The Color of Ghosts: White Lady and Grey Lady Meanings

Each heart has its haunted chamber, 
Where the silent moonlight falls! 
On the floor are mysterious footsteps, 
There are whispers along the walls! 

And mine at times is haunted 
By phantoms of the Past 
As motionless as shadows 
By the silent moonlight cast. 

A form sits by the window, 
That is not seen by day, 
For as soon as the dawn approaches 
It vanishes away. 
From – “The Haunted Chamber” By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Believe in them or not a fascinating aspect of ghosts are
the various colors described. We have white, grey, green, red, blue, grey and
black/shadows. But why do we have all these colors? Is it to do with the kind
of ghost? Is it the environment or our perception? Why are so many ghosts
described as being ‘white’? Why does the UK have such a high percentage of
green ghosts? As yet there may not be any definitive answers to all these
questions. But let’s have a look at the main categories of ghost to see if
there are factors common to each color.

White Ghosts

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One of the classic forms of ghost within paranormal
research and fiction is the white ghost. There are thousands of documented
cases describing these apparitions.

The most familiar form is the ‘white lady’, frequently
seen in a long dress or cloak. They are often reported in rural areas or lonely
roads. Commonly appearing to only one person, the story surrounding the ghost
is often that of heartbreak or trauma. People who have encountered a white lady
ghost often remark on the feeling that the spirit had something important to
say.

The color white may in fact be due to a paranormal phenomenon
called ecto-mist. These strange fog-like shapes have been caught on video and
photographs and are often seen as white wispy smoke. The hazy shape may also
lead people to believe that the form is female, when it is possible that the
spirit is male. Although not as numerous as ‘white ladies’, there are in fact
accounts of ‘white men’ ghosts from many parts of the world. In addition, if
the ‘ghost’ is simply an imprint/playback of a person rather than a spirit,
over the centuries these recorded pictures of the person will start to fade,
turn more grey and then disappear altogether.

Alternatively, ‘white’ ghosts are occasionally attached
to families and announce the death of a family member by wailing. But in some
cases they are also protectors. The most familiar of these supernatural beings
are Scotland’s bean-nighe and Ireland’s banshee

Newstead Abbey

One of the saddest ‘White Lady’ ghost stories comes from
Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire in England. This was once the home of the
famous poet Lord Byron and is now a museum dedicated to his life and works. The
building dates from 1540 when it was still an Augustinian Priory but parts of
the building were modified in later centuries. Lord Byron was often absent from
the abbey and finally sold it to an old school friend, a Thomas Wildman. As
well as Thomas and his wife, a young lady called Sophie Hyatt, lived in one of
the small houses nearby. She was a devoted fan of Lord Byron and was given
permission to walk in the grounds. Sophie was a very shy young lady. She was
deaf and unable to speak, although she could read and write. She took a slate
and chalk around with her everywhere in order to communicate with people. She
was soon nicknamed ‘the little white lady’ because of the light colored
clothing that she always wore.

Unfortunately a relative, whom looked after Sophie’s
well-being and provided monetary support, died and the money ran out. Sophie
knew of a relative in America and decided to try to get there to make contact.
She left a note at the Abbey for Mr. and Mrs. Wildman explaining her
intentions. When the couple realized what Sophie had planned they were
distraught. They planned to bring Sophie back and allow her free living at the
Abbey. A horse rider was sent out to stop Sophie getting on the stagecoach.

When the rider reached the Market Square of the town, he
found a crowd surrounding the body of Sophie. Unable to hear, she had not heard
a warning shout and had been knocked down and killed instantly by a large cart.
Her white figure can still be seen today calmly roaming the beautiful gardens
that she still loves.

Berry Pomeroy Castle – Devon, England

This castle dates back to the 13th century. The land was
presented to Ralph de Pomeroy by William the Conqueror for his support during
the Norman Invasion of England. This was to be a long association as the
Pomeroy family lived here for over 500 years. In the 16th century the castle
and lands passed to Sir Edward Seymour.

Over the centuries the castle has been witness to wars,
revolutions, fires, cruelty, murder and death. It is alleged to be one of the
most haunted buildings in the UK.

