ON first impressions, quaint little Bungay with its tea rooms, antique stores and neatly kept houses does not appear to be a hot bed for devil worshippers.
But in the most recent census, 70 of the locals in this rural Suffolk community claimed to be Satanists.
10The rural town of Bungay, in Suffolk, supposedly has more devil worshippers than anywhere in BritainCredit: JOHN McLELLAN10The Sun’s fearless reporter Grant Rollings examines the Druid stone, a local landmarkCredit: JOHN McLELLANWhen The Sun visited the quiet East Anglian town it was buzzing with the news that it has more followers of Lucifer than any other place in Britain.
To most people the notion that neighbours might be dancing naked around pentagrams or sacrificing animals was a perplexing one.
One neatly turned-out resident after another smiled politely and insisted they had no connection to Beelzebub.
Yet, as we toured the market town evidence of a fascination with the occult did start to appear.
Tales of ghosts, ghouls, a devil dog and a ritual to conjure up dark forces were recounted.
With one in 120 of the 85,000 residents putting Satanism down as their religion on the most recent census, there had to be some link.
‘Dance summons the Devil’
In The Chocolate Box shop, appropriately named for this pretty town, owner Andrew Leggett-Bond, 57, says: “There are stories that you have to dance around the druid stone naked to make the devil appear.”
His wife Angela, 61, chipped in: “The black dog that appeared in the church was supposed to be the devil.”
10One in 120 of the 85,000 residents put Satanism down as their religion on the most recent censusCredit: JOHN McLELLAN10Inside St Mary’s Church where the Black Dog fable originatedCredit: JOHN McLELLANOthers agreed there were strange stories.
Jimmy Alderton, 40, a chef at Bigod’s Kitchen close to the castle ruins, says: “It is news to me that there are Satanists in the town.
“I have never seen rogue people in cloaks at night, just the usual teenagers.
“But everyone knows the legend of the Black Dog.”
The first stop then had to be the historic St Mary’s church, which is no longer a place of regular Christian worship due to declining congregation numbers.
Among the gravestones sits a well-worn boulder dating back to 400BC known locally as the Druid Stone.
Legend has it that if you dance around the rounded rock, also called The Devil’s Stone, twelve times and then knock on it, Satan himself will appear.
That, though, is not the most infamous story associated with the church.
In 1577 it was said that during the most fearsome storm, a huge hound with red eyes scratched at the doors and then burst in on the terrified worshippers.
The rhyme says: “All down the church in midst of the fire, The hellish monster flew – And passing onward to the quire, He many people slew.”
Whether it refers to a devil dog or the devil is unclear.
As you tour the town the Black Dog symbol appears in doorways and on nameplates.
Next to the marketplace it rides across a thunderbolt on a weather vane and the local football team are known as The Black Dogs.
This isn’t just an ancient legend, though, because there have been more recent reports of the black beast roaming the streets at night.
It’s not a creature you would wish to come across because it is said to be a portent of doom.
10Paul Squire Trevitt claims spooky goings on have occurred in his pubCredit: JOHN McLELLAN10Locals have leaned into the black dog myth… some more than othersCredit: Darren FranceThe landlord of The Three Tuns pub, whose foundations date back to 1540 and cellar walls all the way to the 11th century, believes there might be a link between the Devil’s Stone and ghostly goings-on in his establishment.
Paul Squire Trevitt explains: “There are 27 or more entities in this building. There are potentially lay lines running through the pub from the Druid’s stone at the church.
“I have seen a mist in the cellar and a column of light about the height of a child. I have seen orbs and flames. And in the cellar the keys swing by themselves.”
The flames could be linked to the destruction of the great fire in 1688 which left 200 families homeless.
Sharon Erskine, the pub manager corroborated the landlord’s story, saying: “I have heard footsteps and a knock at the door when no one else has been there.
“Some staff refuse to go down to the cellar.”
These ungodly occurrences certainly support the idea that dark forces stalk the town.
