The following story was once told by 'beach-folk' along the East Anglian coast:
An Italian gentleman once appeared in a small seaside hamlet. He spoke English and soon befriended a local fisherboy, offering to take him abroad. The boy refused and so the stranger asked him to look after his dog instead, a large black retriever.
The Italian left the area, the dog being left in the boy's care. It was noted that the dog and man had never ever been seen together during the gentleman's time there.
The lad often went for a swim in the sea, and the dog always joined him. One day, he swam far out to sea and was horrified to find that the dog would not allow him to return to shore, snapping and snarling at him as he tried to turn for land.
On and on he swam, the dog never far behind. At one point he turned and was terrified to see, not the dog but the face of the Italian! Grinning the man changed back into the dog and made for the boy's neck. At this point, the boy hailed a passing ship and was quickly pulled abroad. The dog, deprived of his victim, dived like a whale, never to be seen again.
It is hard to believe that this quiet village was once one of the most prosperous towns in England. Coastal erosion has now resulted in most of the town, including nine churches, being lost to the sea. It is said that you can still hear sunken church bells ringing out a mournful tune. Local fishermen believe that they are only heard before a storm.
The ghosts of the town’s former inhabitants – including a man dressed in Elizabethan clothes - are said to haunt the shore below the cliffs. The ghostly laughter of children has also been heard. Greyfriar’s monastery is supposedly haunted by the obligatory phantom monks.
There is a tradition that three crowns were buried in East Anglia to protect England from invasion. One was hidden in Dunwich but was lost when the town fell into the sea. The second was discovered in Rendlesham in the 18th century but was melted down for the gold. The third remains buried somewhere along the coast. M.R. James based his classic ghost story ‘A Warning to the Curious’ on this legend. Or did Mr James invent the legend himself?
To find one is said to bring good fortune - especially if thrown by a horse. The custom was to hang them on your front door with the open end pointing upwards. This was to prevent the luck falling out. A horseshoe on the door was also believed to prevent witches from entering your home.
A legend has it that under a certain gatepost in Dallinghoo lies a hidden treasure. The ghost of the former owner also haunts the site to protect his hoard - even the efforts of twelve clergymen failed to send him on his way!
Attempts to locate the treasure are now fruitless as no-one can remember where the gatepost stood!
Another ghost also haunts the area. A widow by the name of Shawe cut her throat and was later seen haunting the lanes around the village. She is always seen without her feet!
It could be that her spirit is simply a recording and she's walking on an earlier ground level.
The March issue of Starburst features a great spread on Winifred Meeks. The film was written/directed by Jason Figgis and produced by John West.
A feature length documentary devoted to M. R. James, the celebrated author, is due to be released soon. Here is the trailer vimeo.com/317799949. The film is directed by Jason Figgis and I'm the associate producer/publicist.
Oliver Cromwell, who became Lord Protector in 1653, was said to have buried chests containing treasure in a group of ancient barrows, known as the Three Hills. Despite several attempts to locate the hoard, the chests remain hidden.
RAF Mildenhall is said to be haunted by the ghost of an American airman. In 1969, a homesick sergeant got drunk and stole a C-130 cargo plane. He crashed in the ocean after supposedly trying to make it back to the USA. His body was never found.
His ghost reportedly wanders the parking area where he took off on his last flight.
The February issue of Psychic News features my investigation of haunted churches in London www.psychicnews.org.uk/
The February issue of Suffolk and Norfolk Life magazine features my interview with Norfolk artist, Sue Clyne. www.suffolknorfolklifemagazine.com/
John is a producer, TV/radio presenter and writer living in Suffolk