WEIRD SUFFOLK: Is this Suffolk’s most haunted stretch of road?
- Credit: Archant
Regular Weird Suffolk readers will be aware of Blythburgh’s spooky history – but could the stretch of road that bisects it, the A12, be where you’re most likely to bump into a spectral figure?
There are restless spirits roaming through the mist that rises from Blythburgh marshes, ghosts that drift across the A12 and occasionally into the path of passing cars. As you make your way through Blythburgh on the A12, there’s one thing your satellite navigation is unlikely to point out: the huge number of ghosts you could encounter on your travels. For a tiny village with a population below 300, Blythburgh has a vast catalogue of mysterious legends and stories attached to it, from hell hound Black Shuck paying a visit to the church to a haunted well, a theory that Saxon King Anna is buried beneath the marshes to a ghostly monk who was once a regular at the White Hart Inn.
Additionally, the Suffolk village has more than its fair share of ghosts that haunt the A12, from a girl in blue to a drummer boy, a white ghost wearing silk to a man on horseback and a highwayman with a girl wearing a long gown.
Close to Blythburgh Common, a lorry driver had to brake sharply when he saw a man wearing what looked like fancy dress: knee breeches and a highwayman’s hat. The man was leading a huge black stallion and, holding his arm, was a little girl who was wearing an old-fashioned dress and a bonnet. Sure that he had been too late to avoid the pair, the driver jumped from his cab expecting there had been a terrible accident, but by the time he reached the front of his lorry, the figures had disappeared. The ghost of the highwayman and the girl have been reported for more than 200 years in this area, sometimes appearing with a horse, sometimes on their own. Some believe the girl is the man’s niece who found him dead beside his horse and who returns to ensure he is not left alone. Occasionally, a girl is seen on her own wearing a long blue dress – could this be the highwayman’s companion? Like the apparition the lorry driver thought he had hit, the girl is said to run in front of cars before disappearing.
John Brooke (The Great Troubler) has been seen close to Blythburgh, the village he was riding to in 1652 when he died: when his saddle and whip were found bricked into a room at his former manor house in 1865, these sighting abruptly ended.
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Another explanation for the girl in blue is that she is the spirit of Anne Blakemore, who was allegedly murdered in June 1750 by one of Blythburgh’s other roaming spirits, Tobias Gill. The year of Anne’s death was when a detachment of Dragoons were based in the village and when Tobia was found in a drunken stupor next to the lifeless body of Anne, who came from nearby Walberswick. Tony swore he had nothing to do with Anne’s death but his protestations fell on deaf ears and he was taken to where she died to be executed. On September 14, 1750 he was taken to the gallows where his desperate pleas to meet his end by being dragged behind a passing mail coach were ignored and he was hanged in chains at a Blythburgh crossroads. Shortly after his death, however, people becan to speculate that Tobias might not have been guilty after all: the local coroner found no marks of Anne’s body and there was no sign she had been murdered.
Tobias roams this lonely Suffolk spot seeking retribution and sometimes he is seen in a funeral hearse pulled by four (occasionally headless) black horses driven by Toby himself, driving himself back to hell.
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