Norfolk is a spooky place with ghosts appearing in numerous places and spanning the centuries from the Roman invasion until today. Many of the phantoms have been seen on multiple occasions by different generations and some of the most active haunts are listed below.
The Bell Hotel, Thetford
Betty Radcliffe was either the hotel owner or its landlady in the 18th century when a quarrel with her lover ended her life. Some say she jumped out of a window, others say she was pushed.
They quarrelled in room 29 and guests have seen her standing at its window or felt her presence there. At night, ghostly housekeeping takes place, pillows are moved and curtains drawn. Guests hear keys clinking and skirts swishing as Betty does her rounds.
The Hotel also boasts a hooded monk, a young servant girl and dogs snoozing where a fireplace once was. A hive of paranormal activity, some believe this to be one of England’s most haunted sites.
Anne Boleyn was executed on 19th May by Henry VIII. Every year on that date as darkness falls, a headless coachman drives up to the house with Anne sitting inside headless but nursing her poor head. Some say the coach disappears on reaching the house, but she has been seen gliding through doors, seemingly checking rooms. Stories exist, too, of her regularly appearing in the South drawing-room, of an unknown lady whose signature on documents mysteriously vanished, and of a lady who disappears when approached but leaves a book open at Holbein’s portrait of Anne Boleyn.
The Cursed Bridges
Anne’s father, Sir Thomas Boleyn, also haunts the neighbourhood around Blickling Hall. For not saving Anne and her brother George from execution, Sir Thomas is condemned to cross twelve local bridges before cockcrow. Although he wasn’t executed, perhaps in sympathy with his children, his phantom is seen racing a spectral coach through the countryside to fulfil his ghostly penance. Local folklore says that his frantic route takes him in a straight line from Blickling to Aylsham, Burgh, Buxton, Coltishall, Meyton, Oxnead and Wroxham.
Hickling Broad’s Drummer Boy
Our 19th-century drummer boy and the daughter of a rich man fell in love. With no hope of his acceptance as a suitor, the couple secretly married. One night, he was making his way across the frozen Broad to their secret meeting place. Rhythmically drumming as always, suddenly, there was silence. The freezing Broad had closed over him as he fell through a patch of thin ice. Locals say in winter they hear the same rhythmic drumming as he searches for his beloved.
‘The Brown Lady,’ probably the ghost of Dorothy Walpole, who died in 1726 and was locked away by her husband Lord Townshend after she had an illicit affair. Said to have pined away after her children were taken from her, she may also have broken her neck falling down the main staircase in dubious circumstances. She is described as having dark hollows instead of eyes and an eerie glow. When the novelist Captain Maryatt met her she ‘glanced at him in a malicious and diabolical manner’. Infuriated, he shot her! Naturally, the bullet passed straight through her.
A Country Life photographer caught her on camera in 1936, and while today it could have been faked, experts then swore there was no evidence of trickery.
RAF Bircham Newton
In the 1940’s many of the five hundred men stationed at Bircham, now The National Construction College, never returned or died here. Dead airmen who were going home to their lady-loves are said to wander the rooms looking for sleeping women whom they gently touch, while young men are often pushed firmly into their mattresses. A squash ball is regularly heard as three squash fanatics seemingly kept their promise to meet on the courts after death. Occasionally, one of them appears in uniform and watches others play.
Dressed in hunting clothes, with a rifle slung over his shoulder, the ghost of a gamekeeper smiles pleasantly at those he encounters. When a contemporary dog walker passed him and then looked back, the man had vanished. Locals confirmed that many folks had seen the 1920’s gamekeeper patrolling the woods.
Nearby is Costessy Castle whose ruins are haunted by the Green Lady. One local journalist claimed that, ‘the Green Lady was an echo from the days when Catholicism was illegal in England and it was High Treason for a Catholic priest to even be on English soil and anyone found to be aiding and abetting a priest would be punished severely – the rumour was that Catholics in Costessey wore green to identify themselves.’ Was the Green Lady a catholic?
Maids Head Hotel, Tombland, Norwich
The ghost of a grouchy old man who wanders the Maids Head Hotel in Norwich. shaking his head angrily and grumbling is supposedly a former town mayor who was cranky in life, too. Luckily, he only lingers a few seconds before disappearing. The Lady in Grey, or the Grey Maid, a middle-aged woman wearing a 17th-century maid’s uniform, is a kindlier ghost whose presence and the keys she rattled were considered by some staff as ‘normal’. Our Gray Maid leaves a lingering smell of stale lavender behind her.
St George’s Theatre, King Street, Great Yarmouth
Both staff and visitors claim spirits are often heard whispering, while ghostly figures are seen gliding over staircases and fleetingly watching rehearsals. CCTV footage (below) captured two silhouettes walking through the corridors, and doors which apparently open by themselves.
Felbrigg Hall, Nr Norwich
On inheriting the hall in 1749, William Windham built a superb library. Sadly, his passion for books caused his death in 1809 when he repeatedly tried to rescue precious tomes from the burning library of a London house he was visiting. Unfortunately, he succumbed to his injuries soon afterwards. His ardour for books continues and people often report seeing William sitting in his library reading.