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In February 2004 I received an e-mail from Steve Everett, who had just had a road ghost encounter in Witham, Essex. Unbeknown to Steve, it was soon clear that his experience bore an intriguing similarity to at least one other in the area (see Kelvedon). What wasn't immediately apparent - until I had looked at his and other accounts in more detail - was the degree of correlation between a series of encounters spread over time along the A12 for nearly 100 miles from Essex to Norfolk.
We are used to the idea of localised haunted spots - buildings, churchyards, even sections of road. But what is it that actually confines a ghost within these boundaries? There is, I believe, a good deal to the idea that ghosts obey and often occupy boundary or transitional features in the landscape, both physical (natural or artificial - i.e. hilltops, bridges) and notional (such as parish or county borders). A road is but one such feature and there is therefore nothing in principle to preclude a single road ghost appearing over an extended distance. Quite how far, and why it might do so is another question.
Part of the answer - related to the distance aspect - might be found in the fact that a road is both a physical and a notional feature - it is defined by spatial extent and by a name or title by which we conceive of it as a single entity. Most roads are of fairly limited extent. The A12, however (and other 'haunted' routes that spring to mind, such as the A38 - as well, of course, many other 'A' roads and our motorways), is a trunk road, a major route that traverses several counties, extending along a largely undeviating path from Norfolk into the heart of London (to the Blackwall Tunnel in fact - a location with its own road ghost associations). As a long established route, the A12 also traverses time, a witness to much human drama and a wayfare as much through consciousness, memory and experience as through the physical landscape.
As you will see from the following cases, incidents involving a similar character have generally migrated southward with time along the A12. This and other cases such as the aforementioned A38 with its very similar and intimidating male 'ghost', offer the intriguing possibility of hitherto unanticipated mobility to certain road ghosts.
Suddenly the idea of a phantom hitching a ride some distance home doesn't seem quite as absurd after all.
Location: A12, nr. Hopton (Norfolk)
Date/Time: Monday 2 November 1981. MAP
A case that bears some similarity to the famous A38 Willand-Taunton phantom is reported of the A12 near Hopton, Norfolk. The ghost of an old man, tall, with grey straggly hair has been seen quite often, and even been in collision with vehicles.
Rainy days and Mondays, like the song says - enough to get anyone down, even without the additional burden of the kind of experience that befell Andrew Cutajar on the A12 near Hopton in November 1981.
The evening of Monday 2 November was wet and miserable as Mr Cutajar drove towards Great Yarmouth. Somewhere near to the town of Hopton, he noticed what appeared to be a grey mist in the middle of the carriageway ahead.
As he drew closer, he could see the figure of a man, 'tall, and dressed in a long coat or cape, coming well past his knees. He had on old-fashioned heavy, lace-up boots, and had long, straggly grey hair.'
The figure was unmoving as Cutajar braked to avoid a collision, but in the wet conditions, the car began to skid out of control, and passed straight through the figure, ending up facing the other way on the grass verge.
When he came to a stop, there was no trace of the man.
A number of single vehicle accidents have reportedly occurred at the spot.
Source(s): Janet and Colin Bord, Modern Mysteries of Britain (Grafton Books, 1988), pp.36-37.
For similar reports of the Man-in-Grey along the A12 in Suffolk and Essex, see A12 Rackham's Corner, A12 Beccles turn-off, A12 Kelvedon, B1389 Witham.
A12 Rackham's Corner
Location: A12, Lowestoft, nr. junction with A1117 to Oulton Broad (Norfolk)
Date/Time: August 1985. 12.00 a.m. to 1 a.m. MAP
Mike Millward contacted this site after reading the brief report of Andrew Cutajar's 1981 experience on the A12 at Hopton, Norfolk. He and a friend had a similar encounter, also on the A12, but some two miles further south on the outskirts of Lowestoft, near to the junction of the A1117 turn off to Oulton Broad, at a place known as 'Rackham's Corner'.
"My experience," said Mike, "took place in August 1985, one Saturday night as I travelled with a friend back from Great Yarmouth to Lowestoft. It was slightly misty and we were travelling at quite a speed (the road is a dual carriageway), when I saw a figure ahead in the road with its back to me. My mate also saw it and started to warn me.
As I swerved to miss the figure it stayed ahead of me and we passed straight through it. I stopped pretty quickly afterwards and we were both badly shaken. There was no impact so we carried on back into Lowestoft.
