Colonel Thomas Sydney lived at the Old Hall, Ranworth, in Norfolk. He was a bully and a drunkard who liked to hunt and be the best at everything. The Colonel enjoyed nothing better than galloping ahead of everyone else! He was always in the lead by hook or by crook! He also loved a dare and a bet. It got him into a whole heap of trouble, as you will see.
The Colonel just couldn't help himself. He had to be the best. On the last day of December, at the biggest and grandest hunt meeting of 1770, he challenged one of his neighbours to a race. All the important locals were there. They wanted to see the Colonel take a fall; many of them thought that was what he deserved.
The race was quickly underway and soon the neighbour began to draw ahead of the Colonel, to the excited cheers from the crowd. When the Colonel saw that he was well behind and about to lose, a devilish look crossed his face.
He promptly pulled out his pistol and shot the neighbour's horse! The injured horse reared up as the crowd gasped in horror; the neighbour was thrown from his horse and trampled to death, right in front of the Colonel's eyes.
Well, you can bet if the devil did not have a claim on the Colonel's wicked soul before, there was little doubt now. What a dastardly deed!
You may think that the Colonel would have felt sorry or kept out of the way for a bit after that, but you would be wrong.
A stormy New Year's Eve was the night of the Great Hunt Banquet at the Old Hall, and nothing, but nothing, was going to stop the Colonel's enjoyment of a good night of feasting and drinking. Sorry and sad he was not!
Just as the drunken Colonel's voice could be heard shouting out above the other drunken banquet-goers, the door of the Hall was suddenly flung wide open with a BANG!
Standing in the doorway was a tall commanding figure in a jet-black cloak - a stranger - nobody could see his face.
Without a word, he dragged the open-mouthed and terrified Colonel screaming and kicking from his seat, out into the dark night. A few merrymakers dared to look as the stranger threw the terrified Colonel across his saddle.
Quickly mounting his black horse, the stranger galloped off into the darkness, with the Colonel cursing, kicking and screaming, held tightly under his arm.
Away went the stranger across Ranworth Broad, the hooves of his horse raised clouds of steam as they galloped through the rain and spray - they were so hot!
They continued to watch until the dark rider and the Colonel faded into the mist and steam.
It won't come as a surprise that the Colonel was never seen alive again after that. His mysterious disappearance was the subject of much gossip. Some said, with a smirk, that they had seen the devil carrying his body away across the marshes and it was what the Colonel rightly deserved.
However, today, you can still catch a glimpse of the Colonel according to legend. It is said, that every year on the last night in December, the same terrifying scene can be glimpsed when the ghostly Colonel and his black-cloaked capturer can be seen galloping across the broads in a cloud of steam and spray.