11 of Suffolk’s spookiest places
- Credit: Archant
Our readers share the locations in our county that send shivers down their spines.
Steeped in folklore and history galore, Suffolk is certainly a contender for being one of the spookiest places in the country – whether that’s due to local legend, reported ghost sightings or unexplained phenomena. Why not check out some of these spooky locations for yourself – if you dare.
Once the capital of the Kingdom of the Eastern Angles, Dunwich is a coastal village located just a stone’s throw away from Leiston. Once a prosperous port town, Dunwich’s size has shrunk over the centuries due to constant coastal erosion and storms that have battered the area.
Because of this, much of Dunwich now belongs to the sea – including eight of its former churches, three hospitals and two chapels. Local legend has it that church bells can still be heard ringing from beneath the sea at certain times, with some sailors refusing to set sail if they can hear the bells. Even more eerie, divers who have taken to the seabed to explore the ruins have reported to have felt like they weren’t alone down there.
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Back on land, Greyfriars Priory, a 13th century Franciscan priory sits in the southwest of the village, with many claiming to have seen ghostly monks and apparitions roaming through the scattered ruins, accompanied by the sounds of faint chanting. As well as sounds, strange lights have been spotted at Greyfriars, thought by many to be hobby lanterns – which supposedly try to lure people to the cliffs’ edge to be met with a watery demise. Seen during the darkest part of the night, these lights are thought to be particularly active between September 29 and December 24.
Rougham Control Tower, Bury St Edmunds
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Built in 1942, this current Grade II-listed building was once home to the 94th Bombardment Group during the Second World War – where tragedy struck not just once, but twice. In May 1943, a B-26 plane crashed into the airfield, killing the crew onboard, and on May 17 1943, 11 planes left for a bombing raid and not one made it home.
Since then, it’s been reported by many that the ghost of a USAAF pilot who perished while serving can be seen in photographs taken at the control tower, and a number of eerie coincidences have taken place while visitors have been exploring.
Tracy Monger, a local paranormal investigator who has visited the tower numerous times before, recalls some of the creepy things she’s managed to spot while there. “We’ve seen things like shadows walking around and we’ve heard different noises - but there’s two things that really stick in my mind. Once, we were in the cafe area and we heard glass breaking, as if someone had smashed it on the floor. Needless to say, there was no broken glass to be found. Another time, we were in the control tower, at the top of the stairs and two of us in the group heard clear footsteps coming up the stairs, but there was no one there.”
Landguard Fort, Felixstowe
With an illustrious military past, it’s no surprise that Felixstowe’s Landguard Fort is home to a number of hauntings, spirits and phantoms. Existing in some form or another since 1543, its current fort has been in place since the 18th century.
Since then, various visitors and staff members have reported an array of ghostly sightings throughout the fort’s rooms and passageways. These include a Victorian artilleryman who supposedly haunts the gift shop and has caused items to fly off the shelves at random, while others have claimed to have seen a sailor looking out from a window on the top floor.
Back when the fort was used by soldiers, many would reportedly see a lone marching musketeer on the Holland Bastion. Dogs would behave strangely whenever there and soldiers were so spooked by the sighting that they hated being stationed in that part of the fort.
The Four Horseshoes, Thornham Magna
Many pubs are steeped in fascinating history, folklore and mystique – but one Suffolk pub in particular is especially spooky, and its walls certainly have some stories to tell. The Four Horseshoes, located just outside of Eye, is an ancient pub that reportedly dates all the way back to 1150, and is home to a mummified cat up in the loft. In medieval times, cats were thought to ward away evil spirits and were often in the walls of buildings for protection.
The Four Horseshoes’ landlord Tom Parkhurst has seen (and heard) some of the pub’s strange goings on, and said: “We have a gentleman ghost who is a smartly dressed chap – with a top hat and tails. It’s amazing to hear when guests or staff have seen something, because they always describe him in the same way. He is only ever spotted in one room, but he has even been seen by a guest from outside through the window. We have had staff follow him through the doorway to see if he needs assistance, only for him to have completely vanished. We don’t know much about him, but he seems a friendly enough chap, and he doesn’t help himself behind the bar.”
Another ghostly being supposedly haunts the pub, and is that of a woman who is searching for her children. “Her presence has been felt numerous times in the bedroom, such as televisions and kettles randomly turning on and off. Also, the feeling of someone gently sitting on the end of the bed has been reported many times,” added Tom.
Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich
One of the county’s most beloved historic buildings, this beautiful Tudor home dates back to over 500 years, and is home to not only a fine collection of Constable and Gainsborough paintings, but also a number ghosts that reportedly haunt its halls.
Documented sightings over the years at Christchurch Mansion include that of a maid thought to be in her late 20s wearing an Edwardian dress in the upstairs art gallery, dancing with two children, playing ‘ring a ring a roses’.
A young servant girl has also been seen roaming the mansion’s hallways, while other visitors have seen and felt the presence of a Victorian-era woman in a grey gown wander past them before disappearing again.
