Not far from Aylmerton, below the area known as the Roman Camp, are a number of shallow, circular depressions as much as 27 feet (8 m) wide. Formerly thought to mark the site of prehistoric pit dwellings, they are now known to be iron-working pits dating from c.850–1100.

Murray’s Handbook for … Norfolk (1870) says that they were known as ‘the shrieking pits’, local folklore asserting ‘that loud shrieking is sometimes heard proceeding from them; and that a white figure may be seen at certain seasons gazing into the pits and wringing its hands’. This may be the same haunt that Henry Harrod in 1852 connected with pits at Weybourne, having been told by a labourer living in the neighbouring village that cries coming from them were often heard:

… and that a woman, dressed in white, rose ever and anon screaming from among them, and ran from one to another, looking down into them, wringing her hands, and shrieking. He himself had seen and heard her; for she had followed him one night nearly to his own gate!

She is not always dressed in white: in 1877, the Norfolk antiquary Walter Rye, who called her the ‘Shrieking Woman’, described her as ‘a pale woman with long hair’, while in Bryant’s Norfolk Churches (1900) she is ‘an elderly woman, with long white hair’.

Neither Harrod nor Murray’s Handbook explains why the Shrieking Woman behaves in this way, and Ernest Suffling, c.1890, says the object of her search is something ‘which nobody can define’. Later writers say she is seeking the body of her child, buried in one of the pits by her husband, who killed both her and the baby in a fit of insane jealousy. This was perhaps a late attempt to explain in terms of ghosts one of the noisy supernatural storm-warnings heard around the coast – this may be the same Shrieking Woman that makes a racket at SHERINGHAM.



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008