Borley Rectory, the Parish Priest’s House in Borley and Ghosts

The priest’s house in Borley

In Borley, sixty miles from London, there has been a parish priests’ house known as Borley Rectory since 1863. In 1939 the house burned down, leaving only ruins. The house was rightly considered Britain’s most troubled house, and even the ashes continued to be a cursed place. Harry Price, a world-famous ghost hunter, published a book in 1940 called: “England’s Most Disturbed House: Ten Years of Exploring Borley Rectory.”

The unusual things that happened in that strange house have been witnessed by hundreds of eyewitnesses: the occupants themselves, their guests and parishioners, scientists and doctors, university students, engineers, Air Force journalists, army officers and pilots, and many other independent observers.

The set of witnessed phenomena is extremely diverse. These are primarily ghosts: the Nun, Harry Bull, the son of the first owner of the house; the Headless Man; the Figure in Green and the Girl in White; shadow-like forms: ghosts of horses, a strange insect, and even a carriage. Witnesses heard a woman’s voice, whispers and rustles, horses stomping, a dog running across the room, scraping, bells ringing, footsteps on stairs, knocks and knocks, sounds of moving furniture and doors opening, jumping, water pouring, objects falling, windows opening, music, and strange “metallic” noises. When they tried to find the source of the sounds, nothing was found.

Often and incomprehensibly, wall writings appeared: pathetic requests for help, demands for mass or prayer, and scratches and other signs on the walls. These appeared even when the room was under the strictest of supervision. Pieces of paper were also covered with such writings, but it was unclear where they had come from.

Sometimes it was impossible to open or close the doors without any obvious reason. Strange lights were seen in the windows of the house, several times spontaneous combustion occurred in the rooms, various household goods appeared, disappeared and appeared again. There were unusual light phenomena, or smoke without fire coming from somewhere. Strange smells – pleasant and unpleasant, a feeling of extreme cold, people felt as if they were being touched, and footprints of unknown persons were imprinted on freshly fallen snow. And very strangely the animals reacted to all this…

The most troubled house in England was built in 1863 by the parish priest Henry Bull on the site of a manor house, which, in turn, was built where a 14th-century Benedictine monastery had once stood. It is difficult to say who and when met the very first ghost in Borley, but already Henry Bull had heard stories from locals about encounters with the ghost of a nun who fell in love with the monk of the Benedictine monastery. The lovers decided to run away, but were captured. The man was hanged and the woman was walled up alive in the monastery wall. Her ghost used to stroll through the park, taking the same route, dubbed Nun’s Alley. Henry Bull and his family members had also seen this ghost several times, and it seemed to be harmless, for they were not very frightened.

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The first owner of the house died in 1892. His son Harry Bull took the priest’s place. His family also occasionally saw the ghost of a nun in the alley named after her. Ethel, one of Harry’s daughters, even mistook him for a living nun and came up to ask if she needed anything, but the ghost immediately disappeared.

Harry Bull died in 1927, like his father, in the “blue room,” which has since been considered a troubled room: his ghost, dressed in the same clothes in which Harry was buried, visited it from time to time. Some strange orbs were also reported flying around the house.

The building was vacant until October 1928, when Guy Smith and his wife took over the place and the parish priest’s house. At first the new occupants of the house couldn’t get excited about it, but soon their mood changed. Doorbells rang by themselves, keys fell out of keyholes or disappeared altogether, footsteps were heard, lights were turned on, boulders fell from somewhere. And it was mostly at night. The Smiths asked the Daily Mirror for help, and it contacted Harry Price, director of the National Laboratory for Psychiatric Research. He spent three days visiting the Smiths. Since the spirit hunter had failed to live up to the priest’s expectations – the unpleasant apparitions had not ceased – the family soon left the troubled home, where they had languished for nearly nine months.

The house did not remain empty for long. In October 1930, Reverend Lionel Foister, a cousin of Harry Bull, and his very young wife, Marianne, became its new occupants. They lived there for a full five years. During the first two years, the strange apparitions manifested themselves very vividly. Then their activity declined.

But in the most restless years at the Feister incessant ringing of doorbells, falling bricks, heard someone’s footsteps, screams and groans, sometimes the spouses in bed mercilessly poured water. Ghosts appeared – a nun and a priest. In the latter, Foister recognized Henry Bull. Strange writings appeared on the walls and scraps of paper, demanding candles, mass, and prayers.

