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WEIRD SUFFOLK: The ghostly nanny who kept coming back to check on the brothers she’d looked after in life

PUBLISHED: 18:00 19 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:31 20 September 2020

The strange tale of the Carlton Colville ghost that kept coming back to tidy up and visit the children shed looked after in life. 
Picture: Nick Butcher

The strange tale of the Carlton Colville ghost that kept coming back to tidy up and visit the children shed looked after in life. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

The strange tale of the Carlton Colville ghost that kept coming back to tidy up and visit the children she’d looked after in life

Carlton Colville childminder Mrs Handley didn’t let the small inconvenience of being dead prevent her from checking up on the brothers she’d looked after for more than a decade.

The conscientious nanny still dropped in to make sure the young men were behaving themselves long after she herself had gone to meet her Maker. Regular readers will know the enormous debt of gratitude Weird Suffolk owes to Lantern, the newsletter of the now sadly-defunct Lowestoft-based Borderline Science Investigation Group. The group was, from 1971 into the early 1980s, the number one organisation when it came to investigating unexplained phenomena in East Anglia: this story is from Lantern and regards the strange tale of the Carlton Colville ghost. In the seventh edition of the periodical, there is a story courtesy of a man (who did not wish to be named, and in Lantern is referred to as ‘Mr Smith’) who at the time of writing was around 80 years of age.

He had lived all his life in and around Carlton Colville other than a period of four years spent mostly in France during World War One.

“He is an intelligent, friendly man with a modern approach to life based on sound traditional and rural principles,” the article reports, “He looks after his semi-invalid wife, likes gardening and keeps rabbits. An agile and active man for his age, he still rides a bicycle.”

Mr Smith and his older brother lived with their parents in a small cottage on the Beccles Road as children.

“Their parents were away most of the day, presumably working on the land, times were hard then, just at the turn of the century,” the report continues.

“The boys were cared for by a local woman, Mrs Handley, who looked after them as if they were her own children. She gave them the love and attention that their real mother was unable to as she was, presumably, able to be with them most of the day. Indeed, even as far as tucking them up in bed at night and watching over them until they were asleep.”

The boys slept in a double bed and one of Mr Smith’s enduring memories was of Mrs Handley, arms folded, standing at the foot of the bed and watching the children until she was satisfied that they had fallen asleep.

“Another memory was of her extremely tidy nature and the way in which she would religiously pack away such toys as they had into a cupboard on the wall opposite the foot of their bed, banging the doors to close them after each article had been put away,” writes Lantern.

“There is no more a detailed description of this benevolent character other than that she was tidy, very kind and a totally motherly person. When the boys were about 12 or 14-years-old, Mrs Handley died. Precisely how is not known.”

It is at this point that the story becomes somewhat otherworldly. Soon after their beloved nanny’s death and right up to the point where the brothers went their separate ways in the world, they would still see Mrs Handley.

“Mr Smith recalls that even when his brother was 20-years-old, he being slightly younger, they would still see her at the foot of the bed, still standing and watching exactly as she did when alive. He said that they were not exactly frightened by the presence of the ghost but more by their lack of understanding of how her vision managed to appear when they both knew that she was dead,” the Lantern continues.

“Her apparition was not the only manifestation they experienced. Sometimes, although there was nothing to be seen, the cupboard doors would open and close several times with the same bang that they had heard many times when Mrs Handley was alive and tidying up.

“On other occasions, objects in the cupboards and elsewhere in the room would be moved about, lifted up and put down again.

“Although Mr Smith would not admit actual fear of the apparition, he did confess that many times he and his brother would hold hands while the ghostly presence of Mrs Handley was in the room.”

After the family had moved from the cottage, there is no evidence that the ghost ever reappeared, leading to the belief that she finally believed her earthly responsibilities had ended and her spirit could finally enjoy a well-earned rest. Lantern added: “This story is an excellent example of the power of strong emotional ties tethering the spirit of the dead to this earth, until the cause is gone or the task complete. The need, the characters and the environment would all seem essential in a case like this…Perhaps in order to see a ghost of this sort the link to a perceptive person must exist.

“The present occupants of that cottage on the Beccles Road may even now have an uninvited and unseen guest, the ghost of Mrs Handley, still looking after her boys, but because they have no link at all with her, they are unable to see or feel her presence!”

One has to wonder if Mr Smith had Mrs Handley to thank for his safe passage from the battlefields of France back to Carlton Colville…never more could a guardian angel have been so needed.


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