Hauntings: Why is There Always a Woman in White?

Hauntings: Why is There Always a Woman in White?

I vividly remember watching the pilot episode of Supernatural (one of my favourite TV shows) way back in 2006. The episode centred around the ghost of a young woman, Constance, dressed in white. She had drowned her children after discovering her husband’s infidelity. She was doomed to roam the roads near her home asking for male drivers to give her a lift home and then murdering them.

Image Courtesy of Wiki Commons

The character of Constance is representative of a wider type of haunting
(although normally much less violent) – that of the woman in white, or the White Lady.

Having a profound interest in the paranormal, I’ve visited many haunted places. When the list of ghosts said to haunt the site is read aloud I would always lose interest when I heard the words ‘Woman in White’. It was just such a common trope. It seems that every castle or abandoned building had one! More recently, I have regretted my former disrespect for these spirits and the witnesses who have sene them.

I’ve started to wonder, why is there always a woman in white at haunted locations? Men haunt places, but they’re often not noted for wearing any particular colour.

White is Symbloic

First of all, white is symbolic. It represents purity. Could this then offer us a clue?

Image Courtesy of ariadne-a-mazed from Pixabay


There is a tradition in many cultures of burying the dead in white, but would this then not apply to men as well? I ‘ve not come across a single story of a man in white.

The colour white is often worn by women on their wedding day (although, more modern variations sway towards cream and ivory!) Perhaps the woman is appearing in her wedding dress, perhaps the garment she was buried in?

However, the white wedding dress theory is also problematic. White only became a common choice for the colour of a wedding dress in the Victorian era. Queen Victoria wore a white dress at her wedding to Price Albert in 1840, and thus the trend began. Before then, women traditionally wore coloured dresses embellished with white and silver thread. So, what about the sightings of the woman in white that pre-date the Victorian era?

Perhaps then we must consider the nature of the death? Quite often, the woman in white is said to have been a jilted lover or a wife who has been unjustly treated by her husband. Most significantly, these women are more often than not the victims of murder.

As noted above, white symbolises purity and innocence. Could this then be why these ghostly women appear in white? As murder victims, could these women be exhibiting their innocence?

Let’s take a look at some specific women in white examples:

Some Examples of ‘the Woman in White’

Corfe Castle

With a history spanning almost a millennium, it’s no wonder that Corfe Castle is reportedly haunted.

The castle was home to the Bankes family who were royalists during the Civil War (1642–1651). Allegedly, it was an act of betrayal that enabled Roundhead troops to enter the castle and take it. Ever since, a woman in white is said to roam the property. It is assumed that she is the traitor.

Tower of London

Image courtesy of waldiwkl from Pixabay

Thousands of people have been impriosned and executed in the Tower of London throughout its almost 1,000 year history. This makes identifying a ghost particularly difficult.

A nameless woman in white is said to roam the Tower of London at night. Once the apparition has passed, the smell of old fashioned perfume is said to fill the air. She has even been seen staring from the windows and waving at children as they pass by.

10 Downing Street

Image Courtesy of Richard Symonds

Whilst researching for this post, I was extremely surprised to find a report of a woman in white at 10 Downing Street!

The Facilities Manager, confused by a paranormal experience he had one evening with an unseen spirit, explained his encounter to his colleagues. Who then confirmed to him that a woman in a white ball gown haunts the building at night.

Berry Pomeroy Castle

Image Courtesy of J. Morley

The Woman in White of Berry Pomeroy Castle in Devon is representative of many ‘woman in white’ stories. She is identified as Margaret Pomeroy. Margaret was allegedly locked up somewhere in the castle and starved to death at the hands of her jealous sister, Eleanor.

Margaret is the archetypal innocent murder victim whose violent end has cursed her to roam around the grounds, dressed in white.

Munster Castle

Image Courtesy of Martinvl

Similar to the woman in white of Berry Pomeroy castle, the woman in white of Munster castle was a murder victim. She has been identified as Mary Bragg. Mary was a young woman who was murdered in the early nineteenth century on a road close to the castle.

