Borley Rectory                                                          Back to Famous Haunted Places

by Walter Bissell
borley rectory
The Borley Rectory was built in 1863 in Essex, United
Kingdom by Rev. Henry Dawson Ellis Bull.  Despite
warnings, Bull constructed the Rectory on what was
believed to be the site of a haunted monastery that existed
here around 1362.
According to local legend, “a monk from the monastery had a relationship with a nun from a
nearby convent.  After their affair was discovered, the monk was executed while the nun
was bricked up alive in the walls of the convent.”  It was reported that the nun’s ghost
haunted the monastery as she looked for her deceased lover.  It wasn’t long until the Borley
Rectory had the same reputation.  It soon became known as "the most haunted house in

There were reports of paranormal events at the rectory as early as 1863.  Residents
reported hearing footsteps within the house.  In July 1900, daughters of the rector reported
seeing what they thought was “the ghost of a nun from 40 yards distance near the house in
twilight: they tried to talk to it, but it disappeared as they got nearer.”  Mr. and Mrs. Edward
Cooper, who lived in a cottage nearby, reportedly saw the ghost, and also witnessed a
phantom coach and horses.

When Henry Bull died in 1892 the duties at the rectory were taken over by his son, Rev.
Harry Bull.  Although he married In 1911 and was living in nearby Borley Place, it was not
until 1920 that he moved into the rectory.  During his seven year stay, there was very little
unusual activity.  On 9th June 1927 Harry Bull died and the rectory became vacant for one

On October 2, 1928 the Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife moved into the rectory.  
Soon after, Mrs. Smith was cleaning out the basement when she found a brown paper
package.  Inside it was the skull of a young woman.  From that day on, the family is said to
have experienced a number of incidents including “the sounds of bells ringing, lights
appearing in windows, windows shattering, unexplained footsteps, and their daughter was
locked in a room with no key.”  In addition, Mrs Smith saw the “phantom” horses and

The Smiths contacted the Daily Mirror,  a local newspaper and told them about the strange
phenomenon.  The paper sent out a reporter who wrote a series of articles about the
mysterious happenings.  The paper also contacted Harry Price, a paranormal researcher,
to make his first visit to the rectory.  When Harry arrived, all hell seemed to break loose.  
According to Harry, objects such as stones, vases and other objects began flying.  He
reported that “spirit messages” were being tapped out from the frame of a mirror and of
course the now famous levitating brick.  “Strange lights, ghostly whispers; a headless man;
a girl in white; the sounds of a  phantom coach outside and apparitions of Henry Bull and
the nun” were all part of Harry’s renowned investigation.  

The Smiths left the rectory suddenly in September 1930 and the following month Lionel
Foyster and his wife Marianne moved in.  Over the next five years, some two thousand
incidents supposedly took place including “bell-ringing, stone and bottle-throwing and
Marianne being thrown bodily from her bed.”  Other phenomona reported was wall-writing.  
The words “Marianne, help me, I cannot understand, tell me more,” appeared on the wall.

In March 1938, Harry Price acquired the help of Helen Glanville, an English medium, who
made contact with two spirits.  The first was that of “a young nun who identified herself as
Marie Lairre."  She said she had been murdered on the site of Borley Rectory.  Her
answers were consistent with the local legend.”  The second spirit to be contacted
identified himself by the strange name of "Sunnex Amures."  He claimed that he “would set
fire to the rectory at nine o'clock that night."  He also said that, at that time, "the bones of a
murdered person would be revealed.”   These predictions may have come true, but not that
night.  In February, 1939, the new and final owner of the rectory accidentally knocked over
an oil lamp while he was unpacking some boxes, and a fire ensued.  The fire quickly
spread, and Borley Rectory was severely damaged.  While many watched the rectory burn,
some said they saw the figure of the ghostly nun appear in the upstairs window.

After Harry Price's death in 1948, an investigation of his claims was made by the Society
for Psychical Research.  In 1956, in a report titled “The Haunting of Borley Rectory” the
SPR concluded that “any evidence for a haunting was hopelessly confused by Harry
Price's duplicity.”  Subsequently “Robert Hastings, an SPR member, discussed several of
the charges of duplicity and falsification of evidence made against Harry Price in a paper
to the SPR called “An Examination of the 'Borley Report.”  He was unable to rebut the
claims of paranormal activity convincingly.  Hastings's report was never published and is
often overlooked by investigators.  Fact or fiction?  You be the judge.

Ghost Pictures taken at the Borley Rectory:
Borley Rectory Ghost Picture
Borley Rectory Ghost Story
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