Harry Price at Borley
On pp. 76-7 of HBR the authors quote letters from Price's files, and extracts from his published writings, showing that up to c. 1938 he had believed that the Foyster 'phenomena' he had witnessed on the occasion of his visit to the Rectory in 1931 had been fraudulent. Yet in 1940, in MHH, he unhesitatingly wrote about other phenomena of the Foyster period as if he thought they were genuine. Price is thus accused of duplicity. On the evidence presented in HBR the case seems clear cut and convincing. But only a fraction of the evidence is presented in HBR. The situation is complicated, as we shall see, but when all the relevant factors are assembled it will be found: (1) that there are no grounds for thinking that Price's actions were dishonest; (2) that every step he took followed logically from what had gone before; and (3) that the opinions expressed in his various writings between 1931 and 1940 invariably reflected truly the views he held and was justified in holding at the time they were expressed.
The development of Price's beliefs concerning Mrs Foyster can be divided into stages and illustrated by quotations from his contemporary writing. Some of the following quotations have been cited by the authors of HBR. Others have not!
Stage 1 - Disbelief, 1931
There can be no doubt whatever about Price's adverse opinion of Mrs Foyster in 1931. It is expressed unequivocally in the letter to D. F. Fraser-Harris which the authors quote on p. 76 of HBR. Price wrote:
Stage 2 - Disbelief, coupled with a desire to have another look at Borley.
A few weeks later, Price seems to have become slightly less sure about his verdict on Mrs Foyster, and would have liked to make a further investigation. In a letter to the Rev. G. E. Smith dated 8/1/32 (HPL Extract), Price wrote:
Three years later, in a letter to the Hon. Everard Feilding dated 19/8/25, only part of which is quoted in HBR (p. 76), Price says:
The first of the above quotations is not cited at all in HBR; and the words printed in italics have been omitted from the second. It will thus be seen that the authors have withheld from readers the information that Price would have liked to visit the Rectory again, but was not allowed to do so. Against this background, the following remarks by the authors make very disturbing reading. They appear on p. 77 of HBR - only a page further on than the last quotation cited above. The authors write (HBR, pp. 77-8):
29 September 1931, when the Misses Bull called to see him at his office in London to ask him to visit Borley again, that his connection with the
There is plenty of evidence, over and above that which has actually been quoted, to shew that Price continued to be interested in Borley throughout the period of the Foyster incumbency.
Stage 3-Toying with the possibility of genuineness, but not toying very hard: disbelief still predominant; 1937-8.
Price's tenancy of the Rectory commenced in May 1937. Information that came to him under the following headings about this time may have made him slightly more disposed to believe in Mrs Foyster: (a) private information about her which made it seem more likely to him that she may have been a genuine poltergeist focus; (b) the 'squiggles' and other phenomena reported by his observers, in the paranormality of which he seems certainly to have believed; (c) the rapprochement with the Rev. L. A. Foyster, brought about by Price's chief observer at Borley, Mr S. H. Glanville; and (d) the 'Summary of Experiences' which he received from Mr Foyster, 11/2/38.
Price's views at this time may be gathered from the following extracts from his correspondence with Mr C. Gordon Glover of the B.B.C.
Glover to Price, 26/2/38 (HPL)
Price to Glover, 28/2/38 (HPL)
you appear to know more about Mrs Foyster than I do; it is news to me that she is a woman of highly strung and nervous character. I have seen her on two occasions, and she struck me as being particularly self-possessed and normal. But if for any reason, she wanted to get her husband out of the place, it is possible that she might have 'helped out' the phenomena. But, I reiterate, I was in contact with the house years before the Foysters came to England, and their testimony is not necessary to support the case.
Price to Glover, 11/3/38 (Quoted HBR, p. 76)
The above correspondence seems rather to suggest that for a time in 1938, Price had been toying with the possibility that some of the Foyster phenomena might be genuine, but that when Gordon Glover voiced difficulties, he did not press the matter and reverted to the Smith phenomena. What was obviously lacking from the Foyster evidence as it then stood was the first-hand testimony of some witness of standing other than Mr Foyster who would be able to say on oath, 'I was there: I saw some of these things happen myself'.
Stage 4 - Passage to belief, 1939
In 1938 Price interviewed Lady Whitehouse, and in April 1939 Price asked Dom Richard Whitehouse for his story. In a letter to Whitehouse dated 27/4/39 (HPL) he wrote:
The Whitehouse testimony was received by Price in August, 1939. It seems to have done more than anything else to set the seal on Price's change of view concerning Mrs Foyster. And clearly this testimony could inspire an honest belief in the Foyster phenomena, though this point is obscured in HBR. (1)
Stage 5 - Sustained partial belief, 1939-48
After receiving the Whitehouse testimony, Price never saw cause to change his views. He never seems to have believed that all the Foyster phenomena were genuine (Cf. MHH, p. 72). But it is almost undeniable that he believed in some of them.
Price's last known expression of views concerning Mrs Foyster was made in a letter to a correspondent, Mr H. de B. Saunders, dated 18/3/48, which was only a few days before Price's death. Discussing the wall writings, Price remarked (HPL) :
1 See Appendix C.
It would be beyond the scope of the present paper to go into the question of whether some of the Foyster phenomena might have been paranormal. This is a complicated question, and a very difficult one, for the seemingly more obvious answers might not be the true ones.
The present issue is not Mrs Foyster's good faith, but Price's good faith. In that regard it can fairly be claimed that a comparison between Price's expressed views and the material available to him at the time the views were expressed does not give any ground for thinking that his partial change of view concerning Mrs Foyster was other than completely honest. For present purposes that is enough.
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