Railway Walk, Hadleigh
Nestled deep in the Suffolk countryside is Railway Walk, a 11.6-hectare nature reserve that is bordered by a canopy of towering trees. Charlotte Smith-Jarvis explains what it is about this local beauty spot in that really spooks her out once the sun sets. “One of the spookiest places I know is also one of my favourite spots. I live just minutes away from the Railway Walk in Hadleigh and I have to say, it’s been my saviour in lockdown. A safe, two-mile off-road track that I’ve taken myself to day after day for a stroll. I’ve watched the seasons change. Foraged for elderflowers, blackberries, rosehips. My children have spent the summer riding over the ‘bumps’ on their bikes. It’s beautiful.
“But as dusk sets in and a black cloak falls across the decommissioned Victorian railway line, it’s hard not to feel a little uneasy - especially as you get close to the ‘bridge’ end on the Raydon side of the walk - where thickets of trees block out the moon.
“When I was growing up, there were rumours and urban legends about a headless horseman along the track. I recall one evening in my teens walking the family dog with my dad there. Doing as spaniels do, Charlie ran off with dad hot on his tail, leaving me in the dark in the midst of the woods. Pulse racing, sweat creeping down my spine, I could have sworn I heard the clip-clop of a horse behind me as I stood there alone. To this day I can’t bring myself to walk there alone after sunset.”
Newmarket Heath, Newmarket
This Site of Special Scientific Interest is not only home to a number of rare flowering plants, but also the ghost of a jockey that haunts its grassy fields. Over the years, people have reported spooky sightings of Fred Archer, a 19th century horseracing icon, riding his trusty steed Scotch Pearl across the Heath.
Fred was as known for his life off the track as his life on it - and eventually took his own life at the age of 29. From 1927 onwards, ghost sightings have been recorded, with witnesses saying they’ve seen a horse and rider galloping around Warren Hill and Rowley Mile.
On stormy evenings, legend has it that Fred can also be seen wandering around Pegasus Stables, a yard he built back in 1882.
Hamilton Road, Felixstowe
Located on Felixstowe’s Hamilton Road is a former florist shop, which during the 1970s and 1980s, would give many of its staff a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. Julie Jones, who began working there when she was 15, shares some of her paranormal experiences from her days spent there.
“Back then, it was owned by Margaret and Derek Baldwin, and we used to have the full premises, which was five floors. The downstairs, cellar, and shop floor were fine, but going up the building, the temperature would get colder, and the place was awful the further up the stairs you went. I wouldn’t be worried now, and would even try to communicate with them, as I worked for a spiritualist who told me all about the place - a servant had hung herself from the top floor, which is where we used to hear the most noise and feel the coldest, even in the summer.
“I remember one year, going upstairs to stock take with one of my co-workers, when someone came running up the stairs. We spoke to them, but soon realised there was absolutely no one there. It made all of the hairs stand up on the whole of my body, and I can still see the look of shock on my colleague’s face. The whole time I worked there, I hated going past the bend on the stairs and would rather run round the corner to use the public toilets than use the shop loo, and I was not alone in this. We eventually had new owners take over, who painted one of the rooms on the third floor and turned it into a staff room - but no one ever used it, everyone would rather not take a break than use that staff room.”
Cemetery Lane, Ipswich
If you happen to be strolling down Cemetery Lane, be sure to watch over your shoulder for a possible sighting of the man in the brown coat. Facebook user Esme Farrell explains how she crossed paths with the mysterious spirit on her way to work one morning.
“About four years in March, I was walking to work at around 7am, and as I got to Belvedere Road, a shortish man with a brown coat and flat cap came from the left in a gap in the hedge across the road. When I got to the top, he had gone. The cemetery gates were shut, so I don’t know where he possibly could have gone. I didn’t think much more about it, until I read an article about Ipswich ghosts and he was mentioned. Apparently, he used to work at the farm before it was redeveloped, so I’m sure it was him. I haven’t seen him since, but I always make sure to look out for him.”
Commonly seen by other Ipswich residents, many have reported similar sightings of a man crossing the road and tipping his hat at drivers before mysteriously disappearing.
Buttermarket Shopping Centre, Ipswich
When you think of haunted hotspots, a shopping centre usually doesn’t come to mind – but in Suffolk, anything goes. Ipswich’s Buttermarket is built on the site a former monastery and Anglo-Saxon burial ground, and is the home of a few spiritual beings.
The shopping centre’s CCTV has reportedly caught a few shadowy beings floating through the underground car park, and at an emergency exit towards the back of the Buttermarket, many visitors have seen a phantom man who runs towards people before disappearing. In addition to this, prior to it being the Buttermarket, former Cowells Department Store employees also reported sightings of a ghostly monk figure roaming around.
Old Custom House, Ipswich
Situated on Ipswich’s Waterfront is Old Custom House, which many years ago used to be a popular social club. Facebook user Emma McNeil remembers the sorts of paranormal incidences that would occur during her time there.
“My dad used to run when it was a social club, so we were there a lot of time, and I had many eerie things happen while I was in there. Often, you would hear someone walk up and down, rattling keys - but no one was there. The cellar doors would open and close by themselves, and I never liked going down cellar as always felt like you were being watched.
“In the back room, where snooker tables used to be, if we put my little sister, in there she would scream the place down until she was taken out, and a lot of the time, if we were in the toilets the lights would switch on and off by themselves.”