Jan 28, 2022
Author Charles Christian joins us to talk about the Waveney Valley and Shuckland which is particularly mysterious part of the UK.
You can find his book on the Shuckland: Weird tales, ghosts, folklore and legends from East Anglia's Waveney valley: 1 (Haunted Landscapes)
Please note we do not guarantee 100% transcript accuracy. The below reflects a best effort. Thank you for your understanding.
Jim Harold 0:06
Ghosts. Have they become a cliche? Or can we once again examine this phenomenon seriously? After all, isn't it really our own afterlife we're curious about? Let's delve a little deeper on Jim Harold's Ghost Insight.
Welcome to Ghost Insight. I am Jim Harold. So glad to be with you once again and we have a great guest today. He's been on the programs before and always fascinating. I'm talking about Charles Christian, and he is going to talk to us about his latest book Shuckland: Weird Tales, Ghosts, Folklore and Legends from East Anglia's Waveney Valley and it is volume one in the Haunted Landscapes series. And Charles has a really interesting background for this line of authorship. He is an English barrister, and writer's correspondent turned writer, podcaster, Award Winning Tech journalist, and sometime werewolf hunter. And he now writes, talks, and makes videos mainly about folklore, urban myths, history, and the weird. And we are so glad to have him back on the program. Charles, I know we're getting a little late for this, but Happy New Year. And thank you for returning to our shows.
Charles Christian 1:31
Happening New Year to you as well, Jim, yes. And let's hope it's a less eventful year--
Jim Harold 1:38
Charles Christian 1:39
--Politically and health wise than last year.
Jim Harold 1:42
Yes. Let's hope that this is the best year of the 2020s. It wouldn't take much (laughs).
Charles Christian 1:47
Yes. And no (laughs).
Jim Harold 1:49
So we remain hopeful. Well, your latest book, Shuckland: Weird Tales, Ghosts, Folklore, and Legends from East Anglia's Waveney Valley. Can you tell us what and where Shuckland is and why you decided to train your lens on it.
Charles Christian 2:08
Right. Well, the Waveney Valley is part of--it's the bit between Norfolk and Suffolk in England. And that's the bit, if you look at a map of the UK, that bulges out in the southeast. And that's why, where we come later on in the story. One of the stories I tell is about a haunted former US Air Base from World War II. This whole area was full of military bases because it was the bit nearest to Europe. So it was the shortest hop across the sea. But I happen to live down here, now. And as I've been living here--I'm one of those people who's got a bit of a blotting paper-like mind, and I just soak up facts and pieces of information. And over the course of being here, I was picking up legends, stories, urban myths, if you like, about various things and realized I had the makings of a book, and put it together as a theme. And that's where it went on from there. And I say, Shuckland, I've given it that name because the big legend in this part of the world is Black Shuck, the demon dog of East Anglia that makes a couple of appearances in history, rushing into churches and striking people down in fireballs and the like, and it is very much just as in some parts of the world, you'll say, Oh, well, it's it's Bigfoot territory, or, you know, the New Jersey Devil, in this part of the world. It's Black Shuck. So Shuckland seemed to be the appropriate title for the book.
Jim Harold 4:08
Now that makes that makes a lot of sense. So tell us about Black Shuck. Because to me this idea of these Devil Dogs, it's one of the most terrifying things that I could possibly think about it because, you know, if you talked about Bob Bigfoot, Bobfoot that's a new one. But Bigfoot, you (laughs)--
Charles Christian 4:24
Jim Harold 4:24
--talked about, you talked about Bigfoot--
Charles Christian 4:27
That's his brother!
