The truth is out there...
THOSE strange goings-on in the Hopton area - UFOs at the bottom of the garden, humanoids on the cliffs and a paranormal ley line linking the old parish church ruins with St Michael's Mount in Cornwall - about which I wrote recently are not a topic for the timid but sound more like the legendary “ghosties and ghoulies and long leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night.
THOSE strange goings-on in the Hopton area - UFOs at the bottom of the garden, humanoids on the cliffs and a paranormal ley line linking the old parish church ruins with St Michael's Mount in Cornwall - about which I wrote recently are not a topic for the timid but sound more like the legendary “ghosties and ghoulies and long leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night.”
My misgivings about these spooky phenomena are shared by another former airman who served at Royal Air Force Hopton while I was doing my National Service there in the 1950s. Former radar operator Alan Brown, now a Devon resident, read a cutting of my article sent to him by his sister and writes: “I used to cycle to and from Gorleston several evenings a week to see my girl friend (now my wife).
“I did not see any ghosts or unexplained apparitions but always disliked riding along the section of the old main road (before it was dualled) which went down the dip then up again by Valley Farm, particularly on the side when coming to Hopton.
“I have no explanation for the feeling of unease, perhaps best summed up by the quotation: 'By the pricking of my thumbs, something evil this way comes.'”
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Stressing that “I haven't got a very good UFO report for you, just a bit of an odd happening,” Alan recalls being on watch in the underground bunker in the cliffs near the Corton boundary when a response popped on to his screen, resembling an aircraft way out over the sea. But it was not moving.
After checking out the possibilities - ship, odd weather condition, weather balloon, for example - it was decided to stop the antenna on the clifftop pylon and use a hand control to position it, pointing at that mystery response, simultaneously using another screen to expand the display to determine if there was more than one object there.
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“However, as soon as we did this, the object vanished, almost as if it had detected that the radar beam was locked on to it,” says Alan. The next day there was an action replay, the object disappearing as before. He thinks no other watch detected one, and no further action was taken.
So, an unexplained UFO-type occurrence off Sidegate Road in Hopton, Alan Brown experiencing a spooky feeling on the A12 road parallel to it across a field or two, a humanoid near the radar station that locked on to a mystery blip on its screens, ley lines... And only a couple of miles farther along the A12, not too distant from the radar pylons, I had this weird experience, near the old AA box at Rackham's Corner where the Oulton road leaves the main Lowestoft one.
At 3am on a 1970s June night I was hurrying to Lowestoft from Gorleston after a phone call from an elderly relative reporting that her husband had just died and she was alone with his body. As I drove into a patch of mist, my path was blocked...by a black horse only a few feet ahead. I slammed on the brakes and raised an arm to shelter my face because it was impossible to avoid a head-on collision.
But there was no impact and the car emerged from the mist on to a clear road. Tentatively I got out and walked back, but found nothing.
Years later I read in a book of East Anglian ghost stories about the Rackham's Corner black horse...a portent of death. And I had been hurrying to the home where a sudden death had occurred!
Incidentally, I recently read in a 1937 Suffolk almanack: “Hopton is a parish on the sea coast but is actually separated therefrom by a small strip in the parish of Corton which joins Gorleston.”
Gaslights tend to evoke creepy feelings, and in May I reported here that one of the last surviving street gaslamps - long-since converted to electricity - stood on Marine Parade outside the side door to the Royal Aquarium's Little Theatre building (now the Hollywood Cinemas), and was a rarity in that it was privately owned but on a public pavement. Three years ago a vehicle damaged it beyond repair.
From ex-Yarmouthian Clive Manson comes the information that he has the pair or ornamental dolphin heads from this lamp post helping to decorate his garden in the village of Cawston.
“I can remember as a boy about 1950 seeing three dolphins heads on the post but by 1960-70 they had slowly vanished. In 1989 I was in a Northgate Street antique shop (no longer there) talking to the owner and a dealer from London when a chap walked in and offered two dolphins heads for sale.
“The shopkeeper was not interested but the dealer was because apparently cast iron ornaments sold well in London. When I said I thought they looked like the heads off the lamp post, the dealer lost interest, thinking they had been stolen, no doubt. The chap left the shop and I caught him up and bought them from him. just to keep them in the town.
“I hoped the the highways department would take them and restore the lamp - they could have used them to make a mould to cast two more heads - but the Town Hall convinced me I was wasting my time. Shame! I think it would have looked good in the yard of the Time and Tide Museum.
“So I have two very nice garden ornaments.”
Finally, from New Zealand I received an e-mail from Les Sharman, a fellow pupil with me at Yarmouth Grammar School from the late Forties to early Fifties. It came as the result an e-mail a friend sent him attaching my recent column about the late Malcolm Sayer - who designed classic Jaguar cars like the iconic E-type - and his father, Gilbert, who taught us art and woodwork.
Writes Les: “Like Peggotty, my first form master was Gilbert Sayer. For many of us new students, introduction to the Sayer form of discipline was something of a culture shock, as in most cases we had been taught by lady teachers in junior school.
“Nevertheless, once we settled in, it became clear we were treated both firmly and fairly. Often during his art classes he would mention, with undisguised pride, that his son was part of the design team at Jaguar Cars and encouraged us to open our minds with our drawing and painting assignments.
“Whilst I have never forgotten the effect of Mr Sayer's shouted demand to the class to 'Stop!', as we were never sure who had transgressed, neither have I forgotten how to spell 'parallel' which he required us learn by repeating out loud 'PARA-DOUBLE L-EL'.
“Regrettably, I never met Malcolm.
“The photograph included in the article stirred some memories, not least at seeing my own face two places behind Gilbert Sayer.” Other teachers in the shot were headmaster Alan Palmer, “Pip” Pereira (French) and George West (physics, and the major commanding the school Army Cadet unit).