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10 October, 2007

Rougham mirage ghost mansion, Suffolk

Something strange has been witnessed by locals in the Rougham Green area of Suffolk, close to Bury St. Edmonds. In 1926, a teacher called Ruth Wynne and her young pupil, Miss Allington, went for a walk from Rougham Green Rectory, where Miss Wynne resided. Miss Wynne had only just moved to the area and was eager to explore her new surroundings, despite it being a damp and overcast day. Here is the account she wrote in 1934, detailing her experience.

"I came to live at Rougham, four miles from Bury St. Edmunds, in 1926. The district was then entirely new to me, and I and my pupil, a girl of 10, spent our afternoon walks exploring it. One dull, damp afternoon, I think in October 1926, we walked off through the fields to look at the church of the neighbouring village, Bradfield St. George. In order to reach the church, which we could see plainly ahead of us to the right, we had to pass through a farmyard, whence we came out on to a road.

We had never previously taken this particular walk, nor did we know anything about the topography of the hamlet of Bradfield St. George. Exactly opposite us on the further side of the road and flanking it, we saw a high wall of greenish-yellow bricks. The road ran past us for a few yards, then curved away from us to the left. We walked along the road, following the brick wall round the bend, where we came upon tall, wrought-iron gates set in the wall. I think the gates were shut, or one side may have been open.

The wall continued on from the gates and disappeared round the curve. Behind the wall, and towering above it, was a cluster of tall trees. From the gates a drive led away among these trees to what was evidently a large house. We could just see a corner of the roof above a stucco front, in which I remember noticing some windows of Georgian design. The rest of the house was hidden by the branches of the trees. We stood by the gates for a moment, speculating as to who lived in this large house, and I was rather surprised that I had not already heard of the owner amongst the many people who had called on my mother since our arrival in the district....

My pupil and I did not take the same walk again until the following spring. It was, as far as I can remember, a dull afternoon, with good visibility, in February or March. We walked up through the farmyard as before, and out on to the road, where, suddenly, we both stopped dead of one accord and gasped. "Where's the wall" we queried simultaneously. It was not there. The road was flanked by nothing but a ditch, and beyond the ditch lay a wilderness of tumbled earth, weeds, mounds, all overgrown with the trees which we had seen on our first visit. We followed the road on round the bend, but there were no gates, no drive, no corner of a house to be seen. We were both very puzzled.

At first we thought that our house and wall had been pulled down since our last visit, but closer inspection showed a pond and other small pools amongst the mounds where the house had been visible. It was obvious that they had been there a long time."

No-one they asked seemed to know anything about the house. They eventually reported their experience to Sir Ernest Bevan, who documented it in his 1938 book, 'Apparitions and Haunted Houses'.

The case was re-investigated in the 1970's by local historian and psychic researcher, the late Leonard Aves. A man with extensive local knowledge, he began his investigations as a total sceptic. However, far from disproving anything, he ended up finding more evidence to back up Miss Wynne's story. He was unable to find anything which could have caused the witnesses to erroneously believe a house was seen. When interviewed in the Bury Free Press in 1978, he discounted the theory that they may have seen a mirage.

"I considered that it might have been a mirage, but I have some experience of mirages and I believe this apparition to be too large to be encompassed in one. At least I have never heard of a mirage that large in this country. Furthermore, for it to have been a mirage would mean that there would have to have been such a house not too far away and we cannot find any traces of one within a reasonable radius".

No-one has yet come forward with an explanation of what the women may have seen.

Mr. Aves also came across another witness to the bizarre apparition, James Cobbold. He told his tale in an edition of Amateur Gardening dated 20th December, 1975, and later recounted it under a pseudonym, in a 1982 edition of the East Anglian Magazine. He said he saw a phantom house with a garden in the June of either 1911 or 1912. It was located on Kingshall Street, between Bradfield St George and Rougham Green.

As Mr. Cobbold travelled by pony and cart with George Waylett, a local butcher, the air suddenly filled with a peculiar swishing sound. The ambient temperature also turned very cold. Their startled pony bolted, throwing Mr. Waylett from the trap. Mr. Cobbold managed to hold on and bring the pony under control. As he struggled with the beast, he spotted a three-storey, double-fronted, red brick, Georgian-style house, with six flower beds in full bloom in the front garden. To Mr. Cobbold's amazement, " a kind of mist seemed to envelop the house, which I could still see, and the whole thing simply disappeared, it just went'.

Mr. Waylett had seen the house a number of times before. Robert Palfrey, Cobbold's grandfather, had also seen the ornate red brick house, around about the June of 1860. Like his grandson, more than 50 years later, Mr. Palfrey was amazed when the house simply disappeared in front of him. Cobbold said he saw the house on Gypsy Lane, close to some woodland known as Colville's Grove. It is a different location to where Miss Wynne and her pupil saw it, but within the same parish.

To this very day, people are still claiming to see a phantom house in the Gypsy Lane/Kingshall Street area. In 1998, the daughter of a rector living at Rougham Green Rectory, where Miss Wynne resided, burst into the Bennett Arms pub in tears, claiming to have seen the house, but an immediate investigation showed no house at the location.

Mrs. Jean Batram, another witness to the phenomenon, recently contacted the East Anglian Daily Times. She recalled how she and her husband, Sidney, had driven past a beautiful Georgian house on Kingshall Street. She was so struck by its impressive appearance that she remarked on it to Sidney. The house sported graceful architecture, elegant windows and a delightful garden. Mrs Batram looked forward to seeing the beautiful house on their return journey. She was utterly dumbfounded to discover no such house at that location, on their way home.

Mrs. Batram had never heard of the Rougham mirage and over the years, she almost forgot about the experience, until she borrowed Betty Puttick's book, Ghosts of Suffolk, from her local library. A lady in her early seventies, Mrs Batram is adamant of what she saw, telling the East Anglian Daily Times: “I know I saw this house, I can see it now and could sketch it if I needed to. It was a lovely big Georgian house with a whole row of long windows and trees at the back of it. I have talked to other people and they have heard of it and people in Rougham have heard of the tale. I would just love to get to the bottom of it. At the time it happened, I knew nothing about this house at all. I was looking across some ploughed fields when I noticed this great big house and remarked to my husband how nice it was. “I had a quick look and saw these lovely big windows and then thought I would see it again when I came back. But when we drove back, there was no house there.”

Phil Sage, a local historian, told the East Anglian Daily Times that the apparitions had fascinated generations of local people. He also said there was some evidence which suggested a house called Kings Hall, had been once existed at the location, but little was known about it.

So exactly what are people seeing at Rougham? Is it some kind of mirage? Or are people experiencing a genuine time slip at this location? It is interesting to note that this phenomenon has endured over many years. What is more than a little puzzling, is that the house is described as being Georgian in appearance. The Georgian era refers to the reigns of George I, George II, George III and George IV, between 1714 and 1830. Surely, if a genuine house had stood at this spot during the Georgian era, Mr. Palfrey, who witnessed the apparition in 1860, would have had some knowledge or recollection of the house, or its remains, had some mishap laid it to waste? That said, it certainly sounds as if many witnesses over the last 150 years or so, have been genuinely perplexed by the sudden appearance and disappearance of a large house.

Suggested reading:

Ghosts of Suffolk (Ghosts)


Dragonstar 11 October 2007 at 22:12  

Fascinating story, one I'd never heard before. Thanks for informing me.

Siani 12 October 2007 at 01:26  

It's an intriguing story, isn't it?

Dazzer 22 September 2009 at 18:15  

some has actually filmed this... whether its a hoax or not is anyones guess..

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