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5 Oct: The mysterious Southery stone

A thunderstorm on Halloween in 1642 led to the discovery of a hole in a village near Downham Market filled with fire and the unearthing of a mysterious stone.

Thunderstorms illuminated the sky on October 31 and in Southery, villagers saw a mighty bolt of lightning strike the earth close to the old mill - the next morning, the local parson went to investigate and found a large hole in the ground where the supposed lightning had struck.

Inside the hole, a fierce fire burned for several days until it was extinguished by rainfall of almost Biblical proportions: in Southery, rumours began to fly. Some said that the hole was the opening to a tunnel which led directly to hell, and it became known as The Way In.

Over the following year, Southery's parson began to act in an erratic manner and, by 1643, he had disappeared without trace. By this time, the mysterious hole, created on a dark and stormy night, had filled with water and its named had telescoped to the Wayin Pond.

Years later, the decision was taken to drain the pond and clear it of debris. Under thick mud, a strange blue stone was discovered and beside it the skeleton of a man wrapped in iron chains. Was it the parson?

The village sign stands on the spot where the stone was discovered. CREDIT: Adrian S Pye/Geograph

The stone quickly earned a reputation for having magical powers – locals said that if women with joint problems shed their clothes and sat on top of it naked at midnight, they would be cured, farmers said the stone would sweat if it was about to rain, villagers spat on the stone for good luck and a virile 80-year-old credited the Southery Stone for his ability to still be able to father children. Apparently, he drank the ‘dew’ that collected on the stone daily: let’s hope it wasn’t the villagers’ spit…

As Billy Bragg pointed out in his song New England, it’s wrong to wish on space hardware and the new vicar agreed and had the stone removed to a nearby garden. The village sign stands on the spot where the stone was discovered, although whether it also points to the gateway to hell is up for discussion.


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