Terrifying Tales from around the Broads

Halloween pumpkin

Photo: Leigh Prather/Shutterstock

Despite being a wonderful holiday location the Norfolk Broads also has a spookier side. Here are a collection of our favourite ghost stories from around the Broads, perfect for those dark nights on board.

Phantom Coach

In Potter Heigham during the 18th century Lady Carew sought the help of a local witch to ensnare the wealthy bachelor Sir Godfrey Haslitt of Bastwick, for her daughter Evelyn. The witch created a potent love potion, but would not accept any monetary payment. Instead she made Lady Carew swear that if the potion worked, whatever the witch asked for would be granted. She agreed.

The potion was given to Sir Godfrey at a hunting party in King Lynn and subsequently worked with Sir Godfrey and Evelyn marrying on the 31st May 1741. Following the lavish wedding in Norwich the bridal party return to Bastwick for the reception, but on the stroke of midnight the party is interrupted by the doors busting open. Framed in the doorway is a skeleton which kidnaps the new bride and carries her away in a coach drawn by four black horses.

The rest of the party give chase as the coach heads toward Potter Heigham but as the coach reaches Potter Heigham bridge the coach bursts into flames and falls in to the water, with Lady Evelyn still inside.

This was to be the payment the witch demanded for her potion.

It is now said that on the night of the 31st May you can hear the sound of horses hooves and the screech of the wheels until a fiery coach appears over the bridge before plunging into the water.

The Drummer Boy

During the winter of 1815 a drummer boy from Potter Heigham comes home on leave from the army and falls in love with a girl from the village. Unfortunately the girl's father refuses his request for his daughters hand in marriage and so the couple decide to meet in secret at Swim Coots on the edge of Hickling Broad. Every evening the drummer boy would skate across the Broad to meet his love, signalling his arrival by playing a rhythmic tattoo on his kettle drum. One evening as he skates over the misty Broad the ice gives way and he plunges to his death into the icy waters. Today, his shivering ghost can be seen skating across the Broad, during the month of February, searching for his love and if you listen closely you will hear the rhythmic beat of his drum.

The Shrieking Monk

The ghost of a traitorous monk haunts St Benets Abbey, on the 25th May each year. Believed to be Essric the bailiff monk, who in the days following the Norman Conquest, betrayed his brethren to William the Conqueror’s soldiers by allowing them access to the Abbey. In return he made the soldiers promise that once they had taken over he would be made Abbot, true to their word, the Normans appointed him Abbot. However, the Normans had little time for traitors and as such Essric, dressed in full regalia, was nailed to the Abbey doors and skinned alive.

His fateful screams can still be heard on the night of 25th May and shortly afterwards the form of a monk can be seen writhing in agony from the former bell tower.

Old Hall, Ranworth

Colonel Thomas Sydney lived at Old Hall and was a hard-drinking, vicious huntsman whose was not known for his kindness.

On 31st December, 1770, at the biggest hunting meet of the season, he challenged his neighbour to a race. When Sydney found out that he was well behind, and obviously going to lose, he pulled out his pistol and shot his opponent's horse, causing the rider to be thrown and break his neck.

That evening the Colonel attends the hunt ball, and brags about the event to all that would listen.

During the dinner, a hooded stranger is said to have appeared at the Old Hall, thrown the Colonel across his saddle and galloped off into the darkness. The Colonel was never seen alive again, In fact the only time you see the Colonel is when he is lying across the devils saddle as he gallops over the marshes.

Brother Pacificus

The ghost of a medieval monk Pacificus is said to haunt Ranworth Broad. During the 1530’s the monks of St Benets Abbey were required to mend the ornate screen which separates the choir at St Helens church in Ranworth. Brother Pacificus was tasked with the job and as such would row, with his dog, every morning from the Abbey at St Benets across to the church to repair the screen. At the end of each day he would row back to the Abbey.

One evening on his return he found that the rest of the monks had been savagely murdered by Henry the Eighth's soldiers, as part of the dissolution of the monasteries. Devastated Brother Pacificus remains alone at the Abbey until his death, after which the local residents buried him at St Helens.

If you are up early enough you might catch a glimpse of a ghostly figure rowing across the Broad towards the church, with his dog standing in the bow.
Happy Halloween!!!


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