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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Borley Rectory – Most Haunted House in England

There are many, many demon houses in America – from the hauntings of Amityville to Georgia to Connecticut and every state in between. But there’s another Gothic-style home that came far before any of these famous hauntings – across the pond and described as “the most haunted house in England” by famed psychic researcher Harry Price. Yes, we’re talking about Borley Rectory. Built in 1862 and demolished in 1944, there were claims of paranormal activity within the house for many decades – from owners, paranormal experts, visitors and more for many decades after the house was destroyed. Sure, there were a few skeptics… but what haunting legend doesn’t have its haters? Read on to learn more about Borley Rectory and the horror it bestowed upon Britain many years ago.

The Reverend

Quite a few hauntings around demon houses involve religion, whether it’s regarding a nun spirit (wait for it) or the priest who is forced to come in and perform an exorcism on the property. The difference with Borley Rectory, however, is that it was made specifically for Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull to live in after becoming rector of the parish. The manor was built after the previous rectory had burned to the ground just one year prior… and immediately became a source of gossip for the townspeople. Partly for the gothic exterior that stood out in a rural suburban town, and partly for the spirits that were seen wandering the grounds throughout the years.

Borely Rectory Image from 1800's

Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull lived there with his fourteen children until his death in 1892, and those three decades were supposedly filled with all types of paranormal activity and unexplained events – a claim which would be supported by later owners. His daughters were the first ones who claimed to see the ghostly nun – which would become one of the most prominent spiritual figures within the home and an apparition seen by many people of Borley. Despite these claims of ghostly activity, the Bull family owned the house until 1927 when the Reverend’s eldest son died. That’s when Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife moved in and began to ask questions that the Bulls never had. 

Society for Psychical Research

Society for Psychical Research

When you find the skull of a young woman in one of the cupboards of your new house, like the Smiths did, it’s likely that you’d have a few questions. Especially since the paranormal activity at Borley Rectory reached a peak right after this discovery of human remains. The couple apparently saw a headless horseman pulling the carriage while they heard unexplained footsteps and servant bells ringing… which prompted them to contact The Daily Mirror and plead for contact with the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). That’s how the Smiths met Harry Price, the famed paranormal investigator who would later call Borley Rectory “the most haunted house in England.”

Price’s presence in the house only upset the spirits, and his report of terrifying experiences at Borley Rectory included objects being thrown and “spirit messages” in the mirror. As could be expected, this phenomena came to a halt shortly after Price left the house. While the investigator had many skeptics who doubted his claims of paranormal activity at the house, including Mrs. Smith herself, his experiences captured the attention of people far outside of Borley and contributed to the house’s infamy. It’s also worth noting that many other paranormal investigators over the years, including famed ghosthunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, supported the idea of frightening phenomena within Borley Rectory. 

The Smiths stayed in the house for only a couple years, being replaced by Reverend Lionel Algernon Foyster and his wife Marianne in 1929. This family reported far more frightening events than those before them – including being locked in rooms, threatening mirror messages, and being violently thrown from the bed. The Reverend compiled an entire report of paranormal phenomena that they experienced during their time at Borley Rectory, which caused Harry Prince to circle back around and become even more interested in the house. While he failed to exorcise the property on two occasions, he drew enormous attention to Borley Rectory and inspired many ghosthunters and mediums to attend and study the ghosts within the walls. How popular was this home in the city of Essex, exactly? Let this quote from The Daily Mirror tell you. 

Daily Mirror Borely Rectory 1929

“The rectory continues to receive the unwelcome attention of hundreds of curious people, and at night the headlights of their cars may be seen for miles around. One ‘enterprising’ firm even ran a motor coach to the Rectory, inviting the public ‘to come and see the Borley Ghost’, while cases of rowdyism were frequent.’”

The Spirits

After the Foysters left Borley Rectory in 1935, Price would move in and spend years experimenting with the paranormal phenomena in the house. He held seances, hired psychics, and recorded instances with meticulous detail to uncover the history of the house. The closest he got was one instance in 1938, in which medium Helen Glanville was reported as having made successful contact with a nun and an unidentified male spirit. The man even predicted that the Borley Rectory would be destroyed in a fire in March of that year. Spoiler alert: he was right. 