Jim Harold 4:27
That's right, Bobfoot (laughs). But anyway, Black Shuck. These demon dogs, you know, you would think, I mean, from what I've heard about Bigfoot, if you believe that he exists, or she exists, that you know, typically, if you don't bother them, they won't bother you. You know, and you would think that their higher intelligence, you might actually be able to reason with them and maybe somehow communicate and show that, don't hurt me, no mas. No mas, don't, don't fight me. Everything's good. But I could see a scenario, when you're facing a demon dog, a demon hound, there is no reasoning. It's like impending death. So talk to us about the curse of Black Shuck a little bit. And some of the stories.
Charles Christian 5:17
Yeah, well the story really begin--well there's there's two backgrounds. One is that the entire east coast of England has legends of large black dogs, different names given to them. Padfoot is another one. And it's an area of rivers, estuaries that get foggy. It was a place in ancient times when first the Saxon invaders arrived, then the Viking array--invaders arrived, they brought dogs with them. Both those cultures have legends of black hounds, wolves and the like. So it's it's one of those things, there are an awful lot of big black dog, big black scary dog legends in England. And Black Shuck is just one of them. Its claim to fame was in the middle of the 16th century, in the middle of a thunderstorm in the nearby town, about five miles from where I'm sitting. In the middle of a thunderstorm, this hound broke into a church, ran up and down the aisles, leaving people, savaging people, leaving them dead. And then in another flash of lightning disappeared, only to turn up almost simultaneously, 20 miles away in another church, where it did exactly the same thing and ran up and down and killed people, and the second church, place called Blythburgh, they will still point to burn marks on one of the doors and say, "Those were where its fiery claws touch the woodwork on its way out." And I say it's, it's a--it's a gorgeous, scary story. And they're certainly were incidents on both those days historically, when the churches were struck by lightning, and people were killed, and there was chaos and panic. And that's really where the legend of Black Shuck went, as was the way in those days, somebody wrote a chapbook or pamphlet about it. The, you know, 16th century equivalent of social media. And the stories spread, and it has become embodied in the areas folklore and legend ever since. And, you know, the local town. The weathervane in the middle of the town on the sort of roundabout is a Black Shuck. The local art club is the Black Shuck arts, the local running club is Black Dog Running. It's it's just embedded in the area. And there are tales all the way down the Waveney Valley of encounters, people having encounters with Black Shuck.
Jim Harold 8:35
Now, and you kind of touched on this, but I want to delve into it a little bit deeper. You know, when you talk about folklore, a lot of times people think well, it's invented out of whole cloth. Now it sounds like they're some historic basis for strange things happening that particular day. Is there any cause to believe that there was some kind of menacing Black Dog creature kind of terrorizing the countryside around that time, that it might be not just some kind of spiritual metaphor, but there may be some truth to it?
Charles Christian 9:09
I suppose I'm a natural skeptic. I like to see what the evidence was, and there were thunderstorms. There were lots of people in the--both churches because when you're living in a medieval town, where most of the houses are made of wood and have a thatched roof, a stone church with a lead or slate, or tile roof is the safest place to be.
Jim Harold 9:41
Charles Christian 9:42
And from the accounts of the people who were killed and injured, it does sound as if they were struck by lightning. The church in Bungay, the first one I mentioned, this--the church tower was definitely struck, and the churchwarden's records show that the clock was damaged. And at Blythburgh, the spire of the church came down and crashed through the roof of the rest of the church that was hit by lightning. So I think if we're going on the side of science rather than superstition, I think what happened was, there's a terrible thunderstorm going on, people are in there, as they would be doing in those days, praying. Lightning hits the church, possibly even some form of ball lightning travels up through the church causing havoc. It's pitch black, except for flashes of lights, people are screaming, masonry is falling down. And then it all goes quiet. I think given the superstitious times people were living in in those days, and you only need to look at the accounts of witch hunts to believe everybody thought the devil was real, and that demons were real. That, that is the explanation, that both churches were hit by a thunderstorm. And it was interpreted by the people as being some kind of visit visitation by a demonic force.
