Landguard Fort has existed, in one form or another, since 1543, and sits on the mouth of the River Orwell in the town of Felixstowe, Suffolk.
My interest in Landguard Fort began after meeting a middle-aged man who claimed that, as a child, he was playing near the empty building when a ghostly team of horses pulling a carriage galloped past him. Coach and four entered the fort and vanished, appearing to use a drawbridge that was not actually there. Curiosity aroused, I wanted to know more.
I spent a morning at the fort, walking around the quiet, atmospheric structure taking photographs and listening to the ghost stories that are freely shared by the volunteers who now work hard to keep the site open. I was surprised at the number of tales they had to tell.
A solitary musketeer was seen several times by soldiers during the Second World War, marching along a rampart. He is said to have been the only defender who lost his life during a Dutch invasion attempt (during which nine or ten Dutchmen were killed) in the distant past. Though the spectre has not been observed as of late, I was told that dogs are still afraid of that particular area. Another soldier that haunts the fort is a Victorian Artilleryman. In the middle of an afternoon, a female worker in the shop was more than a little surprised to see this phantom figure step through a wall and grin at her, before turning around and stepping back into the wall. As a side note, the shop is also reportedly home to mild poltergeist activity – one member of staff reported seeing several Airfix model aircraft kits fly unaided off a shelf.
Maria is likely to be the most well known spook to be found at the fort. A member of a reenactment group who spent the night in the building was awoken twice by the cries of a woman who also occasionally whispered in a foreign tongue. He and two others broke out their torches to find where the sounds were coming from, but to no avail. The following morning, the man spoke to the site manager about his troubled night, and was told he had probably encountered the ghost of a Portuguese lady…
In the mid eighteenth century, the fort’s paymaster sergeant married a young woman named Maria. The wives of the other soldiers based at the fort didn’t really like the Portuguese bride, and when a silken handkerchief went missing, the finger of blame was pointed at the young lady. The paymaster sergeant was instructed to deal with the situation, and convinced his wife was innocent, left the site to find help in proving Maria was not to blame for the theft. Unfortunately, when the paymaster sergeant returned four days later, he was immediately accused of desertion and executed by firing squad in the fort’s dry moat. Maria was devastated, and in a moment of madness, flung herself from the ramparts to her death. As the reenactment member had discovered, Maria still runs around the area, mumbling in Portuguese and crying out in grief.
The Georgian period must have been a grim time for those in His Majesty’s forces. A visiting medium ‘picked up’ another eighteenth century soldier in a darkened room set back from the courtyard. The medium said the spirit was that of a young man, sitting and crying out for his mother in the corner of the room, with his body covered in pustules. The soldier had returned from a tour of duty overseas and had picked up a tropical disease, even though the symptoms did not manifest until he arrived back at the fort. When the medical officer discovered the man and his sickness, he confined the soldier to a room. 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.
The bathroom is said to be haunted by another soldier, who died around the time of the First World War. Two mediums visited the site at different times, one claiming the soldier cracked his head open on the bath during a practical joke that went wrong, while the other maintained the soldier was murdered because of he was caught stealing from friends. Both stories featured several other people involved in the death, all of whom conspired to keep the truth hidden after the event. However, there is no official documentation to support the death; cover up or fiction? Either way, the area has a particular feel to it, though whether this is due to a spiritual presence or environmental factors is subject to debate. This story is also connected to another one of the Landguard’s phantom tales. One of the soldiers who been involved in the bathroom death could not live with his actions. He sneaked into the magazine room, tied a noose around his neck and hanged himself… by the time the guard found him it was too late, and his phantom is still reported to remain in the area.
I was actually a little sad to leave the fort, and I could have spent much more time there, wandering the darkened corridors and dodging the cobwebs. Landguard Fort is staffed by volunteers, and I would like to thank them all for their help and hospitality.
http://www.landguard.com (opens in new window)