When we talk about who’s who in the world of ghostly Investigations, one name that always springs to mind is that of seasoned researcher Peter Underwood. Peter is a long standing member of the Society for Psychical Research, Patron of the Ghost Research Foundation, and President of the Ghost Club Society. He has spent over half a century researching the paranormal and this, his 46th book features unpublished material and never before seen illustrations pertaining to the most haunted house in England. Borley Rectory.
Much has been said about Borley Rectory some of it is complete and utter nonsense, one thing for sure, just like the Roswell Incident the Borley hauntings have their own fair share of many witnesses to testify to the oft scary occurrences. The actual Rectory burned down in a mysterious fire back in 1939 (predicted by an ouija board session) but Borley Church still stands and it too can testify to lots of paranormal occurrences which in point of fact continue to this day. So, does this book tell us anything new, has it anything more to offer than the many other books of the same ilk ! ‘You betcha it does’ !
Briefly for those readers who are new to the subject of this major British case. Borley Rectory was situated on the borders of Essex and Suffolk and was built in 1863 (on the site of an earlier building). Various people occupied it notably the Reverend Harry Bull and his family and it was during the Bull’s residency at Borley that strange and quite frightening things occurred. Footsteps were heard walking along the dark corridors yet nothing or nobody was seen. Strange smells, the sound of kitchen bells ringing, a phantom coach and horses would race at an alarming rate near the Rectory, a ghostly nun was seen many times walking outside in the Rectory grounds. Scrawled messages would appear inside on the walls of the Rectory and on scraps of paper. Cold spots and ghostly voices were but some of the many reported strange things that occurred in this gloomy Victorian mansion house. It was the paranormal Investigator’s dream case, but for those who lived in the Rectory it was certainly nothing of the kind and caused many a sleepless night. O.K. let’s take a look at why this book shines above the other books that I’ve read about Borley. The first chapter of the book is made up from the author’s lecture notes from lectures given to the Royal Photographic Society, the Ghost Club Society, and the Society for Psychical Research.
The author tells us that the Rectory was built around a courtyard and a great bell was hung high up in the courtyard to get the attention of household members, however, this bell didn’t always wait to be rung naturally and would often ring very loudly of it’s own accord. The author was given this bell and it now hangs in his home, although he tells his readers that as yet, it hasn’t mysteriously rang of it’s own accord, he’s still waiting ! The Reverend Harry Bull was quoted as saying that spirits always seemed to do mundane things and that when he died and if there was a life after death, he would come back and throw moth balls around, ‘something different on would say’. Many years later after the death of Harry Bull, some researchers were entering Borley Rectory and were astonished to be met and hit by mothballs!! The early part of the book gives us numerous eye-witness testimonies from people who have seen what was termed ‘The Blue Nun’. The three Bull sisters first saw the nun back on the 28th of July 1900. Even after Borley Rectory was destroyed by fire, many people still claim to see this sad woman walking along the grounds near the site of the old Rectory. The author continues with incident after incident of strange phenomena, eventually the ‘goings on’ in the Rectory reached the ears of one of Britain’s foremost psychical researchers at that time, one Harry Price. Harry first came to Borley Rectory in 1929 thinking that this would be a short lived case, how wrong he was!! One of the things that Harry Price did was to excavate the cellars, and during the excavation he found human remains of which a dental surgeon confirmed were that of a young woman. The skull showed a deep-seated abscess which would have given anyone considerable pain. The sightings of the nun were always of a sad young woman who appeared to have been crying. Could this skull have belonged to her!