There are countless other examples of women meeting violent ends and then returning to the site of their death to haunt the area. My father grew up in Liverpool and knew the local legend of the White Lady of Willow Park. Reportedly, a young woman was drowned/murdered by her husband in the Newton-Le-Willows forest on her wedding night.

There are countless other examples I could have cited, however this is not an extensive piece of research, just something to consider.

Does Anything Connect These Women?

Some of these women have a shared characteristic- they were innocents who met an untimely death. They often (although not always) meet their demise at the hands of their fathers or husbands.


So, the woman in white could be indicative of our patriarchal past. Women were used by men as possessions and objects to be used and disposed of at will.

However, not all these stories follow the same pattern. The only consistency within each history is the colour of the apparition – white.

Interestingly, the description of some (not all) of these apparitions simply refers to the colour of the ghost – the woman in white. Did she appear in white clothing and her skin was skin coloured? Or was the spirit herself, including her clothing, hair and skin etc, entirely white in appearance? This got me thinking …

Is it possibly something to do with the way our eyes perceive the spirit world, in a sort of black and white form? However, some spirits do appear in colour. Does it represent innocent victims of murder? Is white the simplest colour for the spirit to take during manifestation? Does it have something to do with the colour of the substance spirits are said to be made of, such as ectoplasm?


Since we have a limited understanding of the spirit world, there are endless possible answers to the question – why is there always a woman in white? Perhaps we will never have the answer to the question, but its interesting to ponder nonethless.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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34 Comments

  1. March 27, 2019 / 1:51 pm

    Great post! I enjoyed reading it

    • Lellalee
      Author
      March 27, 2019 / 1:56 pm

      Thank you xxx

  2. March 27, 2019 / 3:19 pm

    I really enjoyed this, definitely got me thinking! I love the idea of the spirit world being black and white. I never knew about 10 Downing Street either!

    • Lellalee
      Author
      March 29, 2019 / 12:08 am

      Thank you! And the 10 Downing Street story fascinates me! xxx

  3. March 27, 2019 / 3:27 pm

    This is so interesting! I’ve always considered the white more of a metaphor for the ghost image portrayed in books etc, I’ve never really thought of it in a literal way before. The thing about the women being murdered is really interesting. It’s a little bit annoying that this is a question that you can’t find an answer to though! x

    Sophie

    • Lellalee
      Author
      March 29, 2019 / 12:11 am

      I seem to want to answer the questions in life I will never know the answer to!xxx

  4. Sharlene at Quarter-Life Queens
    March 27, 2019 / 3:50 pm

    This is so well written. You drew me in with Supernatural (I loved that episode). Plus I really enjoy the connection you made to the symbolism with the color white and why it is always a woman in white and not a man. I often wondered about this myself and it made me think if these women present themselves in white or if our minds expect to see a female spirit in white and so we perceive her as wearing white. Incredibly fascinating. Either way, riveting post.

    • Lellalee
      Author
      March 29, 2019 / 12:12 am

      Thank you for your kind words and thank you for sharing your thoughts too – I’m glad it’s not just me who ponders this kind of thing xxx

  5. March 27, 2019 / 3:50 pm

    This is so interesting!! I love reading about ghosts and I love how deep you took the subject. 😀

    • Lellalee
      Author
      March 29, 2019 / 12:13 am

      Thank you Michelle xxx

  6. March 27, 2019 / 5:37 pm

    omg i’ve been obsessed with supernatural since 8th grade and i’m a history major so this is absolutely my thing great work 🙂

    • Lellalee
      Author
      March 29, 2019 / 12:13 am

      Thank you lovely xxx

  7. thetinkerbug
    March 27, 2019 / 7:15 pm

    Definitely a great read! Now I want to go visit all those places! haha!

    • Lellalee
      Author
      March 29, 2019 / 12:14 am

      Thank you so much xxx

  8. March 27, 2019 / 7:49 pm

    Love this. I love all things supernatural.

