Weird Norfolk: Does demon hound haunt castle fort, or is it just another shaggy dog story?

PUBLISHED: 08:00 27 October 2018

The ruins of the Roman fort at Burgh Castle near Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass

The ruins of the Roman fort at Burgh Castle near Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2016

Everyone who is anyone in Norfolk knows the legend of Black Shuck – but have you heard of the county’s other demon dog with flaming eyes which haunts Burgh Castle, and sometimes further afield into Great Yarmouth?

Burgh Castle Fort was once one of East Anglia’s most important defence posts against raiding Saxons, part of a chain that protected this vulnerable part of the coastline and possibly part of the Roman fort Gariannonum. Almost 2,000 years since it was built, three of the four imposing walls still stand, meaning Burgh Castle is one of the largest Roman structures in Britain, standing strong as part of a line of forts along what the Romans called the Saxon Shore, the coastline which stretches from the Wash to the Solent. Under the command of the Count of the Saxon Shore, in the fourth century, Burgh and nearby Caister controlled the entrance to the Waveney estuary and its lonely marshland which long since claimed the west wall of the castle in question – leaving the three remaining walls guarding over Breydon Water. But if the castle guards Waveney, who – or what – guards the castle?

Stalking around the ruin, close to the marshland, a large dog has been seen prowling when darkness falls. Some claim that it is a werewolf: one investigator witnessed a man morph into a fearsome dog-like creature at the site before padding off into the night. With a single eye that glows either red or green, the beast has been nicknamed Old Scarfe after Baron Rudolf Scarfe, a 13th-century villain who lived nearby – a German mercenary from the Harz mountains, he was excommunicated in his homeland and fled to the castle where he continued to lead a black-hearted life of depravity.

When he was finally killed, the Devil turned him into a huge dog and sent him back to earth to create further havoc.

Other ghosts haunt this atmospheric ruin, including a figure that appears to be wearing a white flag which can be seen being thrown from the castle to the foreshore, in the way that justice was once meted out to those who had been found guilty of wrongdoing.

On April 27 each year, it is said that the sounds of a terrible battle can be heard with blood-curdling cries and shouts in both English and Anglo Saxon, while in July, a fleet of galleons is said to make an annual visit to Breydon Water and head towards Burgh Castle. Other witnesses report a battle raging between a pirate ship and two smaller vessels, which appears every September.

As an aside, Old Scarfe doesn’t limit his prowling to Burgh Castle and has, in fact, been seen in several other local locations including in Great Yarmouth itself and close to Gorleston – but more of that another day. And did we mention that Old Scarfe can also take the form of other terrifying beasts, and that he can appear in two places at the same time? Don’t have nightmares.

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