The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall is a legendary ghost tale of the 18th century from Norfolk Great Britain. She was once Lady Dorothy Walpole in life, sister of Robert Walpole, who’s known as the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. Dorothy was unfortunate enough to become the second wife of the powerful Viscount Charles Townshend 2nd. Born into high-class British society and used to privilege, Charles had everything handed to him. Calling him spoiled would be an understatement and he developed a notoriously violent temper as he grew into a man. He loved and hated quickly, with his passions guiding his actions and the man never changed his mind once it was made.
Lady Dorothy was mistreated and neglected by her overbearing husband to the point she looked for love elsewhere. Somehow Charles found out about it and his ego could not stand his wife being drawn to another man. Dorothy was imprisoned in a secluded room of her own home. She was alone. Unable to see her children or interact with the outside world ever again. Eventually, Dorothy died in 1726; though the reason for her death raised many eyebrows. Supposedly she died from smallpox; most believed she was either murdered or committed suicide. The latter part of Lady Dorothy’s life was spent in lonely isolation and eternal frustration at her helplessness under her husband’s cruel punishment.
A hundred years went by with Lady Dorothy becoming nothing but a fleeting memory. But her restless spirit could not pass on and she made her presence known. Guests attended Raynham Hall for a Christmas party in 1835. Many nobles and high ranking members of British society enjoyed in the festivities of the holiday until one of the guests said they saw something unreal. A military man by the name of Colonel Loftus said on the way to his room late in the night he was approached by a grisly specter of a woman walking the hall with an outdated frayed brown dress. Her face seemed to glow with otherworldly light and her eyes were hollow sockets. Another man named Hawkins said he had seen the etheric woman too, and that it chilled him to the bone. The very next night Colonel Loftus encountered the entity again but this time when he spoke of the encounter it was too much for the guests. Many left Raynham that very day, some staff even put in their resignation never to return. The worn brown dress was the source of the ghosts name, one of Britain’s most famous ghost legends was born.
Only a year passed by before the next sighting of Lady Dorothy’s apparition. Captain Frederick Marryat, an author, and officer in the Royal Navy wanted to debunk the alleged ghost sighting which had been the hot topic of the upper class. Completely skeptical, the Captain had a theory the whole thing was made up by smugglers in the area to keep people away so they could conduct their nefarious activities. He asked to stay in the room Dorothy died in where a painting of the deceased Lady hung on the wall. For some reason, Captain Frederick slept with a loaded pistol under his pillow but otherwise seemed unfazed. For two nights he slept in the room with nothing unusual occurring. The man thought the whole ghost sighting a hoax, his stay had proved it. At least to himself.
On the third night, the nephews of the baronet who owned Raynham Hall came to the Captain’s room and asked if he wished to inspect a new gun they had received from London. He did so even though before he had been preparing for bed and was in his undergarments. The Captain took his pistol with him jokingly saying he better bring it just in case they ran into the Brown Lady, then followed the young men from his room. It was late at night and the majority of the people at the estate had retired to their rooms for sleep. The hallways were dark and on the way back the hall was lit by a single candle. The two nephews accompanied him, laughing about how they would protect Captain Frederick from the Brown Lady.
As the three men walked down the dark hall they spotted a lamp coming their way and the figure of a woman. Being in his undergarments and wishing to be modest, the Captain hid in the archway before a room and the two nephews followed his lead. The woman grew closer and closer. She came into focus and her etheric nature became apparent, which unnerved the three greatly. Panicked, the Captain jumped out to confront her- and there she was. The apparition wore a tattered brown dress and her twisted face glowed white with hollowed eye sockets. The entity grinned at the Captain demonically. Overcoming his fear, the Captain lifted the pistol and shot the ghostly woman right in her frightening face, and the specter vanished instantly. Captain Frederick left Raynham Hall and refused to ever step foot in it again. The three men all would go on to tell the tale, spreading the legend even further. There would be random sightings of the Brown Woman for another century, and few dared to stay in her former room.
In 1936, photographers for Country Life Magazine visited the secluded estate. They took pictures of the house and the grounds outside. Inside when they were taking pictures of the staircase a photographer noticed otherworldly white wisps begin to descend from the top of the stairs. It formed into a woman in a brown dress, and one of the most famous ghost pictures in the world was taken. The picture was released in a best-selling issue of the magazine in 1937 and was the last reported sighting of the apparition since.