Halloween Special – Borley Rectory

Although burnt to the ground in 1939, Borley Rectory is said to be one of the most haunted houses in history.

Built in 1863 in Borley, Essex, UK, the gothic style Victorian mansion was constructed by Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull who later moved in. It was built on the site an earlier rectory which had been destroyed by fire in 1841.

According to folklore, a monk from the nearby church, which may date back to the 12th century, conducted a relationship with a nun from a nearby convent. After the affair was discovered, the monk was executed and the nun was bricked up alive in the convent walls. This account holds no historic evidence and may have been dreamed up by the rector’s children, however the ghost of the nun has been seen on the grounds of Borley Rectory, is she looking for the monk she fell in love with, hoping they can run away together?

In July 1900, Henry’s four daughters saw the ghost of the nun at twilight about 40 yards from the house, however, as they got closer to the apparition it disappeared.

When Henry Dawson Ellis Bull died in 1892, his son, the Reverend Henry Foyster Bull took over the house until his death in 1928 when the house became vacant.

The following year, Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife moved into the house. Soon after, the family reported mysterious incidents including footsteps, ringing bells and other poltergeist activity. The Smiths contacted the Daily Mirror newspaper who put them in touch with the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). In June 1929, the newspaper arranged for paranormal researcher Harry Price to visit the house.

After Price’s arrival, the activity intensified with stones and objects being thrown and spirit messages being tapped out.

The Smiths left Borley in July 1929 and in the following year Reverend Lionel Foyster and his wife Marianne moved into the rectory with their adopted daughter Adelaide.

The Foysters documented the paranormal activity they witnessed and sent the accounts to Harry Price.

The accounts included throwing of stones and even an incident where Adelaide was locked in a room with no key.

With his family being terrified by these horrific attacks, Foyster attempted twice to conduct an exorcism but with no luck, with the first exorcism resulting in a large stone being thrown, striking him on the shoulder.

Marianne later admitted that she was having an affair with the lodger, Frank Pearless, and that she used the paranormal activity to cover up the relationship. The Foysters left Borley in October 1935

Borley remained vacant for almost two years until in May 1937, Harry Price took out a year-long rental agreement.

Price and his researchers investigated the house at great lengths. The events at Borley were publicised by Price in articles, radio talks and books.

In February 1939, Captain W. H. Gregson was unpacking boxes after moving into the rectory when he accidentally knocked over an oil lamp in the hallway. The fire spread quickly throughout the house which was severely damaged as a result.

Paranormal sightings were still seen after the fire, including that of a neighbour from Borley Lodge reported that she saw the figure of the ghostly nun in an upstairs window.

In 1948, Harry Price died after suffering a massive heart attack at his home in West Sussex. After his death, three members of SPR investigated Price’s claims about Borley and published their findings in a book (The Haunting of Borley Rectory). They concluded the Price had exaggerated some of the paranormal activity that occurred in the house. They reported that some activity was either faked or due to natural causes (such as sounds from animals, wind etc).

Marianne Foyster admitted later in her life that she had seen no ghostly apparitions and in most cases the activity was caused by herself playing practical jokes on her husband.

Borley Rectory was demolished in 1944.

Most haunted house in the world? Or one great big hoax? What do you believe?

Read more about Borley Rectory on The Harry Price Website.


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