Harry Price at Borley
Charles Sutton's Report.
I was telephoned by Harry Price one day in 1929 asking me if I would care to spend a night in Borley Rectory. He told me that a week previously a party, including Lord Charles Hope, had spent a night in the haunted rectory and that very interesting phenomena had occurred.
I eagerly accepted the invitation and a day or two later Harry Price, Miss Kaye and I set out in a car from Kensington to drive to Borley. Harry Price was in gay mood and regaled me on the journey with stories about Borley. He told me the legends of the headless postillions galloping a ghostly carriage and horses around the grounds and the nun who had been walled up by angry monks and whose ghost was now often seen in the grounds.
Upon arrival at Borley we went first to the house of the rector and his wife who had evacuated the rectory because they were so unnerved by the supernatural happenings there.
The rector told me of noises and moving furniture, and assured me that in the bright sunshine of a summer's afternoon while a garden party was in progress the famous ghostly nun suddenly appeared beside the table at which he was sitting talking to other people. Both the rector and his wife appeared to be unnerved by the many strange happenings in Borley Rectory during their sojourn there.
Harry Price, Miss Kaye and I then drove to the Rectory where we arrived at dusk. Immediately after parking the car Harry Price disappeared. I had some conversation with Miss Kaye and then asked what had happened to Price. Miss Kaye said she did not know, but eventually I found Price who was ostentatiously taking a stroll round the outside of the house. My suspicions were aroused, but I could not think at that stage what might be the reason for Price's disappearance.
We then walked on to the lawn in front of the building and stood examining the eerie facade with its dismal windows. Price pointed to a broken window on the first floor and said that a week previously when he was standing on the same spot with other investigators the glass of the window on the first floor suddenly shattered.
Almost before he had finished the account of this 'phenomenon' another window near to the one already smashed, broke and glass cascaded to the ground.
By this time it was practically dark and Harry Price was standing a little behind me. In an infinitesimal period of time before the window broke I thought I heard a swish which might have been the swish of an arm. I only thought I heard it. I could have proved nothing, but it increased the suspicion that came into my mind when Harry Price disappeared for several minutes after our arrival at the rectory.
I should say at this stage that suspicion came naturally to my mind as, after some experiences of Harry Price I had no faith in him as a serious psychic investigator. He always gave me the impression that he was much more interested in the limelight of newspaper publicity than in the small glow of patient empiricism.
So, when we finally went into the house I was prepared for all kinds of phenomena. I dictated our plan for the night. It was simply that we would examine every room. Miss Kay[e] would open the doors, I would follow with a hurricane lamp and examine the rooms and Harry Price would lock the doors behind me.
This plan was accepted by Price. By the time we entered the building it was completely dark inside. I locked the front door and prepared to light the hurricane lamp. I was immediately aware of an atmosphere of evil in the building. The air was stifling and I felt distinctly uncomfortable. I remember thinking how unnecessary it would be for anyone to fake phenomena in such a place. It would be impossible I thought to produce anything more eerie than the evil which pervaded the atmosphere.
While I was busy lighting the lamp a pebble hit my hat with some force and fell to the ground making a noise which echoed along the hall. I remember speculating at that moment on what risks a man might take to produce phenomena, and I certainly wondered how great was my disadvantage in the battle of wits which now appeared to be definitely on. Before we started our tour of the house I asked to be shown the bells in the kitchen which Price told me had rung continuously during the investigations a week earlier. As far as I could see from a cursory examination, the bells were not connected to any wire or rope and therefore it appeared they could only by rung by someone in the kitchen, unless, of course, they were made to ring by some ghostly influence. They did not ring while I was in the rectory.
We then started our tour of the house and Miss Kay[e] opened the doors of the first room on the ground floor. I went in and examined it but saw nothing. As Harry Price was closing the door,
however, there was a considerable noise in the room made, so it appeared, by a pebble or stone thrown violently across the room. I quickly entered the room and waited a while but nothing unusual was seen or heard. The same 'phenomenon' occurred in all the rooms on the ground floor. As we mounted the staircase to the first floor I hurriedly tried to work out some scheme for catching Harry Price because I was convinced by this time that the stones thrown into the rooms and the pebble that hit me on the hat, the breaking of the window and the disappearance of Harry Price immediately upon our arrival were all in some way connected.
We stood for some time gazing out of a first floor window waiting to see the nun's ghost or the headless horseman careering round the grounds. No physical phenomena occurred but there were noises which could have been interpreted as a man trying to speak. To me it sounded like Harry Price making a very bad attempt at a ventriloquial act. Price explained, however, that a man had been murdered in this room somewhere back in the dim past and that his earthbound spirit was attempting to communicate with us. The attempt was a failure because I could not distinguish a word.
I then suggested that we should continue our tour and proposed that we reversed the order so that Harry Price walked in front of me. Harry Price argued against this, and we continued in the same order. We locked the room in which we had spent about 20 minutes and had only taken a few steps when my ear, which was now very keen, sensed the swish of an arm, the same kind of swish I had heard in the garden when the window broke. Almost simultaneously there was a series of echoing crashes caused by a large stone (I saw it later) rolling down the stairs. I was convinced that the stone had been flung by Harry Price. I decided that now was the time to accuse him. I put the hurricane lamp on the floor, swung round, clutched Price's wrist and said 'Now I have got you'.
I invited him to empty his pockets. He refused to do so so I plunged my hands into both his coat pockets and found that they contained a number of stones and pebbles of various sizes.
He denied that he had thrown any stones, but would not, or could not, explain why his pockets still contained stones.
I told him that I would not stay in the house another minute and asked Miss Kaye, who had not said a word although present throughout the scene, to drive me to the nearest hotel so that I could telephone the Daily Mail an exposure of Price.
I asked Price how he thought he could deceive me when I had been so critical of 'happenings' at previous séances and investigations which he had conducted.
He made no real attempt to defend himself and sat rather
numbed in the hotel lounge when I went off to telephone the Daily Mail.
When I spoke to the Daily Mail news editor and then to our lawyer I was advised that it would be unwise to write the exposure as there were two people who could deny all that I said and no one to support my account of the night's happenings.
When I told Harry Price how lucky he was he looked very relieved although he remained unrepentant. He just shrugged his shoulders and took the airy attitude that it was all very unfortunate.
I was very angry with him and did not hesitate to express myself.
The following day, however, we all drove back to London and my parting shot to Harry Price was 'Be careful how you pick your victim in the future'.
This extraordinary scene did not prevent Harry Price ringing me later to suggest other investigations which might make good news stories.
This account, is, of course, an exposure of Harry Price, not of Borley. There may have been happenings there worth investigating and, as I have said, I felt it to be an evil place. My chief annoyance with Harry Price was that his fake phenomena destroyed anything there may have been in Borley of a psychic nature.
It must be remembered that these events happened many years ago and I have not attempted to strain my memory to fill in what might be, with all good intentions, inaccurate details.
(Signed) C. W. SUTTON
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