Jim Harold 11:24
Now, something you talk about in the book that has always fascinated me, and I don't think I've ever properly understood it. Um, you know, there's this thought that some places are just more spiritual or more spooky than other places. And one of the theories behind it is if something is on a ley line.
Charles Christian 11:42
Jim Harold 11:43
Can you give us kind of a primer on ley lines and why they they may very be much important to the spiritual or paranormal activity around a particular location?
Charles Christian 11:55
Yes, the ley lines, really only began--the theory originally began in the 1920s. And it was when it was observed that if you stood on a large hill, a tall hill and looked across, almost in a straight line, you would see historic places like a castle, or a stone ring, or a burial mound, or a church, or a cross, or something of that nature. And it's really grown up since then. And people still go ley hunting looking, looking for ley lines, trying to discover them on maps out in the countryside. That there were lines that were thought to have a--locations that were thought to have a spiritual significance, and that people would build memorials, monuments, in ancient times, temples in more recent times, churches, along these lines. And in this part of the world, there are two ley lines that run very close together, called the St. Mary and St. Michael ley lines. And they run from the east coast of East Anglia, right across the country, going through a lot of ancient sites in England, right through the country, down to Land's End, which is about the end of, well, that's, that's the end of England, and then you just hit the Atlantic Ocean. And it's thought that there was this significance in this ley line. And certainly, it does appear that on May the first, when the sun rises, it's at such an angle, that it actually shines the full length of this ley line. You know, its coordinates, it's in sync with the ley line on that one, one day. And so there is a thought that there is something significant, and it is noticeable in this part of the world. Just how many churches are dedicated to St. Michael and St. Mary. More than anybody else, and I say it, it's just intriguing that it runs all the way across there. And of course, if you go into legend, then once you get to Land's End, then beyond Land's End, there's the Isle of Avalon, where supposedly King Arthur was taken when he was mortally wounded, and going the other way in East Anglia, that was once the land bridge between England and continental Europe. Although the Dover straits between Dover and Calais is actually the closest and distance, that's a very deep trench and very old. And there was a muddy area of small islands that were accessible until relatively recent times, you know, 4,000, 5,000 years ago, which in history is is quite recent, where people could walk across from Europe and come into England. And I say that was at one end of the ley line. And supposedly, Avalon was at the other end of the ley line, you know, all magical, mythical places.
Jim Harold 15:57
Now, here's another, here's another thought. In terms of ley lines, now, I'm not saying that there is a increase in paranormal activity, but I wonder and maybe you have, if anyone has done a study to see if tales of folklore, supernatural folklore correspond to ley lines, have you? Have you seen any pattern like that?
Charles Christian 16:27
I think they do. I think they do. And I mean, certainly some people will say that you can feel, I've never felt it myself. But people have said they can feel the energy and sometimes they call them energy lines. That they can actually feel some kind of link to, I don't know, the Earth, the power of nature, along these ley lines. And I say certainly because there are so many buildings associated with them. I mean, Stonehenge is on a ley line, the Avebury stone circle is on a ley line. Lots of other places are on ley lines. And it's it's whether there's a little bit of chicken and egg there, that there's a historic site, and people associate it with history, legend, folklore, magical occurrences, or it was built because people previously had encountered magical experiences on that location, you know, which one came first. But there is definitely a feeling that there is something magical about them, something mysterious about them. The same with stone circles, there's a lot of folklore about if you go inside a stone circle of, you know, standing stones, if by the Neolithic peoples that there's something not of this earth about them that they're almost a portal if you like, and there's some kind of resonance with the earth when you go there.
Jim Harold 18:28
I'm looking at some of the stories that you have in the book. And I have to ask about, and these kinds of things always fascinate me. Ghostly airmen. Can you tell us a little bit about ghostly airmen?