    • Lellalee
      Author
      March 29, 2019 / 12:17 am

      Thank you for stopping by xxx

  9. March 27, 2019 / 10:15 pm

    I honestly couldn’t tell you my opinion, to be honest the paranormal world really creeps me out so I try and stay clear of it otherwise I wouldn’t sleep haha! It is odd though as we link death with the colour black or sometimes red for blood so who knows why white is the more symbolic colour! Maybe because a spirit is weightless and white represents lightness?
    Alice Xx

    • Lellalee
      Author
      March 29, 2019 / 12:19 am

      A really interesting thought Alice!!! Thank you so much for adding to this discussion xxx

  10. March 28, 2019 / 2:41 am

    Great post, Ashley!
    I always enjoy your writing and your inquisitive mind to explore questions that I haven’t even considered. Thank you for sharing!

    Roger
    Mind and Love

    • Lellalee
      Author
      March 29, 2019 / 12:19 am

      How kind! Thank you so much Roger. xxx

  11. March 28, 2019 / 10:42 am

    This is such an interesting post! I mean, I know that the whole “women in a white dress” thing was popular (wrong word, I know) but I’d never given much thought as to why. I’m also really interested in the paranormal – I’ve not really been watching anything else on YouTube lately!

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

    • Lellalee
      Author
      March 29, 2019 / 2:32 pm

      Thank you Jenny – all things paranormal fascinates me too! xxx

  12. March 28, 2019 / 10:22 pm

    Ooh this is so spooky. I’ve never actually considered why it’s always white but it’s an interesting topic and purity is an interesting theory too. I used to watch most haunted and am fascinated by the idea of the ghosts!
    Soph – https://sophhearts.com x

    • Lellalee
      Author
      March 31, 2019 / 12:05 pm

      It’s all so intriguing isn’t it Soph xxx

  13. March 28, 2019 / 11:46 pm

    Such an interesting idea! I’m interested in the paranormal / supernatural too but I don’t have an answer for that question myself. I think maybe it’s a combination of all the things you mentioned plus white is such a stark contrast and its used in a lot of horror movies as a costume due to this I think.

    • Lellalee
      Author
      April 1, 2019 / 7:31 pm

      Your suggestion makes a lot of sense – it is a stark colour. Thank you so much for reading xxx

  14. April 1, 2019 / 8:49 pm

    Ooh what an intriguing post!! I’ve re-watched that Supernatural episode not that long ago myself, but reading this was fascinating. I had no idea that it was such a common haunting in various places. Like you, that’s really got me thinking about colours and ghosts… Loved this.

    • Lellalee
      Author
      April 2, 2019 / 10:46 am

      Thank you so much Lindsey, it’s great to have such a positive response from a post xxx

  15. April 2, 2019 / 12:16 am

    Interesting post. I am drawn the the movie the woman in black, but I think that’s fiction and obviously used to differentiate from the oft told story. Enjoyed your research and different stories. I have one more bad theory, could it be that sheets are white and they were wearing sheets. Ok I’ll give up now. All joking aside, a fantastic post.

    • Lellalee
      Author
      April 2, 2019 / 10:56 am

      I have been waiting for someone to mention white sheets!!! The thought was running through my head when I was writing! Love it! Thank you for your kind words xxx

  16. April 4, 2019 / 6:04 am

    That was a great read. I never have questioned that and now is all I am thinking about. Amazed with Tower of London and no 10. Thanx for sharing

    • Lellalee
      Author
      April 9, 2019 / 11:19 am

      I was fascinated with the NO.10 story, thank you for reading xxx

  17. April 10, 2019 / 10:38 pm

    I am so obsessed with all things to do with ghosts, spirits and the supernatural. We have a few local areas here that allegedly haunted, and I love reading up on them!

    • Lellalee
      Author
      April 12, 2019 / 7:06 pm

      I’m the same Britt – I love a good paranormal investigation! xxx

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