Raynham Hall located in Norfolk, England is most notably famous for a ghostly photograph that was taken in 1936 of ‘The Brown Lady.’ This photo supposedly contains the image of a female apparition dressed in a brown satin dress descending down the staircase of Raynham Hall. Sightings of paranormal activity are not uncommon at this estate dating back as far the 1800’s. The Townshend family has called this place home for over 300 years.
‘The Brown Lady’ is believed to be the ghost of Lady Dorothy Walpole, the wife of Lord Charles Townshend. Dorothy Walpole was born in 1686 and reported to have died of small pox on March 26, 1726 at the age of 40. Rumors have percolated over the years claiming that her death was staged and that Dorothy’s husband Charles had confined her to the estate keeping her hidden away from her family, her children, and the public until her actual death.
Lady Dorothy had fallen madly in love with Charles Townshend in her youth but her father forbade the union. Charles went on to marry his first wife. Dorothy was heartbroken when she learned Charles had taken another for a wife and began a scandalous affair with Lord Wharton, a reputed ladies man. After his first wife’s death in 1711 Charles married Dorothy two years later in 1713. He was purportedly a very jealous man and it has been alleged that when he discovered Dorothy had not ended her tumultuous love affair with Lord Wharton that he faked her death and locked her away in the estate. The speculation is that she died much later from either a broken heart or from being pushed down the staircase. There is no evidence to support these claims.
King George IV reported in the early 1800’s awakening to ‘The Brown Lady’ standing at the foot of his bed looking rather pale. He was so frightened by the experience that it is claimed he refused to spend another night in the house. Around Christmas time in 1835 Colonel Loftus encountered ‘The Brown Lady’ in the hallway twice. She appeared to have had her eyes gouged out.
Novelist Captain Frederick Marryat and two companions witnessed ‘The Brown Lady’ gliding along an upstairs hallway with a lantern held in her hand. Captain Marryat had asked to stay in the room that held the portrait of Lady Dorothy, whom had largely been suspect as ‘The Brown Lady.’ Floating past them in the hallway she apparently flashed a wicked grin that terrified them so much Captain Marryat pulled out his gun and shot at the apparition. The bullet was found embedded in a door behind where the men claimed they saw the ghost.
Two photographers, Captain Provand and Indre Shira, working for the British magazine Country Life snapped the notorious photograph of a ghostly female figure descending down the staircase of Raynham Hall on September 19, 1936. It was published on December 26, 1936. Though the validity of the photo is in dispute it is still offered as strong evidence of the existence of ghosts.
Although ‘The Brown Lady’ is the most widely known ghost that haunts Raynham Hall there are several other entities that have been reported. Others have claimed to have seen the Duke of Monmouth, two child ghosts, and a ghostly Cocker spaniel roaming the grounds. ‘The Brown Lady’ has also been seen at Sandringham House and Houghton Hall in Norfolk, England. Whether you are a true believer or a skeptic the tragic past of Raynham Hall lends an undeniable eerie aura to this particular residence.