Weird Norfolk: The Headless Ghost of Sandy Lane, Dereham

Aerial view of Sandy Lane, Dereham. Picture: EDP Library

Aerial view of Sandy Lane, Dereham. Picture: EDP Library - Credit: Archant

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.

It was the first documented account of the Sandy Lane ghost, who made several appearances in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

As the woman, who asked not to be named, walked along Sandy Lane at 11.55pm, she saw a figure ahead of her – a man, aged around 30 – who turned towards a weeping willow tree in a garden on the lane.

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'I stopped and watched because I wanted to know what he was up to. I thought he might be planning to hide behind the tree until I came level. It was then that I suddenly realised that he had not been walking on the path but about a foot above ground level…he made no sound as he walked,' she said.

'He turned round and came down the steps and faced towards me. Then he disappeared gradually, bit by bit. I don't believe in ghosts, but I know that I saw what I have described.'

After publication of the first news report, a 15-year-old girl came forward claiming to have seen a ghost in her Sandy Lane bedroom – more than a year before the 1969 sighting.

'The girl said she woke up one night to see a man sitting in a chair in the corner of the room. She could see right through his body to the wall behind,' said the report, adding: 'he was wearing knee-length breeches with long stockings and a frilly shirt…it has been suggested that the two ghosts were in fact the same spirit of a person who had lived in the area during the 18th century.'

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The Dereham and Fakenham Times report added that research had revealed that a 1757 map of the area showed a house on the very spot where the first ghost was seen, dismissing a previous belief that there had been no dwellings on the land since after the war.

Just after Christmas 1971, an 18-year-old cyclist reported another spectral sighting on Sandy Lane - this time, the horrifying spectacle of a headless figure – and just weeks later, there was another appearance by the resident ghoul.

Postman Leonard Raines, of Toftwood, was starting his round at 6.30pm on a cold January morning in 1972 – cold easterly winds were bringing snow flurries and as Leonard drove up Sandy Lane with the A47 junction behind him, he saw a figure on the same side of the road as the Gemini pub, looking out across the children's play area.

It was pitch dark, but Leonard caught the man, who was wearing a brown overcoat, in his headlights: he thought it odd for a number of reasons, firstly, the man appeared to be staring into space during inhospitable weather and at an unusually-early hour, secondly…he realised the figure didn't appear to have a head.

An open-minded postie, Mr Raines appealed through the newspaper to anyone who could shed any light on the mystery, the reporter noting: 'If the figure he saw last Thursday was a person, he would like to her from him so that he could put his mind at rest.' There are no records of anyone coming forward.

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