Charles Christian 18:41
Yes, I mean, this is the one I mentioned when I was--in the opening when I was saying, you know, this was, where there were so many American bases in the Second World War. And when you travel around, a lot of the infrastructure is still there. A lot of the old hangars have been taken over for agriculture. Quite a few of the control towers are still standing. And the concrete runways and taxiways are still standing and are used for agriculture, for storage and things of that nature. And there are a huge amount of them. This particular one is a few miles from here. And it was the home of the 100th bomber group. And they were known as the Bloody 100. The 100 still exist and they're actually still based in East Anglia all now they fly refueling planes for the American Air Force. But they were called the Bloody 100 because they had--they were flying flying fortresses and they had a higher than usual casualty rate. And you know, each flying fortress had 10 people on it. So that's a lot of people to lose when one crashes. And in fact, the American Air Force toll, death toll was very, very high in the Second World War. And this Squadron on a couple of occasions almost got wiped out. And, you know, one occasion, only one plane safely made it back to the base, some others crash landed on the way in. So it was known as the 100th. And they had a time when they were very badly attacked, known as Black weak when they had the highest casualties. And following that, this was going back to the Second World War, stories started to spring up that there was a ghost in the Air Force Base, and was being seen walking through the various quarters, and in the control tower, and the ghost became known as Eddie the ghost. And, you know, to show the, the level of seriousness, the base commander of the time said, anybody caught talking about the ghost or taking firearms to bed with them to protect themselves against the ghost, they'd be on a court martial charge if if they caused any trouble. And, and it stayed on, and the base, say was closed down a long time ago. But some of the buildings are still there. And it's said that on an evening, the--you can stand there. And just as twilight's coming, the sight of a man in full Second World War flying gear, can be seen looking out of one of the windows or standing on the balcony around the control tower. And I said, what I found interesting is when I went there, to just take some photographs and get some information. All the people running the--it's now a little museum, all the people running the museum all clammed up and changed the subject whenever I tried to talk about the ghost, as if, you know, the first rule of the ghost is that we don't talk about the ghost, clearly something they didn't want to talk about, which I found very intriguing. I say he's a, he is a benevolent ghost (laughs).
Jim Harold 22:30
Charles Christian 22:31
He's not a malicious one. And it's almost as if he's, you know, still on duty for all his colleagues who never came back from the war as well. But it's, you know, it's it's a sort of bittersweet story that, you know, this airman, still hasn't gone home.
Jim Harold 22:49
Yeah, it is, you know, I wonder about this, and it seems like, I'm stating the obvious, but why this, you know, region? The other regions in England are still, what's the word I'm looking for. They're so ensconced, there are so--there's so many of these different stories. It's just because there's so much time and there's so much history, you know, what I mean? I mean, the thing about it that struck me, and I've only been to England once, is that there's just so much history, when I compare it to something like the states, you know, if if something is new, you know, here, new there, it's a few 100 years old. Here, you know, if something is 100 years old, it's a century home. You know, I just, it really struck me that England just has so much more history, which A: leads to a lot more folklore and B: if you are a believer in the supernatural, there's so many more spirits, and there's so much more activity, history to draw upon.
Charles Christian 24:00
I think that is the case, that and I mean, I'm a great believer in some places have some kind of presence. That it sort of, if you like, they are haunted by a residual spirit of some form, that something terrible happened to somebody typically, they were, it's where they died or where they were murdered or in a scene of a battle or something. And that event has somehow burned itself into the fabric of the buildings around them. A bit like the fact that when you talk, well when you use a video tape, or an audio tape, it's just a piece of tape with magnetic particles on it, but it traps the sound and it traps the image, you know? Is there something similar that you get with old buildings that they attract the image of some event? And from time to time, or if somebody has got particularly perceptive powers, it appears to replay. And is that the reason why we get them. But I mean, to go back to your point, we have so much ancient history around here, going back 1000s of years, that you can't help avoid it and feel it. I mean, the property I'm in, it's what's called a barn conversion. It was an old agricultural barn, but it in turn was made from old timbers that quite clearly you can tell by the cuts and marks of them had previously been part of a wooden ship. So we know the timbers are going way back, you know that the timbers have a history older than the building, you know, what things have they seen and experienced? And what have they attracted?
