Borley Rectory – A classic English Ghost StoryGhosts
I have always been fascinated by this story, it’s got nuns, headless horsemen, the proto-Zak Bagans, affairs and accidental arsonists. What more could you possibly want?
Borley Rectory was situated in Borley, Essex and is said to have been the ‘Most Haunted House in England’. Yes, it’s quite a bold statement to make. The Rectory was built in 1863 on the site of a demolished monastery (I suppose this is the English equivalent to building a house on an Indian burial ground) and reports of ghosts and mysterious happening began almost immediately with reports of unexplained footsteps within the house.
On the 28th July 1900 the owner of the Rectory Henry Dawson Ellis Bull and his four daughters witnessed the apparition of a nun around 40 yards from the house, they tried to converse with the spectre but as the group drew closer the nun disappeared. It is suspected that the nun was the ghost of a nun that had been said to have lived at the nearby nunnery who had fallen in love with a monk who lived in the monastery that occupied the site, and planned to run away together. Their affair was discovered and, like all tragic love stories, the pair were sentenced to death. Over the next 40 years a range of different apparitions have appeared, amongst these was a coach being driven by a pair of headless horsemen.
On the 2nd October 1929 the Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife moved into the empty property following the death of Harry Bull the year before. Soon after moving in, Mrs Smith discovered the skull of a young woman in a cupboard wrapped in paper packaging. Shortly after this discovery, paranormal events started taking place, servant bells ringing after being disconnected, lights appearing in windows, unexplained footsteps and knocks. Interestingly, there was another appearance of the coach witnessed by Mrs Smith.
Investigation: Harry Price 1929
After contacting the Society for Psychical Research though the Daily Mirror, a reporter was sent to the house to write a series of articles about the house. Along with this, the Mirror also sent Mr Harry Price, a paranormal investigator, to investigate the house. He arrived on the 12th June and stayed for a year to investigate the claims and immediately reported Poltergeist phenomena like stone throwing and ‘Spirit messages’ being tapped out on a Mirror frame. Price is said to have gotten in to contact with the previous owner, Harry Bull, which lead to numerous exorcisms. Strangely this stopped once Price left leading people to believe this was falsified data.
On the 14th July 1929 after continuous intrusions from the Media, the Smiths left the Rectory. The following year Reverend Lionel Algernon Foyster, first Cousin of the Bulls, moved in along with his wife Marianne and their adopted Daughter Adelaide. Over the following 5 years Lionel Foster wrote of strange incidents in the house such as bell ringing, windows shattering, stone throwing, wall writing and the locking of doors with no key. On one occasion, Marianne reported being thrown from her bed and Adelaide was attacked by ‘something horrible’.
Lionel Foyster took it upon himself to conduct more exorcisms, leading to him being struck by a fist size rock. These reports were passed onto Harry Price. These events gained the attention of several Psychic researchers which came to the conclusion that the events were either consciously or subconsciously caused by Marianne Foyster. She later claimed that some of the events were partially caused by her husband in conjunction with one of the researchers and some were faked to cover her affair with a lodger in the house, Frank Pearless.
In 1935 the Foysters left the Rectory due to Lionels ill health. Leaving the house vacant for Harry Price to move in for a more permanent investigation over the following year.
During this time, Harry Price recruited 48 ‘official observers’ to investigate the house over weekends and report any paranormal goings on. In March 1938, Helen Glanville conducted a seance in Streatham South London where she came into contact with two spirits, one of which was a nun named Marie Lairre. She was a French nun who left her order in France to marry a member of the Waldergrave family who owned the 17th century Manor House, Borley Hall. She was said to have been murdered in a building on the site of the Rectory and disposed of either in a cellar or down a disused well. This would account for the wall writing seen by Marianne stating ‘Marianne, please help me get out’. The second spirit was that of Sunex Amures and claimed that he would set fire to the Rectory at 9pm on 27th March 1938, leading to the discovery of the bones of a murdered person.
27th February 1939, the Rectory had another new owner, Captain W. H. Gregson. He was unpacking boxes and accidentally knocked over an oil lamp in the hallway. This quickly spread throughout the house. This in itself isn’t too strange but a nearby neighbour at Borley Lodge, Miss Williams, said she saw a nun in an upstairs window and in August 1943, Price was conducting a dig in the cellar and came across what he described as the bones of a young woman.