Harry Price at Borley


















The Haunting of Borley Rectory - A Critical Survey of the Evidence by Eric J. Dingwall, Kathleen M. Goldney & Trevor H. Hall  (Also known as the 'Borley Report')

Legendary Borley

According to a legend, discredited in 1938, Borley Rectory was built on the site of a 13th-century monastery, with a nunnery nearby at Bures.  The legend told how an eloping monk and nun were caught and put to death.  Apparitions of the nun, the coach in which they fled, and a headless coachman figure in stories in the late 19th century.

The Bull




The Rev. Henry D.E. Bull is rector of Borley.


He builds Borley Rectory and lives there with his family of 14 children.


Death of the Rev. H.D.E. Bull.  His son, the Rev. Harry F. Bull, succeeds him as rector and continues living at the rectory with brothers and sisters.


Four sisters, the Misses Bull, are said to have seen a phantom of a nun on the rectory lawn on 28 July 1900.  Other phenomena of various kinds reported.


The Rev. Harry Bull marries, and moves across the road to Borley Place, his sisters remaining at the rectory.  In 1920 the Rev. Harry Bull once more occupies Borley Rectory.


The Rev. Harry Bull dies on 9 June 1927.  Borley Rectory empty until October 1928

The Smith



2 October 1928

The Rev. G. Eric Smith inducted to living of Borley.


He and his wife are disturbed by the rumours that the rectory is haunted and consult the Editor of their paper, the Daily Mirror, about contacting a psychical research society.

10 June 1929

The Daily Mirror sends down reporter V.C. Wall and contacts Harry Price

MR HARRY PRICE (1881-1948), who was one of the best known and most prolific psychic journalists of his generation, was both the Founder and the Honorary Director of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research which finally became the University of London Council for Psychical Investigation, an organisation which had actually no official connexion with the University.  He was at one time the Foreign Research Officer for the American Society for Psychical Research, and during his life conducted experiments with mediums both in England and on the continent of Europe.  He published a number of books on his investigations and activities, and towards the end of his life undertook an enquiry into the alleged haunting of Borley Rectory, issuing his results in two volumes, The Most Haunted House in England (1940) and The End of Borley Rectory (1946).  At the time of his death he was preparing, with Mr. Upton Sinclair, a scenario of the supposed hauntings.  In 1950 a biography appeared under the title of Harry Price: the Biography of a Ghost-hunter from the pen of his literary executor, Dr Paul Tabori.

12 June 1929

Price visits Borley for the first time.  Immediately objective phenomena of a new kind appear: the throwing of stones and other objects, 'spirit messages' tapped out on a mirror, appearance of 'apports', etc.  The Smiths' maid, Mary Pearson, tells Price she has seen apparitions.

14 July 1929

The Smiths leave the rectory owing to its lack of amenities and the nuisance created by the publicity, move to nearby Long Melford, and run the parish from there.  Price receives letters from the Smiths reporting various happenings.


April 1930-2

The Rev. G. Eric Smith leaves Borley and moves to Norfolk.  No further reports of manifestations reach Price for 17 months.  Borley remains without a rector for 6 months.

The Foyster



16 October 1930

The Rev. Lionel A. Foyster (cousin to the Rev. Harry Bull), his young wife Marianne, and a child Adelaide (aged 2½) take up residence at the rectory.


The Rev. L. Foyster reports a variety of phenomena commencing soon after their arrival.  These increase in violence, reaching their height in June 1931.  Neighbours, Sir George and Lady Whitehouse, with their nephew Edwin Whitehouse (later Dom Richard, O.S.B.), constantly visit the Foysters and testify to witnessing the phenomena.

September 1931

The Misses Bull call on Harry Price in London and ask him to visit the rectory once more.  He visits the Foysters on 13 and 14 October, and accuses Mrs Foyster.

January 1932

Following a visit of exorcism by the Marks Tey Spiritualist Group, accompanied by the medium Guy L'Estrange, the phenomena, with a couple of slight exceptions, abruptly cease.