Jim Harold 26:07
I would say that was to me the biggest difference, I mean, even, you know, there's so much shared culture, some people say it isn't culture, American culture, but there's so much that we share. But that was the big difference. To me, it wasn't driving on the other side of the road, or different money or those kinds of things, was just the sheer history and the sheer age of structures and so forth. That was the thing that really, really struck me as a neophyte to to England, that was the thing that's like, wow, this is, you know, having pre, pre COVID days in 2019. You know, having lunch at a pub that was, you know, built in the year 1000 or something and just, just amazing to me just amazing to me.
Charles Christian 26:55
Jim Harold 26:56
I highly, once everything's done with this stuff, I highly recommend it to anybody who's never been because it's absolutely fantastic. What, to close out, what's another one of your favorite stories from the Shuckland area we've not covered?
Charles Christian 27:12
Whoo. I suppose one of the ones I'm intrigued with is there's, it was a a ballad in the 19th century, and it was very popular at Christmas time, called the Mistletoe Bow. And it's all about a young bride, who is getting married in the medieval time, they're having a party, and they play hide and seek, and she disappears. And it's only years later, they discover that she'd hidden in a wooden chest. And unbeknownst to her, there was a latch on it, that couldn't be opened from the inside. So she hid in there and suffocated and died. And it was only years later, when somebody was going through the building, they found this locked chest, opened it, and found the bride's skeleton in there still in its wedding gown. And again, just down the road, there is a little village called Brockdish. And in the house currently there, called Brockdish Hall, that is 1600s. But in the grounds of that house, there are the ruins and the embankments of old Brockdish Hall, where this legend first started, I just find that intriguing. That's, you know that, again, it's a folk tale, it's become part of popular culture. Certainly during the Victorian era, it was very popular as a ballad, and lo and behold, there is a place where it is said to have happened. I just find that intriguing. You know, that it's not just the history, but the legends around here as well.
Jim Harold 29:11
Well, it has been a great discussion. And, again, always enjoy speaking with you. It's always an education. And we always learn more, but there's so much more to learn. So, first of all, I assume you're going to continue this, along this line and in terms of haunted landscapes, and we'll be looking at some other places in the near future.
Charles Christian 29:34
I've got I've got a couple more in the pipeline. And actually at the moment, I'm mainly concerned with writing, finishing a book on witchcraft and sorcery. And coincidentally, I was talking to somebody yesterday, who has a distant ancestor, in the UK, this person, who has a distant ancestor who was John Proctor who was hanged at the Salem witch trials. So, you know, pulling that together and that's my, that's my next big project. But after that, I'd say I've got two more, at least two more in the haunted landscapes series that will be coming out.
Jim Harold 30:19
Fantastic. We look forward to talking with you again. So where can people find this volume one of haunted landscapes about Shuckland?
Charles Christian 30:29
Right. Well, that is an ebook version. And it's a facsimile ebook. So you've got all the illustrations in there, available on amazon.com at a very reasonable price. And you can also get a print version of it from Amazon UK, and some bookshops, or you can go to my website, urbanfantasist.com. And that's got all the links and ways you can acquire the book and if need be, you can buy one from me and I'll mail it to you.
Jim Harold 31:05
Very good. Well, always a pleasure. We really appreciate you taking your time to be with us again, Charles Christian. The book is Shuckland: Weird Tales, Ghosts, Folklore, and Legends from East Anglia's Waveney Valley, and its volume one of haunted landscapes and certainly stay tuned for more. Charles, thank you again and continued success with all of your books.
Charles Christian 31:29
Thank you very much, Jim.
Jim Harold 31:31
Always a pleasure to speak with Charles Christian. We thank you very much for tuning in. And we'll talk to you next time. Bye bye.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai