Portrait of Harry Price by John Dumayne (Reproduced from Price's Search for Truth)

Some Notes on Harry Price's Biographies   by Paul Adams

At present there are three main sources for information on the life & background of Harry Price - Price himself; Dr. Paul Tabori who was Price's literary executor following his death and writer & historian Dr. Trevor H. Hall.  Price spent a portion of the war years writing his own autobiography & this was published as Search for Truth - My Life for Psychical Research by Collins in 1942.  He also included other references to his background in the earlier Confessions of a Ghost-Hunter (London, 1936).  Two points which Price presents to his readers in the opening pages of his autobiography should be noted.  In Search for Truth, Price gives the impression (although he does not actually state it) that he was born in Shropshire & was brought up in that area before moving with his parents to Brockley in South London.  He also states that his father was 'intimately connected' with the paper trade & it was he who decided that his son should follow him into this profession rather than that of mechanical engineering which was apparently Harry's preferred choice of career.

Harry Price died suddenly of a heart attack at his home in Pulborough, West Sussex in March 1948 and the administration of his literary estate was given over to writer Dr. Paul Tabori, who would later collaborate with Peter Underwood on a re-examination of the Borley Rectory hauntings in the early 1970s.  Having access to the whole of Price's papers, press-cutting books, letters & case files, Tabori set to work on a new biography which was published by Athenaeum Press in 1950.  In Harry Price - The Biography of a Ghost Hunter, a readable survey of Price's life & times, Tabori draws on Price's own published writings as to his background and early years and unavoidably commits several facts to paper, specifically the place of Price's birth & the details of his upbringing.  He also states that Edward Ditcher Price, Harry's father, wanted his son to have a share in his lucrative paper manufacturing business & it was this inheritance that enabled Price to devote his time wholly to psychical research in his later years.  Tabori's book naturally became the new standard work on Price & his times, appearing several years before the major accusations of fraud & deceit made against Price in connection with his conduct into the investigation at Borley by members of the Society for Psychical Research were published in 1956, and it was reprinted as part of the Dennis Wheatley 'Library of the Occult' series during the 1970s.  Although Eric J. Dingwall, Kathleen M. Goldney & Trevor H. Hall, the S.P.R. authors of The Haunting of Borley Rectory (which was published simultaneously as a book by Duckworth & in the Society's Proceedings) were highly critical of Price in their report into the Borley case, they had no reason to comment on Price outside of his involvement with Borley Rectory and there the matter seemed to rest.

However, Dr. Trevor Hall, who contributed four chapters to The Haunting of Borley Rectory, returned to the subject of Harry Price in 1974 when he was asked to write an essay for The Book Collector journal about Price's extensive library of occult & magical literature which had been bequeathed by Price during his lifetime to the University of London Library.  Following on from his initial need to include some biographical detail on Price in his article, Hall began to research into Price's family & background and eventually wrote a series of essays on various aspects of Price's life & career which was published in book form in 1978 by Duckworth as Search for Harry Price, the title being an obvious parody of the title of Price's own writings about himself over thirty years earlier.  In his book, Hall reveals for the first time the true details about the subjects mentioned above, namely the place of Price's birth, his family background and the income by which he was able to fund his work.  He also devoted several chapters to other aspects of Price's life & career including his early interests in archaeology and numismatics as well as his work with the mediums Willy & Rudi Schneider, famous episodes like the Brocken experiment & Joanna Southcott's Box as well as returning for another visit to a certain aspect of the Borley Rectory case.  Despite apparently setting things straight by publishing the correct facts concerning Price's background, the style of Hall's book is merciless in its criticism with every aside, comment & footnote designed to cast Price in a bad light, Hall describing Price amongst other things as a 'devious writer and a manipulator of evidence' who came from 'a family of liars'.

Trevor Hall's book outwardly appears to be an accurate and critical commentary on Price and aspects of his life and work and although not a biography in the strictest sense, it has since its publication in 1978 been a principal reference work on Price for subsequent writers on Price and Borley in particular, including Colin Wilson and Frank Smyth.  However, the tone of Trevor Hall's book, with its relentless assault on Price's integrity and reputation, gives even the casual reader some idea of the author's single-minded obsession with rubbishing Price's name and this was not lost on reviewers of the book when it first appeared.  Hall continued with further commentaries in the same vein in subsequent writings, which include the bizarre The Last Case of Sherlock Holmes (Paulette Green, 1986) and his essay A Note on Borley Rectory which was included in the Skeptics Handbook of Parapsychology edited by Paul Kurtz. 

Harry Price's character, his work and his life was too complex and involved for any of the above writings (including Price's own) to fully do justice to him.  A new biography is needed to put the record straight as it were, free hopefully of Price's self-promotion, more involved and accurate than Paul Tabori's and also free of the obsessive assault of Trevor Hall.  As mentioned in the April 2005 Séance25 newsletter of this website, Richard Morris is currently researching for such a new work which was published by Sutton Publishing in January 2007.   Concerning his new book, Richard writes: "The biography will be a fresh and clear-sighted new portrait of the world's most radical psychic investigator.  Quoting from rarely seen material and drawing on a wealth of original research the biography follows Harry Price from his awkward birth and throughout his turbulent career."  The book, entitled Harry Price: The Psychic Detective is described by the publishers as "The first full-length biography of Harry Price for 56 years deals objectively with the triumphs and failures of his life and career. It explains why his friends were attached to him, why his enemies hated him and why his gifts and foibles are still of interest today".  More information can be found on Sutton Publishing's own website a review click here.



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All original text, photographs & graphics used throughout this website are © copyright 2004-2007 by Paul G. Adams.  All other material reproduced here is the copyright of the respective authors.