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  • What are the White Women Ghosts? March 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Beachcombing has before in this place quoted with approval that remarkable book Owen Davies’ The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts. One of the phenomena that OD’s deals with quickly but intriguingly are the mysterious white spirits of women found up and down the British countryside. What are they? Simple ghosts – they are often associated with the aristocracy or transmuted Romano-British or Celtic goddesses or/and queens of the fairies in areas where the fairies have shrunk to the size and importance of ants?

    The following dated from a Hull newspaper of the 1810s.

    About six months ago, a small party, including myself, having met at the house of a lady in Holderness, our conversation, in its range, happened to rest on the subject of supernatural appearances. The good lady of the house expressed her disbelief in the reality of such appearances, which led a gentleman of known veracity to relate what he himself had seen. About ten years ago, he said, as I was travelling on horseback, one afternoon in the month of March, on the road from Hornsea to Bridlington, just as I was ascending the brow of a hill on the south of Skipsea, I observed a woman, apparently young, dressed in white, walking a little before me, on my left hand, between the hedge and the road. Supposing that she had been visiting at a house on the top of the hill close by, I tried to see if there were any persons in attendance at the door, but it was shut, and none to be seen. My curiosity, being now greater than before, to know who this genteel person was, I followed her at the distance of twenty or thirty yards down the hill, one hundred or one hundred and fifty yards long, and expected when I got to the bottom, where there was a small brook, that I should meet her in attempting to gain the carriage bridge, forming the road ; but, to my great astonishment, when she approached the brook, instead of turning to the right to gain the bridge, she vanished from my sight at the very time my eyes were fixed upon her. As soon as I got home I related the strange affair to my family ; and as it was light, and I had not been previously thinking of apparitions, nor was I ever in the habit of speculating on such subjects, I am firmly persuaded that what I saw was one, although I never heard that there was anything ever seen there before or since. The lady of the house, who had listened with particular attention to this recital, said, at the conclusion of it, that what she had just heard had made a greater impression on her mind than anything she had ever heard before; for, continued she, about five years ago I had a servant, who was a young man of good character, of a bold active disposition, and who professed a disbelief in any supernatural appearances. In the month of November, about Martinmas time, he requested leave to go to Bridlington, and also to be accommodated with a horse, which was granted him. Being desirous of making a long holiday of it, he rose early in the morning and set off two hours before daybreak ; but, to my great surprise, returned home early in the afternoon, before it was dark. On being questioned if anything was the matter with him, he replied that he had been so much alarmed that he was resolved never to travel in the dark if he could avoid it, For, said he, as I was cantering along Skipsea Lane, in the morning, bending forwards with my face downwards, the horse suddenly bolted from the road to such a distance that I was very nearly dismounted. On recovering, and looking about to see what had affrighted the horse, I saw a fine lady, dressed in white, with something like a black veil on her face, standing close by. How I got to Skipsea I cannot tell, but I was so frightened that I durst go no further, but walked up and down the town until itwas light, when I found some person going the same road, whom I accompanied to Bridlington.

    And the local solution?

    This apparition is believed to be the ghost of the murdered wife of Drogo de Bevere, the first count of Holderness, whose castle was at Skipsea Brough, about half a mile away; the keep of which stood on a large hill where may be seen one huge mass of cemented whinstones, all that is left of the actual building. The immense earthworks and wide moats still testify to the impregnable nature of this fortress. No one has seen this ghost for years, but in the castle grounds there is a sort of pit, of which the boys of Skipsea say that if you walk round it seven times, Awd Molly (for that is her name) will come up dressed in white.

    Any other white women ghosts or better still an explanation? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com


