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Weird Norfolk

Lost children in a dark forest, a wicked uncle blinded by greed and a story passed down through generations. Weird Norfolk investigates the Babes in the Wood.

“Remember that you must die,” is the literal translation of Memento Mori and reflects the Christian theory of considering one’s own mortality in order to lead a better, less selfish life in order to escape eternal punishment at judgement day.

While they were essential to an enchanting Arabian Night, magical carpets aren’t just confined to folklore and far-flung lands – in Norfolk, the thread of a story of one such carpet and its Tudor home has been embroidered through the centuries from the 1700s.

As the flames licked the stone walls and the building began to crack and fall, parishioners feared nothing would remain of their beloved church at St Peter and St Paul’s church at Tunstall, a beacon for ships on the edge of a long-lost estuary which is now lonely marshland that stretches towards Great Yarmouth.

It has stood as a sentinel for centuries, a lonely, lichen-covered reminder of a frozen past when sabre-toothed tigers and woolly mammoths roamed the plains of East Anglia.

Hidden from the Holt Road are the relics of a prosperous past, the skeleton of a once-magnificent manor house once home to the Heydon family, a hidden gem now owned by English Heritage and boasting a very curious caretaker: a spectral sentry.

In the small village of Bawburgh, just a few miles outside of Norwich, lies a small well, next to a church. An unremarkable structure, in an unremarkable location or is it?

Just a stone’s throw from the swallowed town of Shipden and Cromer’s famous pier, local folklore tells of a ghost dog that haunts the beach, waiting where the waves break on the sand for an owner who never returned from the sea.

It is the vanishing village that just can’t stay silent, a forgotten parish from the Norfolk coast that was swallowed by the sea, the county’s own Atlantis just a stone’s throw from the famous Cromer Pier.

The earliest depictions of the devil show him in various forms – with scaly skin, folded wings and with cloven hooves, often attributed to early illustrations of the Pagan God Pan, who would have been reviled by good Christians.

She was the wise washerwoman of Irstead whose predictions, proverbs and observations were shared across Norfolk in the late 1700s and early to mid 1800s.

Unseasonal storms had all but blown away by the time that the former Lord Mayor of Norwich, London MP and their friend went for a stroll on Eccles beach in Norfolk, a quiet stretch of coastline – or it was until the appearance of Norfolk Nessie.

It is a curious inscription that links a quiet Norfolk village to an infamous French Queen who became a symbol of the excesses of the monarchy and famous for a quote she may never have even said: “let them eat cake”.

The haunting ivy-clad ruins hide behind a thicket of trees and a fairytale tangle of brambles, their ghostly secrets protected by the passage of time.

How handy it would be, in times of austerity, to rely on a visit from a Fairy Godmother who could appear at precisely the moment she was needed to wave her magic wand and make everything better.

We’ve heard of the Beast of Cumbria and the Creature of Cornwall, but what about the Cat of Congham?

It’s a lament said to travel across the centuries, a shriek that rips through time to tell the tale of a woman who loved and lost and whose spirit wanders in North Norfolk, restlessly searching for the baby murdered by her jealous husband.

California had a Gold Rush in the 1840s, East Anglia had a Coprolite Rush in the late 19th century – a different kind of black gold made from fossilised faeces.

Her birth was a Blessing, but her death was a curse: Rebecca Nurse from Great Yarmouth was one of three sisters accused of witchcraft at the infamous Salem Witch Trials and was the second person to be hanged.

It’s a heartrending story which for generations has acted as a warning to warring siblings.

It’s one of East Anglia’s most enduring folk tales, that of a midnight black hell hound with eyes as red as glowing coals that roams the countryside and brings death to the door of anyone unfortunate to lock eyes with him.

It’s a rare reminder of a time when the warrens that carved a honeycomb under the Brecks were a rich source of income for landowners.

We sent our Weird Norfolk correspondent to Norwich Castle Museum to select her top five weird and wonderful exhibits.

It’s a lively town square famous for funfairs and festivals, the beating heart of King’s Lynn’s social scene.

It’s a whole new take on the concept of a siren call that saw the tables turned on a mermaid lured to shore by the sweet singing of a Sheringham congregation.

It was a dazzling light show that bewitched astronomers watching the night sky above Norwich - but was it proof of life on other planets?

The floating figure appeared just before the witching hour, an almost transparent apparition that appeared to climb invisible stairs before melting into the darkness before the eyes of a horrified woman walking home along Sandy Lane in Dereham after a night out with friends.

Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger and slept for 100 years until she was woken by a handsome prince - but for Norfolk’s Sarah Hare, no kiss can wake her from an eternal slumber.

Norfolk is filled with Medieval buildings, but the ruins of St Mary’s Church at East Somerton are linked to a story like no other.

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