The coastal village of Happisburgh is
where Arthur Conan Doyle wrote one of his Sherlock
Holmes mysteries, 'The Dancing Men' whilst sitting in
the upstairs window of the 16th century Hill House. The
village has two distinctive landmarks, its candy striped
lighthouse and the tall tower of its church. Some claim
that the body of a poisoner, one Jonathan Balls is
buried in the churchyard. It is said that he was buried
with a Bible, a plum cake, a poker and a pair of tongs.
But this story is not about Jonathan Balls, but about
the strange and perhaps unique legend of The Pump Hill
Ghost or Happisburgh Torso as it is also called.
It is believed that it was around the mid 17th century
that the Happisburgh's spectre was first seen in the
vicinity of Whimpwell Street, by two local farmers on
their way home. It was not the absence of the spectre's
legs that made the farmer's hair stand on end, though of
course was that bad enough. No, what caused these two
hearty men to quake was the fact that as the apparition
drew nearer it seemed to have no head. As it drew level
they saw that there was a head, but it dangled down the
spectre's back attached to the neck by only a thin strip
of flesh. So as the thing moved, the head bounced and
jiggled from side to side. Dressed in sailor's garb the
spectre clasped a rough brown sack to its chest.
After this first report other sightings of this macabre
cadaver took place. One brave local decided to follow
the ghost from where it first materialised at Cart Gap.
He followed it down Whimpwell Street and into the
village until it reached the village well, where upon it
heaved itself sack and all into the well. A meeting was
held by the villagers and it was decided that an
investigation of the well had to be undertaken. After
some debate and possibly the drawing of straws, a
volunteer was found to go down the well, it was one of
The "volunteer' was lowered into the well, whereupon he
immediately found a sack in which there was a pair of
sailors' boots. Unfortunately this was not all, as
within the boots were what remained of the owners legs.
It was decided that the well would have to be completely
drained, not only because of the fact that nobody now
fancied drinking the water, but also because the
villagers wanted to see what else the well contained.
They found another larger sack in which there was a
pistol and a torso clothed in similar garb to that of
the ghost. The torso had a severed neck on which,
attached by some rotting skin, was a skull!
The villagers then remembered that some years earlier
there had been a disagreement between three Dutch
smugglers out by Cart Gap. It was believed that a fight
had taken place between the smugglers as shots had been
heard. The next morning the locals found large puddles
of blood on the beach but no corpses. One of the
smugglers must have been killed in the fight and his
comrades must have decided to chop him up and stuff him
down the village well.
Now this you would think would have been the end of the
matter, but what causes a haunting we shall never know,
this side of the grave. So it is, that each time the
well at Happisburgh is disturbed, so the headless
legless torso of the third smuggler is said to walk,
with his sack and his severed head swaying from side to