Weird Suffolk: Don't cross this angry Woodbridge ghost!

People wear masks while walking through the Thouroughfare in Woodbridge, at the beginning of January 2021

Did the ghost of a local tailor knock a man down in Woodbridge in 1823? - Credit: Charlotte Bond / Archant

If someone who sees ghosts gives you advice about how to treat one you encounter, it might be wise to listen to them. In the Manchester Mercury on Tuesday 25 February 1823, a ghost story was published on the letters page from a correspondent who had been given it by a friend in Suffolk. 

 “At this season of the year it may possibly amuse some of our fireside readers,” wrote the author. The tale he told was of a Dutch man living in Woodbridge who could see ghosts and who introduced one to the minister of the town, a Mr Broom. 

 Mr Broom was having his hair cut in a barber’s shop one day when he met a Dutch Lieutenant who had fought alongside well-known naval admiral Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam who had been blown up in battle on June 13 1665 near Lowestoft.  The man had been taken out of the water and taken to Woodbridge to recover as a prisoner and had told anyone that would listen that since the incident he had been able to see ghosts: many ghosts. 

Broom, who held no truck with the paranormal, told him to stop talking rubbish but the Dutch man persisted with his claim – the minister asked him if he had seen ghosts since arriving in Woodbridge and the man had to admit he had not. 

The man’s imprisonment was fairly lacklustre and it came to be that soon after meeting, the pair bumped into each other again and began to walk together in the town. As they walked, the sailor said to Broom that a ghost was walking towards him. Broom saw nothing, and asked his companion where it was. 

He said: “…it is over against such a house, and it walks looking upward towards such a side, flirting one arm with a glove in its hand.” The Dutch man added that when the ghost came up to them, the pair must give way to it and they would not suffer from its attentions. 

The letter continued: “Anon he said, ‘tis upon us, let’s out of the way. Mr. Broom, believing all to be a fiction, as soon as he said those words, he took hold of his arm, and kept him by force in the way; but as he held him, there came such a force against them, that he was flung into the middle of the street, and one of the palms of his hands and one knee bruised and broken by the fall, which put him for a while to excessive pain.” 

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The Lieutenant lay on the floor “like a dead man” and Broom rushed to his aid and called for help – the unconscious man was dragged into the nearest shop and water poured down his throat, but he did not stir.  At last, he came round, with the following words to Broom: “I will shew you no more ghosts.” 

He then asked for tobacco but Broom suggested the pair take it back to his house, fearing that he might be sick all over the shop floor. Once home, Broom asked his maid if anyone had recently died and she went away to find out, returning with news that a tailor had died at exactly the same time as the moment they’d seen the ghost.  

“The ghost had exactly this tailor’s known gait, who ordinarily went also with one arm swinging, and glove in that hand, and looking on one side upwards,” said the letter. 

 The curious incident was written down and sent to the correspondent by his friend Edward Fowler who said he had heard the tale from Broom’s own mouth – the author later heard it himself from the minister.  What became of the punch-drunken sailor who saw dead people, is not recorded. 

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