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Weird Norfolk

There are secrets hidden in every corner of Norfolk, even in the least expected places: what today forms part of a modern shopping mall was once the place where city people went to have curses removed and good luck restored.

The strangest stories are hidden in plain sight behind buildings which look as unremarkable as any other, but which harbour secrets which are passed down through the years by wide-eyed witnesses who have spotted something unusual about their workplace.

It’s the highest Norman motte in England although no trace remains of the castle built in turbulent times which it housed: but today’s tale regards the hill, not what topped it.

An East Anglian theatre company is keen to hear your extraterrestrial experiences at two special Flying Saucers Cafes being held in Norfolk and Suffolk - do you know if the truth is out there?

Let’s weave a Weird Norfolk Fairytale of our own: pull up a chair, huddle closer to the fire and let me begin with the curious tale of King Gurgunt and the Frozen Bear.

It’s the little-known story of a Phantom of the Office that haunts one of Norwich’s most ancient streets.

Remember the so-called Millennial Bug which we were told would bring the world grinding to a standstill and lead to technological apocalypse?

In 1980, Norfolk staged its own Y2K trial run.

Sea frets have often blurred the lines between this world and the next – and one such creature to appear from the mist is the Old Man of Hopton, who stalks the A47 in front of terrified drivers, some of whom claim to have driven straight through him.

As ghostly goings-on go, North Walsham can boast a host of hauntings.

Shakespeare counselled that one should neither a borrower nor a lender be and in Burgh St Peter, a deal was struck that led to this phrase quite literally haunting the pair who made it.

It was Norfolk and Suffolk’s unexplained humming noise which fed suspicions of an alien invasion or UFO activity and which could only be heard…by women.

Could that slight chill in an upstairs corridor, that shimmer of shifting light on the staircase, those footsteps fading into silence be one of our county’s most intriguing apparitions?

He was the feral child who became a human pet at the grandest household in Georgian England, a boy said to have been raised by wolves who swapped finery for a cell when he visited Norwich.

Will o’ the Wisp, or Lantern Man, has led Norfolk travellers a merry dance for hundreds of years. Stacia Briggs and Siofra Connor go in search of this elusive, mysterious ‘cold fire’.

Today, it’s in the heart of the city – but in 1823, Rampant Horse Street was at the heart of a deeply distressing tale of bodysnatching from five Norwich churches.

Like the very best ghost stories of all, this one was discovered by chance, pasted in the back of an old magazine dated 1736 and titled ‘A Strange Occurrence’.

Long before The Giant in Twin Peaks told Agent Dale Cooper, Norfolk knew that the owls were not as they seem. For more than a century, there have been reports of glowing owls streaking across county skies in the dark of night, luminous birds that appear like flying spectres, feathered ghosts causing those that see them to believe they had seen something truly other-worldly.

When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion, the witching time of night is when the spectral woman appears, clad in red and seemingly tethered to the remains of a cross-stone which once towered over this lonely patch of Norfolk.

Avid readers will remember last week’s story of the ghost who made a guest appearance on Anglia Television and a promise to tell the tale of the Mad Monk of Morley Hall in more detail and his link to Binham Priory.

It was set to be a televised example of how a ghost hunter worked and proved to be so effective that a ghost actually appeared to make a guest appearance.

Standing as a signpost to a village that longer bustles, in a rhododendron clearing in the woods, Mark Goldsworthy’s timber carving shows the curious tale of the brave Bishop Beaver of Babingley.

Thousands of us pass over it every day without a passing thought for the role it played in Norwich’s dark past.

The road name tells a story – one of a terrible crime from years past, a woman’s death immortalised forever in two words: “Cutthroat Lane”.

The ruins are spectacular and hint at a majesty long since claimed by time – but the broken walls of Bromholm Priory hide an even bigger secret: they once housed a holy relic said to be so powerful it could raise the dead.

