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These are seven of Suffolk's spookiest myths and legends, including Black Shuck, the Green Children of Woolpit and the Rendlesham Forest incident, to get you in the Hallowe'en spirit




With Hallowe'en approaching this weekend, spooky season is officially upon us.

And in the spirit of the season, we've looked into some of the more sinister myths and legends of Suffolk 's past.

These are some of the darkest tales associated with our county's rich history.

These are some of the darkest myths and legends associated with Suffolk's rich history
These are some of the darkest myths and legends associated with Suffolk's rich history

Black Shuck

Legend has it that a demon dog known as Black Shuck roamed the coastline and countryside of East Anglia in the middle ages.

He was described a huge black dog with red eyes who caused anyone who saw him to have ill fortune – or worse, to die by the end of the year.

According to Abraham Fleming's account of 'A strange and terrible wunder' published as a pamphlet in 1577, a black dog "or the divil in such a likenesses" entered the parish church of St Mary in Bungay and killed two people.

…This black dog or the divil in such a likenesses …passed between two persons as they were kneeling upon their knees, and occupied in prayer as it seemed wrung the necks of them bothe at one instant clene backward in so much that even at a moment where they kneeled they strangley died…

It's said that Black Shuck later burst into Blythburgh Church on the same day – during a thunderstorm – and killed more people.

There are still 'scorch' marks on the church's door – referred to as "the devil's fingerprints" – today.

And this is a legend that hasn't gone away in the 21st century.

It was just six years ago that there was speculation that the hell-hound's 7ft skeleton was unearthed at Leiston Abbey.

The Bures Dragon

Several legends in our county centre around animals – mythical or otherwise – and the tale about the Bures Dragon is no exception.

The story dates back to the Middle Ages when monk John de Trokelowe wrote of it killing a shepherd and eating sheep in Bures – the village where St Edmund was crowned King of England in 855 – in 1405.

Other accounts say the creature fled from archers into Wormingford Mere, was slain on the River Stour by a felled tree or killed by a knight's lance.

The Bures Dragon image in the village's hillside, which was created in 2012
The Bures Dragon image in the village's hillside, which was created in 2012

It's thought the creature may have in fact been an escaped crocodile owned by King Richard I which was given to him by King Saladin during the 12th century Crusades.

If this was the case, it's likely that the reptile would have been kept at the Tower of London, but escaped and ended up in the marshes near Bures.

Although the legend dates back to the Middle Ages, evidence of it can still be seen in numerous places in the county to this day.

Several churches in the area feature depictions of dragons, and in Wissington Church, a few miles from Bures, there is a 15th century painting of the creature.

More recently, a large version of the Bures Dragon was carved into a hillside in the village in 2012 as part of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Celebrations.

While it is on private land, the legendary dragon can be seen from a distance and from nearby footpaths.

The Brecks Bigfoot

A spooky tale which has much more recent origins is that of the Brecks Bigfoot, which is said to lurk in the forest and hearths of Thetford and Brandon.

The creature was first spotted in June 1986 – a month described as 'unsettled' due to the electrical storms, hail storms and foggy evenings.

It was reported that a long-haired creature with a light grey shaggy coat was seen walking on four legs.

The Brecks Bigfoot is said to have been seen in the forest between Thetford and Brandon. Pictured is Thetford Forest. Picture: Mecha Morton
The Brecks Bigfoot is said to have been seen in the forest between Thetford and Brandon. Pictured is Thetford Forest. Picture: Mecha Morton

The witness said they later saw the beast stand up on its hind legs and it was about 8ft tall.

There have been many reported sightings of the bigfoot since then, with witnesses speaking of hearing growls while in the forest.

Saint Edmund and the Wolf

Surely one of the most famous legends based in the county, this tale is based on the story of a medieval king whose moniker contributed towards the name of one of Suffolk's biggest towns.

St Edmund, who ruled as King of East Anglia from 855 AD to 869, is an important figure in Suffolk's history.

King Edmund was killed by Danish invaders on November 20, 869when he refused to denounce his Christianity.

Saint Edmund and the wolf is a well known legend in the Bury St Edmunds area - artwork by Ben Loughrill. Picture: Tom Soper
Saint Edmund and the wolf is a well known legend in the Bury St Edmunds area - artwork by Ben Loughrill. Picture: Tom Soper

According to the story, after Edmund was tied to a tree and shot full of arrows, he was then beheaded. But when his body was later found, the head was missing. It was thought that the head had been thrown into the forest.

But when supporters of the King heard a wolf call to them, they tracked it down and found it guarding King Edmund's head. It's said that the head was then reunited with Edmund's body and miraculously they fused back together.

This was believed to be a sign of Edmund's sainthood – as were a number of 'miracles' that were later attributed to him.

His shrine in Bury St Edmunds – which takes the latter part of its name from the martyr King Edmund – became a place of pilgrimage.

The Witch’s Stone, Westleton

Moving away from legends on the topic of animals, let's find out more about the myth surrounding a so-called 'witch's stone' in a churchyard in Westleton, in between Aldeburgh and Southwold.

The village's St Peter's Church, which was built in around 1340, is said to have been 'plagued' with bad luck over the years.

The church's spire collapsed in a storm in 1776 – it was rebuilt but the replacement also collapsed when it was hit by a bomb during the Second World War.

It's said the bad luck could be caused by the presence of the devil himself, who is said to reside under the church in a small grating near the priest door.

And it's said that no grass will grow on top of the so-called witch's stone, which is close to the priest door.

Legend has it that if you put a handkerchief in the grating of the wall, and run around the church seven times anti-clockwise, the handkerchief will disappear and you will hear the sound of the devil clanking his chains from under the grating.

The Green Children of Woolpit

The story of the 'green children' of Woolpit dates back to the 12th century, when it's said that two children who had an unusual skin colour appeared in the village.

The children, who were brother and sister, looked normal apart from the green colour of their skin.

They spoke in an unknown language and the only thing they would eat was raw broad beans.

The green children are pictured on the Woolpit village sign
The green children are pictured on the Woolpit village sign

After some time, they learned to eat other foods and lost the green colouring to their skin.

The boy became ill though and died after the siblings were baptised.

The girl, however, went on to adapt to her new life and, after she learned to speak English, explained that they had come from a subterranean world called Saint Martin's Land where it was always twilight and where green people lived.

She said they had wandered into the world of human beings through underground tunnels.

The legend has passed down through the ages and evidence of the tale can be seen in Woolpit to this day, where the village sign, which was erected in 1977, depicts two green children.

Rendlesham Forest incident of 1980

Forests are often a setting of mysteries, and are quite often chosen as the locations of spooky films – and it's fair to say the reported sighting of a UFO in Rendlesham Forest in 1980 could certainly inspire a movie or two.

It was late December of that year when a number of United States Air Force (USAF) personnel claimed to have seen UFO landings in the forest, just outside of RAF Woodbridge .

The security personnel reported that they had investigated "lights" in the surrounding forest.

A UFO is said to have been seen in Rendlesham Forest in 1980
A UFO is said to have been seen in Rendlesham Forest in 1980

The events became the UK's most famous claimed UFO sightings and have been compared to the Roswell UFO incident in the United States, so much in fact it is sometimes described as "Britain's Roswell".

It's one of Suffolk's most recent legends, and, in 2005, the Forestry Commission unveiled a new three-mile 'UFO trail' through the forest for those intrigued by the mystery to discover some of the areas connected to the sighting.

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