May 02, 2019 I Jocelyne LeBlanc

The Mysterious Story Of The Turning Gravestone

Cemeteries are naturally creepy, but one graveyard in particular will send extra shivers down your spine. A gravestone in a cemetery located in Norfolk, England, is said to have turned on its own, as if it was trying to get away from the person buried underneath it.

We do know that gravestones often move in cemeteries due to unstable ground. For example, if a gravestone is seen leaning forward, it’s probably because the buried coffin underneath it had collapsed. Other reasons for gravestones to move include growing tree roots as well as water beneath the ground. However, there is no logical explanation for a gravestone to turn 90 degrees and that’s exactly what happened at Swaffham’s Parish churchyard.

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Leaning gravestones (not the ones mentioned in this article)

Frederick Sandell, who was the church sexton, reported the moving gravestone to the Eastern Daily Press in the summer of 1981 and they wrote an article on the issue that read in part, “Mystery surrounds the eerie turning in of a stone cross in Swaffham’s parish churchyard.”

According to the article, when the churchyard was being reorganized for easier maintenance of the grounds, quite a few of the older gravestones were rearranged in rows. But one stone in particular seemed to be moving on its own -- the gravestone of Miss Ella Morse who passed away in 1852 at 37 years of age. The white stone cross turned 90 degrees so that it was facing north to south, while the other stones next to it remained in their same original position, unturned.

So, who exactly was Ella Morse and why did her gravestone turn away from her? She was the daughter of John Morse who was a Swaffham brewer. He apparently paid £400 (for comparison, that would equal over $16,000 in today’s money compared to the 1850s) to have a stained glass window put in the church chancel in memory of his daughter and he put brasses in the church in her memory as well.

While it seems as though she was dearly loved by her family who wanted to honor her memory, there may have been another reason for the gifts, such as maybe Ella was mad when she died or perhaps her family wanted to try to rid her from an awful sin that she may have committed. While there isn’t any evidence that she was a witch, the inscription on her gravestone is similar to the words chanted during witch burials in order to protect them from harmful spirits. Her stone read, “Ella Morse, September 8 MDCCLII, Aged XXXVII, By thy Cross and Passion, By thy precious Death, Good Lord deliver us.”

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Ancient cemetery (not the one mentioned in this article)

There are other supernatural theories as to why the headstone may have moved, such as the cross may not have belonged to Ella at all since the stones had previously been rearranged, so perhaps it was trying to get away from the unknown body that lay underneath it. And others believe that there is a more natural explanation as to why it moved 90 degrees, although none seem to make perfect sense so it still remains a mystery.

There was, however, a sad ending to the story, as three days after the article was posted, vandals had entered the cemetery and moved the stone back to its original position but while they were moving it, it became smashed and pieces of it were found throughout the graveyard.

As for today, only the stone base remains where the white stone cross once stood. But the mystery of the turning gravestone will live on forever. Click here to see pictures of the stone cross that were taken in June of 1981.

Jocelyne LeBlanc

Jocelyne LeBlanc works full time as a writer and is also an author with two books currently published. She has written articles for several online websites, and had an article published in a Canadian magazine on the most haunted locations in Atlantic Canada. She has a fascination with the paranormal and ghost stories, especially those that included haunted houses. In her spare time, she loves reading, watching movies, making crafts, and watching hockey.

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