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')


I ... cross-examined Miss Mary Pearson, the Rectory maid, as to what she said she saw and heard .... Mary Pearson, a very intelligent girl, not only saw the nun, but saw the coach, too, and a headless man.  I interviewed Mary and could not shake her testimony.  The following information is taken from my original notes (June 12, 1929) :

'Mary has seen a coach on the lawn, with two bay horses.  The first time she saw it, it was going down the garden; the second time, up the garden.  When she stopped to look, the coach disappeared.  First time she saw the coach was at 12.30 p.m., three weeks ago.  The second time, two days later, from the road.  Coach went through the trees.  It was "like a big cab".  On both occasions it was the same coach, with two brown horses.  She saw no coachman.  She also saw a man, headless, behind a tree. (1) She chased it into the garden, where it disappeared.  She had also heard scratchings at the drawing-room window, which could not be accounted for.'

There seems little doubt that Mary thought she saw the objects she described to us.  Young persons (especially young girls) and adolescents are admittedly good 'percipients' ....

After tea ... Mr Wall and I arranged that, when it was dusk, we would take up our vigil in the garden for a long observational period.  So, soon after sunset he and I made our way to the large summer-house to take up our posts.  It was decided that I was to keep my eyes on the window of Room No. 7, (2) while my companion kept watch on the Nun's Walk at the point exactly opposite the summer-house, at the door of which we were standing .... The maid servant had gone home.

We had been smoking in silence for more than an hour when suddenly Wall gripped my arm and said 'There she is!'. With that exclamation he dashed across the lawn to the Nun's Walk.  Taken by surprise, as I was intently watching the window of the Rectory, it was a second or so before I could direct my gaze to the spot indicated by Wall.  It was nearly dark, but against the darker background of the trees I fancied I could discern a shadowy figure, blacker than the background, gliding towards the end of the garden and the little stream.  But I was not certain.  From experience I know what tricks one's eyes can play one when seeing a 'ghost', and a subconscious elaboration of details, plus imagination, is liable to deceive.  The night was still, and there was no stir amongst the trees to mislead me into thinking that I saw something move.  So I am not certain that I saw the nun: I

bells could be rung in the passage as if wires had been pulled in rooms all over the house.  Mrs Smith told us that Mary Pearson, their maid, had shown her this shortly before they left the rectory.

1 Note the similarity with the tale (see p. 19) regarding the headless phantom seen by the Rev. Harry Bull.  Since the Smiths described 'the various legends connected with the place' to Price at lunch, it is possible these may have included stories told them by the Misses Bull connected with their brother, and that Mrs Smith had regaled her maid with these tales when discussing the attitude of parishioners to the rectory.

2 Where the mysterious light had been seen by Mr Wall the previous night (see p. 35).


merely record the fact that I thought I saw something blacker than the trees move along the path.

When Mr Wall returned to me, breathless and excited, he told me his story.  As he was gazing steadily at the Nun's Walk, he saw a portion of the dark background begin to move.  It was a shadowy figure moving towards the stream.  Here is his own story in a few words [Daily Mirror, Friday, 14 June 1929]:

'The first remarkable happening was the dark figure I saw in the garden.  We were standing in the summer-house at dusk watching the lawn, when I saw the "apparition" which so many claim to have seen, but owing to the deep shadows it was impossible for one to discern any definite shape or attire. (1)  But something certainly moved along the path on the other side of the lawn, and although I immediately ran across to investigate, it had vanished when I reached the spot.'

