The Rectory was Plagued with Frightening Spirit Activity for Decades
Phantom Coaches, Ghostly Nuns, Poltergeists, and Other Mysterious Phenomena
Borley Rectory was once said to be the most haunted place in England. Borley Rectory was constructed in 1863, on the site of a previous rectory. For decades, stories of paranormal events piqued the interest of paranormal investigators. One such ghost hunter was the infamous former journalist, Harry Price.
Regardless of the whether the following stories of haunting events were real, you’ll have to agree that Borley Rectory certainly had it all. Its paranormal resume of phantom coaches, ghostly nuns, poltergeists, and other mysterious phenomena, would most likely become a best-selling book if all the reported activity was somehow proven to be real.
The Church was Built in the 12th Century
Borley Rectory was built near the Borley Church by the Reverend Henry Ellis. Allegedly, the nearby church’s the nave dated clear back to the 12th century.
Every Medieval Church Has a Grisly Legend
Local historians claim that a Benedictine monastery was built on the site around about 1362. Of note, there’s a legend attached to the monastery that tells of a monk from the monastery that had a sexual relationship with a nun from a nearby convent. The legend maintains that after their affair was discovered, the monk was horribly executed and the nun was bricked up somewhere within the convent walls. However, no records exist to substantiate the story.
Borley Rectory’s newest house replaced an earlier rectory that had been destroyed by fire in 1841. Subsequently, this house was later enlarged by the addition of a wing to house the new rector’s gaggle of fourteen children.
New Owners Began Experiencing Ghostly Activity
The first paranormal events at Borley Rectory reportedly occurred in about 1863. Local workers heard unexplained footsteps within the house. On 28 July 1900, four daughters of the rector, Henry (Harry) Bull, saw a ghostly figure of a nun at twilight. They tried to talk to it, but it disappeared as they got closer.
The local organist, Ernest Ambrose later said that the Bull family was very convinced that they had seen an apparition on several occasions. In fact, numerous other people claimed to have witnessed a variety of startling occurrences. The most spine-tingling event reported was the appearance of a phantom coach driven by two headless horsemen.
In June of 1928, Harry Bull died and the rectory again became vacant. In the following year, the Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife moved into the house. Soon after moving in, Smith’s wife, while cleaning, came across a brown package containing the skull of a young woman. Shortly after, the family reported eerie incidents. Sounds of servant bells ringing despite their being disconnected, lights appearing in windows and unexplained footsteps pervaded the house. Then, Smith’s wife saw a mysterious horse-drawn carriage. Finally, the Smiths contacted the Daily Mirror asking to be put in touch with the Society for Psychical Research (SPR).
Newspaper Catches Wind of the Happenings at Borley
On 10 June 1929 the newspaper sent a reporter, who promptly wrote the first in a series of articles detailing the mysteries of Borley. The paper also arranged for Harry Price, a paranormal researcher, to make his first visit to the house. He arrived on 12 June and immediately phenomena of a new kind appeared, such as the throwing of stones, a vase and other objects. “Spirit messages” were tapped out from the frame of a mirror. As soon as Price left, these ceased. Smith’s wife later maintained that she already suspected Price, an expert conjurer, of falsifying the phenomena.
Yet Another Family Undergoes a Haunting at Borley
The Smiths left Borley on 14 July 1929 and the parish had some difficulty in finding a replacement. The following year the Reverend Lionel Algernon Foyster (1878–1945), a first cousin of the Bulls, and his wife Marianne (née Marianne Emily Rebecca Shaw) (1899–1992) moved into the rectory with their adopted daughter Adelaide, on 16 October 1930. Lionel Foyster wrote an account of strange incidents that occurred between the time the Foysters moved in and October 1935, which was sent to Harry Price. These included bell-ringing, windows shattering, throwing of stones and bottles, wall-writing and the locking of their daughter in a room with no key.
Marianne Foyster reported a whole range of poltergeist phenomena that included her being thrown from her bed. On one occasion, it’s reported that Adelaide was attacked by “something horrible.”
Note: What this horrible thing was, I’ve never been able to discover what exactly it was.
Foyster tried twice to conduct an exorcism, but his efforts were fruitless; in the middle of the first exorcism, he was struck in the shoulder by a fist-size stone.
Because of the publicity in the Daily Mirror, these incidents attracted the attention of several psychic researchers, who after investigation were unanimous in suspecting that they were caused, consciously or unconsciously, by Marianne Foyster. She later said that she felt that some of the incidents were caused by her husband in concert with one of the psychic researchers, but other events appeared to her to be genuine paranormal phenomena. She later admitted that she was having a sexual relationship with the lodger, Frank Pearless, and that she used paranormal explanations to cover up her liaisons.
The Foysters left Borley in October 1935 as a result of Lionel Foyster’s ill health.
Harry Price, Renown Ghost Hunter, Investigates Borley
Beginning in 1938, Harry Price, England’s foremost ghost hunter, spent many years investigating Borley Rectory. It started with a séance conducted on March 27th of that year, overseen by Price. The medium summoned a spirit that promptly announced that the rectory would catch fire and burn to the ground. Exactly eleven months to the day after this dire warning, an oil lamp somehow tipped over in a hallway. The building became consumed with fire and burned to the ground.
Interestingly, at the time of the fire, credible witnesses reported seeing a ghostly figures roaming around on the grounds. Simultaneously, a frightening nun’s face was seen peering down from an upper window through the flames.
Sadly, not much of Borley Rectory remains today as the ruins were completely demolished in 1944. Furthermore, there’s been no serious documented ghost activity recorded on the grounds since then. However, visitors and ghost hunters assert that paranormal activity is indeed still seen, felt, and heard.
Price’s Investigations Under Scrutiny
Later, Price’s investigation of Borley Rectory later went under severe scrutiny and some claimed he had hoaxed some of the phenomena he claimed to have recorded.
Were the Borley Rectory Hauntings a Hoax?
Although many now claim the hauntings reported at Borley Rectory were hoaxed, one might wonder why so many credible witnesses reported paranormal activity there. Although the hauntings have been mainly discredited, it is still touted by some as being England’s most haunted house.