Barsham's main claim to fame is that Lord Nelson's mother, Catherine Suckling, was born here in 1725. It can also claim a haunted church!
Footsteps have been heard in the chancel and the apparition of a lady dressed in Georgian clothes has been seen in the building. Lights have also been known to switch themselves on and off by themselves. Some claim the phantom to be the ghost of Nelson's mother. Why she should haunt the church - if it is indeed her - has yet to be explained.
The churchyard is also haunted by the figures of people in medieval dress. A nearby plague pit is held to be the reason why these spirits still linger here.
The nearby rectory has a room with a priest hole. It is claimed to be haunted by ghostly lights and footsteps. A poltergeist also moves objects in other parts of the rectory.
Finally, a phantom coach and horses - headless of course - is said to appear in the village every Christmas Eve. It makes for Hassets Tower in Norwich and is said to carry members of the Blennerhassett family. The coach returns to the village before sunrise.
The 12th century Norman keep is said to be haunted by Queen Isabella, mother of Edward III. She was the lover of Roger Mortimer and had her husband, Edward II, murdered to secure power for herself and Mortimer.
Edward III eventually seized power from his mother and had Mortimer executed. It's claimed that he then had Isabella imprisoned in the castle. She eventually went mad and supposedly died there in 1358. Since then, her tortured screams have been reported echoing from the upper rooms of the keep.
Sadly, much of the legend surrounding this tale is untrue! Isabella did indeed live at the castle but was free to travel to her other properties and died in Hertford in 1358. She was buried in Greyfriars by Newgate in London. Her ghost is said to haunt the site of the graveyard, holding the heart of Edward II in her hands.
However, people still claim to hear screams and maniacal laughter coming from the castle in the early hours of the morning. So if not Isabella, who or what is behind the terrifying sounds?
The church in Walberswick has been haunted for many years by the figure of a small, stooping man.
George Orwell claimed to have seen him on the 22nd July 1931. He was sketching when he noticed a small man dressed in brown enter the churchyard and head towards the church. Orwell followed him but found that he had vanished through a locked door! No one knows who the ghost could be.
The common is haunted by a phantom dog and the sound of galloping horses. The old railway line has a sinister reputation. Strange moaning sounds have been heard along the overgrown track. Locals claim that dogs and horses are reluctant to walk there.
The ruins of the Norman castle can be found in the town centre. The former owners, the Bigods, were said to be notorious for their wickedness and were doomed to haunt the castle as a penance for all their naughty goings-on.
On certain nights, they are supposed to appear in a coach drawn by four horses - the beast's mouths and nostrils issuing flames and smoke. It is driven by the obligatory headless coachman with his head under his arm. And to cap it all, the hooves of the horses strike fire as they hit the ground. Shades of Hammer Horror this one!
The coach travels from the town to Geldeston in Norfolk, past the church, down Lover's Lane into Bigod's Hill Lane and then back home to the castle. The coach is never both seen and heard. You either see it or just hear it rumbling by.
Is this the same ghostly coach that is supposed to ride from Bungay to Ditchingham and forces motorists off the road by driving at them?
One of the Bigod family, Hugh, is also said to haunt the castle grounds as a black dog. Or is it just Black Shuck up to his tricks again?
The Three Tuns pub is also reputed to be haunted. In 1969, it was claimed to have 24 ghosts, including an 18th-century highwayman, Tom Hardy, who used the pub to plan his robberies. He was later executed. Another ghost is that of Rex Bacon. He supposedly hanged himself in the building after killing his wife's lover in 1682.
It should be pointed out that the above information was obtained by a landlady who used an Ouija board. Checks of local records can find no trace of either man. During one seance there, a Mr Beckett claimed to have seen a white figure standing in the corner of a room. And a former assistant manager, a Mr Blakeway, said he had witnessed a window open and close.
No ghosts have been reported since the removal of a wall dating back to the 1500s.