Having discussed the figure, we decided we would remain in the garden no longer as it was now quite dark.  We crossed the lawn towards the house with the intention of entering the study via the French windows.  We had just set foot on the path under the veranda and were about to enter the room, when a terrific crash was heard and one of the thick glass panes from the roof fell in pieces at our feet and splashed us with splinters .... Very startled, we sought for a possible missile and found a piece of brick or tile on the floor of the veranda ... we hurried upstairs and again made a search of the rooms and windows, especially those of the Blue Room and the rooms overlooking the veranda.  We found our seals intact and everything in order.  We descended by the main staircase and had just reached the hall when another crash was heard and we found that a red glass candlestick, one of a pair we had just seen on the mantelpiece of the Blue Room, had been hurled down the main stairs, had struck the iron stove, and had finally disintegrated into a thousand fragments on the hall floor.  Both Mr Wall and I saw the candlestick hurtle past our heads.  We at once again dashed upstairs, made another search, and found nothing.  We returned to the hall.  We turned out all lights, and the entire party sat on the stairs in complete darkness, just waiting.  A few minutes later we heard something come rattling down the stairs and Mr Wall said he had been hit on the hand. We then relighted the lamps and found it was a mothball which, apparently, had followed the same path as the candlestick.

In quick succession, and in full light, the following articles came tumbling down the stairs: first of all some common seashore pebbles; then a piece of slate, then some more pebbles.

During this eventful evening bells rang of their own volition.  The wires could be seen moving, and even the pulls in some of the rooms could be seen swinging when we visited them.  The Rev. G. E. Smith

1 Since Mr Wall presumably did not claim to be a psychical researcher, we must forgive him that, in these circumstances, he claims that the indefinite shape or shadow he saw was the 'apparition'.


had been troubled with considerable bell-ringing, and had even cut some of the wires in an attempt to stop the nuisance.  After ... supper ... a new phenomenon occurred.  The keys in the doors of the library and drawing-room fell simultaneously on to the hall floor.  I carefully examined the keys, and the doors, and there was no sign of any thread, wire or other apparatus that could have accounted for the fall of the keys.  Actually, it would require considerable mechanism to duplicate this phenomenon normally … It was suggested that we should hold a séance in the Blue Room .

The séance began at about 1 a.m.  [Taking part were Price and his secretary, Mr V. C. Wall, Mr and Mrs Smith, and two of the Misses Bull, sisters of the late Rev. Harry Bull, who had come over from Sudbury during the evening.  They adjourned to the Blue Room.]  [We] deposited ourselves on chairs and bedsteads.  A powerful duplex paraffin oil lamp was burning.  There was the ordinary bedroom furniture in its usual places, including a dressing-table in front of the window.  On the dressing-table stood a large, solid mahogany mirror, with a wooden back .... There was no medium present.  In order to open the proceedings, I said ... 'If any entity is present here tonight, will it please make itself known?' ... Just as we were wondering whether we were wasting our time, a faint - though sharp and decisive - tap was heard coming from, apparently, the window ... the tap was repeated, a little louder this time.  All of us left our seats, land went over to the dressing-table, round which we stood in a semi-circle.  Again the tap sounded, still louder, but this time it came unmistakably from the wooden back of the mirror, which acted as a sort of sounding-board.  We drew our chairs up to the mirror, round which we sat as at a regular séance.  Then someone suggested that the light should be extinguished.  This was done, but as nothing happened, we relit it.

Then came a succession of short, quick taps or raps, and I made a little speech to the 'entity', ... asking whether it would answer certain questions which we would put to it.  I suggested that the time-honoured 'three taps for "Yes", one tap for "No" and two taps if the answer were doubtful or unknown' should be employed.  I asked the entity if it understood.  Immediately, three quick, loud taps were heard from the mirror.  We also suggested spelling out the alphabet … I will now quote Mr Wall's words as to what took place next [Daily Mirror, Saturday, 15 June 1929]:

‘Our first attempts were naturally to ascertain the identity of the rapper.  We asked if it were the nun in the old legend or one of the grooms, and a single rap denoting "no" was the reply.

'Then I suggested to Mr Price that he should ask whether it were the Rev. H. Bull, the late Rector.  I had hardly finished the name when three hurried taps came on the mirror, which meant an emphatic "yes".

'The following dialogue then took place, sometimes with the lamp lit, sometimes in darkness:

"Is it your footsteps one hears in this house?" - "Yes."


