Haunted Norfolk Broads: Natural Beauty, Unnatural Horror

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The Norfolk Broads are flush with tales of ghostly terror. RICK HALE brings us on a tour of these beautiful, yet spooky, wetlands

Norfolk Broads

Spreading out over 100 square miles of Norfolk and Suffolk is The Norfolk Broads, a network of navigable waterways and wetlands.

The Broads, although not technically a national park, do share in the protection of them due to its natural beauty and its importance to the ecosystem of the region.

Up until 1960, ‘The Broads ‘ as they are called, was believed to be a part of the natural landscape.

That was until a local historian proved that it was a wholly man made land feature.

In the middle ages, local monasteries excavated the peat and sold it as fuel.

When the sea levels began to rise, the peat fields were flooded. The Monks attempted to hold back the waters with wind pumps and a network of dykes.

They were, of course, unsuccessful and The Broads became the beautiful landscape it is today.

Haunting Of The Norfolk Broads 

For several centuries, the Norfolk Broads has been a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.  And for those who just want to get away from it all and commune with nature.

But among its natural beauty and abundant wildlife, The Broads has something most national parks don’t have, ghosts.

Several places in and around The Norfolk Broads have terrifying stories of horrific ghosts and vengeful wraiths. Let’s take a walk through the splendour of The Broads and explore its many ghosts.

The Drummer

We start our journey in Swim Coots along the shores of Hickling Broad, where the ghost borne of tragedy and forbidden love is seen once a year.

In 1815, a young drummer boy returned to his home in Potter Heigham after being placed on leave from the army.

Not long after settling in, he met and fell deeply in love with a local girl. Although their relationship bloomed, it was met with opposition. 

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Her father disapproved of him and when the young man asked for her hand in marriage, the elder man flatly refused.

Completely demoralised by the rejection the Drummer continued to see his love in secret. But death soon found him.

One unusually warm February morning, the young man was doing something he always did, skate on Hickling Broad beating on his drum.

As he skated, the ice unexpectedly gave way,  and helpless to do anything to save his life, the Drummer boy sank below the frigid water and perished.

According to eyewitnesses,  if you’re standing on the shore of Hickling Broad, you may catch a glimpse of the drummer boy’s apparition shivering on the lake.

And others have reported hearing the unmistakable sound of a drum being carried on the breeze.

The Traitorous Monk

Essric,  the bailiff monk of St Benet’s church, had ambitions as we all do. But his ambitions turned dark and brought about his demise.

Not long after the Norman conquest, Essric betrayed his brethren to the invading forces. Essric wanted to be Abbot, and felt the only way to get there was to open the gates, and let the enemy in.

The betrayal worked, but not the way Essric anticipated.

The Normans did make him Abbot, but their sense of honour, and hatred of traitors caused them to turn on their puppet holy man.

Essric was seized and dragged out of his chambers while he was in prayer, taken to the main gate and given the only treatment befitting a man guilty of such ugly betrayal. 

Essric was nailed to the doors of the Abbey.  But that wasn’t enough punishment,  no there was more.

In order to drive home their displeasure of the traitorous monk, they slowly skinned him alive.

It’s said that on 25 May, the anniversary of the sadistic execution, you can see the bloody and battered body of Essric writhing and screaming out in pain on the Abbey doors.

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Forced to forever relive his punishment and the betrayal that brought him there centuries earlier.

The Phantoms Of Acle Straight

Acle Straight is a long stretch of road near The Norfolk Broads that joins Norwich with Great Yarmouth. And it just so happens to be one of the most haunted places in the region.

Over the years unsuspecting motorists have claimed to encounter a number of apparitions where Halvergate Road joins the straight.

A phantom carriage, drawn by ghostly horses is known to head into oncoming traffic and vanish before a collision.

A spectral soldier wearing a uniform has been seen silently marching down the middle of the road. Completely oblivious to the cars driving past him.

And an old man suddenly appears in front of cars. When the driver gets out to see if the man is OK, no one is found.

Brother Pacific’s

We circle back around to the Abbey at St Benet’s. But this other ghostly Monk is far holier, and more honourable than our previous Monk. 

Brother Pacificus had a job to do, and he did it well.

It was his duty to fix the screen that separated the choir loft from the rest of the church at St. Helen’s in Ranworth. His only companion on this daily journey was his faithful dog.

One afternoon, after returning to the Abbey, he made a grisly discovery.

This was during the dark days of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and every catholic institution was in danger of being ransacked, by the King’s soldiers.  St. Benet’s did not escape.

When the Monk entered he discovered that all of his brothers in Christ had been savagely slaughtered. Brother Pacificus was the only survivor.

With the threat gone, the lone survivor continued to live in the Abbey, carrying out his faithfulness to God. Until he died, but his ghost remains.

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The wispy image of a Monk is seen paddling his way towards the Abbey, with his dog standing at the bow.

When he reaches the shore, Brother Pacificus jumps out, and vanishes. Along with the boat and his dog.

Coach Of The Damned

Our fifth and final haunting of the Norfolk Broads brings us to Potter Heigham where witchcraft created The Broads most famous ghost, the Coach of the Damned.

Lady Carew was hopelessly in love with the dashing Sir Godfrey Haslitt of Bastwick.

But he barely even knew who she was. So, she turned to a local witch to obtain her heart’s desire.

The lovelorn lady hired a witch to brew up a love potion, which she did. She turned down payment, but there was a stipulation.

The Witch requested that if the potion worked, Lady Carew would have to give her anything she wanted.

She was so desperate,  Carew accepted her demands. Obviously, Lady Carew never read a fairy-tale.  Because if she had, she would have realised how foolish that was.

Well, the potion worked, and the two were married. But as they stood at the altar, the witch called upon lady Carew to make good her promise.

A grim skeletal figure appeared and dragged Lady Carew from the church and threw her in a flaming carriage, drawn by black horses.

Shortly after taking off at breakneck speed, the flaming coach fell from Potter Heigham bridge and plunged beneath the inky black water of the Norfolk Broads.

It’s said that on the night of 31 May, a flaming carriage pulled by the diabolical horses is seen racing over the bridge. And vanishes before falling to its fate.

The Norfolk Broads is a place of natural splendour. And unnatural activity. 

Have you experienced anything spooky on the Norfolk Broads? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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Rick Hale
Rick Hale, is a native of Chicago, Illinois and first became interested in the paranormal after having a positive interaction with an apparition at a young age. Rick is the author of The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghosts and Demons. Behold! Shocking True Tales of Terror...and Some Other Spooky Stuff. And Bullets, Booze and Babes: The Haunted History of Chicago and Illinois. Rick is the co-host of The Shadow Initiative Paranormal Talk. Rick was featured in the documentary Ghost Tapes 2. Rick is a featured writer for Spooky Isles and Paranormalstudy.com. Rick has also been published by Haunted Times, Paranormal Underground, The Supernatural Magazine and Legends Magazine.

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