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Spooks in the Wheel

As we once again approach the festive season of Christmas, I remember how, like many other families, it was traditional for my family to gather around the open fireplace on the evening of 26th December, Boxing day, to recount tales of the supernatural, old and new. Alas my family has all gone on to a better place. With just the remotest chance that they have access to a P.C. I thought I would continue the tradition by relating some of the tales and experiences to those of you who enjoy the nostalgia of stepping back into the past. It is difficult for me to create the right atmosphere, sitting here at my Personal computer on December 17th. 10,000 miles from my hometown of Gorleston, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, and with the temperatures hovering around 30 degrees Centigrade! So, with the sun just disappearing over the yardarm, and with a glass of cool beer at my elbow, here goes.

 

trch_lft_md_blkThe phantom coach of Otteys farm

Some time during the late seventeen hundreds it appears a passenger coach was travelling on a bitterly cold and stormy night from Suffolk and was approaching Gorleston along what is now the Beccles Road. As the coach neared the approach to Otteys farm the horses took fright and bolted. The coach, passengers and horses finished up in the ice covered  and apparently deep, pond, where all perished. It was said that on or around the time of year when this tragedy took place, it was possible to hear the approach of the phantom coach, followed by the terrified screams of the drowning passengers as they met their ghastly end in the pond at Otteys farm.

As a child, my parents would take me to feed the ducks on the pond at Otteys farm, whilst they purchased eggs from the owners. I understand the farm and the pond with its macabre history have both disappeared in the name of progress. So remember, if you should be passing along Beccles Road on a dark and stormy winter’s night, and you hear the unusual sound of an approaching coach and horses, just turn around and keep walking.

 

trch_lft_md_blkOld Scarfe

During the late 1600’s eyewitness reports of a huge phantom dog being sighted on the Southtown Road became rife. From this period onwards up until the early 1800’s local citizens would try to avoid being out at night on this road or the marshes behind it. Several sightings throughout East Anglia of the phantom dog known as ‘Old Scarfe’or ‘Black Schunk’were reported during this period .It is almost certain, rumours of the ghastly apparition were spread by local smugglers, who found it to their advantage to keep the stories of the sightings alive, to make sure the locals were safely tucked up on their homes whilst they, the smugglers carried on their nefarious trade! As a footnote it was whilst Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was spending a few days in Cromer, that he heard the stories of the phantom hound. The outcome of which gave us his thrilling tale ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.

 

trch_lft_md_blkThe house on Drudge Road

During the 1950’s a good friend of ours told us a couple of experiences which I would like to repeat to you. During the First World War T. came home on leave from France and stayed with his widowed mother who resided in a small terraced house on Drudge Road.On retiring to his bed on the first night, he was surprised to hear the sound of someone ascending the stairs next to his bedroom. On opening his door to see who it could possibly be, he was surprised to find the darkened stairway empty .The following morning at breakfast, he mentioned the event to his mother. She told him it was not unusual. It always occurs when someone new stays in the house, she said. And it nearly always happens for a few nights. That following evening before retiring to his bed, and arming himself with a box of matches and a candlestick, he kept vigil until after midnight. Suddenly he again heard the sound of someone ascending the stairs. Sitting on the foot of his bed and closely watching the door by the light of the guttering candle, the sound of the footfall’s stopped outside his bedroom door, slowly the brass doorknob began to turn and as he watched the bedroom latch slowly started to lift. Taking the doorknob in his right hand and with the candle in his left, he slowly opened the door. Using the candle to light the stairs, he observed an empty stairwell, but listened in awe as the sound of the footfalls slowly descended down the stair, He noticed that they ceased on the third stair tread from the bottom. As on the previous night nothing else occurred and so he retired to his bed. The following morning he entered the cupboard under the stairs and found that covering the treads from the third riser from the bottom, was a sheet of corrugated iron. Grabbing some tools he quickly removed the iron sheeting and to his disappointment found nothing to account for the presence of the metal sheeting .It never happened again during his leave. T. has now passed on, but I often wonder if the presence of someone new staying in the room at the top of the stair still brings the same result.

 

trch_lft_md_blkThe Rented Property

Several years passed and T was now a married man with a wife and two small daughters. For a short period they were renting a house on Colomb Road Gorleston .the older child aged seven years, started having a recurring dream, and at breakfast would ask her parents who the man was who was hanging by a rope over the stairwell. They dismissed this as a small child’s imagination. After a few months they moved on. Some time after this, T.was mentioning to an aqaintence the house where they had rented and was informed by him that several years ago a man had committed suicide in that very house by hanging himself over the banister rail.     

 

trch_lft_md_blkDon’t laugh, it could happen to you

Many years ago an aunt of mine had an elderly relative from London staying for a couple of weeks. Auntie had cause to spend just one night during this period away from home, and asked my mother if she would drop in around dusk to make sure the elderly relative was O.K. mother did as promised and after spending some time chatting in the back lounge which faced out onto the lawn, went to take her leave. To get to the front door mother had to pass a somewhat gloomy doorway, which led to the kitchen, Further down the hallway beyond this area, was an even more badly lit stair well, which led to the floor above. As my mother approached the doorway from the kitchen she was confronted by an apparition who emerged from the doorway. My mother, who had second sight, was horrified as this black shape which was approximately four six inches in height and seemed to taper out before reaching the floor. It slowly floated down the hallway and then proceeded to the badly lit stairwell whence it moved up the staircase. My poor mother was in a severe state of shock, realizing the only way out of the house, was past the kitchen and then down the hall, and then past the area where the apparition was last seen disappearing up the stairs. Somehow she steeled herself and made a determined effort, finally reaching the front door and quickly letting herself out into the gathering dusk. My wife Carol was in our house when mother rang the doorbell. Carol knew immediately something awful had happened, as mothers face was just like chalk, and she was shaking like a leaf. It was several weeks before mother recovered. We never mentioned this to my dear aunt who lived on in the house for several years. I would keep an eye on the property when she went away from time to time. Invariably it was on dusk when I entered the house and I always checked the back lounge, but must admit once beyond the stairwell I couldn’t get out of the house quick enough!

During the 1960’s I was working on a construction site with a team of Irishmen, one of the labourer’s was chatting to me one day and I happened to ask his opinion on The Little People. Taking a drag on his cigarette he gave me a knowledgeable glance and said. (I don’t believe in dem meself. But they’re definitely there allroight!)

reaper3Arthur. E. Bensley

 

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