Borley Rectory – Most Haunted House in England

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

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

Buyer Beware: Perils of Owning Haunted Artifacts

Categories
Lifestyle
Ghost silhouette through the door
Photography by Nathan Wright

It’s interesting the types of things that are available to buy online, a quick search on eBay will reveal a number of haunted and possessed objects just waiting for the right buyer. Whether you’re an amateur paranormal investigator, or you collect these kinds of things for a living, there are always a plethora of haunted items up for sale. While it’s entirely possible these things aren’t actually haunted, it’s just as likely that they’re being sold because the current owner didn’t realize what they were getting into. The most dangerous aspect of objects that are possessed by spirits is the idea of coming into ownership without knowing about the spirit that the object hosts. There are many instances of new homeowners finding hidden rooms in old homes that contain creepy dolls that were locked away and walled off in an attempt to keep an unhappy spirit at bay.

5 Reasons to Avoid Owning Haunted Artifacts

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“The Hands Resist Him” by Bill Stoneham (1972)

Dolls, paintings, boxes, and really anything else you can imagine has the ability to become a vessel for the dead. Spirits are in death as they were in life, their personality is translated into their afterlife–were they innocent and pure, or were they full of grief, anger, or hatred? These are the kinds of things that must be taken into account when you contemplate becoming the new owner of a spirit vessel. It doesn’t truly matter if you believe in the paranormal or not, tempting fate and pursuing ownership of haunted artifacts probably isn’t the best idea—and here’s why:

1.    They aren’t toys

It may seem like a fun thing to acquire, especially around times like Halloween, but in all sincerity, they are not toys. These artifacts are vessels for people who have died and they may not be happy about the circumstances under which they died.

2.    It could result in an unhappy spirit

If you don’t really know what you’re doing when taking ownership of a haunted artifact, then you’re already in over your head. Understanding spirits and how to appease them is imperative to peacefully coexist with them. Living with spirits is difficult, even for mediums and psychics that deal with them on a regular basis—it’s exhausting and will interfere with the way you live your life, so unless you want a permanent house guest that you can’t explain to company, don’t invite it into your life.

3.    Spirits can cause behavioral changes

This is kind of a huge one, having a resident spirit in your home can cause major behavioral changes. This includes, but is not limited to depression, anxiety, mood swings, strange thoughts, anger, as well as violent and self-destructive behavior.

4.    It could already be an angry spirit

If you can’t handle an unhappy spirit, you don’t even want to know what you would be getting into with an angry spirit—let’s just say that people bury, sell, or otherwise rid themselves of these objects any way they can for a reason. If you would really like to know the type of activity an angry spirit can bring, just watch a horror movie based around malevolent ghosts and you’ll get a fairly vivid image.

5.    They might be cursed

Bear with me here—you may not believe in ghosts let alone curses, but even those who don’t believe are likely to feel quite unsettled or disturbed after handling a purportedly cursed object. Whether the angry or otherwise malevolent spirit was cursed to be confined within, or it was used during a ritualistic curse, there is a lot of negative energy attached to cursed objects. Typically speaking, objects that are used during ritualistic cursing or, “black magic,” are disposed of, so while it’s not likely, it’s still best not to tempt fate.

An open dybbuk box
Photography by Marika Martinelli

It’s important to understand that most of these kinds of auction listings begin with the phrase, “buyer beware.” While there may be a few fake listings, this phrase isn’t just a catchy way to draw attention to the listing—it really means it, that’s why there are usually strict no-return policies on them—they do not want these artifacts to find their way back to them.

Much like the dybbuk box that starred as the main terror of The Possession (2012), they aren’t objects of fascination, they are to be avoided by those who would rather live a peaceful existence.