Borley Rectory before the mysterious fire which destroyed it
Borley Rectory was a Victorian Gothic-style mansion situated near to Borley Church which was constructed by Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull in 1862. It was investigated for its famous hauntings by Harry Price a paranormal investigator.
Borley Rectory was built in 1862, and was situated in Essex, England.
It was regarded as the most haunted house in England, for many many years.
It has a fascinating history of paranormal activity, but was it spooked or was the spooking just spoof?! Find out by reading on!
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Borley Rectory was a Victorian Gothic-style mansion constructed near to Borley church by the Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull in 1862.
Borley Rectory gained fame as "the most haunted house in England", it was built to accommodate the Rector and his family, until it was destroyed by fire in 1939 and demolished in 1944, just before the end of World War 2.
Rector - Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull moved into Borley Rectory a year after it was built and after being named as Rector of the parish of Borley, situated in Essex, England.
Borley Rectory was eventually enlarged by way of an additional wing, in order to house Bull's fourteen children!
The nearby church, with its nave is thought to date back to the 12th century, it serves a scattered and very rural community of some three hamlets which make up its parish.
There are several substantial farmhouses and what is now the fragmentary remains of Borley Hall, which was once the seat of the Waldegrave family.
Ghost Hunters quote the legend of a Benedictine Monastery, supposedly built in this area in about 1352, according to which, a monk from the monastery, carried on a forbidden relationship with a nun from a nearby convent.
Following their affair being discovered, the monk was allegedly executed and the nun bricked up alive, in the walls of the convent.
This was confirmed in 1938, however, it was to state that this legend had no historical basis and seemed to have been something fabricated by the Rectors children in order to romanticize about their Gothic-style, red brick built rectory.
The story of the walling-up of the nun may well have come from a novel by Rider Haggard called "Montezuma's Daughter" (1893) or perhaps an epic poem "Marmion" (1808) penned by Walter Scott.
Borley Rectory is alleged to have been haunted ever since it was built in 1862., In 1929 the Daily Mirror newspaper published an account of a visit to it by a paranormal researcher by the name of Harry Price.
Harry Price the paranormal investigator
Following the visit to Borley Rectory, Harry Price continued to study the strange happenings there.
The uncritical acceptance of Harry Price's reports, prompted a more formal study of Borley Rectory but the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), rejected most of the sightings as either imagined or fabricated, casting doubt upon the credibility of Harry Price.
The result of Harry Price being discredited has now seen the views of other ghost historians, generally discrediting the claims of Harry Price too.
Neither the Society for Psychical Research's report nor a more recent biography of Harry Price has, however, succeeded in quelling public interest in Borley Rectory, with new books and television documentaries continuing to satisfy the fascination of the public in the famous Borley Rectory.
A short BBC Television documentary on Borley Rectory about its alleged manifestations, which was scheduled to be broadcast in September 1956, was canceled owing to concerns about possible legal action by Marianne Foyster, widow of the last Rector to live in the house.
Old Sepia Photograph of Borley Rectory
The first paranormal events at Borley Rectory, occurred in about 1863, since a few locals later recalled hearing unexplained footsteps within the house around it at this time.
On July 28th 1900, four daughters of the Rector Henry Dawson Ellis Bull, reported seeing what they thought to be the ghost of a nun at twilight, some 40 yards (37 m) from the house. Apparently they tried talking to it, but it disappeared as they drew closer to it.
An Alleged Borley Rectory Ghost in the grounds of Borley Rectory & Church
The local organist, recalled that the family at the rectory were 'very convinced that they had seen an apparition on several occasions".
Various people also claim to have witnessed an apparent variety of rather puzzling incidents, such as a phantom coach driven by two headless horsemen, during the next four decades.
Henry Dawson Ellis Bull died in 1892 and his son, the Reverend Harry Bull took over the rectory.
Mrs Henry Bull and her remaining unmarried daughters at Borley Rectory
On June 9th 1928, Harry Foyster Bull, the Rector, died and the rectory again became vacant.
In the year following the death of Harry Foyster Bull, on the 2nd of October, the Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife moved into the house.
Soon after moving in, Mrs Smith while cleaning out a cupboard, came across a brown paper bag containing the skull of a young woman.
Soon after this gruesome find, the family reported a variety of incidents including the sounds of servant bells ringing despite their having been disconnected, lights appearing in windows, and unexplained footsteps. In addition to this, Mrs Smith thought she saw a horse-drawn carriage at night.
The Smith's contacted the Daily Mirror asking to be put in touch with the Society for Psychical Research (SPR).
On June 10th 1929, the Daily Mirror newspaper sent a reporter who promptly wrote the first of a series of articles detailing the mysteries of Borley Rectory.
The paper also arranged for Harry Price, a paranormal researcher, to make his first visit to the house, as a result of which, Harry Price became famous.
Harry Price arrived at the house on 12th June upon which a new paranormal phenomena appeared, such as the throwing of stones, a vase and other objects. Such paranormal activity is categorized as 'Poltergeist activity'. Interestingly enough it is believed that the minds of adolescent children are responsible for Poltergeist activity!
Spirit messages were tapped out from the frame of a mirror. Curiously enough, these things ceased as soon as Harry Price left.
Mrs Smith later maintained that she suspected Harry Price, to be an expert conjurer, responsible for causing the phenomena.
On the 14th July 1929, the Smiths left Borley Rectory, and the parish had some difficulty in finding a replacement for them.
Marianne Foyster occupant of Borley Rectory
The following year, the Reverend Lionel Algemon Foyster (1878-1945), a first cousin of the Bulls, and his wife Marianne (nee Marianne Emily Rebecca Shaw) (1899-1902) moved into the rectory with their adopted daughter Adelaide, they did so on the 16th October 1930.
Borley Rectory - ghostly wall-writing
Lionel Foyster wrote an account of strange incidents that occurred between when he and his family moved in and October 1935, which he sent to Harry Price.
This account included the bell-ringing, windows shattering, stones and bottle throwing, wall writing, and their daughter being locked in a room with no key!
Marianne Foyster, reported to her husband, a whole range of poltergeist phenomena which included her being thrown from her bed.
On one occasion, Adelaide was apparently attacked by quote - 'something horrible'.
Reverend Foyster twice tried to conduct an exorcism, but his efforts were fruitless. In the middle of the first exorcism, he was struck on his shoulder by a fist-sized stone.
Because of the publicity of the Daily Mirror, these incidents attracted the attention of several psychic researchers, who concluded unanimously, after their investigation, that these incidents were caused, either consciously or subconsciously, by Marianne Foyster. However, Marianne Foyster later stated that some of the incidents were caused by her husband in concert with one of the psychic researchers, but the other events, appeared to be genuine paranormal phenomena.
Marianne later admitted that she was engaged in an intimate relationship with their lodger, Frank Pearless and that she had used paranormal explanations to cover up her liaisons.
The Foysters subsequently left Borley Rectory in October 1935 as a result of Lionel's ill health.
Borley Rectory remained vacant for some time after the Foyster's departure. And until May 1937, Harry Price had taken out a year-long rental agreement with Queen Anne's Bounty, the owners of the property.
Harry Price the paranormal investigator
who studied strange happenings at Borley Rectory
Through an advertisement in "The Times" newspaper on 25th May 1937, and subsequent personal interviews, Harry Price recruited a corps of 48 "official observers", mostly students, who spent periods, mainly at weekends, at the rectory, with his instructions to report any phenomena which occurred there.
Helen Glanville conducting a séance to get information about
In March 1938 a lady by the name of Helen Glanville who was the daughter of S J Glanville, one of Harry Price's helpers, conducted a planchette séance in Streatham, South London. Harry Price reported that Helen had made contact with two spirits, the first of which was that of a young nun who identified herself as Marie Lairee.
The famous 'Tunnel' under the road at Borley Rectory in 1957,
showing graphically how it could never have been designed for human use
According to the planchette story, Marie was a French nun, who left her religious order and traveled to England to marry a member of the Waldegrave family, the owners of Borley's 17th-century manor house, Borley Hall.
Marie was said to have been murdered in an earlier building on the site of Borley Rectory, and her body buried either in the cellar or thrown into a disused well.
The wall writings were alleged to be her pleas for help, one read " Marianne, please help me get out".
The second spirit to be contacted, identified himself as Sunex Amures and claimed that he would set fire to the rectory at nine O'Clock that night, the night of 27th March 1938. He also said, at the time, that the bones of a murdered person would be revealed.
Borley Rectory after the fire which destroyed it
On February 27th 1939, the then new owner of Borley Rectory, Captain William H Gregson, was unpacking boxes and accidentally knocked over an oil lamp in the hallway. The fire quickly spread and Borley Rectory was severely damaged.
Captain William H Gregson Owner of Borley Rectory
and the person who caused the fire at Borley Rectory in February 1939
The insurance company, after investigating the blaze at Borley Rectory, concluded that the fire had been started deliberately!
Mrs Williams from nearby Borley Lodge, said that she saw a figure of a ghostly nun run in the upstairs window and, according to Harry Price, she demanded a fee of one guinea for her story.
In August 1943 Harry Price conducted a brief dig in the cellars of the ruined Borley Rectory and discovered two bones, thought to be those of a young woman.
The bones were given a Christian burial in Liston Churchyard, after the parish of Borley refused to allow the ceremony to take place on account of local opinion being that the bones found, were those of a pig.
The First President of the Society for Psychical Research
was Hendry Sidgwick Professor of Moral Philosophy at Cambridge University
After Harry Price had died in 1948, Eric Dingwall, Kathleen M Goldney and Trevor H Hall, all three being members of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), two of whom who had been Harry Price's most loyal associates, commenced to investigating Harry Price's claims about Borley Rectory.
Eric Dingwall, Kathleen M Goldney and Trevor H Hall published their findings in a 1956 book called "The Haunting of Borley Rectory", which concluded that Harry Price had fraudulently produced some of the paranormal phenomena at Borley Rectory.
The most haunted house in England a book by Harry Price
The so-called "Borley Report", as the Society per the Psychical Research study, has become well known, and it stated that many of the phenomena were either faked or due to natural causes such as with rats, and strange acoustics attributed to the odd shape of the house.
In their conclusion, Eric Dingwall, Kathleen M Goldney and Trevor H Hall, wrote: "Mrs Marianne Foyster, wife of the Reverend Lionel Foyster who lived at the rectory from 1930 to 1935, was actively engaged in fraudulently creating 'haunted' phenomena. Harry Price himself "slated the mine" and faked several phenomena while he was at the rectory.
Marianne later in her life admitted that she had seen no apparitions and that the alleged ghostly noises were in fact, caused by the wind, and that friends whom she had invited to the house and in other cases just by herself alone, had indulged in the act of playing practical jokes on her husband.
It is therefore claimed that many of the legends about Borley Rectory have been merely invented.
The children of Reverend Harry bull, who lived in the house before Lionel Foyster claimed to have seen nothing and were surprised that they had been living in what was described as England's most haunted house!
Society for Psychical Research logo
Robert Hastings was one of the few researchers of the Society for Psychical Research to defend Harry Price.
Harry Price's literary executors Paul Tabori and Peter Underwood, have also defended Harry Price against accusations of fraud.
A similar approach was made by Ivan banks in 1996.
Michael Coleman in a Society for Psychical Research report in 1997, wrote "Harry Price's defenders are unable to rebut the criticisms convincingly".
So the question is, was Borley Rectory really the most haunted house in England, or was it nothing more then a socially engineered set of hoaxes and practical jokes?!
I will leave you to draw your own conclusions! I just hope you are not reading this in a dark room in an old Gothic-style house, and home alone!.....
The creepy Drawing Room at Borley Rectory 1890
Meanwhile, who might be standing behind you in the drawing room of Borley Rectory?!
If you are scared of ghosts, don't look behind you just now!
Thanks for reading!
Bright positive blessings,
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