Despite the fire badly damaging the house and the entire demolition of the property in 1944, there has been continued interest in the ghostly activity within Borley Rectory. Both from Harry Prince and the many ghost hunters that came after him. What’s the deal with the nun, and why exactly did the Foysters experience more terror than any other family?

There are plenty of books, movies and mini-series that you can check out for answers, as you become immersed in the mystery of Borley Rectory. 

Books

Films

Borley Rectory horror film 2017

Borley Rectory horror film 2017 poster

The Haunting of the Borely Rectory 2019

The Haunting of the Borely Rectory 2019 horror movie poster

The Banishing Coming 2021

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Horror Mystery and Lore

The True Abilities of a Poltergeist

The Mysterious History of the Poltergeist

Poltergeist reaching for the clown doll
Artwork by Mary Farnstrom

Poltergeists are often connected with ghosts, and while it’s true that ghosts can be poltergeists, poltergeists are not always ghosts. Categorized by their noisy nature, their ability to move objects, as well as various other physical disturbances. The term poltergeist comes from the German language, poltern, “to knock,” and geist, “spirit,” and in England the poltergeist is often synonymous with the boggart. These mischievous and often malevolent spirits date back to ancient Rome, as well as medieval Germany, China, Wales, and they continue to be reported from elsewhere in the world to this day. These impish spirits have not changed much over the year in how they present, except for taking into account the evolution of technology. In ancient reports, the reports showed that would throw rocks, dirt, and other objects, cause loud noises, knocking, strange lights, and unexplainable shrieks, as well as physical and sexual assaults that would leave their victims shaken. Modern reports have included lightbulbs spinning in their sockets and telephones repeatedly dialing the same number.

Physical assaults—scratching, spitting, biting, pinching, punching and sexual molestation—usually only appear in a small number of cases, but they are still consistently prevalent among cases over the years. Overall, the activity doesn’t just peter out, it stops as suddenly as it starts, but the length of time the victims are affected varies so widely that the end is never predictable. Whether the victim ends up suffering for a few hours, a few months, or a few years, it is never a permanent affliction. One intriguing aspect of poltergeist infestations is the fact that the activity is usually centralized around a single individual, or “agent”.

Researching the Poltergeist Phenomenon

The phenomenon of poltergeists has been researched in-depth at a scientific level since the late 1970s by parapsychologists and they have come up with several theories as possible explanations. Alan Gauld and A.D. Cornell, English researchers of the time collected the data from 500 separate instances of poltergeists dating back from the 1800s. Among the characteristics that these cases had in common, about two-thirds of all cases included small objects moving from their original location.  Over half of the cases showed that the poltergeists were most active at night, and many individual incidents lasted longer than a year. Some other disturbing coincidences were that quite a few cases were focused around females under the age of twenty.

Before the 19th century, poltergeist activity was blamed primarily on the paranormal—spirits, witches, demons, and most often the Devil. At the turn of the century, however, a large spiritualism movement began, where mediums would routinely allow themselves to become temporarily possessed as a conduit to those who have passed. There were several researchers who began to investigate the idea of unconscious psychokinesis, alluding to the idea that the individual that the activity centralized around, was, in fact, the cause of it all. This isn’t to say that they were being accused of faking the activity, but more likely causing it without their own knowledge and although this theory began to be explored in the 1930s, it is still considered fairly controversial in nature. It’s important to take into consideration that the majority of these reports were recorded between 1840 and 1920 before the phenomenon came under the scrutiny of modern scientific research.