"Do you wish to worry or annoy anybody here?" - "No" … "Are you worrying about something that you should have done when you were alive?" - "No." ….'

At this juncture I asked the Misses Bull and Mr and Mrs Smith whether they would care to question the entity - the alleged Harry Bull - as to certain private affairs of the family.  They said they would and for about an hour a string of questions was put to the entity ... great difficulty was experienced in obtaining names or messages by spelling out the alphabet ... whatever it was 'tapping', it did not appear to grasp the technique of this system of 'communication'.  Obviously, the questions asked by the Misses Bull cannot be printed here.

The séance lasted for about three hours, from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m., and about two o'clock in the morning we were all startled by the new cake of toilet soap jumping out of its dish, striking the edge of the water ewer, and bouncing on the floor.  The washstand was at the far end of the room; no one was near it, as we were seated round the mirror; the wicks of the duplex lamp were raised to their full height and the room was everywhere perfectly illuminated.  Everyone saw the phenomenon ... a perfect and typical Poltergeist manifestation.

Well might Price sum up these happenings in the following words: 'And so ended this very eventful June 12, 1929.  A day to be remembered, even by an experienced investigator.  Although I have investigated many haunted houses, before and since, never have such phenomena so impressed me as they did on this historic day. Sixteen hours of thrills!' (MHH, p. 43).

Price remained on the scene merely another couple of days.  His secretary, Miss Kaye, stayed on a couple of days longer, over the weekend.  'As a matter of fact', Price records, 'very little occurred during the next few days.  Some inexplicable and desultory bell-ringing was recorded, but that was all.'

With the further events during the Smith incumbency, Price was able to deal quite shortly:

During the next few weeks I visited the Rectory two or three times, with interesting results.  One evening, a party of us was present when incessant bell-ringing occurred.  This was accompanied by the usual Poltergeist manifestations consisting of the throwing of small pebbles, a shower of several keys (which appear to have been collected by the Geist and then projected into the hall); a small gilt medallion, such as are presented to Roman Catholic children on their Confirmation; and another medallion or badge, dated 'AN VIII' (i.e., A.D. 1799) issued in Paris after the French Revolution.  The origin of these medallions is not known, ...

On July 28, 1929, the day of the year when the nun is supposed always to appear, a party of my friends (including the late Hon. Richard Bethell) visited the Rectory and stayed two days.  Nothing of importance happened ....


Upon another visit an impressive phenomenon occurred.  We had all assembled in the Blue Room, and someone remarked: 'If they want to impress us, let them give us a phenomenon now!'  A few minutes later one of the bells on the ground floor clanged out, the noise reverberating through the house.  We rushed downstairs, but could not find even the bell that was rung.

After the Smiths moved to Long Melford on 14 July, Price visited the empty rectory on only two occasions while Mr Smith remained rector (MHH, p. 61).  Both visits were in the latter half of July 1929.  'The result', says Price, 'was almost negative, except that on the first occasion we were rewarded with a striking manifestation by one of the bells.'  But other memories were different, for the last of these visits was that on which he was accompanied by Mr Charles Sutton, whose accusation against Price has already been discussed.  Mr Sutton's name nowhere appears in either MHH or EBR.

'It is not much fun', says Price, 'investigating a large and cold haunted house, with few amenities, in the winter months.'  In spite, therefore, of having never before nor since experienced phenomena in his many investigations of haunted houses which so much impressed him (see his statement quoted on p. 41), the investigation was abandoned and Price contented himself with arranging for reports to be sent to him by the Smiths when anything of interest happened.

