One of the most macabre hauntings in Norfolk is that of the ‘Pump Hill Ghost’ at Happisburgh, reported by Ernest Suffling c.1890. In the eighteenth century, farmers coming home late at night were sometimes terribly frightened at a figure they saw coming up the main street of the village from the direction of Cart Gap – he was legless and headless, his head hanging down his back between his shoulders. In his arms was a long bundle. By his dress he appeared to be a sailor, for he wore a dark blue coat and a leather belt with a big brass buckle through which a pistol was thrust. His hair was dressed in a pigtail, so long it nearly trailed on the ground, the head being where it was. Two men who lay in wait for him followed him till he came to a well, dropped the bundle down it, then disappeared down it himself. They told their story next day, and the village agreed to search the well. A volunteer was lowered down it on a rope and at first could see nothing, but just as he was being drawn up again caught sight of a piece of dark blue cloth caught on a brick. Going down again with a clothes prop, he poked about at the bottom and encountered something soft. Using an iron hake tied to a clothes line, he fished up a sodden sack tied at the mouth. When they opened it, a pair of boots stuck out, attached to legs hacked off at the thigh. Further search found a corpse whose head was only held on by a flap of skin at the back. He was wearing a dark blue coat.

After that, they searched the area near Cart Gap and discovered a large patch of blood, the partner to his pistol, three or four gold pieces, and some empty Schiedam bottles. From these they surmised that smugglers had quarrelled and murdered one of their number, but why they carried his body to the well when they could have buried it on the beach remains a mystery.

Such was the explanation of the ‘Hazebru’ Pump Hill Ghost, which haunted a spot – known as Well Corner before the pump was added – along Whimpwell Street (with Whimpwell Green, south of Happisburgh, all that survives of Whimpwell village). Previous to a storm, horrible groans would be heard, but they stopped when the pump was set up. This pump, which still stood there in Suffling’s time, fell into disuse in the twentieth century, but for long was not removed because people said that if this was done, the groaning would return. Villagers today must be less superstitious: there is no sign of the pump on Pump Hill, now marked by a triangle of green with a signpost on it in the middle of the road. The ghost’s route lay from Cart Gap, past the red and white lighthouse built in 1791 by the Trinity House Brethren, into the village street.



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