Peter Underwood (1923  -)   -  Author & Ghost-Hunter

Veteran ghost-hunter and prolific author on hauntings and the supernatural, Peter Underwood corresponded with Harry Price in the late 1940s and received advice on the cases he was then investigating.  Through Price, Underwood was introduced to the Ghost Club and following Price's death has carried out an exhaustive study of the Borley Rectory case on which he is an acknowledged expert.


Peter Underwood - Veteran ghost-hunter & the successor to Harry Price in the documenting of the Borley Rectory case

Peter Underwood was born on 16th May 1923 at Westholm, Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire, the youngest of two boys born to a religious family, Underwood senior being an elder in the Plymouth Brethren.  Now often described by publishers as 'the world's leading paranormal investigator', he had his first ghostly experience at the age of nine, apparently seeing an apparition of his father who had died earlier the same day standing at the bottom of his bed.  During his childhood, his maternal grandparents lived for a time at Rosehall, a seventeenth century Hertfordshire house with a haunted reputation, possessing a particular bedroom in which guests reported seeing the figure of a headless man.  His interest in hauntings and ghostly phenomena began to take root at this time.

At the beginning of the Second World War, Underwood joined the publishing firm of J.M. Dent & Sons, working at their printing and binding works at Dunham's Lane in Letchworth.  Later he would move to Dent's publishing office, meeting his future wife there before eventually being called up for active service with the Suffolk Infantry Regiment in January 1942.  However his military service was short lived - after collapsing at a rifle range at Bury St Edmonds a serious chest ailment was diagnosed which made him unfit for active service.  Following several months of convalescence at Rushbrooke Hall in Suffolk, Underwood was discharged from the army and returned to Dent's.  On 15th July 1944 Joyce and Peter Underwood were married at St. Mary's Church in Baldock, east of Letchworth and soon after moved into the Letchworth house where Underwood was born.  Their son Chris was born there in 1946 and a second child Pamela arrived in 1949.

During this time Underwood began corresponding with Harry Price in connection with his own investigations and had already spent a night on the site of the former Borley Rectory with the permission of the then owner, the poet James Turner.  Price gave much advice and in 1947 invited Underwood to join the Ghost Club which he had revived in 1938.  Underwood eventually held the Presidential position at the Ghost Club from 1962 to 1993.  The two men had finally arranged to meet but on Sunday 29th March 1948 Price died at his home in Pulborough - their appointment together was for the following Tuesday and Underwood has surmised that the letter he received confirming the arrangements might well have been the one which Price sent from a local post box before returning to his house where he suffered a massive heart attack.  Following Price's death, Peter Underwood worked in collaboration with Dr Paul Tabori (Price's literary executor) and Chief Official Observer at Borley Sidney H. Glanville on a projected Borley Symposium which was to present a final summing up of the case using material from amongst other sources Price's third and uncompleted Borley book.  The project was subsequently abandoned due to Tabori's absence in America and Glanville's death in December 1953. 

In 1951 Dent's publishing office moved to London and Underwood and his family relocated to Richmond and later in 1955 to Twickenham.  Through Dents, Underwood met many authors of the day including Dylan Thomas and also carried out his own investigations of allegedly haunted places including the ruins of Minsden Chapel near Stevenage and a house where the owner had requested a reduction in the rates due to it being haunted.  This became the first 'official' investigation into a haunted house at the request of the local authority.  Through membership of the Society for Psychical Research Peter Underwood met many of the leading figures in British psychical research of the day including Eric Dingwall, G.N.M. Tyrrell, Robert Thouless, William S. Salter and Professor H.H. Price.  