It might well seem strange that a man who gave his working life and a large part of his income to running a laboratory for the investigation of psychic phenomena should so quickly leave the scene of such amazing happenings as he relates.  Though he complains of the discomforts of carrying on such an investigation in the months of winter, we note that it is in late July that he quits the scene.  He comments (MHH, p. 63) on a letter received from the Smiths dated 7 August 1929 and adds: 'I heard no more until February 22, 1930.'  True, his resumed investigation of the physical medium Rudi Schneider began in November 1929 and would demand most of his attention; but since the visit described by Mr Sutton in late July 1929 was the last one Price paid to the rectory at this time (and he was to visit the rectory on one occasion only - in 1931 - between the years 1929 and 1937), one cannot but conjecture that he might well not wish to be reminded of the unfortunate occurrences on that occasion.  Indeed, if we are to accept Mr Sutton's account of what occurred, backed up as it is by the allusions in Lord Charles Hope's contemporary notes, it is obvious that the knowledge that he had been caught and accused to his face of fraudulently producing the 'phenomena' himself,


must have constituted an extremely uncomfortable element in Price's sentiments on Borley.  Though the accusation received no publicity at the time, his absence thereafter from the scene for so long becomes intelligible; he could hardly fail to retain uneasiness.


The reader now has Price's description of the 'haunt' during the Smith incumbency as described in MHH, his first book on Borley, published in 1940.  We are shortly to give the different complexion put on these events by Mrs Smith.  But before doing so we must go forward in time and peruse the following letter from Mrs Smith which appeared in the Church Times on 19 October 1945:

Sir, - I have read with interest your articles and letters on 'Thump Ghosts', and as I was in residence for some time at Borley Rectory, Sussex [sic] ('the most haunted house in England'), I would like to state definitely that neither my husband nor myself believed the house haunted by anything else but rats and local superstition.  We left the rectory because of its broken-down condition, but certainly found nothing to fear there.

G. Eric-Smith (sic]

Price neither approached the writer - his 1929 hostess at Borley Rectory - nor entered the fray, confining himself to an exchange of letters with the then rector of Borley-cum-Liston, the Rev. A. C. Henning, who had drawn his attention to what Mrs Smith had written and to whom Price, in defence of his own position, sent copies of all correspondence between himself and the Smiths.  Some three and a half years later (and after the death of Price in March 1948), a similar letter from Mrs Smith appeared in the Daily Mail (26 May 1949), the wide circulation of which paper gave it considerable publicity.

Here was something very surprising to those who cast their minds back to Price's account of the occurrences during the Smith incumbency!  What could lie behind Mrs Smith's letter?  The Hon. Secretary of the S.P.R. immediately wrote to her, and KMG and EJD were deputed to visit her.  'I should like to discuss Borley with you,' wrote Mrs Smith, 'as it is a great sorrow to me.'  We wondered as we took the long journey on 1 July 1949 what sort of person we should find.  Was our journey to be fruitless?  Or was the existing puzzle of Borley, built up as it apparently was upon the testimony of so many witnesses, to become even more baffling?  We reminded ourselves of the necessity to let Mrs Smith tell her own story in her own words from beginning to end, noting


most carefully every illuminating detail, and to put no questions until she had finished.  Here are extracts from KMG' s notes made 24 hours later:

... we found a middle-aged, practical, sensible woman; who told her tale consistently and without contradicting herself during some three to four hours' conversation and questioning; believing firmly in an after-life, and open to the possibility of spirit communication and/or expression, but emphatic in her assertion that the 'phenomena' at Borley were 99 %, if not 100 % normally produced and that the very few unexplained happenings would, in her opinion, have had a normal explanation could their cause have been traced.  We had not foreseen the very adverse picture she would give of Mr Harry Price, though at no time did she show the slightest animosity towards him: on the contrary, she stated that she had all her life herself possessed almost a sixth sense of intuition or perception, and was now convinced that Mr Price, perhaps suffering in the Beyond for his mistakes and wrongdoings on earth, would welcome any action taken to arrest the mischief he had done and the untrue picture of Borley Rectory that he had fostered.

[That same night] KMG prepared an account of all Mrs Smith had related .... It was agreed between us that this account should be given to Mrs Smith to sign, after it had been read over to her with the injunction that she was to stop us if so much as a single word would, in her opinion, be better altered and more accurately put otherwise.