Price reported that up to this date at least 2,000 alleged paranormal phenomena occurred during the Foyster incumbency.

October 1935

The Foysters leave Borley.

Borley Rectory is not again occupied.  The new rector (March 1936), the Rev. A.C. Henning, asked the Bishop's permission to reside elsewhere in view of the rectory's size and lack of amenities.  Later the livings of Borley and Liston were combined and Mr Henning moved into Liston Rectory.

The Price Tenancy

and after


May 1937

Harry Price visits Borley (an interval of 5½ years having elapsed since his last visit)




and decides to rent the empty rectory for a year.  His tenancy began on 19 May 1937.

25 May 1937

Price inserts advertisement in The Times inviting people to join a rota of investigators.  The keys of the rectory are entrusted to Mr and Mrs Arbon who occupy the cottage adjoining.  Visits are paid to the rectory at weekends by the 48 investigators, chief among whom are Mr S.H. Glanville and his son Roger Glanville, and Mr Mark Kerr-Pearse.

October-November 1937

Mr S.H. Glanville's daughter, Helen Glanville, using a planchette for the first time, obtains scripts of considerable detail regarding the murdered nun.  Her name is now given as Mary or Marie Lairre, and the information that she came from France.

27 March 1938

At a planchette sitting in Streatham with Helen and Roger Glanville a communicator, 'Sunex Amures', threatens to burn down the rectory that night.

19 May 1938

Price's tenancy ends and he moves out from Borley Rectory.

1 November 1938

Price broadcasts the story of Borley Rectory, and as a result becomes acquainted with the rectory's new owner, Captain Gregson. (1)

December 1938

Captain Gregson takes possession of the rectory, which he renames Borley Priory.  He reports experiencing various phenomena; various visitors also report curious happenings.

27 February 1939

Borley Rectory destroyed by fire at midnight.

'Phenomena' reported, strange figures seen walking in the flames.  Further happenings reported by various visitors in ensuing months.

1 Price broadcast on Borley in 1935, 1937, 1938, and 1941, and again in 1946 and 1947 with several others taking part.  Mr Guy L'Estrange broadcast on Borley in December 1936; and Captain Gregson in April 1939.



Later Borley



Price's first book on Borley, The Most Haunted House in England, is published.  He receives voluminous correspondence and many theories regarding the nun.  Chief among these is that put forward in a lengthy analysis of the case by Dr W.J. Pythian-Adams, Canon of Carlisle.


Many people write to Price claiming further unexplained experiences on the ruined site of the rectory.

Groups are formed to visit and investigate the ruins.


Price excavates the wells in the cellars of the ruined rectory and discovers human bones buried there.  The bones were assumed to be the remains of the Borley nun and were ultimately buried in Liston churchyard in May 1945.


The ruins of the rectory are finally demolished.  Price suggests that a brick is levitated paranormally during a visit by him with a photographer and a researcher (Miss Cynthia Ledsham) on the staff of the American magazine Life.

19 October 1945

Mrs G. Eric Smith writes to the Church Times stating that neither she nor her husband believed Borley Rectory to be haunted.


The End of Borley Rectory is published.


'Phenomena' continue.  Scores of people still visit the site annually, hold séances in the grounds, etc.  Lectures are given; many newspaper articles written.

29 March 1948

Death of Harry Price.

Later in the same year the Inky Way Annual (Book 2) contains an article by Mr Charles Sutton, on the staff of the Daily Mail, in which he accuses Harry Price of fraudently producing 'phenomena' himself on the occasion of a joint visit there in 1929.


Mrs G. Eric Smith writes to the Daily Mail (26 May) again asserting her disbelief in the Borley haunting.



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Note & Preface  .  Diary of Events  .  I. Introduction  . II. Topography & LegendsIII. The Bull Incumbencies  .  IV. The Smith Incumbency & Harry Price  .  V. The Foyster Incumbency  .  VI. The Price Tenancy  .  VII. Later Borley  .  VII. Conclusions

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