"We had both heard of this ghost but until that point we'd both dismissed it as a story, but the next week we compared notes and we had both seen a tall, shabby man in a grey coat walking down the middle of the road.
"I spoke to a local 'Ghost hunter' several years later about this, and he explained the ghost is of a postman who died of a heart attack whilst going about his rounds one Christmas at the end of the 19th Century (1895 rings a bell).
"The area has now had a roundabout built on it but the postman appears over about half a mile from Stirrups Lane to the junction, usually around midnight on misty nights."
Source(s): Personal correspondence with witness. Mike has since recounted his experience for Anglian television (2003). See also A12 Hopton, A12 Beccles turn-off, A12 Kelvedon, B1389 Witham.
According to Terence Whitaker's England's Ghostly Heritage (Robert Hale, London, 1989), pp.124-5), the ghost is said to be that of William Ball, a hunchback postman whose body was found near here in the winter of 1899. The ghost is rumoured to be linked with three deaths on the A12. The first, in 1960, apparently involved a lorry-driver who drove off the road for no clear reason, and crashed into trees. In 1980 a car driver drove into the same trees; and within a year a cyclist unaccountably swerved into the path of an on-coming car. Survivors of accidents claimed to have encountered a 'shadowy figure' that forced them to swerve. One, unidentified by from the description, clearly refers to Andrew Cutajar (see Hopton) Another, a former Lowestoft policeman claimed he saw a figure with long straggly hair walk across the A12 and vanish.
A12 Beccles turn-off
Location: A12 (Suffolk), nr. junction with A145 to Beccles
Date/Time: 9 August 2001. 10.00 p.m. MAP
Phllip Baum and his wife were travelling north on the A12 on their way back to Lowestoft from Ipswich. It was around 10 p.m. on Thursday 9 August 2001. They were approaching the junction with the A145 to Beccles, when a cyclist suddenly pulled out right in front of their car.
Mr Baum takes up the story:
"I was travelling at 60 mph and could not stop in time. The cyclist turned and smiled at me as I hit him. There was a large impact. Immediately after I stopped, I got out of the car. There were vehicles by this time slowing down behind me. I checked all round the car for the cyclist. I looked underneath the car; there was no sign of him - not even any sign of the push bike he was riding. I ran back to ask the people in the car behind me if they'd seen anything; they hadn't.
"My wife phoned the police for them to check the area, in case the cyclist was thrown to the side of the road somewhere. They found no sign. There was no damage to my car, even though I had felt a large impact.
"The police told me that this incident wasn't the first, and probably won't be the last. They claim that there is a ghost which haunts this stretch of the A12. 15 years ago I found out that a young man in his late teens was killed on the A12 after the Beccles turn. The young man pulled out in front of a car too early, and was killed. The man now haunts the A12 at the Beccles turn, and really gave me and my wife a fright on that August night.
"I've travelled up and down the A12 passed this scene many times after this incident, but have not seen the ghost since.
Source(s): Account courtesy of Mysterymag.com, and personal correspondence with witness. See also A12 Hopton, A12 Rackham's Corner, A12 Kelvedon, B1389 Witham.
Location: A12 Kelvedon, Essex. July 1988.
Date/Time: [not specified]. MAP
The Sun of 15 July 1988 reported the baffling story of a cyclist who vanished from the roadside after a driver reported to police that he had run over him...in his 38-ton truck.
French truck driver Didier Chassagrande, 22, drove his DAF articulated lorry straight over the cyclist on the main A12 at Kelvedon, Essex.
Shocked, Didier found the elderly, grey-haired man unconscious and bloody; he dragged him onto the roadside, along with his mangled bike, before running off to seek help.
Returning with police about ten minutes later, he was amazed to find the man had disappeared; as had his bicycle. Searching the area, officers found only his false teeth, pump and torch.
A police spokesman commented: "The cyclist must be hurt because the lorry was quite badly damaged. But if he is alive and well we'd be grateful if he would claim his teeth."
Source(s): 'By gum! Flattened cyclist vanishes', by Kieron Saunders, The Sun, 15 July 1988. See also A12 Hopton, A12 Rackham's Corner, A12 Beccles turn-off, B1389 Witham.
Location: B1389 Witham, Essex.
Date/Time: 10 February 2004. 6.35 a.m. MAP MAP(zoom)
Steve Everett contacted this site to report an experience that had befallen him on his way to work on the morning of Tuesday 10 February - making it the first new report to reach Roadghosts.com for 2004.
