Time to catch up with strange doings
on dark Norfolk nights. In October, David Stannard came
to give us the Halloween Horrors, but we weren’t able to
catch the Parish Magazine deadline. Here is a late taste
of his many mysterious tales.
“High Sprites” was quite a gentle
start. It turned out that they were party games played
on Valentine's Eve and nothing to do with Halloween
after all. Picking sultanas soaked in brandy from the
surface of a bath of water was one of them. Only problem
was that they were on fire - snapdragons! Then a knock
on the door. “Jack Valentine”, the children shriek. But
when the door is opened he has disappeared. If you are
lucky a gift will have been left by this sort of Norfolk
Father Christmas with his dates mixed up.
Ingham sounds like a good place to
visit if you are into ghosts. One story focusses on the
Holy Trinity Church, where you can see the tomb of
Sir Roger de Bois. Entombed 700 years ago, his
effigy lays on a bed of cobbles with the
severed head of a Saracen in lieu of a pillow. Don’t go
there on August 2nd because that is when you might
find him kneeling at the holy altar! After his
prayers he is said to march off to Stalham Staithe where
he fights and slays a scimitar-wielding Saracen. As is
sometimes the case, there is a truth behind the legend.
The Monks of Ingham Priory were the Henry Kissingers of
their day, raising funds to release and bring home
Crusaders captured by the dastardly Saracens. Sir Roger,
it appears, is still fighting their battles.
Happisburgh is another ghostly
hotspot with a number of grisly tales. One involves the
headless body of an 18th Century seaman which, it
is alleged, can be seen floating in the air and then
disappearing down a well, closely followed by his head.
More elements of truth. That was a time of ruthless
encounters between smugglers and the excise men. Many
were killed, and it is a fact that a body was discovered
in that well.
David told us stories from other
places, including Eccles, Waxham and Hempstead, ranging
right up to the Second World War. And finally, he
invited us to google the Norfolk Walking Festival and
find out about the talks and walks planned. Fortunately,
the walks take place in daylight.