The Raynham Hall Brown Lady is considered one of the UK’s most famous hauntings. The main reason behind this is the coverage it received from the Country Life magazine at the time.
Let’s take a look at the story in a little more detail…
The Early Years
So the Brown Lady ghost story all kicked off back in 1936 when an issue of Country Life magazine sent photographers to Raynham Hall.
There had been previous encounters with this spectral lady but many of the written accounts vary considerably.
The hall was built in the 17th century for the Townsend family and it has stayed within their hands ever since.
It has long been thought that the Raynham Hall Brown Lady is the apparition of Robert Walpole’s sister, who married Viscount Townsend in 1713.
The first real reference to the ghost was recorded by Lucia C Stone in 1835 after an incident at Christmas time. Lord Charles Townsend had decided to show off a little and invite a multitude of guests for a little Christmas get-together.
One of the guests just so happened to be Colonel Loftus and as he conversed with another guest called Hawkins he noticed something strange on the stairs behind them.
They both turned to be confronted by the Raynham Hall Brown Lady in all her Gothic splendor. She had a very aristocratic appearance but her face was absolutely terrifying.
Her whole head seemed to radiate with a strange ghostly glow and instead of eyes she had dark endless sockets that looked out into nothingness.
Colonel Loftus was convinced that what he and Hawkins saw was real and he set about sketching a quick representation. Other members of the party then came forward and claimed that they to had witnessed the strange lady figure.
Captain Marryat (1792-1848)
The next part of the Brown Lady ghost story leads us to an an author of sea novels named Captain Marryat.
The Captain actually insisted on staying in the haunted rooms of Raynham Hall because he thought he could crack the case. He believed the strange happenings to be the result of smuggler activity in the area.
He turned up at the hall with two companions and as they returned to their respective rooms one night they came face to face with the Raynham Hall Brown Lady.
As they looked down the corridor they witnessed a figure with a lantern coming towards them. They quickly moved into a random bedroom doorway to let it pass by them undisturbed.
But as the ghostly figure passed by them it turned to face them with a grin that struck terror into the three grown men!
Captain Marryat drew his pistol in fear and shot straight at the figure but the shot simply passed through it and hit the wall behind. The figure continued to look quizzically at him with that terrifying grin before disappearing before his very eyes!
The Townsend Family
It wasn’t long before the Townsend family had to admit they had noticed strange going’s on in their household.
In 1926 Lady Townsend astonished listeners as she claimed her young son and his friend had encountered this spirit whilst playing on the main stairs in the hall.
The two boys identified the spectral figure with the portrait of the lady hanging in the haunted room.
That Famous Photo
The most famous part of the Brown Lady ghost story involved a photo taken at the hall in 1936. It was snapped by a pair of professional photographers – Captain Provand and his assistant Indre Shira.
They were working for Country Life magazine and were taking pictures of the hall to include in an issue.
It was the 19th of September and it was late afternoon when the pair decided to snap a few pictures of the famous staircase so they went about setting up the camera.
They had taken one successful exposure and were just about to take a second when Shira saw a misty form ascending the stairs.
In a mad panic the pair of them managed to take a second exposure and capture a strange figure on the staircase.
The Captain only had Shira’s word to go on and had take the picture blindly in haste. When he came out from underneath the camera cloth he asked his companion what he had seen.
Shira explained what was on the staircase and the pair of them decided to get the negatives developed as soon as possible.
They didn’t pull any punches with this procedure either – they arranged for credible witnesses to be present when the negatives were processed.
The negatives were developed in front of the witnesses to show the famous image of the Raynham Hall Brown Lady ( A full account of the incident was published in Country Life magazine on the 26th of December 1936 ).
The Real McCoy
The magazine did not want to get caught publishing a fake so it had the photo vigorously tested before it published it.
The experts could find nothing to indicate the photo had been tampered with – it was not a fake!
There were more than a few claims that the two photographers had staged the apparition somehow by smudging the lens but this really does not seem likely ( some would say it seems impossible! ).
The Brown Lady ghost story still continues to this day but now it is thought the spirit has moved outside of the Hall to haunt the road. Nobody has any idea why it chose to move…