Poltergeists in History and Modern Culture

The Amityville Haunting

Ron DeFeo Jr., the infamous murderer of Amityville still lives and he continues to serve his six 25-year life sentences in the New York Correctional Facility; his initial story consisted of him claiming to hear voices that were convincing him to kill his entire family, but then his story changed, multiple times since. While DeFeo now claims that he didn’t murder his entire family, the details have gotten so fuzzy over the years that it’s still incredibly difficult to tell if this was an actual case of possession—which later resulted in poltergeist activity for the Lutz family—or if the entire thing was a hoax propagated by the Lutz family. It’s widely theorized by skeptics that the Lutz family intended to cash-in on the mass murder committed by DeFeo, due to a problematic financial and legal condition so they could take advantage of the publicity. It makes sense to take the view of the skeptic, it’s never a good idea to accept anything on blind faith, but much of the evidence and first-hand accounts disagree with the skeptic’s point of view.

Why do we believe them? Well, even though it’s been proven that lie detector tests are not infallible, George and Kathy Lutz weren’t trained to pass them, yet they did so to prove their innocence and ended up passing. There are also claims that George Lutz had a history of dabbling in the occult, we’re not so sure where we fall on this matter—this could mean that either Lutz was incredibly familiar with the symptoms of a poltergeist haunting, or it means that he was more open psychologically to the idea and the poltergeist took hold. The entire family apparently experienced foreign odors, cold spots in certain areas of the house, and reported a slime that would randomly ooze out of the walls and keyholes. One tidbit that could be an embellishment, was the allegation that George Lutz would wake up at 3:15 AM every morning, which was when Ron DeFeo Jr. was said to have committed the murders.

Aside from observers from outside of the Lutz family, there was the priest that was called in to bless the home, who reported having heard a voice scream to, “get out!” Due to his own personal experience, he advised the family to never sleep in that room again. The paranormal activity within the house only increased from there, with a garage door opening and closing, as well as a knife being knocked down in the kitchen by invisible forces. This all escalated even further to every member of the family except for George, who observed the phenomenon, levitating off of their respective beds. Daniel Lutz, one of the sons continues to have nightmares about this house even to this day.

The Truth Behind Amityville?

The following video addresses both skeptics and believers when it comes to the Amityville haunting, so why not hear both sides?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvXU11Kyj5E
Amityville Horror The True Story

The Ash Manor Haunting

Poltergeist as an apparition on the bed
Photography by Jrwooley6

Investigated in 1936, Dr. Nandor Fodor became incredibly popular for his controversial poltergeist theory about the Ash Manor Ghost. The actual case reports that shortly after moving into the old house, the owner, Mr. Keel and his wife began to encounter a strange apparition dressed in an Elizabethan era smock—as well as hear strange loud knocking—upon trying to confront this intruder, Mr. and Mrs. Keel found that trying to touch the apparition that their hands would go right through it. Fearing the worst for his family, Keel hired a medium, as well as various psychic investigators. This resulted in the medium suggesting that all of these happenings were the result of strained family life, a tell-tale sign of poltergeist activity. The final result of Dr. Fodor was that people, “who put themselves in an unguarded psychological position,” are likely to be more vulnerable to hauntings and poltergeist attacks.

The Enfield Haunting

In the book, This House is Haunted (2011), the account of the Enfield Haunting is given in full, which also inspired The Conjuring 2 (2016), part of the great paranormal franchise that follows the investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren throughout the years. The Enfield case is possibly one of the most famous poltergeist hauntings ever recorded. Originating late August of 1977, in the suburb of North London, the house in Enfield was inhabited by a single mother and her four children; the initial report was of the two middle children experiencing their beds shaking violently, and shuffling sounds when the children were in their shared room. At that point, the mother Peggy, was not entirely convinced that it was actually happening.

Peggy and her two middle children were all witness to when sudden furniture movements and loud knocking with no origin began, at which time Peggy sought the help of her neighbors. Once her neighbors witnessed the knocking but had no explanation for it, the police were called in. The police were even hard-pressed to find an explanation behind the knocking and furniture movement that they ended up witnessing upon responding to the call. The Enfield case eventually subsided for a time, before being reignited a short while later lasting for a few years in total.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHPYriXhNW8
The Enfield Haunting – A Real Life Haunting (2016)

Films that feature poltergeists