What should Captain Marryat have done? To shoot at a ghost is pointless. It has been
said in his defense that he genuinely thought it was someone playing a prank, but if he had
thought that his action was no more pardonable. One doesn't shoot people who play pranks, not
even when they are played upon the aristocracy.
It is far more probable that Marryat was scared out of his wits and panicked, believing he
was seeing the famous ghost and that his theories about the desperate smuggling characters had
At all events, the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, after her encounter with Captain Marryat
in the 1830s, remained sulking on the eternal shores for the rest of the century and more before
she troubled the haunted staircases and galleries of Raynham again.
It was in November, 1926, when she was next reported. The then Marquis Townshend, a
boy at the time, encountered her on the famouse staircase. With the marquis was another boy,
who also saw the phantom. The Brown Lady's return caused something of a newspaper
Both boys were carefully questioned. Neither had heard of the ghost story, or seen the picture,
the family legend presumably having been all but forgotten. Their description of the Brown Lady
was apparently the traditional one. It was not considered a boyish prank.
Ten years later the Brown Lady provided an even greater sensation by getting herself
Lady Townshend wanted a series of pictures taken of the interior of Raynham Hall and
she commissioned Mr. Indre Shira, a professional photographer, to take them. On the afternoon
of 19 September, 1936, he and a Mr. Provand were taking flash-light pictures of the grand
staircase. Mr. Provand was wielding the camera while Mr. Shira was standing a little behind him,
casting his professional eye upon the splendid staircase.
Provand took a picture and was putting in another plate and resetting the camera and flash
equipment, when Shira, looking up the first flight of the staircase, saw what he described as a
vapory form gradually assuming the appearance of a woman draped and veiled in some
Down the staircase the figure glided with floating steps, and the excited Shira told his
companion to aim his camera and get a shot quickly. Here was something which would make a
Provand had not seen the apparition, owning perhaps to the effect of the photo-flash, and
wondered what had got Shira so excited. Nevertheless he aimed his camera at the required spot
and took another picture. After the flash the specter presumably disappeared.
Provand then asked Shira what all the fuss was about, and when Shira told him that he had
seen a ghost descending the staircase, Provand pooh-poohed the idea. It must have been an
optical illusion, he said, the effect of the flash, or perhaps even someone playing a mirror trick
from the gallery above. Shira thereupon bet Provand five pounds that the ghost would appear on
Shira won his beta and the Brown Lady came out on the plate. This time she was not in
her traditional brown brocade, but appeared, though only in outline, as a bride in white, enveloped
in a clinging veil.
This photograph was reproduced in the magazine Countrylife, dated 16 December, 1936.
It naturally aroused considerable controversy. A number of experts examined the plate, and all
agreed that there was no fake about it. The figure-whatever it was-had been photographed all
right, or at least it appeared on the exposed plate. There was a suggestion that the ghost
photograph had been caused by some freak of light or perhaps a flaw in the negative, which of
course might be considered a possibility. But to accept this you would have to assume that Mr.
Shira made up the story, which is an assumption both unwarranted and improbable, for he would
have no reason to do such a thing.
The Brown Lady of Raynham, however, might well consider herself sufficiently well
established and attested not to require photographic proof.
The fact that she would have appeared to have put on her wedding gown to pose before
Mr. Shira and his companion might be said to lend a little color to one legend about her-that she
had been a young and beautiful girl of the eighteenth century and forced to marry an old rou
against her will and to endure a horrifying wedding night with him.
It cannot be said for certain that this photograph, if it is of a ghost, is that of the Brown
Lady. While ghosts have been known to change their habits, they do not as a rule change their