Borley Rectory was built in 1863 but it was not until 1927, when the Reverend Smith's wife discovered in a cupboard in the house, a brown paper package containing the skull of a young woman, that trouble started. The servant bells began ringing although their cords had been cut, unexplained lights were seen at the windows and footsteps were heard. Mrs. Smith also saw a ghostly horse-drawn carriage.
So unnerved were the Smiths that they contacted a daily newspaper and asked to be put in touch with the Society for Psychical Research. The SPR were interested and sent their own investigators to the scene.
Harry Price arrives
Meanwhile, the newspaper arranged for Harry Price to visit the Rectory. Immediately he entered the house, objects including a vase and stones were apparently thrown and alleged spirit messages were tapped out on a mirror frame. Mrs. Smith was suspicious of Price, for when he left the house, this new phenomena ceased.
The Smiths left Borley Rectory in 1929 and they were eventually replaced by the Reverend Foyster and his wife and daughter. They reported to Price that the paranormal activity continued. Mrs. Foyster said that she had been thrown out of bed and that her daughter had been locked in her room. Writing had also allegedly started appearing on the walls. The SPR's investigators suspected that Mrs. Foyster had something to do with it. She later admitted to not having been totally honest about some of the paranormal events but of having used them in an attempt to cover up her own activities. However, she insisted that some of the reported phenomena was genuine.
House's reputation established
After the Foysters left in 1937, Price continued his investigations at the house. He recruited students to spend time there and to make notes on what they observed. By this and other methods, Harry Price was able to obtain enough material to write three books, including the one that made both he and Borley Rectory famous, The Most Haunted House in England.
The rectory was destroyed by fire in February 1939 allegedly after a spirit message was received at a séance saying that it would be. However, the séance took place in March 1938 and the insurance company which investigated the blaze determined that it was deliberate.
So, what are we to make of the haunting. Even the SPR was unable to separate the facts from the fiction invented by Harry Price. But surely the Reverend Smith would not seek help from the SPR without a very good reason for doing so. Alas, we are unlikely to ever know the truth.
There is now nothing to see at the site where Borley Rectory used to stand. However from my experiences at Borley Church I know that the area is not without paranormal interest!
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