• Story by Richard Batson, taken from The Archant Regional, 8 September 2003.
Cromer Pier normally echoes to the sights and sounds of seaside entertainers and laughing crowds. But the end-of-the-pier theatre stage is also home to some rather spookier goings-on. So who are they gonna call? The ghosthunters.
Paranormal experts are on their way to check out chilling stories of medieval men in rags, unhappy lifeboatmen and a jaunty former theatre boss continuing to visit the jetty after their deaths.
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The team visited a Yarmouth pub at the weekend but all they saw was another pack of ghosthunters looking for the same ghosts.
Ghostly goings-on along Cromer seafront stretch back centuries, but pier bosses have called in the experts before planned alterations to the Pavilion Theatre. Manager Richard Lawson said stars and staff had reported "atmospheres, appearances, and weird and wonderful things" at the venue. They include tales of performers seeing the late Irish impresario Dick Condon on stage next to them.
Lifeboatmen who used to haunt the old lifeboat shed had moved to the theatre and pier since the new station was built, and seemed to look longingly back at where their former home used to be, he said. "A lot of staff said that during a Jack the Ripper show there were some very unpleasant presences – the 'residents' did not like it at all."
Any ghosts were the theatre's guests too, and managers wanted to delve into exactly what was going on before a planned winter rebuild of part of the foyer and auditorium.
This Friday the ghosthunting team from Nottinghamshire makes a fact-finding visit to check out the area. David Wharmby, a full-time investigator for 20 years, said "We have had reports of ghostly activity going back to 1300 in the pier area – which is close to the lost town of Shipden, now under the sea. "There are tales of figures walking along the pier in raggy clothing and sackcloth."
He said only "one or two" of the team's visits failed to produce results, and it had been featured on television's Most Haunted series – where it found the sounds of moaning voices, shuffling feet and an appearance by a second world war US soldier at Woodchester Mansion in Gloucestershire.
"We have been attacked by unseen forces – getting struck and scratched – and items, including tables, thrown at us. But we soldier on. The more activity there is, the better it is for us," said Mr Wharmby.
Mr Lawson urged people not to be frightened, and hoped the ghosthunting visit would help increase understanding.
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