The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

Over the years, there have been countless pictures taken by people from all over the world, who have claimed to capture ghostly entities. But there is one that tends to stick out a lot more than others and still astounds us almost a century later.

In 1936, the ghostly apparition was captured by Captain Hubert C. Provand at Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England. He and another who accompanied him were photographers for a magazine called Country Life. They were taking pictures casually at the time when they came across this compelling figure of a woman we now know as the ‘Brown Lady’ due to the brown brocade dress she wears.

Public Domain

The identity of the feminine ghost is said to belong to Lady Dorothy Walpole (1686-1726), the sister of the first Prime Minister of Great Britain, Robert Walpole. She was the third wife of an ill-tempered man, Charles Townshend. According to the legends, Charles caught Lady Dorothy committing adultery and punished her by locking her inside her rooms of Raynham Hall, the family home. Dorothy was indeed trapped by the Countess of Wharton, according to Mary Wortley Montagu (English aristocrat, poet, and letter writer). Dorothy lived out the rest of her days at Raynham Hall until 1726, when she passed away from smallpox.

But Provand’s photo was not the first time the Brown Lady had been spotted, as the first recorded sighting dates back to 1835 by Lucia C. Stone. He says that Townshend invited multiple guests to Raynham on Christmas of that year, including a Colonel Loftus. Loftus had a guest who claimed to have seen the apparition on a previous night as he approached the bedrooms, noting the infamous brown dress. The following night, Loftus confessed to seeing her as well, explaining that he was drawn to her empty eyes that were dark within her glowing face. His sightings frightened away some staff members, causing them to permanently leave Raynham Hall.

Frederick Marryat

Another recorded sighting was in 1836 when a man named Captain Frederick Marryat (a friend of the novelist, Charles Dickens) requested to stay the night at Raynham Hall in an attempt to disprove the existence of the Brown Lady. But in a writing by his daughter, she talks about his experience. She discusses the three nights that he stayed there and how he hadn’t had a single sighting during the first two. During the third night, however, she describes how he and two other men (who he had spent time with in the previous two days), spotted someone who they had mistaken as a lady going to check out the nurseries. He and his friends slipped into one of the outer doors to shield himself from his indecency (as he wore only a shirt and trousers). They observed her as she drew closer and closer to them and within a moment, he was able to realize that her appearance fit the description of the Brown Lady. His finger was on the trigger of the revolver and was getting ready to demand and ask its about its reasoning for being there. She gave him a dark and malicious smile, which struck him with anger so much that he jumped out and rose the revolver to her face, only for her to disappear before them. The bullet had passed through the opposing side of the corridor. He never did try to disprove or intrude on the Brown Lady ever again.

Now, about the skepticism… Some believe that the photo was faked by smearing grease or another substance onto the lens in the shape of the apparition. Others think that the Brown Lady is packed with evidence of double exposure. More people have observed that the ghost looks just like the virgin Mary statue found at any Catholic church. (Honestly, I really don’t think the figure looks like the Virgin Mary at all…)

I’m not sure about whether or not the image is real as I wasn’t there, none of us were. But due to the various recorded accounts with the Brown Lady, it seems like there’s something true here. As with any ghost photo or example of spirit photography, there are those who try their best to disprove simply because they don’t believe. I’m not saying to take everything as paranormal but don’t completely disregard something because there’s always a possibility of hoaxes. However, it’s also possible that what you see in the above photo (as well as others) is real.

Thank you reading this week’s blog post! I appreciate your ongoing support, thank you guys so much! Happy Haunting!

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