Weird Norfolk: The spectre of Shelfanger and the haunted pond
At the tail-end of the 1800s, a series of strange goings-on haunted Bumbler's Farm in Shelfanger: doors opened and closed of their own accord, a towel roller in the kitchen spun violently as if powered by an unseen hand, ornaments in the parlour crashed to the ground and the ghostly figure of a woman was seen.
Now long-lost in the mists of time, the farm was once a magnet for paranormal activity to the point where people who knew of the stories attached to the building and its adjacent pond would avoid both, even after the former had been reduced to ruins and the latter had dried-up.
In 1957, Thomas Clifton Porcher, who ran 30-acre Glebe Farm in the village, just a few miles from Diss, recalled the stories.
An article in the Eastern Daily Press in January noted that the 77-year-old remembered with 'vivid clearness the frightening activity in that farmhouse where he was born' before telling the story of the farm before it was bought by his great-grandfather and when it was in the hands of a Mrs Dinah Freeman.
'Following a dispute over land she cut her throat, and then, with a heavy candlestick in her hand, she made her way out of the farmhouse, explained Mr Porcher, and went into the pond,' the article states.
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'The candlestick stayed in the pond, he went on. His father heard the story of the woman and the candlestick through his grandfather, and had been warned that if the pond was ever cleaned the candlestick had to be left where it was.
'Then came the day when the pond was cleaned and out with the mud came the candlestick. Mr Porcher was about six at the time. That night it was as though 'the devil' was in the farmhouse. Things got so bad that Mr Porcher's father hired a man to turn over the three tons of mud, find the candlestick and put it back in the pond.
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'Even then the strange occurrences continued to some degree up to the time when the family left the farmhouse 64 years ago. It has been empty since. A brother of Mr Porcher saw the apparition of a woman in the house. No one, however, appears to have noticed anything out of the ordinary at the spot in recent times. But that doesn't alter the fact that Mr Porcher's sister-in-law and housekeepr, Mrs H Porcher, refuses to go anywhere near the ruined buildings.'
Mr Porcher described the frightening events which began the night the pond was cleaned – the door slamming, the objects in the parlour hurled to the floor and the ghostly figure of a woman seen.
According to official records, Dinah Freeman was buried on October 26 1814, aged 36. The wife of Mr C B Freeman, she had for some time been confined to bed with a terrible fever. In the Monthly Magazine or British Register of 1814, it is written that Mrs Freeman had, '…in one of those paroxysms which sometimes impart to the sufferer an unusual portion of strength', escaped from her room and fallen into a deep pond.
It adds: 'a neighbour found means, at the hazard of his life, to extricate her from [a] watery grave, but the sudden transition from heat to cold terminated her life in a few hours'.
Over the decades, the story became embroidered by firesides in Shelfanger and woven into a far more ghostly tale to include throat-slitting and returning to avenge a crime – and the village's haunting doesn't stop with poor Dinah.
At Wash Lane, near the church and ford, a mother and her 10-year-old child were travelling in the car at some point in the 1990s when they were confronted by something terrifying: as they drove through the village, an apparition of a burning man ran in front of their car. Perhaps he was searching for Dinah's pond and a form of salvation.
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