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Weird Suffolk: "I cannot get the memory of that horrible sneering face out of my mind": The horrifying ghost of Corton

PUBLISHED: 11:15 21 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:09 22 June 2019

The area near Corton Long Lane was once the haunt of a ghostly sneering man. Picture: Thomas Chapman

The area near Corton Long Lane was once the haunt of a ghostly sneering man. Picture: Thomas Chapman

Archant

The terrifying accounts of a "sneering" ghost that stalks the coast road between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft which some drivers claim they have driven through as he watches them at the wheel.

Are the sneering man of Corton and the old man of Hopton one and the same? Pictured:An artist's impression of the old man of Hopton. Date: Lowestoft Journal Dec 24, 1980. Picture: Archant LibraryAre the sneering man of Corton and the old man of Hopton one and the same? Pictured:An artist's impression of the old man of Hopton. Date: Lowestoft Journal Dec 24, 1980. Picture: Archant Library

Sea frets have often blurred the lines between this world and the next - and one such creature to appear from the mist is the Sneering Man of Corton, who stalks the coastal road in front of terrified drivers, some of whom claim to have driven straight through him.

In the summer edition of The Lantern in 1974, the journal of the Borderline Science Investigation Group based in Lowestoft, a terrifying tale was told by a man who had been driving home from Great Yarmouth to Lowestoft along the old A12, close to Corton Long Lane/.

As he neared the street lights on the lane, his headlights illuminated someone - or something - standing in the road, directly in the path of his car. He told a BSIG investigator: "I was struck most of all by the face, so much that I cannot recall seeing a body or even the outline of one. It was staring straight at me with a horrible sneer on its lips. It was not white or flimsy, but had a definite 'flesh and blood' appearance. I braked hard, but instead of hitting him as seemed certain, my car went straight through him."

It was not the first time that the witness to the horrifying figure had experienced something unusual on this stretch of road.

"Some months ago I was driving past more or less this same spot when, despite my heater going at full blast, my car suddenly became icy cold and an unexplainable wave of fear swept over me and my one thought was to accelerate away from the place as fast as I could," he said.

"By the night in question I had completely forgotten about the incident."

Fearful that he had hit someone, although having felt no impact whatsoever, the man pulled on to the hard shoulder, got out of his car and nervously looked back to the road to see if there had been a terrible accident. There was nothing there.

"As soon as I realised that I had not knocked anyone down, my previous experience here came to mind admitting that I was overcome by a fear bordering on panic. With no more to do I leapt back into my car and put as much distance between me and that place as I could," he said.

"I cannot get the memory of that horrible sneering face out of my mind", he said "and even now the thought of it fills me with a strange feeling of apprehension, tinged with fear."

Close to Corton, the home of Pleasurewood Hills, is Hopton, where a similarly horrifying ghost has been seen - and driven through - on the same stretch of road.

In the Winter edition of The Lantern in 1980, the tale of a Lowestoft man on the new A12 Hopton Bypass was reported: Frank Colby of the British Transport Police was driving with his wife when he saw a man crossing the duel carriageway at Hopton.

Stocky in build and wearing a calf-length, shapeless garment, he was hunched over and wearing "fantastically huge footwear…and he was lifting them up well as he plodded across," reported Mr Colby to investigator Ivan Bunn. Swiftly braking, Mr Colby alerted his wife to the figure but she was unable to see it -he watched the man cross to the central reservation before disappearing.

One of the earliest recorded stories of Hopton's jay-walking ghost came from Roger Hammersly of Lowestoft who, at the beginning of 1957, was driving in convoy with friend Mr R Gardner from Yarmouth to their home town.

Just before midnight, on the old A12 (now the A47) just south of Hopton, both men separately saw what Mr Hammersley described as the figure of a man wearing very large boots, a large fawn overcoat and a hat, crossing the road in front of them.

He drove close to the tall figure before realising it was no longer there, although he did not remember seeing it actually disappear.

During an interview with Mr Bunn, Mr Hammersley admitted that many times prior to this encounter he had often felt distinctly "uneasy" driving along this particular stretch of road, and that after seeing the 'ghost' back in 1957 he avoided the Hopton stretch of the old A12 whenever he could.

A year after Mr Colby saw the spectral figure in Hopton, in November 1981, Andrew Cutajar was driving on a wet and miserable night from Lowestoft to Great Yarmouth when, as he approached Hopton, he spotted grey mist in the middle of the carriageway ahead.As he drove closer, the mist took the form of a man "tall and dressed in a long coat or cape coming well past his knees. He had on old-fashioned, heavy, lace-up bookts and had long, straggly grey hair."

The figure stood stock still in the middle of the road and as Cutajar frantically tried to brake to avoid hitting him, his car skidded out of control and straight through the figure, coming to a stop on the grass verge facing the wrong way.

One theory put forward as to the identity of the figure is that it is William Balls, Hopton's postman who worked himself to death in January 1899 having spent 22 years serving the village.

He was found in a field close to where the hauntings occur at 10.30am on January 2 lying face down in a pool of blood having succumbed to pneumonia which had developed from winter flu. He was buried at Hopton church, the ruins of which can be seen from the road.

Ivan Bunn was told about Mr Balls by Gwen Balls - the postman was her husband's grandfather who died aged just 40 and who had been warned by his doctor just days beforehand that he would die without rest.

"What am I to do? I must do my duty," he replied. On the day of his death, as usual, he set out on his 16-mile round at 6am and worked until 9.30am at which point he started for home and a rest before restarting work at 4.20pm.

He was found in his father's field by a farm worker and left behind a pregnant wife, Angelina. Is William the phantom pedestrian postman of the A47, striding out to make one last delivery?

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