The first reported appearance of the Raynham Hall ghost was in 1835 when a Colonel Loftus, who with a number of other people, was a guest for the Christmas celebrations, saw the figure twice. He described her as an aristocratic looking woman wearing an old-fashioned brown dress, hence the name by which she has come to be known, the, 'Brown Lady'. Colonel Loftus saw her so clearly that he was later able to make a sketch of the apparition. However, it appeared to the colonel that her eyes were not just vacant, they were missing. Where her eyes should have been there were empty eye sockets and her face glowed with an eerie light.
The next sighting of the Raynham Hall ghost of which we have a record was by author and respected naval officer, Captain Marryat while he was also a guest at the house. He, along with two companions, saw the apparition which he said smiled at him, 'in a diabolic manner'. Now Captain Marryat was, by all accounts, a very brave and level headed British naval officer. So his next action seems to be rather out of character. He fired at the Raynham Hall ghost with his pistol. What he was doing carrying a loaded weapon while a guest in someone's house, I have no idea. It has been suggested that he thought the ghost was a smuggler! Whatever the reason, the ball made not the slightest impression on the shade and passed through her, embedding itself in a door. It is not known whether the good Captain was ever again asked to be a guest at Raynham Hall.
There is a report that the son of Lady Townsend, who owned the Hall at the time, saw the figure in 1926. He said that she looked like a portrait that was hanging in the Hall of Lady Dorothy Walpole, the sister of Sir Robert Walpole, first Prime Minister of England. Lady Dorothy was certainly a tragic figure who had been locked in the hall by her husband when he discovered that she had had an affair before they married. She died at the age of 40 in 1726, officially of smallpox. However, there were suggestions that the real cause was a broken neck from having been pushed down the Grand Staircase.
Then in 1936, two photographers were taking pictures of Raynham Hall for a magazine when one of them spotted, 'an ethereal, veiled form', descending the stairs. The photographer took the cover off the camera lens for about 6 seconds and his assistant activated the flash. When the glass photographic plate was later developed, the image of the 'Brown Lady' could quite clearly be seen. That is their story of how the picture came to be taken, at least!
There has been more than one investigation of the Raynham Hall ghost to ascertain the truth behind the figure. However, it is unlikely to ever be known as she appears to be 'camera-shy'. Since the Brown Lady was photographed, there have been no further reported sightings.
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