The ghost of Christmas past
I’LL bet you £5,” said Captain Provand, with an air of settling the question once and for all time, “that there’s nothing unusual on the negative when it’s developed.”’ So wrote Court photographer Indre Shira in COUNTRY LIFE on Boxing Day 80 years ago (December 26, 1936). The extraordinary outcome of that moment has been called the most famous ghost photograph of all time.
The pair were at Raynham Hall, Norfolk, seat of the Marquess of Townshend, on September 19, 1936, photographing the house for the magazine, when Shira detected ‘an ethereal, veiled form coming slowly down the stairs’. Excitedly, he ordered Provand, his art director, who had already set up to photograph the stairwell, to ‘press the trigger’ instantly.
The Raynham ghost was already well known as the Brown Lady, thought to be Lady Dorothy Walpole (1686– 1726), sister of Sir Robert Walpole, aunt to Gothic novelist Horace Walpole and wife of the 2nd Viscount Townshend. The story goes that, upon discovering her adultery, her husband, Charles, kept her in a locked room until she eventually died of smallations