No one knows why Old Hunch has returned from the grave to haunt the streets of Long Stratton but his effigy in the parish is a constant reminder of a soul that is yet to find peace.

The ghost of a well-known impresario and a host of hauntings mean that Cromer Pier is a magnet for paranormal investigators - those spirits do love to be beside the seaside.

Not only can visitors look into the face of the devil at a Norfolk church, they can also see the ancient barrow where he buried the gates to hell after digging the nearby dyke that bears his name.

In the heart of the Fens is a lonely church which, legend has it, makes its own entertainment thanks to a haunted Victorian pipe organ.

It had hung above the bar of a Norfolk pub for 60 years but reports of illness, discord and misfortune surrounded the goat’s head of Strumpshaw.

It was a time when the gruesome exploits of a band of ruthless men cast a shadow on the world of science as they stole corpses from graveyards - but in Norfolk, it was the surgeon son of a Yarmouth vicar who actually commissioned the deed.

Does the spirit of a murdered woman still roam the rooms of a shop on Magdalen Street, or has she finally found the peace she was denied in life?

Menaced at sunset by a hooded spectre that leapt from behind a stone left behind by a river of ice, a Norfolk farmer decided to lay the ghost to rest by guarding it from his grave for eternity.

It escaped complete destruction in a 1915 bombing raid, was struck by lightning on Midsummer’s Night in 1950 and boasts a ghost in the basement - Dereham’s Corn Exchange hides a dark secret: a black-clad spirit who roams underground.

When the giant from the marshes met the ogre from the Fens, the ensuing battle was brutal and bloody and led to the creation of a legend passed down by families for hundreds of years.

An unholy row broke out after the lord of a Norfolk manor removed coffins from beneath the local church to create room for his own family - it’s never wise to disturb the dead...

They say still waters run deep, and the Lily Pit at Gorleston is no exception. Rumours abound that the pit was once haunted - but which of the three stories attached to it rings the truest?

Al Stewart claimed The Year of the Cat was in 1976 when he released an album of the same – but in Norfolk, the year of the cat was most definitely 2011.

As the year draws to a close we take a look back at the some of the most popular Weird Norfolk stories of 2017. Follow the links for the full stories.

Was Brockdish Hall the backdrop for a tragic tale which saw a Christmas bride entombed in a chest for 50 long and lonely years?

A haunted wood, a strange stone that bleeds and a host of legends that link it to a martyred Saint, a ruined nunnery and ritual sacrifices.

Brograve Mill stands as a lonely sentinel on land once owned by a man said to have made a bargain with the Devil which he had no intention of honouring.

It was an underground experiment which set out to find scientific evidence of the afterlife – and there were some startling discoveries

It’s a stretch of road like no other in Norfolk, a spirit level which crosses the misty marshes to link a Broadland market town to the seaside.

It had been an unremarkable if pleasant evening spent with friends at a reading room in Bungay but it would end with something quite remarkable.

She is the patron saint of women who wished to be freed from abusive husbands, a woman whose commitment to avoiding her marriage to a pagan king saw her grow a beard overnight in order to repel him from the union.

They were an ordinary family in an ordinary house in an ordinary street. But what happened behind closed doors was absolutely extraordinary.

He’s the invisible menace that terrified us as children. But is there more to the bogeyman than an imaginary behaviour monitor?

In a special edition of Weird Norfolk, our mysterious tour guide rows down the River Wensum in 360 to bring you the most terrifying tales from the area surrounding Norwich’s best known river.

Norfolk’s curator, Siofra Connor and EDP photographer Antony Kelly went out to the ruins of St Mary’s church at East Somerton to see if they could capture some of the atmosphere of this magical place.

The Wildman of Watton or Bigfoot of the Forest, whatever name you choose to give the creature, there’s mounting evidence of a Sasquatch on the loose

Blickling has a famous ghost – more about her another day – but other spirits have made the hall their home, including the man whose ancestor built the Jacobethan mansion.

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