The nearby King's Head can boast of at least one ghost. Strange sounds have been reported, including creaking floorboards. One staff member puts that down to natural causes - it is an old building.
Finally, the ruined Greyfriars priory in the grounds of St Mary's has an auditory haunting. The sounds of chanting and the ringing of bells have been reported at night from time to time. A ghostly black dog has also been seen in the churchyard.
Below - the ruins of Bungay Castle.
Here's a link to an radio interview I did a couple of years ago. I was a guest of presenter, Leo Bonomo. www.blogtalkradio.com/leobonomo/2015/01/27/mediumship-readings-and-guests-guest-john-west-broadcaster-and-ghost-hunter
The town of Saxmundham in Suffolk can trace its origins back to the Saxons and was first mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086. The name itself derives from the Saxon 'Seizmond's home'.
Top hat and tails.
A man in Victorian or Edwardian evening dress has been seen walking down the High Street. One man is reported to have seen him during a trip to the local fish and chip shop. Upon reaching the shop, he was told by other customers that this was not the first time this ghostly gentleman had been seen.
One house in the High Street has been the subject of paranormal activity for the last few years. Parts of the property date back to the 17th century and a visiting medium confirmed that at least six residents ghosts were active in the building. These included an old priest and a boy.
Orbs have been captured on camera, a woman's sigh has been heard and a duvet has been pulled off a bed late at night by unseen hands on two occasions.
On South Entrance, beyond the crossroads, can be found a group of small houses bearing the name of Monk's Cottages. They date back to the 17th-century and once formed part of a much larger property. They were built on the site of 14th-century chapels - known as chantries - where priests said masses for the recently deceased, generally a benefactor to the chantry, in the belief this would help them pass on from Purgatory to Heaven.
In 2000, one of the cottages was occupied by Doreen Pelletier. In that same year, she decided to clear her cellar of rubble and called in a group of builders to do the job. However, they soon began to complain of ghostly activity, including lights being switched on and off. They finally said enough was enough and quit, suggesting that she contact an exorcist.
Doreen learned that previous owners had also experienced ghostly activity in the property. One woman had even seen a figure on the stairs and had sought out an exorcist to clear the house. Doreen finally decided to contact the House Detectives - a BBC series devoted to investigating the history of old properties - who eventually confirmed that the cellar had indeed formed part of a chantry. Doreen also tried to take pictures of the cellar at the request of the BBC. It is interesting to note that her camera jammed and the film strangely rewound itself.
So does the phantom priest - if indeed it is a priest - walk the cottage still?
Two children claimed to have witnessed a group of dancing ladies, dressed in white muslin, in this narrow lane. They vanished after just a few seconds. This is supposed to have occurred in the early 20th century.
A few years ago I was a presenter on Felixstowe TV. One of the shows I did was called The East Anglian Ghost Hunters. It was a show devoted to investigating haunted sites in the region. One of our investigations took us to Leiston Abbey in Suffolk.
We spoke to local pupils who told us about one particular area in the abbey where strange knockings and voices are heard at night. Searches of the area have always failed to provide a rational explanation!
Two members of the team also had a strange encounter with 'something' just off the ruins of the Chapter House. We had just finished filming when a black shape the size of a dog appeared from nowhere as they were discussing the day's events. It rushed passed them and vanished into a wall! Unfortunately, I was walking in front and so missed it! So what was it? Could it have been Black Shuck, the legendary ghost dog that is said to haunt East Anglia?
Black Shuck is common in East Anglia and there are recorded sightings of the ghostly dog dating back centuries. Shuck may derive from the Old English word scucca meaning "demon", or even possibly from the local dialect word shucky meaning "shaggy" or "hairy". Black Shuck is sometimes referred to as the Doom Dog, or "Grim".
It is interesting to note that a few years later some excavations were carried out at the Abbey and they found the skeleton of a large dog. Elliott O'Donnell, the author of many books on ghosts, also wrote of a dog haunting the ruins in the 1930s.
Here's the film we made.
