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The Brown Lady
of Raynham Hall

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Raynham Hall is a country house in Norfolk, England. For 300 years it has been the seat of the Townshend family. The hall gave its name to the area, known as The Raynhams, and is reported to be haunted, providing the scene for possibly the most famous ghost photo of all time, the famous Brown Lady descending the staircase. 

The Legend

In 1713, Lord Townshend married Walpole's handsome sister, Dorothy. She was his second wife, and is reputed in the gossip of the time to have been previously the mistress of Lord Wharton, "whose character was so infamous, and his lady's complaisant subserviency so notorious, that no young woman could be four and twenty hours under their roof with safety to her reputation."

Lady Townshend was buried in 1726. But there is a tradition that she did not die in that year and that the funeral was a mock interment.

Instead, she is rumoured to have been locked up in the house by her husband. This is why the ghost of "Dolly" Townshend, the "little brown lady of Raynham," is said still to haunt the oak staircase of the house in the twilight.


"Currently, a famous ghost picture is said to be her, being known as the most famous picture of a ghost to date. Experts have, however, largely dismissed the photo as a fake, being merely a composite (superimposition) of the staircase and a quite ordinary Madonna statue as might be found in any Catholic church. The inverted "V" visible at the bottom of her image is absolutely typical of such statues (it is the hem line between her overgarment and her undergarment), and another, fainter, inverted "V" is simply her forearms as she prays with her hands together. The pedestal upon which she stands is also visible."  


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