On returning to London the original notes were typed out in triplicate and these copies also sent to Mrs Smith to sign.  An accompanying letter from KMG stated: 'If on thinking it over since we saw you, you feel that there is anything not quite right, add a note to this effect.'  It will be seen that we were at great pains to give her every opportunity to make both her first and final statements as truthful as possible.  She was promised that no publicity would be given to her statement at any time without her consent.  She much dreaded further publicity, remembering the appalling interference with their peaceful lives which had followed the newspaper articles of 1929.  A second visit to her by all three of us in August 1952 resulted in her giving us permission to use her testimony in this report; and we would like to take this opportunity to thank her publicly for her consent, especially since it was given reluctantly.




I have no reason at all to think Borley was haunted [said Mrs Smith].  Of course our minds were turned towards the subject, owing to so much gossip; but in spite of this, nothing occurred which I consider


could not be explained.  One or two items occurred which were not explained, and I thought 'That's funny' - but surely such things occur in all people's lives, and only means they were unable to trace the cause.  The things I have in mind are:

(a) On one occasion I was sitting in the late evening alone in the house.  I heard our gate open and hoped no one was coming to call at that late hour.  I was a little nervous, being alone in such a lonely area, and therefore did not like to go to the hall door to see what it was, and instead took a lantern and went to look out of a window to the rear.  I saw two 'headlamps' as I lifted my lantern to look out, but as I looked these went out - by the light of these lamps I saw the outline of some sort of vehicle.  I did NOT hear any vehicle or car leave.  This is the main puzzling feature of my experiences.  I do not consider it sufficient to consider it was something supernormal or uncanny.  But I can't explain it ... When my husband came in, he said there was nothing in the drive.

(b) My husband once heard voices, which sounded like 'Don't Carlos, don't', and he could not trace the source.  But I think it must have come from passers-by he could not see; and again I do not think it was supernormal.

(c) We sometimes found doors and windows opened or shut in a way we could not understand.  But I myself feel sure local villagers 'played tricks'; and after we left, they would have been able to climb in if they wanted to 'play tricks'.  As an example, the young man to whom our servant Mary was engaged, used to walk around sometimes with his coat right over his head.  With all the gossip of hauntings about, this could well have been turned, in the dark, into a headless figure walking about, or a hooded figure.  There were undoubtedly people who did not want a new rector occupying the rectory, because it ousted the authority they themselves had had whilst there was no rector.

(d) There was an effect of a lighted window in the rectory which could not be accounted for and which puzzled us for a long time; but eventually I found out the cause, and this was that it was caused by reflection in the glass of passing trains.  I definitely found this to be the cause, after puzzling about it for a long time.

When Mr Price arrived down to investigate, immediately we were astonished at an onset of 'phenomena' - bangs, clatterings, keys thrown, etc.  We could not help being led to suppose that he himself was producing some of the effects.  A vase came crashing down the stairs from my bedroom - or rather it bumped its way down.  Mr Price held a séance in the 'haunted room' and taps came on the mirror, in answer to his questions, to indicate the replies 'yes' or 'no'.  [Indiscreet questions were asked and the answers given led Mr Smith to stop the proceedings and refuse to have any more.]  Little lights appeared, like little sparks in the darkness, when Mr Price was conducting this séance.  [Asked whether they were yellow or blue lights, the answer


was 'bluish'.]  Such things never occurred before or after - apart from this one time.

Another thing.  Once when Mr Price was in a room with me, little pebbles whizzed past me suddenly.  I was astonished.  Such a phenomenon had never happened before, nor anything like it.  So I could not help thinking perhaps Mr Price had thrown them, for, if genuine, why had they never appeared before?