Ouija board, candles & Satanic carvings
But is there evidence of Satanism?
A short walk away at The Green Dragon pub there is a far more solid sign of the occult.
Behind the bar is a pentagram – the five-pointed star often associated with devil worship.
James Pickford, the owner of the pub, told how a member of staff found the Satanic necklace while cleaning up a couple of weeks ago.
The 38-year-old, who grew up in Bungay, reveals: “Someone dropped the pentagram in the pub.
“We keep it behind the bar, but I don’t want to handle it.”
The barmaid also refused to pick up the pentagram because she was a Christian.
Later on we were introduced to a teenager who claims to have seen evidence of Satanic worship in disused sheds at the edge of Bungay.
10Grant with a pentagram found in a local pubCredit: JOHN McLELLANArchie Jones, 18, came across objects linked to the Dark Lord last autumn at a place known as the Chicken Roundabout.
He reveals: “There was a Ouija board and candles. There were drawings on the wall of the star and crosses carved in some wood.”
There is another secret connection the town shares with wizards and witches.
It was at the 200 year-old Clays book printers that the Harry Potter books rolled off the presses.
And Grim, a jet black dog that appeared in JK Rowling’s novels, may well have been inspired by the Black Dog legend that Bungay is most famous for.
In the books Professor Sybil Trelawney describes Grim as a “giant, spectral dog that haunts churchyards”.
It is also said to have inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous Sherlock Holmes mystery The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Satanists on the rise
No one in the town admitted to hailing Satan.
But that doesn’t mean they do not exist.
White witch Dee Johnson has met Satanists and seen examples of animal sacrifice in south east England.
She says: “There are Satanists. There are people attracted to power and tradition. I have met them, with Satan tattoos and occult symbols.
“I am fine with them if they are not hurting anyone.
“But there are some examples of animal sacrifices which could be the work of Satanists.
“Near to me I found rabbits that had been killed and had occult symbols. I saw that with my own eyes.
“Some people are attracted to the dark side.”
The 59-year-old Wiccan high priestess from St Albans, Herts, says that people of all backgrounds are interested in witchcraft.
10The legend of the Black Dog features prominently in Bungay including a rhyme displayed on a plaque and an image of the beast on signs10An effigy of the Black Dog is carried around town at the annual Black Shuck festivalCredit: SuppliedShe explains: “I teach witchcraft and it is more popular than ever. I teach celebrities, doctors, nurses, professors, hairdressers, business ladies who want power and knowledge, you name it.”
The Church of Satan thought that the people of Bungay might be having a “laugh” by naming Satanism as their religion.
But the anti-authority cult insists that its following is growing and that its beliefs should be taken more seriously.
Magus Peter H. Gilmore, High Priest, Church of Satan, says: “Satanism has been a growing religion, particularly since we’ve seen our literature translated into numerous languages, and it often finds people from many nations who see themselves reflected in our writings, who might consider themselves Satanists without joining our organisation.
“In recent years we’ve witnessed a growth in activists who call themselves ‘Satanists,’ as a form of rebellion – an attempt to resist what they consider to be authoritarian, intolerant religious organisations.”
Whatever the truth, the Suffolk town is proud of its links to mysterious forces.
Last summer they launched the Black Shuck Festival, which celebrates the devilish black dog that marauded through the town.
There is a plan for another festival this summer and locals are raising money for a bronze sculpture of the killer hound.
Organiser Stuart Pearson-Wright, who has lived in the area for eight years, says: “The area is very rich in folklore, the supernatural and ghost stories and this incredible story of Black Shuck, which is essentially a werewolf legend.
“Last year we were planning to burn the effigy of Black Shuck but the fire brigade said we couldn’t.”
Perhaps, a few townsfolk thought that putting Satanism on their census form would help that legend grow.
Or maybe they have been drawn into the occult by all the legends.
10The festival launched last yearCredit: Supplied
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk