WEIRD NORFOLK: The ghost of Thetford’s Joe Blunt’s Lane who returned to protest his innocence
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
The Thetford railway bridge ghost that returned to set the record straight and clear his name
It's a scary story which has been told for generations, the tale of a man accused of a terrible crime who escaped capture by the most extreme method possible and whose ghost still haunts the bridge where he died.
According to the legend, more than 100 years ago a man ended his life at Thetford's railway bridge because his sweetheart's mother had publically accused him of attacking her daughter and causing her great harm. Fearing what might happen to him if he was accused of such a heinous crime, the man made a devastating and irreversible decision. Heading down the ancient tree-lined track to the railway bridge close to the town's station, the man had time to ponder his fate as he carried the rope which would end his journey on earth and effectively confirm his guilt to the people of Thetford. But was he actually guilty? Had he attacked his sweetheart? Or would the truth of what had actually happened be revealed in an unusual way decades later?
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Today, Joe Blunt's Lane remains a public footpath and bridleway, a well-loved short cut for many people who live in the area and the bridge, built in 1882, is a well-known landmark. Near the Croxton Road end of the lane, it runs between Thetford Academy site and its car park while at the Norwich Road end, it separates the Admirals estate from the planned Thetford Sustainable Urban Expansion.
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Urban legend has it that the lane is named after the man who took his life there, but there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case - indeed there is no evidence to suggest why the lane bears this name at all, despite many lines of enquiry made by Weird Norfolk. But whether the lane is named after the man whose last breath was taken there or not, one thing is for certain: his ghost has been seen at the railway bridge by passers-by at night and his story has been passed down by families for many years.
In a social media post, and in answer to questions about whether anyone knew any information about Joe Blunt, local residents shared their own recollections of being told about the incident at the bridge. One said: "All I know is what my father told me, that Joe Blunt hanged himself. Must have been after 1840 as Thetford Station dates from 1845." Another added: "I lived and was born in one of the two houses at the bottom of Joe Blunt's Lane in 1966. We were told the story by my father and grandfather who were gamekeepers on the estate...I never went that way after dark."
The author of the original post went on to explain one of the reasons for his interest in the railway bridge ghost:"Some years ago local people were using an Ouija board and a spirit came through and spelled out: 'My name is Joe Baylunt from Thetford and I am innocent' and then the glass flew off the table and smashed." Those at the seance learned that Joseph had been accused of attacking his girlfriend by her mother, who objected to the relationship and was determined to end it at any cost. As Joseph set out to evade capture, he made it clear that he would rather die than be imprisoned, which is what happened. As the story was told, it was said that the glass started moving around faster and faster "...and the words being spelled were angrier and angrier" until the glass flew off the board and splintered into thousands of tiny pieces.
In a story full of unknowns, one thing is certain: to this day there are those that refuse to walk under the bridge on Joe Blunt's Lane after nightfall.
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