Again, Mr Price was having dinner with us.  Another guest next to Mr Price had made the remark 'You know all this could be done by a clever man'.  Shortly after that the water in her glass turned into ink.  Mr Price thought it was a poltergeist phenomenon.  The guest believed Mr Price might have done it - but remarked 'He wasn't a man they would like to offend' and no such suggestion was made openly.

Mr Price told my husband he (Mr Price) saw the last rector, Mr Bull, standing behind him in a dressing gown, which he described.  Somebody who had known Mr Bull said he HAD had a dressing gown like that .... [In reply to KMG' s query as to whether she was sure it was Price himself who maintained he saw this spirit form, Mrs Smith replied 'I am quite, quite certain it was Mr Price himself who saw this phantom behind my husband at that moment and that he was not describing someone else's vision.]

I cannot explain these happenings while Mr Price was present; but such things had never occurred before he appeared, and we knew he was an expert conjurer and had our suspicions as well as being puzzled.  I never actually saw Mr Price throw anything himself. ... Our servant Mary also had the same suspicions, and after he had gone she told me openly 'It was that man threw that coin - so I threw some sugar'.  I know she did produce some of the 'phenomena' in a spirit of childish pranks and to add to the excitement.

At a later date Mr Price's secretary, Miss Kaye, came down alone and we sat for hours talking - but there were no phenomena at all, everything was perfectly normal and quiet.  I said to her that it was extraordinary that all these things should suddenly start when Mr Price came, and she answered that he did seem to attract the attention of spirits wherever he went .... (1)

Both my husband and Mr Price have now passed over.  Why may they not have met?  I believe Mr Price must now recognise the harm he produced by adding to all the absurd rumours and getting so much publicity for silly tales, and I feel he must now want it all to stop, and that I may bring rest to him by helping to bring this about.  This is why I am telling all this to investigators from the Society for Psychical Research, and why I wrote to the paper when there was a fresh rumour of haunts and phenomena at Borley.

Admittedly we had a terrible experience at Borley - but not from haunts or poltergeist phenomena, but from the publicity which brought hordes of sightseers who trampled down our lawn and flower-beds,

1 Cf. p. 32, Lord Charles Hope's contemporary notes on his second visit to Borley with Miss Kaye: 'Miss Kaye has a theory that H.P. attracts poltergeist disturbances as nothing has ever occurred at Borley of that kind in his absence.'


broke our windows, and so disturbed our peace that we had to get police to disperse them.

Ghosts would never have frightened us, as we believed in Higher Protection; I have gone upstairs in the dark at Borley and watched in the supposed Haunted Room and looked from the windows, and the result has been always 'Nil' - only bats and the scratching sometimes of rats.

This ended the first statement.  Mrs Smith sent additional comments to London, to add to the statement, which included the following:

I state emphatically that I saw enormous rats in the place, and am sure these were responsible for bell-ringing and many noises attributed to the supernatural; they would scratch the boards.  The house had been empty for a long time, and rats had taken up abode in kitchens and cupboards.

On one occasion, when coins were thrown about (which were warm to the touch when picked up as if held recently by a human hand), we had grave doubts as to the existence of any poltergeist; also when we were told by Mr Price that they were so strong that the soap had jumped out of the washstand????????  We did not consider it a joke when we found a large red cross had been drawn on our bedroom door; especially as a red pencil was seen next day in the vicinity of Mr Price; it started us guessing.

Much of Mrs Smith's character and outlook is indicated in her story.  It should be compared with Price's version (pp. 34 ff). 'I do hope and pray', she wrote, 'that we may be shown a clear way of righting Borley.'

'I admit I am shocked at Mrs Smith's statement,' wrote KMG on 11 July 1949 to Mr Salter, 'for, though I credited [Price] with intellectual dishonesty, I had not imagined he would ever himself stoop to fraudulent actions.' (1)

Mrs Smith's additional comments ended with the words:

I feel very strongly on the point that Mr Price had promised us that our names would never appear in anything he wrote, and now I am told we appear in his book The most Haunted House in England; I only wish I had read this book at the time, but I was just bereaved, and in scorn, I threw the copies sent me, on the fire.  I think the Title should read 'The most Maligned House in England'.

