The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians. (Andrew Clarke and GH) These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Borley Rectory Crib-Sheet!

For a chat on Radio Suffolk over Christmas, I prepared the following chart that lists the main points that point to the conclusion that there is no need to think that Borley Rectory was ever haunted. They are rally just a quick 'aide memoir' of a very complex case. Conclusion? It all happened during the depression years when everyone was short of money. In those days, there was big money in spiritualism.


The
Legend


The
Truth


Borley Rectory had been the focus of
ghostly events from shortly after it was built.


Neither the original rector nor his wife ever claimed to have seen anything. Only three, or four, of their 13 children ever claimed to have seen a ghost. Several of them said the place definitely wasn’t haunted.

A contemporary diary of one of the daughters mentions no incidents at Borley rectory. When their son Harry Bull, the second rector, lived there, his wife, his daughter, and their staff, saw or heard nothing unusual, and weren’t even aware that the place was haunted at the time.


The rectory, built on the site of an ancient monastery, was haunted by the ghost of a nun, that was seen regularly


There was no monastery there or nearby.
The phantom was seen only once by more than one person, and then whatever it was, was seen in the garden, after sundown, at a distance of two tennis-courts.


A black phantasmal coach and horses was seen by the rector’s wife, her maid, and a tenant in the coach house.


Mrs Yelloly of Cavendish Hall, a cousin of the Bull family, did her social visits in an old-fashioned black horse-drawn coach at the time.


Ghostly events happened in front of Harry Price, an investigating scientist, a news reporter, and the rector’s wife, Mrs Smith


Harry Price wasn’t a scientist. He left school at the age of 15 and worked as a paper bag salesman most of his life. He had previously pretended to be an expert archaeologist and antiquarian. He was an accomplished conjurer, but was seen faking poltergeist activities at the time by three people independently. The ghostly events ceased as soon as Harry Price left.


The haunting then increased in
intensity and included Poltergeist phenomena, and bell-ringing.


Several psychic investigators visited at the time and concluded that the next rector’s wife, Mrs Foyster, was faking the phenomena.


There was ‘incessant’ bellringing, even though the wires to the handbells had been cut


All the service bells could be rung by anyone who reached into a hatch in the pantry or upstairs passage. A wire was discovered in the courtyard that, when tugged, caused all the bells to ring.


A strange supernatural smell of lavender occasionally pervaded the rectory


The largest lavender factory in Britain, Stafford Allen, was just over the brow of the hill, two miles away at Long Melford.


There were ghostly footsteps,
mysterious noises, and the rector’s wife was given a black eye by a ghost.


Mrs Foyster was engaged in a clandestine torrid sexual affair with the lodger. She later admitted that there was little in the way of haunting at the rectory that couldn't be explained naturally.


Strange things were seen by a visiting nephew of the churchwardens. Ghostly Wall-writings appeared, asking for ‘light, mass and prayers’.


Mrs Foyster lured the affluent Edwin to the mostly deserted rectory, as he was fascinated by the wall writings,
written in Mrs Foyster’s handwriting. Edwin was more interested in spirits than Mrs Foyster, and eventually had to be admitted to a mentalhospital.

The churchwardens were committed spiritualists but even they eventually suspected Mrs Foyster’s motives.


The haunting was the subject of a scientific investigation for an entire year by experts


A mixed group of untrained undergraduates and amateurs answered an advert in the paper and were selected by Harry Price. Even so they say almost nothing. Harry Price
visited very rarely.


A séance held at the rectory came up with several spirits, including a girl who died at the rectory. It gave many details of a nun who had lived there


The séance was held in Streatham in London. It was conducted by the daughter of one of the investigators.
The results were considered worthless as evidence by that investigator.
The girl featured in the séance had died in Sudbury. The investigator and his daughter had already checked the church register of deaths.


The rectory was burned down by a ghost ‘Senex Amures’ in mysterious circumstances


The empty rectory was burned down by the owner almost certainly as an insurance fraud.


Three people saw a ‘flying brick’ inthe ruins of the rectory suspended in mid-air


Two of the three people saw a demolition man throw a brick from the wall he was demolishing onto a pile. One of them took a high-speed photo as a joke. The third witness was Harry Price.


The partial skeleton of a nun was
discovered in the cellar during excavation by Harry Price, and laid to rest in the churchyard.


Some pig bones were found in the backfill of a previous investigation. These were then switched by Harry Price for a couple of cranial human bones. They were refused burial at
Borley Church, and were interred at Liston.

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