WEIRD SUFFOLK: The host of ghosts that haunt the mazes of rooms and passageways at Landguard Fort
PUBLISHED: 18:00 26 October 2019
If you’re looking for somewhere spooky to head to for Halloween, Landguard Fort in Felixstowe may well be the perfect destination: a ghostly horse and carriage, a spectral sailor, the spirit of a heartbroken bride, the haunting screams of a plague victim locked in a room to die and the mysterious bathroom phantom.
It is the site of the last seaborne invasion of England and the first land battle of the Royal Marines, Landguard Fort can be traced back to Tudor times and has been defending Harwich Haven for centuries - with the addition of a spectral army of ghosts.
Tales abound of spectres that haunt the eerie site, from ghosts that shove visitors in the back to re-enacters woken from a night's slumber by the wailing of a woman who - on closer inspection, was not there - the spirit of a plague victim who was locked into the Chapel Bastion to prevent him from spreading the deadly disease further to a ghostly musketeer spotted during the Second World War to a First World War soldier's ghost which patrols the bath house.
There's a sailor who is seen peering out from a top floor window and visitors report the sensation of being pushed on the same floor, a ghost horse and the sound of phantom steps - but why is Languard Fort such a magnet for the undead?
The fort has existed in some form since 1543 and sits on the mouth of the River Orwell in the bustling port of Felixstowe. The current fort was built in the 18th century and modified in later centuries, with the 10inch gun pit in the left battery converted into an Anti-Aircraft Operations Room for Harwich in 1939.
During the Second World War, the fort was used as one of the balloon launch sites of Operation Outward, a mission to attack Germany by means of free-flying hydrogen balloons that carried incendiary devices or trailing steel wires which were designed to damage power lines. On June 6 1944, troops and tanks were deployed from Landguard as part of the second phase of the D-Day landings.
The fort remained in military hands until 1960 when it became redundant and in the late 1990s came under the guardianship of English Heritage.
Military staff at the fort reported seeing a solitary musketeer marching along a rampart on the Holland Bastion and walking from the fort to the current day right battery - sightings were so convincing that soldiers grew uncomfortable about being stationed in this part of the building and military dogs behaved strangely when taken there.
As the area the musketeer patrolled was close the line of the wall of the 17th century fort, some believed the spectral sentry could be the lone musketeer killed when Dutch admiral Michiel de Ruyter sent 1,600 musketeers, pike men and armed sailors to test its defences in 1667. It is said the soldier only appears when England is in great danger.
The spirit sailor seen from the top floor window appears to be peering out and visitors who venture upstairs have reported feeling as if they are being pushed by someone - or something - as they make their way around.
A more regular visitor is the Portuguese woman who was driven so insane by the untimely demise of her soldier husband, who was put to death by firing squad in 1757, that she ended her own life by throwing herself from the ramparts of the fort.
It is said that the fort's paymaster sergeant married a young woman called Maria in the mid-18th century - she was unpopular with the other soldiers' wives and when a silk handkerchief went missing, everyone blamed the new bride and tasked her husband with investigating the crime.
Convinced that his love was innocent, he set out to prove she was not to blame and left the fort to investigate: when eh returned, he was accused of desertion and executed in the fort's dry moat, leaving Maria inconsolable. Desperate to be reunited with her husband, she threw herself to her death and can still be heard crying out in grief and pain and mumbling in her mother tongue.
In 2016, visitor Cara Ward took a photograph which she claimed revealed the ghost of Maria at the fort. She told The Sun newspaper: "We had gone for a family day out there and I was taking a few pictures as we went round throughout the day.
"At the time of taking that picture there was no one there at all. I was only photographing the empty corridor and my family were stood behind me. I am 100 per cent that there was no one there as we only saw one other person there the whole day as it was during school term time. There were also lights in the ceiling so it was fairly well lit."
She added: "I think it could be her. If you look behind the shape of her there is a male face. It could be both of them together again. It was a tragic tale. It had felt like someone was near us when we were looking at a room with gun powder barrels in it. And I felt very uneasy outside the room before that. The air was very heavy. A fear went through me and I refused to go in(to the room)."
Another ghost is said to be a man who was infected with a virulent plague during the Georgian era and was locked into the bastion to prevent infecting others and who was left to die an agonising death, alone.
Website www.paranormaldatabase.com reports that a visiting medium claimed to have been contacted by the spirit of a young man who was sitting and crying out for his mother in the corner of a room, his body ravaged by pustules after picking up a terrible disease overseas.
It adds: "The officer wanted to avoid a panic, so he and four other officers agreed that the young man and his condition were to be kept secret from all others. Needless to say, the soldier died. The medium also said that the young man was the only son of a widow, and he only wanted his mother to know that he had not deserted her."
Surprisingly, considering Landguard's supernatural tenants, no ghosts have been spotted of the badly disciplined garrison who drank the gin found on a captured smugglers' boat in the early 1800s causing the premature death of four soldiers who were claimed by alcohol poisoning.
A Victorian artilleryman is said to appear through a wall in the fort's shop and, according to paranormaldatabase, poltergeist activity has been recorded in the same room by staff who report the somewhat ironic sight of Airfix model aircraft kits flying unaided from a shelf.
Another soldier is said to haunt the bathroom at the fort, said to be a First World War soldier.
Several stories are told about his death, one that he cracked his head open on a bath while playing a practical joke, the other a darker tale involving his murder after being caught stealing from friends. Either way, his death was covered up and in case of the latter story, an addition claims that one of the friends involved later took his own life, unable to live with his guilt.
And finally, as if the host of ghosts above isn't enough, in more recent years a ghostly team of horses pulling a carriage have been seen entering the fort via an invisible drawbridge, long since lost to the ravages of time. Dare you visit?