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Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

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The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall
Brown lady

Real Name

Dorothy Walpole

First Appearance

December, 1835

Created by

Unknown

Origin

The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall is a ghost, which reportedly haunts Raynham Hall in Norfolk. It became one of the most famous hauntings in Great Britain when photographers from Country Life magazine claimed to have captured its image. The "Brown Lady" is so named because of the brown brocade dress it is claimed she wears.

Lady Dorothy Walpole

Lady Dorothy Walpole.

According to legend, the "Brown Lady of Raynham Hall" is the ghost of Lady Dorothy Walpole (1686–1726), the sister of Robert Walpole, generally regarded as the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. She was the second wife of Charles Townshend, who was notorious for his violent temper. The story says that when Townshend discovered that his wife had committed adultery with Lord Wharton he punished her by locking her in her rooms in the family home, Raynham Hall. According to Mary Wortley Montagu, Dorothy was in fact entrapped by the Countess of Wharton. She invited Dorothy over to stay for a few days knowing that her husband would never allow her to leave it, not even to see her children. She remained at Raynham Hall until her death in 1726 from smallpox.

Sightings

  • The first recorded claim of a sighting of the ghost was by Lucia C. Stone concerning a gathering at Raynham Hall at Christmas, 1835.
  • The next reported sighting of the "Brown Lady" was made in 1836 by Captain Frederick Marryat, a friend of novelist Charles Dickens, and the author of a series of popular sea novels.
  • Lady Townsend reported that the "Brown Lady" was next seen in 1926, when her son and his friend claimed to have seen the ghost on the staircase, identifying the ghostly figure with the portrait of Lady Dorothy Walpole which then hung in the haunted room.
  • On September 19, 1936, Captain Hubert C. Provand, a London-based photographer working for Country Life magazine, and his assistant Indre Shira were taking photographs of Raynham Hall for an article to appear later in the year.

Country Life Magazine

On September 19, 1936, Captain Hubert C. Provand, a London-based photographer working for Country Life magazine, and his assistant Indre Shira were taking photographs of Raynham Hall for an article to appear later in the year. The two men's account claims that they had already taken a photograph of the Hall's main staircase, and were setting up to take a second when Shira saw "a vapoury form gradually assuming the appearance of a woman" and moving down the stairs towards them. Under Shira's direction Provand quickly took the cap off the lens while Shira pressed the trigger to activate the camera's flash light. Later, when the negative was developed, the famous image of the "Brown Lady" was revealed. The account of Provand and Shira's ghostly experience at Raynham Hall was published in Country Life magazine on December 26, 1936 along with the photograph of the "Brown Lady". The photograph and the account of its taking also appeared in the January 4, 1937 edition of Life magazine.

Soon after the noted paranormal investigator Harry Price interviewed Provand and Shira and reported: "I will say at once I was impressed. I was told a perfectly simple story: Mr. Indre Shira saw the apparition descending the stairs at the precise moment when Captain Provand’s head was under the black cloth. A shout – and the cap was off and the flashbulb fired, with the results which we now see. I could not shake their story, and I had no right to disbelieve them. Only collusion between the two men would account for the ghost if it is a fake. The negative is entirely innocent of any faking."

Experts called in by Country Life stated that the photograph and its negative did not appear to have been interfered with. Since then, however, some critics have claimed that Shira faked the image by putting grease or a similar substance on the lens in the shape of a figure, or by himself deliberately moving down the stairs during an exposure. Others claim that the image is an accidental double exposure or that light somehow got into the camera.

The Brown Lady has not been seen after this alleged sighting in 1936.

See Also

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