The term orb is used to describe balls of light, usually captured on digital cameras. Orbs can be any colour but are usually white. Many paranormal investigators believe them to be the spirits of the dead. Others believe that they are dust particles, water droplets or insects caught in the flash of a camera. Orbs could also be caused by lens flares or even damage to the camera. I would say that the majority of orbs can be explained away as any of the above.
Here are two examples. The first was taken in Framlingham churchyard, Suffolk. The second was taken in a house in Stonebow, York.
You would expect graveyards to be full of ghosts. However, this is not the case!
There is a tradition that only the spirit of the first person to be buried there is destined to haunt the place. Legend claims it has to protect the graves of all those who are buried after them.
It is also said that flowers will grow on a grave if the person led a good life. Weeds growing on a grave point to the person being wicked in life.
It is supposed to be bad luck to meet a funeral procession heading towards you. If this can't be avoided then hold onto a button until it passes and that should prevent any bad luck coming your way. A funeral procession should never return from the graveyard the same way it came. This is to prevent the spirit of the deceased from following the living home.
East Anglia has long been known as the haunt of a ghostly dog known as Black Shuck. He is usually described as being a very large black dog with blazing red eyes. His name may derive from the Old English word scucca meaning demon, or possibly from the local word shucky meaning "shaggy" or “hairy".
It is said that to see him is an omen of impending disaster or even death, although not always! A former acquaintance of mine once saw a very large black dog – described by him as being as the size of a pony – while driving down a Suffolk lane. He suffered no ill-effects!
On the 4th August 1577, Shuck is alleged to have entered St Mary’s Church in Bungay during a violent storm. He ran down the aisle, attacking several members of the congregation.
An old verse records:
'All down the church in midst of fire, the hellish monster flew
And, passing onward to the quire, he many people slew'
An account of Shuck's appearance was described in "A Straunge and Terrible Wunder" by the Rev Abraham Fleming in 1577.
"There were assembled at the same season, to hear divine service and common prayer...in the parish church...of Bongay, the people therabouts inhabiting...Immediately hereupon, there appeared in a most horrible similitude and likenesse to the congregation then and there present a dog as they might discerne it, of a black colour; at the site whereof, togither with the fearful flashes of fire which were then seene, moved such admiration in the minds of the assemblie, that they thought doomesday was already come. This black dog, or the divil in such a likenesse (God hee knoweth all who worketh all) running all along down the body of the church with great swiftnesse and incredible haste, among the people, in a visible fourm and shape, passed betweene two persons, as they were kneeling upon their knees, and occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them bothe at one instant clene backward, in so much that even at a moment where they kneeled, they strangely died… There was at ye same time another wonder wrought; for the same black dog, still continuing and remaining in one and the self same shape, passing by another man of the congregation in the church, gave him such a gripe on the back, that therewith all he was presently drawen togither and shrunk up ,as it were a peece of lether scorched in a hot fire; or as the mouth of a purse or bag, drawen togither with string. The man albeit hee was in so strange a taking, dyed not, but as it is thought is yet alive. The Clark of the said Church being occupied in cleansing of the gutter of the church, with a violent clap of thunder was smitten downe, and beside his fall had no further harme...there are remaining in the stones of the Church, and likewise in the Church dore which are mervelously renten and torne, ye marks as it were of his clawes or talans. Beside, that all the wires, the wheels, and other things belonging to the Church, were wrung in sunder, and broken in peces...These things are reported to be true..."
It should be noted that the Churchwarden’s account book from the time does indeed mention the storm. The parish register also records the death of two men in the belfry. Neither mentions a dog or even attribute the incident to the work of the Devil.
Some modern scholars attribute the whole mysterious event to lighting. And did it coincide with the appearance of a terrified dog seeking shelter from the storm?
Scratch marks on the inside of the north door are still pointed out as evidence of Shuck's visit.
A few inhabitants of Bungay claim the dog still haunts the town.
John is a producer, TV/Radio presenter and writer living in Suffolk