Suffolk’s Most Haunted Spots
From a mummified cat in Bury St Edmunds to a ghost causing a car accident in Long Melford (maybe) to devils on the marshes in Iken, Jayne explores Suffolk’s spookiest tales
The thatched church of St Botolph, one of around 60 which bear the saint’s name, is a hidden gem. It’s built on a bluff above the River Alde where the seventhcentury Saxon nobleman Botolph landed and was gifted land on which to build a monastery.
It was here that he set about exorcising the “devils” that glowed in the marshes at night.
Botolph was taught at a Benedictine Abbey in France before he returned to East Anglia to build his house of worship.
To introduce a less romantic element, it’s likely that Botolph’s exorcism was, in fact, due to his draining of the land which eliminated the marsh gas and the luminescence popularly known as Will o’ the Wisps.
Popular tradition said Will, the
Lantern Man or Jack o’ Lantern, carried candle-lit lanterns in the darkness to attract weary travellers, who they led across the marshes to their certain death.
Back in Iken, Botolph had more than marsh demons to contend with while building his monastery. The Griffmonster Walks website reads: “Botolph initially attempted to build his monastery on Yarn Hill but during the night the stones would be moved and the workers were found dead, their bodies mutilated. The road to Scillasforda (Chillesford) was also said to be plagued by ghosts of restless souls. Botolph believed the island was possessed by the devil himself and built the Iken High Cross, a monolith of stone seven feet tall and inscribed with carvings of wild dogs and wolves.
This was to ward off the evil spirits and banish the devil from the island. It appeared to work and the construction was shifted from Yarn Hill and on to where the modern day church stands.”
St Botolph died after a long life of Christian endeavour in 680. His monastery continued until it was destroyed by Danish invaders in 870AD. His remains were buried at Burgh, north to the present parish of Grundisburgh, also said to be haunted by marsh demons. Around 50 years later, King Cnut granted permission for his relics to be divided between churches including Bury St Edmunds, Ely, Thorney and possibly Hadstock.
It is perhaps this last journey that led to St Botolph becoming the patron saint of wayfarers and travellers?
1 The Nutshell, Bury St Edmunds
Britain’s smallest pub with a maximum capacity of 10 to 15 people has a cursed mummified cat hanging just above patrons’ heads. Keep your hands off this petrified pussycat as anyone who touches it suffers some misfortune, as men from RAF Honington found when they kidnapped the cursed kitty, only to later experience kitchen fires and a plane accident. It was soon returned. If that isn’t enough, the ghosts of a murdered boy and a phantom monk in a black habit have also been sighted. If you start smelling a lady’s perfume when no women are present, that’s yet another entity letting you know it’s just behind you.
2 Roos Hall, Beccles
If you’re taking a walk through the countryside surrounding this 16th century hall, then keep an eye out for the apparitions said to frequent its grounds. It may be the ghostly figures of the many criminals put to death at the hanging tree or, most famously, the headless horseman with his four horses dragging a coach said to contain a member of the Blennerhassett family. Inside the Grade I listed building - which has previously opened for tours - the devil has singed his footprint into the wall and the face of a small, pale girl has often been seen peering out from one of the top windows. If you wish to dance with the devil, rumour has it walking around the hanging tree six times will summon Lucifer himself…
3 Greyfriars, Dunwich
As you look out on the Suffolk coast within the ruins of this former monastery, it may be hard to believe that during the Middle Ages this was the site of