The Most Haunted House in England


Borley Rectory is a lonely place and would be largely forgotten today if not for the fact that it is known as “The Most Haunted House in England”.

In 1940 Harry Price wrote a book about Borley Rectory, a large, ugly, red-brick building with a stable and an adjacent farm, that faced the village church. 

Unless you’ve been there, the small village of Borley, near Sudbury, in Essex is not the sort of place one would normally think to associate with ghoulish spectres, yet the area has a sinister reputation known throughout the country.  The Rector and his wife confirmed the strange events documented in that book and added numerous other details.

The Author Quoted From His Book:

“The News Editor of a national newspaper telephoned me saying that the Reverend G.E. Smith had appealed to him for help. The most extraordinary things were happening at his rectory.  Bells were ringing of their own volition, strange lights were seen in empty and locked rooms.  The nun had been seen again. Slow, dragging footsteps were heard across the floor of an unoccupied room.  A young maidservant, imported from London, had left after two days work and her successor declared she saw an old-fashioned coach, drawn by two brown horses, gallop through the hedge, sweep across the lawn and vanish into thin air.  She, too, saw the nun leaning over a gate near the house.”

Local legend had it that a monastery had once been located on the site and that a 13th century monk and a beautiful young novice were killed while trying to elope from the place.  The monk was hanged and his would-be bride was bricked up alive within the walls of her convent.  Price scoffed at the idea of such a romantic tale but was intrigued by the phenomena associated with the house.

Borley Rectory was built in 1863 for the Reverend Henry Bull.  It was erected on the site of an ancient monastery and the ghost of a sorrowful nun who strolled along the so called “Nun’s Walk” was already well known in the villagers at that time.  Reverend Bull had a summer home built overlooking the Nun’s walk so that he could watch the ghostly manifestations.  However, the spirit of the nun soon became something of nuisance: often startled guests by peering at them through the windows of the new rectory.  Servants rarely stayed long. The Reverend’s four daughters even saw the lady gliding across the lawn in broad daylight.  Apparitions now included a ghostly coach and horses seen racing up the rectory drive.

Up until this point in time, the ghosts at the rectory had been relatively peaceful.  All that would change in October 1930 with a marked increase in paranormal activity.  People were locked out of rooms, household items vanished, windows were broken, furniture was moved, odd sounds were heard and much more.  Mr. Price’s arrival seemed to have set in motion an outburst of inexplicable poltergeist activity.

The phantom nun appeared to have taken a liking to the rector’s young wife, Marianne.  She often had objects thrown at her, but even more strange were the messages addressed to Marianne which began to appear scrawled on the walls of the house – even while witnesses watched! However, despite attempts at communication, most remained unintelligible.  Though one certainly read, “Marianne, please help get” and another, “Pleas for help and prayers”.

Taking the bull by the horns, the current reverend had Borley Rectory exorcised.  The result was positive at first and the manifestations stopped.  However, it was not long before they reappeared in a new form.  Strange music would be heard from the nearby Church, communion wine would unaccountably turn into ink, the servants bells in the house rang of their own accord and a young child was attacked by “something horrible”.  The rector had had enough. The family left and all successive incumbents refused to live in the house.

With a team of forty-eight observers Price documented an extraordinary number of psychic phenomena.  The most bizarre was perhaps the results of a seance held on 27th March 1938.  A ghostly communicant from beyond the grave claimed that the the rectory would burn down and a nun’s body would be discovered amongst the ruins.  An extraordinary disclosure particularly as nothing happened.  Exactly eleven months to the day after the curious ghostly warning, an oil lamp unaccountably fell over in the hall and Borley Rectory burnt to the ground. Witnesses claimed to have seen ghostly figures roaming around and through the flames, while a nun’s face peered down from an upper window.

Harry Price returned again in 1943.  Digging in the cellars, he discovered the jawbone of a young woman.  Convinced that it was part of the body of the spectral nun, he attempted to end the hauntings by giving the bone a Christian burial.  It does not seem to have worked. Supernatural happenings are still reported from the site of the rectory and the nearby churchyard.  Borley has an eerie air about the place that visitors cannot help but remark upon even to this day.

A short program about the Borely Rectory was commissioned by the BBC.  It was scheduled to be broadcast on September 1956, however it was later abandoned.  The mystery continues…