Thetford in Norfolk has a long, dark and spooky history. RICK HALE looks at some of its most haunted sites.
A short two-hour journey north east from London will bring you to the charming market town of Thetford in Norfolk.
Thetford can trace its origins as far back as the Iron Age with many of its buildings predating the Norman conquest. With its main landmark, Thetford Castle founded shortly thereafter.
Thetford is a town that has known years of intrigue and religious persecution, having been affected by the dissolution of the monasteries.
And the destruction of Thetford Castle, which is nothing more than an earthwork to this day.
During the dark days of Works War II, Thetford took in tens of thousands of Londoners escaping the Nazi forces pounding the capital city from the air.
With all this history, it should come as little surprise that Thetford has a number of locations where lost souls walk and ghostly revenants haunt the living.
Here are five haunted places in Thetford sure to chill the bones of even the bravest ghost hunter.
The Bell Hotel
Overlooking King Street is the Grade II listed Bell Hotel. According to historical records an inn has sat on the site as far back as 1493.
The Bell served as a coaching in for travelers and mail carriers travelling between London and Norwich.
With the arrival of the railway the coaching route was retired and the coaching inn was converted into a hotel seeing to the comfort of visitors from London and beyond.
An interesting fact concerning this 3 star hotel, it housed the cast and crew of the popular BBC sitcom, “Dad’s Army.”
And while living there some of the cast and crew reported what many have known for years about The Bell Hotel. The Bell Hotel has several very active ghosts.
In 1750, Betty Radcliffe, landlady of The Bell, angered her longtime lover during a night of heavy drinking.
While the two furiously argued, Betty’s not so better half killed her and fled into the night.
Although she’s been dead for nearly three centuries, Betty still checks in on her guests, making sure they are comfortable.
Guests have heard the sound of heavy skirts swishing across the floor and would catch a glimpse of the ghostly form of Betty walking past their room holding a brightly lit candle.
A second ghost seen regularly is the apparition of a little girl staring out the windows as people pass by.
A phantom dog is said to sleep soundly by the fireplace. When people go to pet the canine, they’re shocked to find their hand passes through him.
Lastly, a menacing figure in a black robe believed to be a monk has frightened many guests in the main suite bedroom. His appearance is said to be heralded by the sound of jingling keys.
The Ghost Of Nuns Bridges
Walkers out taking a nightly stroll on Nuns Bridges have claimed to encounter a truly bizarre and frightening ghost.
The apparition is a precocious little boy riding a headless wooden horse.
The phantom is believed to be little Lord Dacre who perished in 1566 at the tender age of 4 or 5.
The question really isn’t whether or not he is haunting the bridge as he’s been seen by dozens of people. The question is how the child lost his life at such an early age.
According to local researchers, there are two stories to explain the death of young Lord Dacre.
The first story places the boy dining with his parents when he wandered off and tried to climb a large rocking horse.
Somehow, the horse collapsed and crushed the boy’s head, killing him instantly.
The second story is like the first except for one detail, an evil uncle of the boy sabotaged the rocking horse resulting in Lord Dacre’s untimely demise.
Whatever the truth may be, Lord Dacre haunts Nuns Bridges and is known to be a somewhat naughty little spirit.
Problems with the ghost got so bad the people of the town attempted to exorcise the ghost and send him to the great hereafter.
Apparently, it didn’t work as the little Lord still makes the occasional appearance and hassles people as they cross the bridge.
The Chanting Monk at Thetford Priory
The ruins of Thetford Priory is a much visited landmark just outside of the town.
At one time, Thetford Priory was the largest and most significant monastery in this region of East Anglia.
The Priory was founded in the early years of the 12th century by Roger Bigold, First Earl of Norfolk. And it was the burial place of the Dukes of Norfolk.
For 4 centuries the Priory held a special place in the hearts of the people until 1540 when Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries came down hard on Thetford Priory.
All that remains of this once great monastery are the lower walls of the church and cloister and a 14th century gatehouse. And the ghost of a monk.
Since at least the 1930s, explorers at the ruins have reported the presence of a ghostly monk.
The first recorded encounter was in 1937 when visitors heard the sound of chanting and singing seemingly coming from everywhere and yet nowhere.
A second dramatic sighting occurred in 1987 when a group of teenagers watched in disbelief as a monk descended a stone stairway.
When they went to investigate, the monk and the stairs were nowhere to be found.
5 years later in 1992, another group of teens watched in horror as the monk, dressed in a black hooded robe rushed passed them and vanished.
All they could hear was the unmistakable sound jangly metal keys being carried on the breeze.
The Ghost of Joe Blunts Lane
Some hauntings are the result of terrible tragedies and poor choices, and a footpath known as Joe Blunts Lane, near Croxton road is one such place.
According to a popular urban legend, Joe Blunt was accused by his mother in law of viciously attacking his wife that left her near death.
Fearing he most certainly would hang for the crime, Joe left all of his belongings and fled.
Perhaps out of guilt for nearly killing his wife or fear of being caught, Joe grabbed a rope and hung himself from a railway bridge that crossed over the footpath that now bares his name.
Whether or not it was guilt that drove him to this desperate act, we’ll never know. One thing we do know is that his ghost haunts the footpath where he died over a century ago.
The shadowy form of a large man has been seen stalking the path by people taking this well known short cut.
When they come upon the railway bridge they are terrified to see that same man’s lifeless body hanging from the bridge. The image slowly fades away after a few moments.
Although the story of Joe Blunt’s death and haunting may be considered nothing more than an urban legend.
Dozens of eyewitnesses would heartily disagree and say the haunting of Joe Blunts Lane is very real.
Thetford Warren Lodge
Near Thetford forest can be found a lonely stone structure known as the Thetford Warren Lodge.
This building is said to be haunted by the ghost of a leper who lived in a leper colony during the middle ages.
The leper has been described as a faceless man in blue clothing and he reportedly wanders the surrounding area and he’s been seen glaring out the windows as people approach.
A number of visitors have watched in horror as the sickly looking man runs out of the building screaming for them to leave immediately.
He then stalks back into the building and watches them leave from the shadows.
A second ghost said to haunt the lodge is that of a large rabbit with glowing red eyes.
If you should happen upon this bizarre phantom, try not to gaze into its fiery eyes, because if you do you will die a horrible death within days.
Thetford is a charming market town in Norfolk with much to offer the tourist.
One of its most popular attractions is the Thetford Ghost Walks which meets at the Leaping Hare Everything Thetford in October and November as well as February and March.
From there you’ll head out into the haunted streets and learn all about the ghostly folklore and legends that make Thetford so unique.
But make sure you book your walk quickly because the spots tend to fill up. And you know if I should ever visit I’ll be walking right there beside you.
Have you seen a ghost in Thetford? Tell us about it in the comments section below!