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Who Ya Gonna Call? Regency Hauntings

Halloween means ghost tales, and everyone loves a good ghost story. Folks who lived during the Regency were no exception. Here are some famous ghosts of people who lived in the centuries just before the Regency. Accounts of their supernatural activities would have chilled the blood in the veins of people living in the early 19th century.

Nell Gwyn. Nell Gwyn would have been a familiar name during the Regency, even though she lived during the 17th century. She was the very “pretty and witty” (as the diarist Samuel Pepys described her) mistress of the Merry Monarch, King Charles II. In those times, in which the English were bitterly divided by religion, she is said to have quieted an unruly mob by declaring “Good people, you are mistaken. I am the Protestant whore.” (She was referring to one of King Charles’s other mistresses, the Catholic Duchess of Portsmouth.)

Nell Gwyn  

Nell is reputed to haunt Salisbury Hall. For more about Nell and her afterlife activities you can view this NBC special from the 1960s. In it, plummy-voiced actress and occult enthusiast Margaret Rutherford discusses Nell's haunting of Salisbury Hall, along with ghosts at two other English manors.

Henry VII and his wives. Hampton Court Palace, the 16th century home of Henry VIII, would also have been recognized by people living during the Regency, and they would have known about its ghosts, too. According to legend, Henry himself is still in residence there (in ghostly form, of course) as are two of his ill-fated wives, Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard.

Brown Lady of Raynham Hall. Another well-known ghost of that era would have been the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall in Norfolk. This was supposed to be the ghost of Lady Dorothy Walpole, whom some say was trapped at Raynham Hall by the jealous wife of her lover, Lord Wharton. The Countess of Wharton reputedly tricked Lady Dorothy into visiting her home and then forced her to stay there until Lady Dorothy eventually died of smallpox in 1726. Documented sightings of the “Brown Lady” go back as far as 1835, and a photo was taken of her apparition in 1936. Not too surprisingly, this photo was later proved to be a fake.

The photo of the Brown Lady, as it appeared
in 1936 in Country Life magazine
Potential ghosts at Downtown Abbey. Just as entertaining as the real-life ghost stories associated with England’s stately homes are the fictional tales. Take Downtown Abbey, for example. Over the past four seasons of this popular TV series many characters have died in or near the house. (I’m thinking of you, Matthew Crawley and your ridiculous auto accident in a lane near the estate.)

Potential ghosts include Lady Mary’s Turkish diplomat lover Kemal Pamuk, who scandalously died in her bed and had to be dragged back to his own room in the middle of the night; the brave footman-turned-soldier William, who managed to live long enough to wed Daisy before expiring in the servant’s quarters; the delicate Lavinia, Matthew’s fiancée who died so conveniently of the Spanish flu in an upstairs bedroom; the tragic death of Lady Sybil in childbirth in another bedroom; and of course, Matthew, who died just as everyone was celebrating the birth of his and Lady Mary’s son. How could Downtown Abbey not be haunted?

So, what should you do if you encounter a ghost in your own stately home this Halloween? This video should give you a clue. (Look for advice from such SNL and SCTV alumni as Chevy Chase, John Candy, Danny DeVito and Terri Garr.)

All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


  1. Fun post, Maureen! Wow! That's such a large number of deaths at Downtown Abbey! Plus, what about Lady Cora's unborn child? Yikes! I can't believe how many deaths I've watched on that show. :-( Happy Halloween! xo Jennifer

  2. You're right, Jennifer - I did forget about Cora's unborn child, who would've been the male heir Lord Grantham longed for if the spiteful O'Brien hadn't arranged Cora's accident. Downton Abbey must be teeming with ghosts! :)


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