Not all ghosts drift eerily through graveyards – some pop in to catch up with old friends and enjoy some pipe smoking and a glass of…spirits.

There is a strange tale told in the old register at Brisley Church in North Norfolk.

At St Bartholomew’s, the Vicar of nearby Gateley – Robert Withers - left his mark on the register on a page dated December 12, 1706.

In it, he recounted the story from a fellow member of the clergy, which he felt compelled to share with the parishes he was involved with: it proved, he wrote, that ghosts exist.

“I, Robert Withers, M. A., vicar of Gately, do insert here a story which I had from undoubted hands; for I have all the moral certainty of the truth of it possible,” he wrote.

The incident, which happened on July 21 of 1706, involved a learned man called Mr Shaw, who had been sitting in his study at around 11pm or 12pm when a visitor called.

A visitor who had died four years previously.

He told the story to a friend, Mr Grove, who was visiting and had been staying for several days and, as a colleague Mr Withers was in time-honoured fashion, passing it on.

He wrote: “Mr Grove went to see Mr Shaw on the 2d of August last. As they sat talking in the evening, says Mr Shaw: ‘On the 21st of the last month, as I was smoking a pipe, and reading in my study, between eleven and twelve at night, in comes Mr. Naylor (formerly fellow of St. John’s college, but had been dead full four years).

“When I saw him, I was not much affrighted, and I asked him to sit down, which accordingly he did for about two hours, and we talked together.

“I asked him how it fared with him. He said: ‘very well’—'were any of our old acquaintances with him?’—'No!’ (at which I was much alarmed), ‘but Mr Orchard will be with me soon, and yourself not long after.’

“As he was going away, I asked him if he would not stay a little longer, but he refused. I asked him if he would call again. ‘No;’ he had but three days’ leave of absence, and he had other business.

“N. B.—Mr Orchard died soon after. Mr Shaw is now dead: he was formerly fellow of St John’s college—an ingenious, good man. I knew him there.”

Following the ghostly house-call, Mr Shaw made his will and not long after, he was seized by a fit while reading service in church, fell out of the pulpit and died almost immediately.

Mr Shaw, previously to the visit from his dead friend, had been a vocal sceptic when it came to ghosts, but after it was convinced that the dead could visit the living.

Brisley’s church towers over the nearby landscape, drawing one towards it by eye, and for good reason: this church is filled with secret treasures.

There you can see gargoyles and angels, beasts and the Green Man, the Devil on high and bench carvings of foxes running away with geese in their mouths, the telltale ochre tint of medieval wall paintings and a hidden crypt where the condemned spent their last nights.

The first rector of Brisley was appointed in 1304, but the building that stands today has replaced the Saxon church that once stood at this spot, a church which had a crypt, which can still be visited to this day.

Walk through the 15th century rood screen into the chancel and look for the 13th century doorway on its original hinges, which leads down into the crypt below the sanctuary.

A narrow flight of winding stairs leads you into a single room with three thin windows and a fourth which is blocked – it is thought a further chamber could once have been behind this space.

It is thought this room once acted as a charnel house, where bones of the dead were stored until Judgement Day, but in the 19th century it was a lodging house for prisoners.

A ‘squint’ hole close to the altar acted as a way for the condemned – or possibly, earlier, for those considered ‘unclean’, such as lepers, or maybe for an anchoress or anchorite, walled into the cell below to live a life of prayer.

Later, it was this crypt where those destined for the gallows in Norwich were sent from King’s Lynn assizes for their last night in the realm of the living.

One record exists of a man who, after his night in the church’s crypt, was hanged at Norwich Castle the following day.

In his case, perhaps the Gateley vicar’s ghost story offered a little hope: that from beyond the grave, a pleasant evening with an old friend, pipe smoke and liquor might still be possible.

Have you seen a ghost or a UFO? Do you have a story about the paranormal in Norfolk you’d like to share? Email