Weird Suffolk: The haunting of Four Sisters crossroads, Stratford St Mary

Weird Suffolk: Four Sisters Crossroads Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Weird Suffolk: Four Sisters Crossroads Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Everyone knows that back seat drivers are the most annoying of passengers, but when the passenger in question is a manifestation of evil who tries to cause you to crash your car, it takes the concept to a whole new level.

At Stratford St Mary’s Four Sisters Crossroads on the A12, stories abound of evil on the road, of sightings of four spectral figures and of a general feeling of unease that drivers find difficult to shake off, especially on cold, dark nights.

One witness in particular was haunted by Four Sisters Crossroads: quite literally.

In Peter Underwood’s Guide to Ghosts and Haunted Places, published in 1996 by Piatkus Books, the story of Irene Heath is told, a chilling tale which may make anyone setting out on a dark night question whether they wish to pass a certain stretch of the A12.

On a solitary journey made late at night, Mrs Heath reached Four Sisters, an unremarkable-looking junction with grassy banks and a band of trees which joins together the Hadleigh and Ipswich roads together.

As she neared the junction, she felt that something was terribly wrong.

There was an immediate realisation that, in her words, “something was in the back of the car, something evil and frightening.” Petrified, she fumbled to switch on the car’s interior lights, convinced that she would spot something horrifying in her rear view mirror. Nothing was there.

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A fortnight later, having laid her fears to rest, Mrs Heath made a repeat journey.

On the very same stretch of road, her car inexplicably went into a spin and crashed, thankfully leaving Mrs Heath unharmed but her car a write-off – insurance assessors could only suggest that the brakes had suddenly “grabbed” and caused the vehicle to behave in such an unusual fashion.

Suitably spooked, Mrs Heath avoided the area entirely, until one night she had no option but to pass the feared junction on her way home. Approaching the junction with trepidation, she told herself that nothing would happen…and then she felt it.

As she passed the very place where her last car had sent itself into a spin, Mrs Heath felt a distinct prod in the small of her back as if a claw-like hand had reached out to touch her – suddenly, the heated car became cold and clammy.

But it was the fourth journey that – brave and intrepid soul that she was – Mrs Heath made that almost led her to her maker and which did lead her to never, ever drive along that particular stretch of the A12 again.

Approaching the fateful junction, the temperature in the heated car was plunged into icy dampness as a banging began in the back car, louder, and louder and louder and LOUDER until, finally, it was like a thunderclap. There was no fifth journey for Mrs Heath, she wisely found alternative routes from that day hence.

Crossroads are, of course, well-known in folklore for being places between the worlds where supernatural spirits can be contacted, a place neither here nor there, betwixt and between our world and that of the dead.

In Stratford St Mary, it is said that four sisters once met at the very junction where Mrs Heath felt so cruelly taunted by dark forces before they set off on their separate ways in life and that a ghostly group of four can still be seen where they last met from time to time.

Peter Underwood, who died in 2014 and who was the author of more than 50 books on ghost-hunting and the paranormal and was one of Britain’s greatest authorities on hauntings, was certainly fascinated by this stretch of so-called ‘haunted’ road.

“I have long thought that 98 per cent of reported hauntings have a natural and mundane explanation, but it is the other two per cent that have interested me,” he said.

Do drive carefully.

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