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WEIRD NORFOLK: The Norfolk village where a family literally stepped back in time

PUBLISHED: 18:00 27 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:17 29 June 2020

Weird Norfolk: The main street in Horning. The village is said to revert to  how it looked 100 years ago in a timeslip every five years. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Weird Norfolk: The main street in Horning. The village is said to revert to how it looked 100 years ago in a timeslip every five years. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2020

An unsettling time slip in Horning: “The three began to feel uneasy, noting that a strange silence had descended…The landscape became blurry and the houses were replaced by ancient cottages.”

It was Norfolk’s own Picnic at Hanging Rock: a village where time stood still and where a family found themselves transported back in time as they stood in shock. The Margolis family were walking around the beautiful Norfolk village of Horning in the summer of 1978 – possibly 1979 – taking in the riverside views at one of the gems in the Norfolk Broads’ crown. Mr and Mrs Margolis and their 11-year-old son were suddenly overcome with uneasiness – the village had suddenly fallen entirely silent and, as they walked, the trio began to feel increasingly dizzy.

Realisng quickly that something was very wrong, they began to feel not only disorientated, but frightened. The landscape had started to melt away “like a big heat haze’ and the houses that they had looked at seconds earlier turned before their eyes into ancient cottages. In amazement they watched as the modern road transformed into little more than a muddy track and the cars into carts. A thin man wearing brown appeared walking alongside a battered cart drawn by a large horse: he didn’t so much as glance at the family. Then, as suddenly as they had moved from one time to another, they heard modern-day noises: cars, voices, the thrum of life with electricity. As quickly as it had appeared, the past had evaporated. In his book Cover-Ups and Secrets: The Complete Guide to Government Conspiracies, Manipulations and Deceptionsby Nick Redfern, he quotes an interview given by Mrs Margolis in 1997, after the death of her husband. She said that she appeared to have emerged from the trance-like state induced by the time slip far faster than either her husband or son and that they had seemed “out of it and distracted, as if they were underwater”.

There are many stories from across the world of inexplicable time slips where people find themselves in another dimension or what feels like a parallel universe. Two are from our neighbour, Suffolk, the first happened in October 1957 when three 15-year-olds were taking part in an orienteering exercise on a Sunday morning when they walked into the village of Kersey and, apparently, a completely different period in time. There were similarities to what happened in Horning: all the boys could hear was a stream, the modern houses had been replaced by timber-framed buildings and they couldn’t even hear the ducks that looked as if they were splashing in the stream. Filled with unease, the boys began to look around: there in a butcher’s shop window were skinned oxen, green with age and covered with cobwebs as if the butcher had left in a hurry, weeks earlier. Houses in the village were bare of furniture, just empty, cold shells. Just then, a shiver passed through all three youths as all felt the icy stare of invisible watchers from all around the village tracing their every step. Petrified and nauseous, they walked quickly up the village street, eventually pelting away from the strange, medieval-looking houses, pausing only to glance back to check if they were being followed. Speaking in 1990, William Laing (one of the boys in question) said: ““It was a ghost village, so to speak. It was almost as if we had walked back in time… I experienced an overwhelming feeling of sadness and depression in Kersey, but also a feeling of unfriendliness and unseen watchers which sent shivers up one’s back… I wondered if we’d knocked at a door to ask a question who might have answered it? It doesn’t bear thinking about.” Another tale is told in Rougham where a stately Georgian home is said to appear and then vanish, leaving no trace: the Rougham Mirage has been spotted since 1860 and up to 2007.

Some believe the sightings represent a time slip which passers-by are experiencing. Author Joan Forman wrote Haunted East Anglia and wrote another about time-slips called Masks of Time, in which she recounted her own experience at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire where she saw a group of children playing at the top of the stairs – who she later discovered were youngsters from the 1640s, not present day. Ms Forman believed the trigger for a time-slip happened when someone was interested in their surroundings but not concentrating on them, allowing the slip to happen. Others believe that ghosts may be living people who have stepped through a time-slip.

We may, however, be able to test the theories for ourselves because if we return back to Horning, there is a persisting belief that the time-slip experienced by the Margolis family occurs in the village once every five years.

The next time it is due to happen? 2023 or 2024.

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