Tuesday 19th October – Neil Storey ‘A Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Norfolk’

It was an unusually warm October evening, when 46 socially distanced members and guests listened intently to Neil’s tales of ghosts which are said to haunt our county of Norfolk.  Of course it had to start in a graveyard, Snettisham to be precise, with a statue of an angel.  Angels are said to look after us and are frequently depicted on Headstones. The Victorians made them their own as they did so often in this case as a celebration of death.

Norfolk has the greatest concentration of Medieval churches in Europe so it makes complete sense to realise that we are, in Norfolk, the most haunted county in England. From coast to country sightings of Black Shuck; to unhappy ladies; from sailors and fishermen; from royalty to the lowly; where victims of murder and those who have murdered tell their own stories in death as in life.

In Thetford, the monastic Nuns Bridge tells of seven year old Lord Dacre whose appointed guardian was his wicked uncle Richard Fulmerston. There are several accounts as to how the little boy died but his ghost rides over the bridge on a headless rocking horse. In an effort to calm the spirit it is said that local folk threw a pound of new candles into the river, ordering the young Lord Dacre never to return until the candles burned. We don’t know whether this strange recipe ever worked.

Now to Blickling where on the 19th May each year, the anniversary of Queen Ann Boleyn’s death, a carriage pulled by six headless horses with Ann inside carrying her head on her lap rides to the front of the older medieval Blickling Hall. When arriving at the front entrance it disappears!  Other ghosts: there is 'Old Bullen' who moans in one of the bedrooms, and the ghost of Sir Henry Hobart who died from his wounds on 21st August 1668 following a duel with Oliver Le Neve of Great Witchingham Hall: he can be heard groaning too.  There is a fine monument, the Duel Stone at Cawston, which marks the spot of this, the last duel in Norfolk (bottom right).

Did you know about the 'Yow Yows' of North Norfolk? Just off the coast of Sheringham many years ago a ship sailing close to the coast was wrecked. As the captain drowned he cursed the fishermen of Lower Sheringham for not saving him. This probably was because the fishermen intended to salvage and sell the cargo. Fishermen reported hearing cries for help on calm days while on their boats, and sailing to where the voices were coming from to carry out a rescue, only to find the voice has moved to a different area. The voices are a warning not to be ignored as the fishermen make for shore before the Yow Yows strike in the eye of an impending storm.

I can’t finish this report without returning to Black Shuck, a giant dog who roams the 'coast of East Anglia. The legend of Black Shuck reaches far back into Anglo-Saxon times. It is said that he possesses giant red eyes or green or possibly yellow!! Try not to ponder him too much as you wander the coast at night, and a warning to all of you - do not turn to face him for if you do your life will expire inside twelve months!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was staying in a Cromer Hotel when his friend Bertram Robinson relayed the story of Black Shuck. One of Black Shuck’s many regular paths took him past the spooky Cromer Hall. The raw material for the famous story of the Hound of the Baskervilles clearly came from this episode in Conan Doyle’s recuperation whilst staying at the hotel as a year later the story was published.

Neil is a wonderful historian. His easy approach is inspirational and I hope you all enjoyed the evening. It was interesting and fascinating story-telling, from the paranormal to the bizarre, an insight into our own experiences. I feel sure we all have a tale to tell. As Halloween draws near do not fear, it is our imagination which allows us to travel into folklore and perhaps see the shadow of Black Shuck, if only in our dreams.


Janet Edwards


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Above: Snettisham churchyard, an angel guarding (photo Evelyn Simak)
Below: The Duel Stone at Cawston (photo David N Gifford, Historic England Archive ref 228007)