The Most Haunted House in England Terrorized 3 Families

The Most Haunted House in England Terrorized 3 Families

Patrick Lynch - February 24, 2017

Famed psychic researcher Harry Price once described Borley Rectory as ‘the most haunted house in England.’ Borley is a small village near the town of Sudbury in England, and the rectory was built for the Reverend Henry Bull (nicknamed ‘Carlos’) in 1863. The property was destined to be haunted from the very beginning, as it was on the site of an old monastery. Locals already knew about the Sorrowful Nun on the Nun’s Walk.

According to legend, the woman was apparently a nun from Bures Convent who fell in love with a monk from Borley Monastery (built in 1362). They tried to elope but were caught and executed along with the coachman who sought to help them. Apparently, the woman was walled up in the cellar of the monastic buildings; the monk was hanged, and the coachman beheaded.

The Most Haunted House in England Terrorized 3 Families
The Bull sisters. Pinterest

The Bull Hauntings

The first unusual events happened soon after the Bull family moved in. Several locals recalled hearing mysterious and unexplained footsteps in the Rectory. Henry Bull added an extra wing to the already large building in 1875. P. Shaw Jeffrey visited the house in 1885 and claimed to have witnessed stones thrown by an invisible entity along with other paranormal activity. In the same year, a respected former headmaster said he saw a ghostly nun on several occasions.

Over the course of several years, various visitors reported seeing the nun peering in at them through a window. The sightings became so frequent and frightening that Bull had the window bricked up. Reverend Bull died in the rectory’s Blue Room in 1892, and his son Henry Junior took over. To avoid confusion with his father, the son was called ‘Harry.’

In 1900, three of the female members of the Bull family saw a ghostly figure walking down what later became known as the Nun’s Walk. Another sister arrived, and the four women tried to greet the stranger only to find that the apparition disappeared. Harry also claimed to have seen the nun and a phantom coach. The ghost was far from shy, as she was routinely seen wandering around the grounds dressed in gray. Some witnesses said they saw the nun and monk walking together.

Harry followed in his father’s footsteps in more than one way; he died in the Blue Room in 1927. Borley Rectory remained vacant for several months although a local carpenter swore he saw the nun at the gate on four separate occasions. Future occupants were not as resilient as the Bull family.

The Most Haunted House in England Terrorized 3 Families
Harry Price. Rifflebooks

Harry Price Milks The Phenomenon

On October 2, 1928, Reverend Eric Smith and his wife moved into Borley Rectory. The haunting began soon after their arrival. Smith’s wife found a brown paper bag containing a young woman’s skull when trying to clean out a cupboard. Smith claims to have heard the words “Don’t Carlos, Don’t” along with the doorbell ringing even when disconnected, pebbles thrown, unexplained footsteps, lights appearing in windows, and an array of unusual activity. Smith’s wife also said she saw a horse-drawn carriage one night.

The Reverend contacted the Daily Mirror newspaper and asked to be put in touch with the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). A reporter arrived to write about the rectory, and Harry Price made his first visit to the building on June 12, 1929. Almost as soon as he arrived, new haunting occurred with paranormal activity such as the throwing of vases and other objects. Some alleged spirit messages were tapped out on a mirror frame. However, these new issues ceased as soon as Price left. Smith’s wife believed that Price was faking new ghostly sightings.

The Foyster Fake Hauntings

Unable to take it any longer, the Smiths left on July 14, 1929. Borley Rectory had now acquired a level of infamy which made it tough for the parish to find a new pastor. Over a year later, on October 16, 1930, Reverend Lionel Algernon Foyster moved in with his family. He was a first cousin of the Bull family, but it didn’t take him long to regret the decision to live in the rectory.

The hauntings were worse than ever; Price later described this period as the ‘most extraordinary documented case of haunting in the annals of psychical research.’ The Foysters somehow lasted five years in the rectory, and there were approximately 2,000 cases of poltergeist activity in that time. The Reverend attempted exorcisms twice, but failed to remove the spirits from the home. Phenomena including writing appearing on the walls, windows shattering, the Reverend’s wife thrown from her bed, and their daughter locked in a room without a key.

It later emerged that the vast majority of the supposed ‘poltergeist activity’ was fake. The reverend’s wife Marianne admitted to having an affair with a lodger and faked some ghostly activity to cover up her infidelity. She also suspected her husband of colluding with Price to create other paranormal activity. Marianne did acknowledge that she couldn’t explain all of the events over the five years. Several psychic researchers came to the rectory and concluded that most, if not all, of the activity, was caused by the Foysters.

Destruction of the Rectory

The Foysters left Borley Rectory in October 1935 due to the Reverend’s poor health. The building remained empty until Price rented it out for a year beginning in June 1937. Price took out an advertisement in The Times where he asked would-be investigators to spend a few nights in the house. They recorded relatively little unusual activity during that time barring unexplained footsteps and the movement of objects. No one saw the nun during this period, and the only other oddity was a slight chill outside the Blue Room.

A woman called Helen Glanville conducted a séance and Price claims she made contact with two spirits. The first was a young nun who called herself Marie Lairre. Marie claimed she left her convent to marry a man named Henry Waldgrave who was a member of a wealthy family. They lived in a manor close to where the rectory stood. According to Marie, Henry strangled her and buried her in the cellar.

The Most Haunted House in England Terrorized 3 Families
Borley Rectory after the fire in 1943. Harry Price Website

Another spirit apparently made contact in March 1938 and called himself Sunex Amures. He said he would burn down the rectory that very night and the bones of a murdered person would be uncovered. Exactly 11 months later on February 27, 1939, the new occupant of the rectory, Captain W.H. Gregson, knocked over an oil lamp in the hallway. A fire started and quickly damaged the house although the insurance company claimed the blaze was started on purpose. A woman from the nearby Borley Lodge claims she saw a figure of a nun at the window of the rectory when the fire occurred.

In 1943, Price excavated the rectory and found a couple of bones that belonged to a young woman. Borley Rectory was demolished in 1944, and during its final few months, a memorable image appeared on the cover of Life magazine. It shows a floating brick although skeptics suggest it is nothing more than a brick thrown by a workman captured in midair by the photographer.

Three members of the SPR investigated Price’s work after his death in 1948 and concluded that he faked most of the paranormal phenomena. Marianne Foyster admitted her part in the legend, and several of Harry Bull’s children that lived in the rectory before the Foyster’s saw or heard nothing during their stay. As compelling as the mystery of Borley Rectory is, the majority of the ‘hauntings’ were nothing more than hoaxes.