One of the most repeated sightings at the castle is the
‘White Lady’. This is reputed to be Lady Margaret Pomeroy who died horribly at
the hands of her sister Eleanor. The story is that when Lord Pomeroy, Eleanor’s
husband, left to go to war, both she and her sister Margaret became involved in
a love triangle. Margaret was very beautiful and Eleanor became jealous. She
locked her sister up in the dungeons where she remained for 20 years. She was
then cruelly and slowly starved to death by Eleanor. Margaret has been seen
both in the dungeons and walking from St. Margaret’s Tower to the ramparts. 

Castle Huntly – Scotland

Instead of one White Lady ghost, Castle Huntly could
possibly have two that resemble each other. At least there are two different
legends that surround the ghost. The first relates to a daughter of the Lyon
family who owned the castle. She fell in love with a manservant. Her family
were furious and in retribution imprisoned the young woman in a tower bedroom.
Whether she fell to her death, jumped or was pushed has never been proved, but
her body was found at the bottom of the tower in which her bedroom was located.

The second ghost legend relates to a Dowager Countess of
Strathmore. When her first husband died, she is said to have remarried, but
this turned out to be a hell on earth as her new husband turned out to be harsh
and cruel. She is alleged to have written about her experiences and this is
said to have inspired the book “Barry Lyndown” by Thackery. The White
Lady ghost is thought by some people to be that of the Countess.

The white lady (or ladies) have been witnessed numerous
times over the centuries by family members, staff and visitors. The ghost not
only haunts the grounds but can be seen within the castle itself – particularly
in the tower room where the daughter of the Lyon family was imprisoned. The
apparition is said to be dressed in white, flowing robes and to have a very sad
expression. 

Summary

Two things are apparent with these accounts. Firstly,
they are similar in many ways to other ‘white lady’ ghosts where tragedy is the
main theme. Secondly, white ghosts do not tend to be malicious or harmful. But
neither do most of them want to interact that much with witnesses. Although
there are many accounts where an eyewitness felt that the spirit had a story to
tell. These ghosts are most often seen walking around the places that were
familiar to them in life. Could it be that in some way the emotions of their
tragic deaths show through in the color of the image we see? Or is it simply
that white is the normal color for most apparitions?

Grey Ghosts

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Grey ghosts are among the most numerous of spirit and
residual energy manifestations. When carrying out research there seems to be an
equal amount of ‘grey ladies’ and ‘grey men’ or some other form of grey
phantom.

Rufford Old Hall.

One of the most interesting grey ghosts can be found at
Rufford Old Hall in England, built in the late 15th century. This ‘Grey Lady’
also seems to keep very royal company as the ghost of Queen Elizabeth I is also
said to haunt here. The Grey Lady herself is also named Elizabeth and she was
married to Sir Thomas Hesketh. The haunting is a classic tale of a broken
hearted lady, waiting for her husband to return from war. She waited many weeks
for him to arrive and as the time passed she became more frail and ill. Her
husband never did return from battle. The intriguing aspect of this story is
that the reason for the haunting was reputedly given by the ghost herself
during investigations.

The Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui.

Another eerie account is not to be found in any stately
manor house but a mountain. This is Ben MacDhui, the highest peak in the
Cairngorms range in Scotland. The ‘ghost’ is called the big grey man of
Ben MacDhui 
or simply the grey man. Many witnesses
have described this curious ‘apparition’ as either a tall, large man or some
form of being that is covered in short hair. The sightings are always
accompanied with strong feelings of uneasiness and being watched. Apart from
the various sightings, strange footprints have also been reported. When we look
at the various details of this alleged ‘ghost’ it would seem that this presence
may be more physical than spiritual.

The most fascinating aspect of this ‘creature’ is that it
has been around for hundreds of years. Many legends from Scotland refer to
these beings as Am Fear Liath Mor, (‘big grey man’ in Scots
Gaelic). They are similar in appearance to the legends in other parts of Europe
called wild grey menwoods men or sometimes Wudewas.
They have been compared to the sightings of Big Foot in North
America and the Yeti in the Himalayas and for some these
creatures represent an ancient line of hominids.

The stories from mountaineers is generally that the Grey Man
of Ben MacDhui is malignant and stalks anyone who trespasses into his
territory. Although actual visual contact is rare, there have been enough to
get a good description of this humanoid figure – approximately 8-10 feet tall,
short hair all over his body, very long arms and legs. But is it a ghost, or a
physical species not yet recognized by science?

Glamis Castle.

