manifests at Thorpe. It is said that a maid was hanged for stealing from Thorpe Hall and her perfume wafts along the road below the Church on Hangings Hill.
Your own ghastly Tour!
If this small selection of stories from Norfolk, has inspired you to find out more, or even visit, do contact me and I will be very happy to help you to find accommodation fit for a ghost-hunter. I cannot guarantee that you will find anything, but if you want to stay for a night in a haunted house, take a night-time tour of a Medieval Castle, or search for some spirits in an ancient Inn, I can arrange just the thing – get in touch!