Posts Tagged ‘Happisburg’

Eccles has the remains of a village, it was claimed by the sea in the 17th Century. The storm that night also took over seventy houses and 300 hundred lives, no doubt then that the area has a story or two to tell, and that it is said on the low tides there are places to see parts of the village under the water.  It stuck in my mind as a child when my uncle told me that people had claimed to hear the bells on the low tide but hearing them portents death and storms.

A search about this area says that skeletons from the Churchyard still wash up ashore on occasion. The tower of the church was visible in 1986 when there was a fall in the sea level low enough to expose some of the Eccles area and Happisburg looks like it might follow the same fate. A shame too as it has rather interesting little stories that might not get a chance to be visited if this does happen, Coastal erosion seems to be threatening the area but it seems that the defences are not being bolstered at this point.

And now on to  the ghost! The spectre was first reported 1765 with two farmers making their way home, they were frightened by a hump-backed shape in the moonlight and as their eyes adjusted they realised the human (?) had neither legs nor a head. However as it came near them they saw it did indeed possess a head but the strange hump was the nearly severed one that rested on its back attached to the neck by a thin strip of flesh.

The spectre/shade they reported had apparently got on sailor’s attire, and against its chest clasped a rough brown sack. It was followed by the two scared but curious men, who watched it disappear into a wall, before they left to inform the village council. It was decided they would put the story to the test and investigated the well it had disappeared into.  A man was lowered down and he found a sack which was apparently the one that matched the description of their ghost, inside they found a pair of boots in it but more disturbingly they found the man’s legs still inside them.

The well was then drained, they found another sack with a torso in sailors clothing and then attached to it by a narrow ribbon of rotted skin was the head. Around the body’s waist they found a belt with a pistol tucked into it, the villagers then traced the tracks back and found signs of a fight, it was felt that smugglers had begun a fight over their spoils and the other had been shot and hacked up before being deposited down the well.

The ghost appeared regularly on moonlit nights and was heard moaning at the bottom of the well, that is until it was closed over by a pump, all seemed well until the pump was removed and the horrid groans were heard once more. They decided to recap the well with the pump and it went quiet once more but then again when it went quiet they removed it and sure enough the ghostly figure began to float around once more.

As you may have guessed I am a big fan of the stories that are pretty well known locally, or even the very big stories. I like to look for the ones that are not always featured on blogs but also I like to find ones I haven’t heard of before. This one I stumbled across and thought was worth a share.

Happisburg is in Norfolk and the churchyard contains the unmarked grave of the “Happisburg Poisoner” his real name being Jonathan Balls. Legend has it that Mr Balls had worked out he was destined for hell, he died having accidentally taken his own poison… bit clumsy of him but anyway he asked to be buried with a Bible, a plum cake in one hand, a poker and a pair of coal tongues in the other hand. It seems that the locals were fearful he might not remain in the coffin as it was believed evil and suicidal people would become vampires after death.

Crossroads were places that these folks were buried as a precaution, the idea that they would be confused by which road to take. They also got buried in unholy grounds and suicides were then staked through the heart, this was legislation until 1834 (I can’t provide citation but I wouldn’t be surprised).

For some reason they exhumed him 6 months later, it was preserved by the arsenic he had consumed. He’d perhaps consumed it over a long period to build up a resistance, this was not an unknown practise. Anyway it seems that the reaction to this fact was not recorded, a shame as I am sure they would have been concerned by the potential of the vampire evidence presented.

Photos by HauntedIsle