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Foister was a graduate of Cambridge University, had a research mind, and to make sense of the damn things, he began inviting experts on the subject.

Harry Price, now visiting the Fosters, suggested that the young and unstable mistress of the troubled house had something to do with all these oddities. The latter usually occurred when Marianne was unsupervised or alone. She, for example, complained that the invisible hands threw her out of bed in the middle of the night, and once almost strangled her with her own mattress.

In January 1932, Justice of the Peace Guy Lestrange visited Borley and left us a detailed description of his experience. Immediately upon his arrival, he saw a vague figure under an archway that disappeared as soon as he approached. The miracles continued in the house, where bottles suddenly began to fly, appearing right out of thin air. All the bells went frighteningly “alarmed” at once, though the wires had been cut on purpose. Lestrange shouted: “If it’s someone invisible, please stop ringing, at least for a while!” And all the bells were intentionally silenced, as if held by an invisible hand.

In the evening, just before going to bed, the magistrate suddenly found the room very cold, and in the far corner of the room he noticed a speck of light, which, increasing in size, turned into the figure of a man in long robes. The judge tried to speak to the ghost, but it had disappeared.

In 1935, the Feusters’ patience ran out and they left, leaving the house in Price’s care. In 1937 he rented the empty house. He managed to live and work in this extremely unpleasant structure for several years, along with a team of assistants (volunteers, naturally). In March 1938, Price’s team made Ouija board contact with the restless spirit who had been doing all this outrageous work. The spirit reported that he was speaking on behalf of the nun Marie Lair, murdered in 1667 in the convent next door to Borley and who had cursed the place, and then warned that the house would soon burn down.

Whether it was really the spirit of the unfortunate nun is unknown, but his prediction came true on February 27, 1939. The house’s new occupant, retired Captain Gregson, was sorting out books in the library at night. Suddenly, a stack (a small cane) fell from somewhere above and smashed the kerosene lamp. The flames quickly engulfed the whole building, and soon only the walls were left. When it was over, the constable asked the firefighter who the two people were – the lady in the gray and the gentleman in the bowler hat – who had come out of the burning building. But Gregson himself was puzzled: only his two sons lived with him in the house…

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But the story of Borley Rectory did not end there. In August 1943 Price made an excavation in the cellars of the burned house and found human remains; according to experts, they belonged to a young woman. Price’s attention was drawn to the jaw: the condition of the teeth was such that they must have caused incredible pain when alive. And yet many of those who had seen the ghost of the nun spoke of her unhappy, pale, and as if distorted by pain!

Meanwhile, strange happenings continued even in the ruins: heavy footsteps were heard, strange smells were smelled, patches of light appeared, and sudden drops in temperature were registered. All this was recorded by a special commission, created by Professor of Chemistry at Cambridge University A. Robertson. The research continued until the end of 1944. The report recorded: of the 58 people who spent one or more nights in the ruins of a burned house, 17 have not noticed anything unusual, 22 were witnesses of the phenomena that can not be explained scientifically, and 19 described the events that are considered supernatural. Soon the ruins were torn down.

However, the miracles continued. In 1951, at the site of the alley where the nun had appeared, the ghost was again encountered. It loomed at the end of the alley, about ten meters away from the horrified bystander. It was the ghost of a woman in a long white dress, moving slowly toward the edge of the abandoned garden. Another person nearby did not see the ghost, but heard the rustling of bushes and the crackling of branches, as if someone was making his way through the dense thicket.

People later encountered ghosts in and around Borley. For example, when a couple was driving near Borley on Sunday, August 18, 1977, four hooded men in black and robes suddenly appeared in front of them. They were carrying an antique, silver-trimmed coffin. The couple could not shake the impression of the sheer physical reality of a mourning procession from the fourteenth century. At least, that is what it looked like. They immediately described what they saw, each separately, by fresh traces, and the wife also sketched. Almost all the details matched, including the skulls on the faces.

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The next day, the curious couple returned to the same place at the same time to take pictures where the funeral procession had disappeared. After the development, a small figure in a robe and with a skull instead of a face appeared on the color slide.

This text is an introductory excerpt.

Continued on LitRes

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