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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Borley Rectory Known as “the most haunted house in England,” this very substantial residence of the parish rector, Reverend Henry Bull, was built in 1863. The first occupants of the house began reporting seeing the ghost of a nun, then a phantom coach and two black horses. Subsequent residents were frightened by strange whispering noises, creaks on the staircase, ringing bells, and a light that was periodically seen, from the outside, in the window of an empty upper room.
      In July 1929, when the fourth resident rector moved in, he reported that in addition to the usual ghosts encountered on stairways and in hallways, spirit writing had appeared on the walls and pebbles were raining down on the house. He managed to bear all this for six years, then moved out. He had children.
      Borley Rectory lay empty for more than a year, until the celebrated ghost hunter Harry Price took up residence in 1937 and arranged for colleagues to live there in shifts. The phenomena began increasing dramatically in scope and magnitude, dishes being smashed, sleepers being thrown out of bed, and strange artifacts such as a ring and an old coat “materializing” in unused rooms.
      In February 1939, an upset oil lamp ignited the old home (a poltergeist event, perhaps?) and it was reduced to ashes. Price's investigations and reports continued, even over the ruins of the building, for several years afterward.
      In 1955, the London Society for Psychical Research (SPR) issued a 180-page report following an extensive investigation of the Borley phenomena and concluded that there were no related events that could not have had rational explanations. More importantly, the report concluded that the most impressive phenomena had been produced by Harry Price himself.
      One event, the light seen periodically in the upper window, was explained by the fact that it coincided with the approach of a regularly scheduled train nearby. The locomotive headlight was reflected, for a few seconds, in that window.
      Still a favorite haunted house story in England, the site is visited regularly by curiosity seekers, and current phenomena are still reported to be connected with the nearby Borley Abbey.
      See also poltergeist.



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