Moving back to an account that is almost certainly
non-physical is Glamis Castle. The Grey Lady ghost at the Castle is thought to
be that of Lady Janet Douglas. She was falsely accused of witchcraft and
plotting against the King. She was finally executed – a disgrace that would
haunt the normally benign King until his death. It is said that her spirit
walks through all of the castle but she seems to have a particular liking for
the family chapel situated at the Castle. This apparition is given so much respect
that there is a particular chair within the chapel that no one is allowed to
sit on – this is the chair that is reserved for Lady Janet. 

Summary

Apart from the ‘grey man of Ben MacDhui’ the spirits of
grey ghosts would seem to have had similar heartache to the ‘white’ ghosts. But
if we look at the color spectrum there is not really that much difference
between shades of grey and white. This is particularly true if witnessing an
apparition in diverse locations with variable amounts of natural light available.
The colors of an apparition may well shift from white to grey and back again.
Therefore, it might be appropriate to class both white and grey ghosts
together. But as with the white ghosts, why is the color grey also common? With
the thousands of accounts on record we could speculate that this is just the color
the majority of apparitions are or that are perceived by our limited vision.

Green Ghosts

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As mentioned previously, the UK is one country where
apparitions of green ghosts are common. Within folklore, especially of Scotland
and Ireland, there are a number of traditional supernatural entities dressed in
green. For example elves, leprechauns, faeries and banshees. The banshees were
traditionally called the Bean Nighe in Scotland, and the Bean
Sidhe
in Ireland. In addition there are much darker legends of
Green Lady figures who are demonic in nature. Under their long gown is hidden a
hairy body and cloven feet.

But putting folklore traditions aside, there are also
many reports of green ghosts that are human in form.

Fernie Castle – Fife, Scotland.

One of the most interesting cases of a green ghost is to
be found in Fernie Castle in Fife. This is the ghost of the ‘green lady’ but no
one knows her name. The spirit is perhaps that of a young bride, who married
against her father’s wishes. A fight began between her new husband and her
father and in the tangle the bride fell from one of the castle towers. Her ghost
is still said to be seen at Fernie today. Also in Fife is the spirit of Green
Jeanie another female ghost. This particular spirit is very fond of electrical
appliances – often switching them on and off at very inconvenient times.

Skipness Castle – Loch Fyne, Scotland.

A very protective green ghost haunts Skipness Castle by
beautiful Loch Fyne. She is said to have protected the castle and the
inhabitants for centuries. It is alleged that when the castle was in any danger
from attack the green lady would arouse spiritual forces that confused the
enemy to such a degree that the planned assault was abandoned. On retreating
from the castle, the raiders would find that everything went back to normal.

Castle of Park – Banff, Scotland

This castle ghost manifests as a green apparition. It is
said to be the spirit of a young serving maid from hundreds of years ago. The
young, unmarried girl, was allegedly dismissed from her position after becoming
pregnant. She is then thought to have hung herself somewhere in the castle.

Fyvie Castle – Scotland

Perhaps the most famous green ghost of all is that of
Dame Lillias Drummond who, it would seem, was starved to death by her husband
Lord Seton. The story states that Dame Drummond gave birth to girls but no
sons. In order to have a male heir, Lord Seton planned to marry a younger
woman. Before doing so he had to get rid of his first wife. Dame Lillias still
haunts Fyvie Castle today. Often she is seen as an ordinary woman and other
times her face is seen as skeletal. But in all accounts the color green is present
whether in dress or in the hue that surrounds her.

Summary

The most interesting thing about these apparitions is
that they are female. But they are also very benign – even in one instance
protective. Although encounters have been frightening for many witnesses their
stories relate the same thread throughout – that no harm was intended by the
spirit. But more importantly their stories are also very similar to that of any
of the white or grey ghosts previously mentioned. Having said this, there is also
one marked exception – the protective green spirit of Skipness. If we refer to
folklore, many of the entities dressed in green are reputed to have
supernatural powers very similar to the Skipness ghost. So is this protective
lady a human spirit or a manifestation of something much older? In addition,
with some of the accounts there does seem to be more interaction. For example
the Fife spirit that interferes with electricity. Dame Drummond changing her
facial features in front of eyewitnesses. The protective spirit of Skipness
that we have already mentioned. Is this just coincidence that a number of
ghosts colored green are more active and interactive?

