Friday, October 4, 2013

Raynham Hall’s Brown Lady

Most people who are interested in ghosts are familiar with this photograph. The ghost captured in this picture is known as the Brown Lady. Her spirit was first seen in 1835 in Norfolk, England at a 16th century country home called Raynham Hall. The Townsend family has owned this hall for over 400 years. The ghost that haunts their home is said to be Lady Dorothy Walpole. She is known as the Brown Lady because she wears a brown brocade dress.

The story behind this haunting is considered a legend by some and by others true. It is stated that Lady Walpole’s ghost lingers at Raynham Hall because of what her husband did to her. Charles Townsend found out that his wife had been unfaithful to him--he was not a man to forgive or forget. Documents from the time indicate that Dorothy died and was buried in 1725. But...

Many feel her death and funeral were faked. Charles known for his violent temper took his revenge. The legend states that he actually locked her away in a remote area of the hall. She was not allowed to see her children for the rest of her life.* In 1726 at the age of 40 she died from smallpox. Another version states she actually broke her neck when she was pushed down the hall’s grand staircase.

Portait of Lady Dorothy Walpole
National Portrait Gallery, London
Since her death her ghost has been seen on several occasions. The first sighting occurred in 1835. It was during a Christmas gathering at the hall when Colonel Loftus and another guest at this party saw her figure as they went to their bedrooms to retire for the evening. The colonel described her “as a aristocratic looking women wearing an old fashioned brown dress.” He saw her clearly and was able to draw a sketch of her likeness. He pointed out that she was missing one important detail--her eyes. He just saw empty sockets. He also stated that her face glowed with an “eerie light”.

The second sighting was in 1836. Captain Frederick Marryat, a navel officer and a close friend of Charles Dickens was a houseguest at Raynham when he and two of his companions saw the Brown Lady. He stated that she smiled at him and the others with a very “diabolic” smile. The captain who was known to be very brave acted uncharacteristically out of fear. He took out his pistol and fired at the figure. The ball passed right through the ghost and slammed into the door behind.

The Brown Lady was seen for a third time in 1926. The son of the Lady Townsend at that time and one of his friends saw her apparition on the staircase. He stated afterwards that this ghost looked exactly like a portrait of Lady Dorothy that hangs in the hall. Lady Townsend and her son had not heard of the Brown Lady before this encounter.

The fourth sighting in 1936 provided the world with proof that there was indeed a ghost at Raynham Hall. A London photographer, Captain Hubert C. Provand and his assistant Indre Shirva were photographing the hall’s grand staircase for a spread in Country Life magazine when Shriva spotted something unusual. He saw a vapory figure-- gradually taking the shape of a woman” moving down the stairs toward them.

Under Shirva’s direction Provand quickly took off the lens cap as Shirva pressed the trigger to activate the camera’s flash. Later when this negative was developed the famous image of the Brown Lady appeared. Country Life published this now famous photo along with others taken that day in December of 1936. ** Afterwards several people claimed the photo was faked but the magazine held firm in its conviction that it was authentic and had not been tampered with.

Since this sighting in 1936 the Brown Lady had not been seen again.

In one article I read it was speculated that since there is a pattern of 100 years between two of these hauntings and yet another 100 years between another sighting and when the photograph was published that the the Brown Lady might just make another appearance in 2036.

* Some state this is why she returns--she is looking for her children.

**  This photograph also appeared in Life Magazine in January of 1937.

This site "Dorothy, Viscountess Townsend" has good information about Lady Dorothy and the haunting.

No comments: