Weird Suffolk: A tale with a moral,never take a mummified cat you find at work back home with you
- Credit: EDP, Archant
It was a spellbinding discovery made during building work that led to possible poltergeist activity when mummified or “dried” cats found hidden in a roof space in Fakenham Magna were removed to a new address where they appeared to come back to life.
The timber-framed cottage in Fakenham Magna had kept its secret for 400 years - but when builders discovered two mummified cats in the roof of a 16th century house, they made the mistake of hoping the good luck would follow them if they took their macabre finds home.
Builders were shocked to find the felines in the roof space of the centuries-old house in 1972 and further surprised when they discovered a dried cat with her kittens in the wall space of the same house.
Today, we rely on close circuit television systems and burglar alarms to protect our homes, but before such technology existed, our ancestors looked to other ways in order to ensure their houses remained safe from intruders of the human and paranormal variety. Protective symbols were carved into lintels, beams and rafters and, occasionally, objects were placed within wall or roof cavities: often shoes or animals such as cats. In King James VI of Scotland's Daemonologie, an essay on witchcraft, he discusses at length how troublesome spirits keen to enter a home would normally do so through the chimney.
Because cats have been associated with witchcraft for centuries, and because it was believed that cats could sense the supernatural, they were often placed in areas which homeowners felt would be under threat: particularly in roofs or fireplaces where it was believed witches might attempt to enter a house thanks to their ability to fly.
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To appease cat lovers, it is believed that the vast majority of cats found in wall spaces had died before their entombment in walls. The practice of burying a sacrifice within the foundations or walls of buildings is one that stretches back for hundreds, if not thousands, of years - human sacrifices were once made under significant structures such as bridges or churches and in Denmark, horses were buried to bring good luck to a new build.
Having found the unusual period features, the site foreman decided that he would take the dried cats home with him to Ingham as a kind of ghoulish souvenir: it was not his best idea. As the work at the Fakenham Magna houses continued, problems began to surface - workmen complained about a strange and unpleasant atmosphere with one telling a visiting reporter that he felt "totally afraid". Footsteps were heard walking that could not be attributed to a human, notably on a ceiling…which had just been removed.
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At Ingham, the cats' protective powers seemed to have waned, too: the site foreman's wife reported hearing tapping at the kitchen door and a series of strange noises. Reports died down following these unnerving tales - did the builders return the mummified cats to their rightful home?