It is also still a mystery why the UK should have so many
green ghosts. Is there something in the environment that would cause
apparitions to take on a color other than white or grey? Or do green ghosts
manifest in a different way to grey/white apparitions so giving rise to a
different color?

Blue Ghosts

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Blue ghosts have been reported for as long as any other
apparition. They are perhaps not as common as white or grey ghosts, but their
stories are no less unnerving.

Chillingham Castle – Northumberland, England

One of the most widely known ghosts is that of the ‘blue
boy’ of Chillingham Castle. This is a horrific story that is backed up by
physical evidence. Many people and guests staying in the Pink Room at the
castle over the years would report wailing and crying followed by blue flashes
of light. Some of the blue lights displayed were described as being like halos
above their heads. When renovation work began around the 1920s in this area,
the body of a small boy and that of a man were discovered behind a ten foot
thick wall. What is most disturbing is that on forensic examination not only
were scratch marks found on the wall but the boys finger bones had been worn
down at the top leading to the suggestion that the boy had been trying to
scratch his way out of his tomb for a considerable length of time before dying.
Scratch marks were only found at the area where the boy lay, further suggesting
that the man had been put in the wall prior to the boy and had died or else his
corpse was placed with the boy in the wall at the same time. The hauntings are
reported to have subsided somewhat since renovation and the subsequent burial
of the child’s remains in the churchyard. This points to the hopeful conclusion
that this young boy is finally at peace. Although occasional sightings of a boy
either bathed in blue light or dressed in blue are still seen. Why this child
was buried alive and by who has not yet been discovered.

Berry Pomeroy Castle – Devon, England

This second apparition is a ‘Blue Lady’ and has been
witnessed for a very long time – as far back as the 18th century. She is said
to be dressed in a hooded cloak and is alleged to be a nasty character. The
legend states that she has a hatred for men. It is believed that she tries to
lure them to their death by enticing them to unsafe areas of the castle. In
addition the legend states that this ghost was sexually abused by her father –
a Norman Lord – as a result she gave birth to a baby girl. There are two
versions of the story. One is that her father strangled the baby shortly after
the birth. The alternative account is that the lady herself, strangled the
baby, due to her hatred of the child she had been forced to conceive through
abuse. The Blue Lady has been seen wringing her hands in anguish and generally
looking distraught. There have also been numerous witness accounts of a baby’s
crying being heard throughout the castle.

Temple Newsam Mansion Nr Leeds, England

Within this beautiful Tudor-Jacobean mansion we have
another Blue Lady ghost. She is the best known of the all ghosts reputed to
haunt Temple Newsam. The ghost is said to be that of Mary Ingram – her portrait
can still be seen within the mansion and has been there since 1862. It is said
that she was brutally attacked and robbed one night while travelling home in
her carriage. Although she survived the savage assault she was mentally scarred
for life.

Summary

Here we have three different ghosts all perceived as the color
blue. Is it just co-incidence that each of these people suffered a terrible
physical trauma? Blue is generally accepted as one of the healing colors of the
human aura. Could it be that it is the spirits who are emanating this color due
to either requiring healing or in the process of healing?

Conclusion

I think it would be fair to say that there is no clear
cut reason for an apparition to appear as one color over another. There is more
than likely a variety of reasons why certain ghosts and spirits are reported as
being white, green, blue or another color. The surrounding environment may play
a key role in the way that apparitions manifest and our personal perception of
them.

Perhaps our minds also have a part to play on both how a
spirit will manifest and the way we will witness it. For a long time there has
been a theory that suggests that spirit works through the mind via the
sub-conscious. If this is the case, then spirit entities will use our own
thoughts, images and beliefs to manifest. This could be the reason why so many
negative spirits are seen as being black with red eyes for example, since this
tends to be a popular image for evil. Indeed if it is the case that spirit is
working through the mind, then any manifestations could tell us just as much
about ourselves as it does about the spirit.

But could the color of a ghost or entity also be a
natural signal? In nature we have a beautiful and stunning lizard called the
chameleon. Depending upon its moods – whether distressed, angry, peaceful – it
has the ability to show these emotions through color. Could it be that spirits
and ghosts have this same capability? Are they trying to communicate their
needs through color rather than words? Research continues everyday into the
unknown depths of the paranormal. Perhaps one day we will fully understand the color
of ghosts and in so doing perhaps learn much more about ourselves.

[Helen Murphy
Howell, Exemplore
]