January 27, 2013

The Brown Lady Of Raynham Hall

Sightings, photographs, and personal encounters with the paranormal tend to be widely criticized. Just search around the web. Look at photos and videos, read the stories and you can make a good assumption that quite a few are obviously a hoax. However, there are numerous accounts that have no logical explanation, cannot be scientifically proven, or are just plain true.

Which brings me to the legend of the Brown Lady, one of the most publicized and famous hauntings in Great Britain. This ghost called the Brown Lady haunts the Raynham Hall in Norfolk, Great Britain. Photographers from Country Life magazine captured a ghostly mist in the form of a person descending the hall staircase in 1936. The name for this spirit comes from the color of the dress she is wearing in the photo, which of course is brown.

The ghost is said to be that of Dorothy Walpole, who died in 1726 from smallpox. She was the sister of Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. She was also the second wife of Charles Townshend, who discovered that Dorothy had committed adultery with Lord Wharton. Charles was claimed to have a violent temper, and allegedly punished his wife by locking her in her room in their home, Raynham Hall.

The first recorded sighting of Dorothy was at Christmas 1835 where Lucia C. Stone says guests Colonel Loftus and another named Hawkins saw the Brown Lady as they approached their rooms, claiming it was a lady in a brown dress. The next evening, Loftus saw the Brown Lady once more and described her as having empty eye sockets on a dark glowing face. This sighting led to some of the staff leaving Raynham Hall permanently.

The next sighting was in 1836 by Captain Fredrick Marryat, who was a friend of Charles Dickens. He requested to stay the night in the supposedly haunted room to prove that the haunting was local smugglers trying to scare people away.

According to his daughter Florence Marryat, this was her fathers experience collected from her book “There is No Death,” pages 9-11. He would sleep with a loaded revolver under his pillow and for two nights nothing was seen. On the third night, while he was undressing, two men knocked on the door and asked him to come to their room. As he was leaving the room, he made a joke while he was showing his revolver, “in case you see the Brown Lady.” The two responded jokingly back that they would escort him back to his room, “in case you meet the Brown Lady.”

As the three were walking back to Marryat’s room, the hallway was dark because of the extinguished lights, but someone was approaching them holding a lamp. Marryat at the time was in just a shirt and trousers, and felt embarrassed, so he hid between a double door that was typical for old houses. As the figure passed by, Marryat noticed it resembled the portrait of the Brown Lady that hung on one of the walls in the room where he was staying. The figure then stopped, turned and maliciously smiled at him. He jumped into the hall and discharged his weapon into her face and the figure disappeared right before his eyes. He agreed to never interfere with her again.

The next sighting was in 1926 when Lady Townsend’s son claimed to see the figure of Lady Dorothy Walpole on the staircase. He said it was the same figure that was in the portrait of her that hung in the haunted room.

The most intriguing evidence of the Brown Lady’s existence comes from a photo taken by Captain Hubert C. Provand and his assistant Indre Shira, who worked for Country Life magazine. They were doing an article for the paper to be published later that year about the Raynham Hall property. Setting up for a second round of photos, Indre noticed a vapor appearing on the staircase in the shape of a woman and it began moving down the stairs. A picture was taken and when the negative was developed the famous Brown Lady’s image was upon the photo.

On December 26, 1936 the photo was published along with the story in Country Life magazine, and on January 4 1937 it was also published in Life magazine. The release of these stories sparked an interview from paranormal investigator Harry Price. After the interview was over, Price said he had no reason to disbelieve the story. The negative and photo was examined by experts and was cleared of any tampering.

Of course, critics contend it was a hoax, or just a double exposure of Shira himself walking down the stairs.

Since 1936, the Brown Lady has not been seen again.

Join me next time for another account of Supernatural Endeavors.

Image Credit: Nigel Jones / Wikimedia

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