Day 1 - Explore Bury St Edmunds at Night!
Arrive on a Friday night to get the most out of your trip and start your spine-tingling stay with a wander through the town at night.
Take a walk through the Great Churchyard, and you may see the town's most famous ghostly (undead) resident, The Grey Lady. She is said to appear in St Edmundsbury Cathedral's Great Churchyard annually on 24 February at 11pm, but make your way to the Abbey Ruins and St Saviours Hospital ruins where she is also said to appear. Some believe her ghost is a nun linked to the death of the Duke of Gloucester, who was allegedly murdered in St Saviours Hospital in 1447. There is a plaque recording the death of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, uncle of Henry VI.
According to local tales, it was this nun, named Maude Carew, who killed Gloucester (and not the Duke of Suffolk, as portrayed in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part II). But this was recently debunked by Historian Dr Francis Young in his Blog The Ghost of Maude Carew. Other tales suggest she is a medieval nun who was punished with execution for a liaison with a monk at the Abbey.
Often dubbed ‘the only real medieval street left in Bury St Edmunds’. Skinner Street's name doesn’t leave too much to the imagination, as it is where animals were skinned back in the day. You can just picture the horrible scene, with blood and offal running down the street, combined with the remnants of the fish markets. This would all flow down the gutters of the street, creating an incredibly foul smell in that part of town.
On your travels, take in Pig Lane, formerly Punch Lane, now known as Athenaeum Lane and The Traverse; very atmospheric on a dark chilly night, it is also home to two ghostly hotspots, Cupola House and The Nutshell pub.
Not forgetting Churchgate Street where, In 1961, two men claim to have been standing here and spotted a monk drift down Angel Lane before disappearing through a wall. A year later, a monk was reportedly seen 'hovering' here too.
If you're a fan of the Phantom of the Opera, book tickets to a show at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, which at over 200 years old and the third oldest theatre, has seen its fair share of history and stories! The theatre is another spot where The Grey Lady has been spotted frequently by actors and theatre staff. Catch a show or enjoy one of the theatre's guided tours - stepping backstage where many a tale has been told!
For devilishly good dinner, book a table at Sakura. Serving traditional Japanese cuisine such as dragon roll, dumplings, teriyaki and sashimi, the restaurant is situated in Cupola House in the Traverse. Originally built in 1693 as a private home, the building was destroyed by fire in 2012 before being rebuilt. In 2000, staff reported seeing a ghostly Victorian lady dressed in white standing on the stairs for several minutes before disappearing into thin air. To backup the claim, a former landlady stated that the cellars were an eerie place to visit at night and items would regularly be moved around with a strange eerie presence.
Day 2 - Terrible Tales, Tours and Trials
Start your second day with a visit to Moyse's Hall Museum; Once a workhouse, police station and gaol, the museum building has been the focus of ghost tales for centuries. The oldest of these stories dates back to 1328, when a woman is recorded as saying she saw ‘a most horrible devil’ in the building’s cellar.
Look up the 'Red Barn Murder' and you will be 'chilled' to see that this very gruesome tale ended in Bury St Edmunds. In 1828, William Corder of Polstead, near Sudbury, was hanged in Bury St Edmunds in 1828 after being found guilty of murdering his lover Maria Martin in what became known as the Murder in the Red Barn. She was shot and repeatedly stabbed before being buried in a shallow grave in a barn.
Following his execution, a death mask of Corder was made and his skin was tanned and used to bind an account of the murder, which passed into Suffolk folklore. After his hanging, it's said that shrieks and apparitions were reported to be heard in the town, only stopping when Corder’s skull was duly buried. Pay a visit to the museum and you will find the death mask and skin on display! (along with other alarming artefacts, such as a lock of Queen Mary's hair!)
Step outside and you don't have to walk far before you come to The Nutshell pub! Not only is it the second smallest pub in the UK (only recently knocked off the top spot), it's also one of the most haunted!
During the infamous Witch Trials in Bury St Edmunds, accused witches were taken to the building where The Nutshell pub is today and had their nails or locks of hair cut off, The nails and hair were stored in brown jars in the basement as it was thought that if you were not whole when you died, you wouldn’t be able to come back as a whole witch in the next life!
The pub's history is also peppered with sightings and paranormal happenings. In 1975, the landlord at the time returned downstairs from the room above the bar, telling patrons he had just seen a small boy sitting by himself and then disappear. And, in fact, it is thought a boy did die here in suspicious circumstances – some say by drowning in a bathtub. Locals of the Nutshell also claim to have experienced poltergeist activity in the pub, with many blaming glasses shattered and batteries drained on the young ghost.
Others, however, point the finger at a mummified cat, which hangs over the bar. This cat is said to be cursed, bringing misfortune to anyone who touches it. Alan Murdie, Chair of the Ghost Club and author of Haunted Bury St Edmunds, says bad luck befell a landlady who tried to clean the cat as well as a group of servicemen from RAF Honington who kidnapped it as a prank. The landlady lost her job shortly after her cleaning attempt, and the servicemen say they were plagued by fires and accidents until the cat was returned.
After you've finished your pint, take a walk through the Abbey Gardens and Abbey Ruins where apparitions of the Abbey’s Benedictine monks are frequently seen walking around the grounds of The Abbey and through surrounding buildings.
Enid Crossley, a resident of the houses built into the Abbey's West Front, claims a monk appeared in her bedroom several times. Staff in shops on Abbeygate Street have also made claims about sightings of ghostly monks.
Did you know? The famous ghost writer M R James, grew up near Bury St Edmunds and had a lifelong interest in the Abbey of St Edmund. In 1985 during his research for his two-part volume on the church and manuscripts, M R James discovered reference in an abbey register in Douai to the burial places of several of the abbots. This led in 1902-3 to excavations in the chapter house revealing the graves of six abbots, five of which can still be seen today.
After your morning exploring, an absolute must when visit Bury St Edmunds during the spooky season is a Ghostly & Macabre Tour with Bury Tour Guides. Not only do the guides know all there is to know about the town, join them on a dark winter’s night and be thrilled and chilled with tales of ghostly apparitions, foul murders, witchcraft and spooky sights and sounds.
Day 3 - Pumpkin picking and Haunted Houses
Start your day with a slightly less scary experience and head Ruffins Farm to PYO pumpkin and get lost in the Maize Maze. Or hop over to the Rougham Estate where you are greeted with a field full of thousands of pumpkins, squashes and gourds in 18 different varieties and many different sizes, just waiting to be picked. Here you can also enjoy coffee, cake and lunch in the cafe.
Whilst in Rougham, pay a visit to Rougham Control Tower Aviation Museum. Steeped in war time history, the airfield is said to be haunted, in particular the Control Room, where many paranormal groups have reported strange lights, people seeing what appears to be feet, and as you move upstairs, in the large room at the far end, the strong smell of tobacco.
From here, the historic Wool Town of Long Melford is just a 25 minute drive away, home to the magnificent Melford Hall and the nearby Bull Hotel - both of which have ghostly guests! Melford Hall has been the scene for many horrific events over the years; Between May and September in 1604, 119 men, women and children were burned during the plague epidemic, and less than 50 years later, myth has it that Countess Rivers jumped from a window and drowned in the moat in 1651 - her ghost now walks the halls and grounds.
Just a short walk away you will find The Bull hotel, haunted since 1648 when a man named Richard Evered was murdered after a political dispute. Witnesses to the horrific incident left him lying in the hallway as they ran to get help, but on their return, his body was gone.
After these ghostly encounters, make the short 10 minute drive to Kentwell Hall. Not only has the Victorian Room at here been referred to as the Haunted Room for many years, the estate hosts one of the UK's top scare experiences, Scaresville. This live action immersive experience will provide a unique evening's entertainment with inventive Scares to scare and entertain visitors for an unbroken hour or so with no time for visitors to catch their breath!
The perfect way to end a spooky stay!
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