We might be a couple of months away from Halloween, but here at SuffolkLive we like to take a look at all things supernatural regardless of the month of the year. Since we launched last year, we’ve extensively covered the spine-chilling ghost stories entwined within Suffolk’s folklore, from Black Shuck to headless horsemen.
There must hundreds of locations across Suffolk with links to the paranormal, but where are those with the strongest (and most interesting) backstories? We wanted to find out the places in Suffolk you definitely wouldn’t want to go after dark, and what better person to consult than Suffolk-based paranormal investigator John West?
Originally from Edmonton, North London, John now lives in Suffolk and has written two books on the most haunted places in Britain. His first book, Britain’s Haunted Heritage, was published in 2019, with it’s follow up, Britain’s Ghostly Heritage, released in April this year.
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Speaking about the origins of his interest in all things paranormal, John said: “I became interested in ghosts because as a child my mum had loads of paperback books on the subject, both fictional and non-fictional. I used to read them when she wasn’t around because she would’ve got worried I’d be scared!”
John, who has also spent his career acting in shows such as The Crown and Detectorists, has shared what he thinks are Suffolk’s top three most haunted locations with SuffolkLive. But be warned, we take no responsibility for sleepless nights – read on at your own risk!
1. Potsford Wood, Wickham Market
John told SuffolkLive: “The gibbet in Potsford Wood is supposed to be haunted by a chap who was executed for a murder back in 1699. The gibbet is still there and I know loads of people who have gone there and just have to leave because there’s a bad feeling by the gibbet post.”
In his book, Britain’s Haunted Heritage, John writes: “It was last used on 14 April 1699 when Jonah Snell was executed for the murder of John Bullard and his son at the nearby Letheringham Water Mill. He killed them with an axe – bizarrely hanging them upside down from a beam in the mill after committing the dreadful deed. His victims are supposed to haunt the mill still.
“Snell’s body was left to rot on the gibbet as a warning to others. He was later buried nearby after the skeleton fell to the ground.
“Many locals will not visit the wood and some claim that they have seen strange lights hovering near the gibbet. Groans and choking sounds have also been heard. A figure in black has been seen standing near the gibbet.”
John says: “Dunwich is a fascinating place. In the ruined leper chapel, people claim to have seen white shapes flitting around there at night and there’s supposed to be the ghosts of the lepers.
“Little dancing lights have been seen on the cliff at night and it’s claimed that an Elizabethan seaman has been seen getting into a boat and sailing out to sea. You’ve also got ghostly monks in the ruined priory, so it’s a really intriguing place.”
He also speaks of a man riding a horse who has been seen riding along the path at the top of the cliff. During John’s research into Dunwich’s paranormal activity, he came across the story of a couple who claimed to see a pair of disembodied legs walking along.
3. Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich
John says: “Before I got into the film-making I worked there for a time and spent a couple of nights there on night watchman duties. I never saw anything, but 2am the atmosphere always changed and it became very oppressive.
“I spoke to other security guards who worked there and they had [seen paranormal activity]. One had seen a grey lady upstairs going into a room and another heard the harpsichord being played upstairs and when he rushed up to investigate there was no one there.
“One of the weirdest ones I heard was from a security guard who was in the toilet and then heard the sound of a party going on in the main hall. He was terrified because he knew there shouldn’t be anyone in there.
“When he eventually plucked up the courage to investigate, he threw open the door and no one was in there.” John adds: “Monks have been seen in the grounds of Christchurch Mansion because the house is built on an old priory.
“When I used to go into the crypt on my patrols, there I could see bits of stone from the old priory still down there that they found during excavations.”
You can find out more about John’s work here.
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