WEIRD NORFOLK: A haunting in Harleston, Albert the Friendly ghost and the six-year-old Norfolk girl who saw dead people

Six-year-old Gemma Wiles points out the "doorway" in her bedroom through which her ghostly visitors

Six-year-old Gemma Wiles points out the "doorway" in her bedroom through which her ghostly visitors arrived. Date: 24 June 1983. Picture: Archant Library - Credit: Archant

We’ve all heard of Casper the Friendly Ghost: but did you know that Norfolk boasted its own sociable spirit in Harleston?

A couple visited by the spirit of a man in their Harleston house called in a medium to help – but didn’t bank on their six-year-old daughter crying because Albert the Friendly Ghost had gone.

A strange tale from the Eastern Daily Press of June 24 1983 tells the story of Gemma Wiles, who made an unusual friend at her house close to the centre of town, a house several hundred years old with many stories to tell. Weird Norfolk got in contact with Gemma who gave us her blessing to share her story and name her, but we have decided to mask the address of the house in order not to spook current residents.

“At first we thought it was her imagination,” said Gemma’s mother, speaking to reporters at the time. “We would hear her talking and giggling. She was never frightened and said he was her friend.” Then the rest of the family – Carol’s husband, Malcolm, and their three sons, Steven, Mark and Jonathon, began to get the message that they had a visitor. Footsteps were often heard going down the stairs and the kitchen door opening, but on investigation the door was shut and no one there.NThe ghost of an old man would also entertain Gemma with pranks.

There was also an occasion, said her mother, when Gemma was lifted several feet into the air by an unseen force and bumped her head on some kitchen shelves. “Gemma said her man had done it,” she added, “he didn’t know the shelves were there.” There were times to when Gemma’s hair would be given a playful tweak and hr bed rocked. “That got a bit much!” said Carol. “Gemma had to tell him to stop – and he did.”

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The family became accustomed to sharing their home with a ghost but in the spring of 1983, Gemma’s mother woke in the middle of the night and saw a little girl standing by her bed: and it wasn’t Gemma. When she woke her husband to see, the figure disappeared. “I was very frightened. I thought I was going silly,” she said. Without a prompt, the next morning Gemma told her parents that the old man had brought a little girl to visit her in the night and, a few nights later, Gemma’s mother awoke again, this time seeing an old man standing at the foot of her bed.

Deciding that the time had come for action, she asked a medium to visit the house. “It was uncanny. She identified exactly the spots where they appeared.” she explained. The medium then explained that a new bungalow stood where once there had once been an orchard and some sheds, and that she could see a little girl playing, swinging on one of the trees. What she saw next was tragic: the rope on the swing slipped round the little girl’s neck and in minutes she died by strangling: “It seems it all happened so quickly, the child did not realise she had died,” said Gemma’s mother. “The old man – probably a grandfather or uncle – stayed behind to keep her company. The medium thought his name was Albert. He loved little girls. That is why he did not appear in the house until Gemma was born.”

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The medium told the family she would ask a contact in the spirit world to take the two ghosts to their final resting place. “And ever since then, there have been no more visits,” said Gemma’s mother, “the house feels different. It is just us living here now. The difficulty is that Gemma misses her friend. We had to tell her that he has gone on holiday!”

Some believe that children can lead others into another realm because they still have a foot in both our world and the spirit world and are purer because they are yet to be told what to think or see, meaning their intuition is fine tuned.

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