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The Ghosts of Borley Rectory

Updated on October 14, 2013
BORLEY RECTORY, 1892 | Source

Borley Rectory was an old Gothic-style mansion which had a reputation as being the most haunted house in England. Reports of ghostly sightings at the rectory began to be made not long after it was first built in 1862.

The History of Borley Rectory

Borley Rectory was built near Borley Church to house the Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull. He moved into the building when he became rector of the parish. An extra wing was later added to make room for Bull's family of fourteen children. There was said to be a Benedictine monastery built nearby in 1362. According to a local legend, a monk had a relationship with a nun in a nearby convent. The story goes that when the affair was discovered, the monk was executed and the nun was bricked up alive in the convent walls. In 1938 it became clear that this legend had no historical basis. Chances are the whole thing was just a story made up by the rector's children.

Borley, Essex:
Borley, Essex CO10, UK

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The Hauntings of Borley Rectory

The first reports of paranormal activity in the rectory were made in 1863. These mostly involved unexplained footprints around the rectory. In 1900, four daughters of the rector claimed to have seen the ghostly figure of a nun. They tried to talk to the apparition, but it disappeared when they moved closer. Other reported ghostly sightings included a phantom coach driven by two headless horsemen. In 1892, Henry Dawson Ellis Bull died in 1892 and his son, the Reverend Harry Bull took his place. The rectory remained empty for a while after the death of Harry Bull.

In 1929, the Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife moved into the home. Even with new owners in the rectory, strange happenings continued. A brown paper package containing the skull of a young woman was found by Mrs. Smith, while she was cleaning. Further sightings of mysterious horse drawn carriages were reported Footsteps were said to be heard, lights appeared in windows and servants bells rang despite being disconnected.

Harry Price and Borley Rectory

The Smiths wanted somebody to look into these strange happenings in their home. They tried to make contact with the society for Psychical Research. They also got in touch with the newspaper The Daily Mirror, who sent a reporter to write an article about Borley Rectory. Harry Price, a paranormal researcher, was also sent along by the newspaper. While Price was there, he reported strange activity such as stones being thrown or spirit messages being tapped out on furniture. Smith suspected Price of being a fraud. She thought he was behind a lot of the strange phenomena. Later, the Smiths left Borley Rectory and the Foyster family moved in.

Price continued to carry out his investigations and further examples of paranormal activity took place. These included writing appearing on walls, windows being broken and bottles being thrown. Marianne Foyster claimed that she was thrown from her bed. The Foysters left Borley in October 1935.

While all the strange activities were going on, Harry Price continued to have an interest in Borley Rectory. For many, Price was nothing more than a charlatan. Harry Price: The Psychic Detective by Richard Morris reveals more about the man, who was one of the most controversial psychic investigators of all time.

Fire at Borley Rectory

Borley Rectory was destroyed by fire on 27 February 1939. The new owner of the rectory, Captain W. H. Gregson, was unpacking boxes and accidentally knocked over an oil lamp. Later, the insurance company said that the fire, which caused a considerable amount of damage, had been started deliberately,

Were Their Ghosts At Borley Rectory?

After Harry Price died in 1948, three members of the English Society for Psychical Research investigated his claims about Borley Rectory. The results of their investigations were published in a book: The Haunting of Borley Rectory. The findings pretty much revealed that there was little real evidence of ghostly activity and much of what had been reported had been faked by Price. Some of the strange goings on were also put down to things like rats and the unusual acoustics caused by the shape of the house. As far as the investigators were concerned, everything at Borley Rectory had a natural explanation, not a supernatural one.


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    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Interesting. Never heard of Borley Rectory but I know there are lots of ghost stories connected with East Anglia - I wonder why?! Maybe it's the weather as there are often mists near the coast due to the low land and the sea breezes. It does have more than its fair share of ghostly goings on though. I think the fascination of such things is what keeps many of the stories going and who cares if it's true or not - makes a great read! Voted up and interesting.

    • Smireles profile image

      Sandra Mireles 

      4 years ago from Texas

      Nice story. I think that many times the results of investigation depends on the personal perspective of the investigator. Believers tend to be more open to possibilities and nonbelievers less open. There must be a middle ground. I believe there are many unexplainable events and paranormal activity. Thanks for a great story and a great hub. Voted up and interesting.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Very interesting story

      I wonder what the real story is.

      Never question the unexplainable I guess

      Good hub



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