Since Mrs Smith stated she had not to that day read either MHH or EBR, KMG sent her both books and asked her to refer to the index and send back her annotations to each item referring to themselves.  When doing so Mrs Smith wrote (4 August 1949):

1 KMG knew at this date of Mr Sutton's accusation.  She meant here that she had not imagined in earlier years that Price ... etc.


My impression on reading the volume was utter astonishment at the clever mixture of legend, truth, phantasy, and disregard of the intellects of intelligent people; the facts are so twisted ... ; I cannot think how so many country people were bewitched into giving such testimonies, but you know what the country is?  Throw one stone into the water and the ripples widen!

We now give some of Mrs Smith's annotations to Price's account in MHH, but most of these are omitted since they repeat comments already quoted in her testimony.

The footsteps my husband heard we attributed to rats; his stick never whistled through the air; he simply took the stick to frighten mice or rats away. [cf. p. 35.]

Some time after, I proved that the lights seen [in the rectory window] were but reflections of light on Vita glass viz., lights lit in the landing over the kitchen, would show through to the windows opposite to the courtyard; this gave a reflection of double lights in the room we called the Schoolroom. [cf. p. 35.]

[Regarding Price's statement (p. 37) that Mrs Smith had often seen a figure, dark and shadowy, leaning over the gate]: This is not in accordance with facts; I repeated what I had heard from the Bulls and otherwise, but I myself NEVER SAW A FIGURE AT ALL. The tale has been thoroughly mixed up.

Mary told me she had only seen the coach once, and as she was laughing when she made this statement, I think she knew it was not quite accurate .... As for chasing a headless man; in my opinion this is just a fabrication.  Mary was a sensible, nice, girl and we both used to laugh at ghosts, and I know she did not believe a word about the legend etc .... she did it all as a joke. [cf. p. 38.]

I, too, heard the scratching at the drawing room window [cf. p. 38] but we both thought it was some animal, or RATS.  I have seen a big rat sitting on its haunches licking its paws, so how can people say there were no rats?????

It is not correct that the soap jumped out of the dish when we were all present.  We could not sleep and I suggested to my husband that I should make tea and take some along to the others in the Blue Room ... in the Blue Room was darkness.  We went in and they told us they had heard tappings and that the most extraordinary thing had happened viz., the soap had jumped out of the washstand .... Certainly knocks came from the mirror, but I often wish I had examined it closer.  I think that 'tricks' were being played all around us .... [cf. pp. 40-1.]

[Describing an occasion after they had moved to Long Melford, when Price and friends visited the empty rectory]: On this occasion, the Rectory was empty and devoid of any furniture; there were several people present, one, an Army man, had a loaded revolver under his coat and I warned Mary and Fred to keep out of the way.  We sat on the stairs until midnight when someone must have entered the study from the garden, as the large shutters were pulled together with a loud noise;


these were on runnels; ... I was convinced someone had been waiting outside to play this trick. (1) … We heard scratchings and the ridiculous element entered when we heard the voice of a chauffeur who had just heard someone say 'Are you there Mr Bull' reply in a guttural voice 'He's dead, and you are daft'.

Thus we take a look from another angle at the occurrences of June-July 1929 - poltergeist or human, as you like it, described by Price (EBR, p. 33) as including 'many phenomena under perfect conditions of control'.

