The ghosts of children, whose young
lives have been cut short, are considered to be the
saddest kind of haunting. Unfortunately in olden times
people did not care for their children as we do today.
It was not unusual to sacrifice a child to ensure the
protection of the gods or to ward off evil spirits.
Small skeletons have often been found in ancient walls
as evidence of pagan practices of long ago.
Relatives of the ‘unwanted’ could also be equally cruel
to children in their charge, as is demonstrated by the
well-known legend Babes in the Wood. According to
tradition and folklore this tale was based on two
Norfolk children whose cruel uncle decided to do away
with them. The setting is Wayland Wood or as it is known
by its old name ‘Wailing Wood’. The Babes in the Wood is
an old English ballad first published in Norwich by
Thomas Millington in 1595. Interestingly, no other place
lays claim to this tale, and there are certain facts
that have come to light over the years that indicate
that the story, although slightly altered, is actually a
true one, which took place in the 16th century.
It tells the story of two children whose parents die and
who are placed in the care of their father's brother.
The little boy is aged about three and the little girl
even younger. Under the terms of their fathers will they
are to inherit their father's estate when they reach
their majority. However, if they die before this time,
then the monies and estate are to go to their
So the uncle decides to do away with the two children
and pays two cut-throats to take the two children into
Wayland Wood and murder them. But the children’s
innocence and purity touches the hardened criminals and
they cannot bring themselves to kill them. So
instead they abandoned them in the woods. Unfortunately
the two children never find their way out of the woods
and die of exposure and starvation. In Wayland Wood
there used to be a huge oak, which was said to be the
place where the babes actually died, however, in 1879
the tree was struck and destroyed by lightning.
Half a mile from Wayland Wood is Griston Hall (now a
farmhouse) said to have been where the wicked uncle
lived. Inside the Hall there used to be a carved piece
of wood, that is said to have depicted the story of The
Babes in Wood, now long since sold. It was placed there
by a previous owner who knew about his families
'skeleton in the cupboard' and wanted to remind future
generations of their ancestors act of cruelty.
So if you happen to be in Wayland Wood, late at night
around the witching hour, you may well see (as others
have done) out of the corner of your eye the wraiths of
two young children, flitting amongst the trees. Or hear
their eerie wails, borne on the midnight wind, which
gives these woods their archaic name. For they are two
lost souls who are doomed to wander hand in hand through
the woods looking for a way home.
Of the uncle, the story goes that he did eventually get
his just deserves and was 'brought to want and misery'
for the killing of his kith and kin. The village sign of
Griston and also of Watton depicts the Babes in the