In 1971, now based in the village of Bentley in Hampshire, Peter Underwood became a full time author with the publication of his Gazetteer of British Ghosts.  He has followed this with over forty more titles covering his work as a ghost-hunter and exploring the many haunted places of Britain.  For many years, until recent television programmes such as Living TV's Most Haunted, Peter Underwood has been the public face of popular ghost-hunting, taking part in programmes such as the BBC's The Ghost Hunters at Borley in 1975 and numerous radio shows which have featured hauntings and the paranormal.  His prolific output of books on supernatural subjects, including many gazetteers of UK ghosts, with their easy narrative style and attention to detail could well be seen as a continuation of Harry Price's intention towards his own later books - readable, accurate, not too technical but at the same time covering the subject matter in a comprehensive way.  Among his best works are the important Gazetteer of British Ghosts (1971); the 1973 Ghosts of Borley collaboration with Paul Tabori; the Dictionary of the Occult and Supernatural (1978); his 1985 The Ghost Hunters and his own autobiography No Common Task (1983).  The 1986 The Ghost Hunter's Guide also contains practical advice for those wishing to carry out their own investigations, including reproductions of the texts from Price's Borley Observers' Declaration Form and the Blue Book of Instructions.  

Peter Underwood is now Life President of the Ghost Club Society and has kindly contributed an Introduction to Harry Price for this website.



Peter Underwood Bibliography

gazetteer-british-pb.jpg (47773 bytes)A Gazetteer of British Ghosts (Souvenir Press, 1971)guide-ghost-haunted-places.jpg (32942 bytes)

Boris Karloff: Horror Man (Leslie Frewin, London, 1972)

Into the Occult: A Survey for the Seventies (Harrap, 1972)

A Gazetteer of Scottish & Irish Ghosts (Souvenir Press, 1973)

A Host of Hauntings (Leslie Frewin, London, 1973)

The Ghosts of Borley - Annals of the Haunted Rectory (David & Charles, 1973)

Haunted London (Harrap, 1974)

Danny La Rue: Life's a Drag (Star Books, 1975)

Deeper Into the Occult (Harrap, London, 1975)

The Vampire's Beside Companion (Leslie Frewin, 1975)

Hauntings (J.M. Dent, 1977)

Thirteen Famous Ghost Stories (Editor) (J.M. Dent, 1977)danny-la-rue.jpg (28706 bytes)

Dictionary of the Occult & Supernatural (Harrap, London, 1978)

Ghosts of North West England (Fontana, 1978)

Ghosts of Wales (Corgi, 1980)

Ghosts of Devon (Bossiney Books, 1983)

The Complete Book of Dowsing & Divining (Rider & Co., 1983)

Ghosts of Cornwall (Bossiney Books, 1983)

Ghosts of Hampshire & The Isle of Wight (St. Michael's Abbey Press, 1983)

No Common Task - The Autobiography of a Ghost-Hunter (Harrap, 1983)

Ghosts of Kent (Meresborough Books, 1984)

This Haunted Isle (Harrap, 1984)

Ghosts of Somerset (Bossiney Books, 1985)

The Ghost Hunters - Who They Are & What They Do (Hale, 1985)

The Ghost Hunter's Guide (Blandford Press, 1986)death-hollywood.jpg (19257 bytes)

Queen Victoria's Other World (Harrap, 1986)

West Country Hauntings (Bossiney Books, 1986)

Jack the Ripper: One Hundred Years of Mystery (Blandford Press, 1987)

Ghosts of Dorset (Bossiney Books, 1988)

Mysterious Places (Bossiney Books, 1988)

Exorcism! (George Hale, London, 1990)

Death in Hollywood: The Lives, Loves & Death's of Hollywood's Brightest Stars (Piatkus, London, 1992)

The Ghost Hunter's Almanac (Dobby Publishing, 1993)

Ghosts & How to See Them (Book Club Associates, 1993)

Ghosts & Phantoms of the West (Bossiney Books, 1993)

The A-Z of British Ghosts (Chancellor Press, London, 1994)

Nights in Haunted Houses (Headline, 1994)ghosthunters-guide.jpg (104427 bytes)

Peter Underwood's Guide to Ghosts & Haunted Places (Piatkus, London, 1996)

Ghosts of North Devon (1998)

Borley Postscript (White House Publications, 2002)

Ghostly Encounters South West (Bossiney Books, 2002)

The Murder Club (White House Publications, 2004)





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