Mrs Smith's account is admittedly from memory and twenty years after the event; but we found that she gave us some details which Price chose to omit in MHH and EBR, but which were subsequently corroborated by correspondence in Price's files, to which Mrs Smith has certainly had no access.  This spoke well for her evidence and the accuracy of her recollections in general. (2)

We left Mrs Smith favourably impressed by her if taken aback at her story of the unscrupulous methods apparently employed to heighten and re-incarnate the Borley tradition of the supernatural, and at the very different complexion she put upon the events presented by Price in MHH.  She had explained the 'phenomena' in terms of village gossip, the traditional legend, rats and mice, practical jokes and light-hearted stories invented by her maid, etc., coupled with the assertion that Price distorted and exaggerated the facts for the purpose of publicity, and rather more than a suggestion that Price produced some of the 'phenomena' himself on occasions by trickery.  Here, it seemed, was a clear-cut example of suggestion, distortion, fraud and near-fraud

1 This incident was not described by Price.

2 The following are among many examples:

(a) In her written comments to us Mrs Smith said that she had heard a rosebush knocking against the window and making 'taps'.  As we have shown (p. 4), Mr Mark Kerr-Pearse, in the part of his report to Price of 26 June 1937 omitted from Appendix C of MHH, mentioned a rose tree which was repeatedly blown backwards and forwards against the wall causing knocks which 'might provide an excellent "ghost" for the imaginative'.

(b) In her written statement Mrs Smith said that Borley Rectory was infested by rats and mice (pp. 47-8).  We have shown (pp. 66-7) that in his books Price denied the presence of these rodents in the house, but that amongst those reports from his observers which he elected not to publish there was ample confirmation of the truth of Mrs Smith's comment.

(c) Mrs Smith reported to us that Mr Wall, the Daily Mirror reporter, had mistaken her maid Mary for a ghost; this statement led us to seek out the original Daily Mirror articles where her recollection was corroborated by paragraphs omitted by Price in his quotation (see p. 25).

(d) Mrs Smith reported that Price's secretary said to her that 'he did seem to attract the attention of spirits wherever he went' (see p. 46).  Lord Charles Hope's private contemporary notes (see p. 32) stated: 'Miss Kaye has a theory that H P attracts poltergeist disturbances as nothing has ever occurred at Borley of that kind in his absence.'


used for publicity purposes to build up a worthless legend upon the simple foundation of a puzzled country rector and his wife, anxious to dispel the hampering miasma of local superstition they found awaiting them at Borley.


It became obvious that the continuing publicity for this 'most haunted house in England' must not pass unchallenged and that it behoved the Society for Psychical Research to make a detailed and critical examination of all the available material. (1)

We now turned to the voluminous file of Price's correspondence on Borley which had reached us from the Harry Price Library in London University, and imposed order on the impressions and experiences of the 95 persons listed by Price in MHH, Appendix E, as the 'List of official Observers and others, referred to in this monograph, who witnessed phenomena or alleged phenomena.'  A list of 100 further persons who experienced alleged phenomena is given in EBR, Appendix 1.

Among these letters were those received from Mr and Mrs Smith at the time of Price's visitation; in the nine months following it while they remained responsible for the parish though no longer living in the rectory; and also an occasional letter after they had left Borley altogether but retained an interest in its further history.  We received letters from them to Lord Charles Hope, and his notes on meetings with them.  And finally there were letters that passed between the Smiths and Mr Glanville in 1937 when he visited them at Sevington, Kent, to record anew their impressions of Borley and to take them with him to re-visit the rectory for a night and take part in a planchette séance there.

Now it was obvious to us on reading the Smiths' letters that the case was not so simple as it had appeared at first sight.  Their attitude at the time was not quite in line with Mrs Smith's present contention that there was nothing which did not admit of a perfectly normal explanation, nor with her letters to the Church Times and Daily Mail which stated: 'Neither my husband nor myself believed the house haunted by anything but rats and local superstition' - indeed, sentences in almost every letter might be used in evidence against this assertion.  Nevertheless, the letters also contain phrases indicating an undercurrent of doubt.  We give examples, and quote at some length in order that the reader may have all the main instances of contradictory material.

1 Dr Tabori's biography of Harry Price was published in London in 1950 (Harry Price: the Biography of a Ghost-hunter) and a third book on Borley, a symposium to be compiled from further material in Price's files, was planned.  This project has since been abandoned.



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ContentsNote & 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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