The author also tells that many people who have visited Borely Rectory found much to their surprise that their camera equipment malfunctioned, or that on development of their photographs, they found, much to their surprise ‘extra images’ on their photographs!! Part 2 of the book details a 1947 BBC radio broadcast entitled, ‘The Haunted Rectory’. This details testimony from witnesses and also those who lived in the Rectory plus the testimony of researcher Harry Price. This is a fascinating script to read more so because it’s coming back into the public domain for the first time in many years, and it really shows how strong the emotions were at that time. Something else which is also seeing the light of day for the first time is the so called ‘Anonymous Letter’! This concerns a letter written by someone and sent into the Editor of the Suffolk Free Press. The letter was eventually given over to Harry Price who believed it to be genuine. Basically it concerns the vision by two men, of the by now infamous ‘coach and horses’. Both men not only witnessed this coach and horses race by them almost knocking them to the ground, but were astonished at it’s final departure, and what makes this departure so special! Read the book and find out it’s certainly different!! Lucie Meeker, formally the secretary and librarian of Harry Price’s National laboratory of psychical research tells of the night they both spent at Borley Rectory in which Harry occupied the famous and very haunted ‘Blue Room’. Both Lucie and Harry were not to be disappointed and quite an incredible paranormal night was nervously enjoyed by both of which the events are described in full, (how I wish I had have been there!!)
There are so many incredible events that the author relates in this book all from witnesses who were there who experienced things first hand, that you begin to think “Surely nothing can top all this”! But I found there were even more incredible occurrences, and again the following is probably the first time this has been told, certainly in book form. We are told that the late Montague Elelman a former journalist visited the ruins of Borley Rectory in 1946, whilst there; he picked up a 17 inch charred piece of oak beam. O.K. nothing the matter with that so far, but this is where it gets interesting. He visited his married sister in London and placed the piece of oak beam in his bedroom and went downstairs to dinner. Suddenly from upstairs came the sound of intense shrieking, his sister came downstairs and said that she had seen what looked like a black garbed nun standing motionless in his room ! He hadn’t’’ told his sister anything about this piece of wood. ! Mr Elelman’s brother Mike was also a witness to strange phenomenon whilst he was in a room which harboured this very select piece of Borley history. Mr Elelman also took this piece of wood to his fiancée’s parent’s house in Surrey, and once more the supernatural intervened. Shuffling and footsteps were heard in the home, which they couldn’t account for. Mr Elelman was quoted as saying at the time, “It looked as if moving the wood was like shaking up ginger beer, which became all fuss and activity until it settled down again”. And what became of this amazing artefact! Again read the book to find out.
The author then relates his first ever visit to Borley Rectory in 1947 and his account makes for very interesting reading. However it’s the chapter on Louis Mayerling, whose book, ‘We Faked The Ghosts Of Borley Rectory’ (published in 2000) that truly shows the reader that this chap was ‘barking mad’. His book is full of so many inaccuracies and falsities that a prize should be given to him for the tallest tale this side of Jupiter!!! Louis maintains that the Borley case was the biggest hoax in history, yet when researcher Alan Roper looked into Louis’s background and checked his facts how he reached his conclusions, he found Louis’s Pinocchio lies were everywhere, even his birth certificate was false in the respect that it did not state what he was claiming. Louis did admit in a BBC TV programme in December 2000, that he had exaggerated ‘here and there’ (I’ll say!)
The author then presents numerous eye witness testimonies, many of which are given over for the first time. We also learn of the attacks by fellow researches on the credibility of Harry Price, again totally unwarranted and they waited until he was dead to say these things. The final segment of the book relates to Peter Underwood’s visit to Harry Price’s home on the river Arun at Pulborough in Sussex where he met up with Harry’s widow Constance Mary Price, and Peter’s wonderful style of writing makes you feel that you too are inside the home of Harry Price. This is a wonderful book and a joy to read, much of the information in this book is being presented for the very first time and the never before mentioned witnesses who tell graphically what they have seen, well if you don’t get shivers running up and down your spine after reading this, then you never will. Borley Rectory will always be remembered as the biggest case in the annals of the supernatural and quite rightly too. On this evidence, it deserves it.
TITLE: Borley PostScript.
AUTHOR: Peter Underwood
White House Publications,
P.O. Box 65,
GU27 1XT, England.
Reviewed by Malcolm Robinson, SPI (England)/BUFORA.