Friday, May 29, 2009

The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall

When I was a wee one, I loved Ghost Stories (with a capital G, and S). I had this crazy book called the Usborne book of GHOSTS, and I read it so often that it literally disintegrated in my hands. I went on a mad search for the thing several summers ago when I was home, but alas, it appears to have vanished.

The first story in this collection was one about "The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall." The story also included an accompanying photograph, reproduced below.

Now, as I'm writing this, I realize this photograph is most likely a hoax, and that the shadowy figure looks like a statue of the Virgin Mary. If you look closely, you can see the triangle feet, where her robes fall around her, and it appears as if her hands are in the praying position. In actuality, the perpetrator of this hoax probably figured out a way to superimpose a photograph of a statue over the stairs.

But when I was ten, man, I believed this. I believed it so hard. And the accompanying story makes you WANT to believe it. That's the fantastic thing about really great ghost stories. You want these spirits to exist, because their stories are so dramatic.

The deal with the Brown Lady was that she was supposedly Dorothy Walpole (1686-1726), the sister of England's first Prime Minister. She wanted to marry the second Viscount Townshend, but her father wouldn't allow it. Finally, after the death of Townshend's first wife they were finally married. Of course by this time Dorothy had started a love affair with this guy named Lord Wharton. When Townshend learned of the affair, he supposedly bricked Dorothy up in Raynham Hall, where she either

a) died of a broken heart
b) died of a push from Townshend down the stairs
c) died of boredom

And it it her ghost that haunts the halls. An extension of the same story is that guests at Raynham Hall have reported to seeing her walk towards them, a shadowy female figure who comes more and more into focus the closer she gets, and that right as she's face to face, you realize she has. no. eyes. Just sockets! And then, hoping you're sufficiently creeped out, she vanishes.

There is yet another caveat to the story, that, in hopes of getting rid of the ghost, the owners of Raynham Hall took to exploring the house to find the remains of one such woman. The story goes that the skeleton of a young woman was found, and promptly buried at a nearby nunnery. The Brown Lady hasn't been seen since.


Esz said...

I looove that story. My mum had a Readers Digest book that was a huge anthology of all things weird and supernatural. I read it I dont know how many times. It had this story in it and was ordered chronologically starting from as far back as prehistoric man.
I lent it to an old boyfriend and never saw it again :-(

I too, so wanted to believe all these stories, but as I get older I get more sceptical.

Anonymous said...

world would be more interesting if there were ghosts but I don't think there are any I do, however, think that events leave a mark or trace on places and if you try you can get in touch with suffering or pain or joy

Madelene said...

I had a ghost book like that too, and read it obsessively as a child. I still find myself searching for paranormal stories online and in new books.. I love hearing about supposed 'haunted' places. It's so interesting and fascinating even if a lot of them are fake..

Snobber said...

esz: damn that ex-boyfriend! you must demand it back.

anon: who knows. i suppose ghosts could be energy, from unfinished business: injustice, violence, revenge, etc.

madelene: i wanted to start the series because i couldn't find anything like it anywhere else! do people not catalog these stories anymore, or do they simply not exist?

thanks for reading everyone!

Silver Skies said...

I just read this story about the Brown Lady and I stumbled on your blog post while I was surfing for more info... and lol, I like your laid back approach to the subject. But idk... somehow I seem to think that this story could be incredibly romantic and daring... *sigh* I wish there were more on her history and on her (prior to her death)

anyway nice post!