    29 March 2012: Invisible sets off the chase with what a very useful handlist: all hail Invisible! ‘You ask: Any other white women ghosts?  Surely you do not want to open that particular can of ectoplasm? One could write a wholeseries of books on Ladies in White as they are ubiquitous in world ghost lore. Explanations?  No more than for any other kind of ghost.Take your pick from some of the following options: 1)      The nun (either walled up for sexual dalliances or as a memory of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.) I’ve always thought that some of these “nun” ghosts were simply medieval women in their habitual wimples/coifs read by romantic 19th century witnesses as religious garb. While some nun ghosts do appear in medieval literature (usually as souls requesting prayers to spring them from Purgatory), they are primarily a post-Reformation vision, with their heyday in the 19th century. Think The Nun of Borley, with her planchette-driven saga of illicit love and bones in the basement.   2)      Murder victims, usually aristocratic ladies or servant girls seduced and abandoned 3)      The ghostly bride, either left at the altar or dying on her wedding day. 4)      Willow-the-wisps/Swamp gas. There are tales from the Gettysburg battlefield (many from soon after the battle) about human-shaped, luminous apparitions. It has been suggested that these were the methane of decomposition rising from shallow graves. 5)      Earthquake lights in a portal area interpreted as human figures (See Michael Persinger) 6)      Apparitions of the Virgin Mary 7)      “Stone tape” recordings of Druid priestesses or Vestal virgins 8)      A “nymph” “recorded” in a “field” of water (See T.C. Lethbridge in Ghost and Ghoul) 9)      Something to do with the custom of burying the newly baptised in their chrism robes. 10)  Echoes of the Burial in Woolen Act—the dead were shrouded in white/whitish cloth, so their ghosts must return in white as well. White was a preferred burial garb color for women and children from the 17th century (and possibly earlier) through the 1920s, perhaps because women were often buried in their (white) nightclothes and young childrens’ clothes were primarily white, signifying innocence. Look at a collection of post-mortem photographs or portrait miniatures for confirmation. In many parts of Asia, white is the mourning/funeral color and white-clad ghosts are the rule rather than the exception. The Philippine Islands have a particularly rich tradition of vampiric white lady ghosts. 11)  A reflection of the pallor of death  My question is: if witnesses see a veiled woman in white, what factors determine whether that apparition is interpreted as a classic ghostly woman in white, a ghost bride, a ghostly nun, or the Virgin Mary? Women in white are often seen as an omen of death, such as the White Lady of Falkenstein or the Hohenzollern White Lady.   The Habsburgs also have a White Lady who appears at Schoenbrunn Palace. The idea of White Ladies as an omen of death naturally leads us to the famous Australian “White Ladies” funeral directors. Here’s a useful overview of some US White Lady legends.   One of the more fascinating ghosts in this category is that of Lady Hoby, who appears with a black face and white clothing, like a photographic negative.    Oh and a white lady meets the fairy tree!  Blanching in horror…. Radko meanwhile comes in with a Czech version (just so no one is tempted to get parochial here) ‘Hi Dr Beach, After reading your last entry about the white women ghosts I thought I’d share a legend from my home town, Cesky Krumlov.  The legend states that the white lady disappeared and never appeared again but there are numerous reports of sightings to this day. My former neighbour who is a skeptic in all things supernatural swears that when working in the castle he saw the white lady also. I’m bigger skeptic than him and believe he was hallucinating. RadkoTale of the White LadyPerchta Rosenberg, graceful, lovely daughter of Jindrich II. Rosenberg, spent a happy childhood on his father’s castle in Cesky Krumlov. When she grew up, the daughter of the powerful lord had many suitors. Her father married her off against her will for John of Lichtenstein, although noble lord and powerful, yet very rough and rude, who had recently widowed. Fine, gentle Perchta’s life by his side was full of slights and suffering. In the castle of Lord of Lichtenstein lived mother and sister of his deceased wife. They persecuted and harrased Lady Perchta whenever they could. Slandered her to her husband, imposing hard work on her, having no kind words for her. Her marriage has become her hell from which there was no way out. In vain she prayed for her husband’s heart soften, in vain she wrote desperate letters to his brother: “Deliver me from these evil people, and thou shalt have merit, as you deliver the soul from purgatory.” She had no help, because the manners of the day did not allow a woman to leave her husband, even if he treated her the worst way. Only the man’s death broke the bars of her prison. Happy to return to the paternal castle, there she was the good spirit and its kind patron of all that suffered. Experienced grief wrote her face indelible features of suffering and banished forever laughter from her cheeks . Serious, thin, prematurely faded, bearing gold, wavy hair in white veil, she passed through halls and courtyards of the castle, overseeing her brother’s estates. Death, that she met here in 1476 in the forty-ninth year of her life was a painful blow to both Rosenberg Lords, but also the poor all over the wide region. They never stopped weeping for her and soon they saw her in their dreams. White Lady, as she was called, appeared at the castle in Czech Krumlov, in Rožmberk and the other Rosenberg castles in white, flowing dress, with keys at her belt passing through corridors, the halls toward future events. Her smile was a sign of coming happy times.She had the black gloves and a face covered with sadness if bad luck or death was approaching. White Lady watched over children of her relatives and protected them from all evil. When nannies fell asleep from tiredness own babies in his arms, cradled and soothed them. Nannies who knew her, she in no way interfered with in this behavior. Great care the white lady gave especially to the last descendant of his family Peter Wok. Once, when nannies fell asleep again, came to the cradle and caressed with little Peter so he wouldn’t cry. Among the  nannies was one, which only recently came to the castle and did not know anything about the White Lady. She woke up and saw the baby Peter in the hands of a stranger, an unknown lady and snapped at her: “How dare you, take your hands of small baby Peter? What is that baby to you?” She wanted to take the child from the white lady, but she held it closer and she replied angrily: “That I care about this child because it is my family. How dare you question me?” She turned to the maids that woke up with the noise and rebuked them: “Why are not doing their duties, as is right and proper? From now keep yourselves in charge of the child!” She went to the nurse and she said to her: “Look after the child, as required. Once he grows up tell him how much I loved him. And show him the place through which I approached to his cradle and walked away again.” When these words were spoken she bent over the cradle, the baby smiled, she kissed him and then disappeared in the wall, turning in a light, white cloud. Since then she hasn’t appeared in the castle. When Peter Wok came and heard the message from the White Lady, he had the wall, in which she disappeared torn down and allegedly found in those places a great treasure. Here’s a link to the Cesky Krumlov castle website with the story in Czech and there are couple of pictures of Lady Perchta and one picture of Petr Vok, the baby mentioned in the story, though he is all grown up in the pic. I should also mention that despite him allegedly finding the big treasure according to the story he bankrupted the Krumlov Rosenberg estates.’ Thanks Invisible and thanks Radko!!