Steve gave the time as around 6.35 a.m. He was driving along the B1389 in Witham Essex, a town road that runs north-east towards Colchester before meeting the A12 outside the town.
It was just beginning to get light; the conditions a little cold but clear. Just before the junction with Eastways Industrial Estate, Steve saw a 'rough looking man' at the side of the road with a bicycle. The man wore a parker jacket, old trousers, a jumper and shoes. As Steve approached, at about 30 mph, the man seemed as if he were waiting, looking up the road in his direction. But as soon as Steve drew level, the man walked straight out in front of his car...and vanished.
Steve stopped his car immediately, and rushed back to look for the man. There was no-one there.
"I didn't believe in ghosts until I saw it yesterday," said Steve. "They think I am mad at work, but there was something there."
Steve felt the man's dress placed him in the 1960s. He was keen for his account to be published on this site in the hope of generating some feedback on his encounter.
Any news regarding this particular phantom will be most welcome. As it is, Roadghosts.com holds record of arguably the same (or at least a very similar) figure that appears to haunt the A12 along a great stretch of the A12 - from truck driver Didier Cassagrande's terrifying encounter just up the road from Witham, at Kelvedon (Essex) in 1988, to Phillip Baum and wife's encounter near the A12/A145 Beccles turn-off in Suffolk in August 2001. Both had involved cyclists who had ridden into the path of their oncoming vehicle.
Further back in time, and further north, at Hopton, Norfolk in 1981, and just south again, inside the Suffolk border, at Rackham's Corner, in 1985, two other incidents with a similarly described figure (sans bike on these occasions) completes a remarkable collection of accounts for this modern road counterpart of an ancient route.
But this is the B1389, not the A12, right? Well, a look at the map (link above) reveals that the B1389 runs straight through Witham on the same north-easterly/south-westerly course as the modern A12. In other words, before the modern A12 dual-carriageway was constructed to loop by-pass Witham by loping around its south side, this road, the B1389 - would have been the main road - the A12 - to Colchester and beyond - the same route on which the other incidents have occurred.
Which all begs the simple questions 'Why?' and 'How?' Why should this same figure character, with or without his bicycle, appear to haunt over such an extended distance (Witham to Hopton, as the crow flies, is around 90 miles)? Considering that we are wont to assume a suitably tragic cause behind these events [which this site's author frequently disputes], thus tying most road ghost and other haunts to quite localised spots, how is this even possible? What is the 'range' of such figures.
I have previously speculated that very similar spectral figures from different locations appear to be patterned on a limited number of recurring archetypes. Andrew Cutajar's descripton of the ghostly figure in his experience on the A12 at Hopton, for instance, I have compared in description and behaviour to that the straggly grey-haired figure that is noted along an extended stretch of the A38 in Somerset. This may suggest possibly 'unlimited' range for such figures.*
As it is, all we can note of the ghost of the A12 (apart from the very familiar pattern of walking (or riding) into the path of oncoming vehicles (both achieve the same horrifying effect of misleading the motorist into believing he has killed or badly injured a real person) is that his journey appears to be progressively southward. Excepting Mr and Mrs Baum's experience at the A12/A145 junction in 2001, the appearances have moved south, from Hopton in 1981, to the latest, at Witham in 2004. Can we expect, 20 years from now, to hear reports of this figure falling beneath vehicles near the termination of the A12 in central London?
* As unpredictable as appearances of these ghosts may be, my previous work has distilled a pattern and timing of events that appears remarkably consistent from case to case across the world. Other workers have looked at the liminal aspects of ghostly appearances, noting that they appear within the marginal zones of both perception and landscape. There is a great deal that appears highly relevant to road ghost sightings. They often, for instance, appear bound by or follow geographical boundaries such as roads, rivers and hills, or notional boundaries such as county of district demarcations (see, for example, the notes to One Tree Hill (Essex)). The encounters of Andrew Cutajar (Hopton, 1981), and Mike Millward (Rackham's Corner, 1985) straddle the Suffolk-Norfolk border (see photo below).
Source(s): Personal correspondence with witness. See also A12 Hopton, A12 Rackham's Corner, A12 Beccles turn-off, A12 Kelvedon.
Do you have any news regarding similar encounters in the A12 corridor? Please to send any information to Roadghosts.com
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