Built in 1863 on the foundations of an earlier structure, Borley Rectory was too become known as the most haunted house in the UK.
The remains of what is thought to be a priory, that used to stand on the
site of the rectory are the main focus point, and believed to be the reason
behind much of what occurred at the rectory, with the story being that a
monk from the priory had fallen in love with a Nun from nearby Bures convent,
and the two had planned to elope to be together. They were caught and suffered
punishment of barbaric standard, he was hung, and the nun was bricked up
alive in the walls of the priory, beneath what would become Borley Rectory.
Henry Dawson Ellis Bull was the man who had the rectory built, and it was his family, he, his wife and fourteen children who were the first people to notice the start of the strange phenomena that would become so common, and frequent that they would make the house practically uninhabitable.
Although The Reverend H D E Bull was the first person to experience the activity, the first report was made by a Mr P Shaw Jeffrey; he reported witnessing stone throwing and other such poltergeist activity, while visiting the house in 1885.
Also witnessed several times in 1885 was the apparition of a ghostly nun, pastors who lived at the house, and also their families have all reported seeing the nun, and Henry Bulls daughters also saw the same apparition in the rectory garden, the ghost would follow a path, that was soon to be known as the “nuns walk”, before she would disappear into thin air. The ghost wasn’t only seen in the garden, but several dinner guests reported seeing the nuns pale face peering in through a window, this became so frequent that window was eventually bricked up.
In May 1892, Henry Bull died in the Blue Room of the rectory, he was succeeded by his son, also named Henry, and the younger boy, named Harry reported seeing the nun and the phantom Coach she was due to elope in, this same phantom coach, and horses was reportedly seen entering the front gates of the Rectory, and disappearing from sight.
In June 1927 Harry died in the Blue room of the rectory, he claimed that he had earlier had communications with spirits.
The Rectory became empty for a while, and it was while the building was empty that a local carpenter reported seeing the nun again, on several occasions, standing by the gate.
The next residents of the rectory was Reverend Guy Eric
Smith, who moved in during the autumn of 1928, and almost immediately reported
hearing muffled voices and whispers in the house, allegedly saying “Don’t Carlos,
Don’t”. It is interesting to note that Henry D E bull had been
given the nickname of Carlos during his residency of the house. During their
time at Borley, the Smiths reported witnessing small stones and other objects
being thrown, lights switching on and off, keys disappearing, footsteps,
the loud ringing of the doorbell. As a result the Smiths decided to contact
the Daily Mirror national newspaper in a bid to find some help with haunting,
and the paper sent along a reported to cover the story, and also approached
the famous psychical researcher, Harry Price who visited the house. The reported
listened to what the Smiths had to say, and as a result published the first
printed account of the haunting at the Rectory. He also reported seeing a
strange light through a window, and on the 12th June, Harry Price made his
first visit to Borley. During his first visit (accompanied by his Secretary
Miss Lucie Kaye), the pair witnessed seeing several small objects and stones
being thrown across rooms.
During Price’s second visit to the rectory there were more happenings to report, including the appearance of a Catholic Medallion, and incessant bell ringing.
After the Smiths decided to move out of Borley, the Reverend Foyster, and his wife Marianne moved into the rectory in 1930.
For the next five years the Foyster’s lived at the rectory, and this was the start of the most famous stage of investigation into Borley, and poltergeist activity as a whole, with over 2000 reported incidents occurring over the five year period. Strange notes appeared on walls and scraps of paper urging Marianne to get help.
Bell ringing, the appearance of Harry Bull, glass objects appearing out of nowhere and being smashed on the floor, books appearing, and many items being thrown, including pebbles and an iron were also reported during the first years of the Foysters residency of the house.
After an attempted exorcism at the rectory, Marianne was thrown from bed on several occasions by an unseen force.
The Foysters moved out in 1935 due to Lionel Foysters ill health making it impossible for him to carry on his work, and the house fell empty. Harry Price took this opportunity to lease the house for a year, and advertised in The Times for a group of "responsible persons of leisure and intelligence, intrepid, critical and unbiased" to form a team of investigators who would spend several nights in the house on a shift pattern, and document any paranormal activity, but the year long investigations were to prove not very successful, the nun was not to appear, and the only activity noticed was the unexplained appearance of a jacket, and objects being moved from their documented positions. Also the sounds of footsteps were heard, some witnesses reported a sudden chill outside the “Blue Room”, and other parts of the house were consistently colder than others.
The last people to live at the Rectory were Captain William Gregson and his family, until Gregson knocked over a lamp, and started the fire that burned down the rectory in 1939. It is reported that ghosts were seen at the windows of the building as it burned, and the image of a nun was also seen to flee the inferno.
Although the building was gutted by fire, the strange happenings did not cease. Strange lights were often reported coming from the ruins, and during world war two, Air Raid Wardens were often sent to the ruins to investigate the strange lights, only to find no one and no explanation for them. Cars are said to break down outside the gates and people walking past in the night have heard the sounds of a horse drawn carriage thunder past them, but see nothing.
Life Magazine sent a reported to cover an article about the rectory, and its demolishing in 1944, and a photo taken at the time appears to show a brick levitating in the air, apparently un-aided.
A Quick Note:
Well, I've just conversed with a gentleman who has written a biography on Harry Price, and who claims to have found letters written by Mr Price that say he believes Borley wasn't haunted. He did however wish people to believe Borley was haunted because he was near to broke after the depression of '29, his laboratory for Psychical Research needed patrons, and he wished to spite the Society for Psychical Research (SPR)
My opinion, well there's not too much I can say as I’m only working by statements and stories, from an evidential point of view there is very little way I can verify any of it. The fact that many of the stories detailing the Borley case are very similar, and close to the same could simply be because they have been told so many times, and re-written over and over again.
Much of the phenomena described in the article above is typical of any Poltergeist case, and I also think that Borley is a standard set for any other "ghost stories" or classic hunting’s, it inspires the imagination, and on that fact, many people would simply ignore facts and believe its true, even if evidence suggested otherwise.
Marianne Foyster was accused by several people of fraud, and creating a lot
of the phenomena during the five years she lived there, there are two points
that may prove to serve this as being true. The two main points are
1) the paranormal phenomena seemed to greatly increase when the Foysters moved into the Rectory, in fact, it almost doubled in frequency, and the rectory was deemed uninhabitable after the Foysters moved out.
2) After the Foysters did move out, and Harry Price leased the rectory for a year to investigate the haunting, the paranormal activity dropped off and hardly any of the phenomena described by the Foysters was experienced. There was some activity encountered, as I described above, but this is what you would expect from any usual haunting, cold spots, and occasional footsteps, but nothing of the continual and horrendous activity that was described by the Foysters.
I would love to be able to go back in time and be able to investigate Borley for myself, but that’s impossible so I have to rely on documented "evidence" and accounts from people who claim they did experience it.
©2006 The Greater Pittsburgh Parnormal Society™