The Borley rectory was built by Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull in 1862 on Hall Road near Borley Church. The reverend moved into the rectory a year after once he was named the rector of the parish. The house was built as a replacement to an earlier rectory on the same site as the one that had been destroyed by fire in 1841. They built an additional wing onto the house for Bull’s family of 14 children.
Bull died in the blue room of the rectory in 1892, and his son Harry took over as the rector. Harry died in the rectory in 1927. After this, dozens of clergymen refused to move into the house because the tales that had started to spread around about the house. As such, the house stayed empty for several months until Reverend Smith and his family accepted the call to move in, in 1928.
The rectory hadn’t even been built for a year before its first paranormal occurrence. In 1863, locals hear unexplained footsteps within the house. Four of Reverend Bull’s daughters saw a ghost of a nun at around dusk on July 28, 1900. They had tried to talk to it, but it disappeared when they drew closer. Many people claimed to have witnessed a variety of odd occurrences, like a phantom coach driven by two headless horsemen throughout the next four decades.
Once the Smith’s moved in, legend has it, Reverend Smith opened a cabinet in the library to put away some books and discovered a human skull sitting on the shelf. His wife gasped as her husband took the skull out. She started to worry that maybe the stories they had heard were true, that the house was really haunted. She guessed that the skull may have belonged to the ghostly nun, or it could have been one from the people buried in the Plague Pits.
Plague Pits were mass graves used during the bubonic plague outbreak of the 1600s. But, the skull could have been recovered from one of those pits when London started to build their underground railway. See, the first underground railway was opened in 1863, the same year the paranormal stories started about the rectory.
But the good reverend cautioned his wife to calm down before she convinced herself that all of the storied were true. Still, it was pretty hard to ignore the fact that there had been no fewer than a dozen who had turned down the position. He also couldn’t shake the fact that he knew that a former rector had a window in the dining room bricked up because he didn’t like seeing the ghost of nun staring at him all the time. But he tried to push those thoughts from his mind as he and the church sexton gave the skill a solemn burial in the churchyard. However, it wasn’t long before they experienced something that they couldn’t ignore.
This phenomena would start shortly after they got ready for bed. They would lay in bed, and they would hear what sounded like heavy footsteps walking past the bedroom door. Smith even tried to attack this think by crouching outside of their door with a hockey stick, but he never struck anything. Then they heard the moans of a female from the archway that led into the chapel. Key would get dislodged from their locks and were be found several feet from the door. Inaudible, hoarse whispers could be heard over their heads, and small pebbles would come out of the nowhere and hit them.
The Smiths shared their story with the London Daily Mirror, and Harry Price was notified shortly thereafter. During the summer of 1929, Price, along with his secretary and a reporter from the Mirror, went to the rectory and to see for themselves what was going on.
By the time they finished up their research, they discovered that while the current rectory was a modern construction, it stood on the site of a medieval monastery. There had been a nunnery close to the area, and its ruins could still be seen. There had been several legends surrounding the nunnery, but the most famous told about a nun who had been entomb inside of one of the walls wile alive as a form of punishment for eloping with a Benedictine brother, who would be hanged for his indiscretion. People who had lived in the rectory and several people around town had reported noticing the ghost of a veiled nun walking through the grounds. About a quarter of a mile from the rectory stood a castle where a lot of tragic events took place, ending with a siege by Oliver Cromwell.
When Price and his people arrived, they had lunch with Reverend Smith and his wife and listened the stories of what they had witnessed. As they were speaking, a glass candlestick hit an iron stove close to Price’s head, and covered him with shards of glass. Then a mothball rolled down the stairwell, followed by several pebbles.
During his time at the rectory, Price kept busy with research, conducting interviews with the surviving daughters of Reverend Bull, the builder of the rectory, and the former servants who had stayed in the village. A previous gardener for Reverend Bull said that when he worked there, both he and his wife heard footsteps in their rooms, which were located over the stables. They experienced these sounds every night the eight months that he worked there. Several of the pervious maids said they had worked with the Bulls for only a day or two before they were driven away by strange occurrences.
The eldest of Bull’s living daughters said that she had seen the nun show up during a lawn party during an afternoon in July in 1900. She had tried to speak to the phantom, but it had disappeared as she got closer. The sisters said that the entire family had often witnessed the nun and the phantom coach. Their father had been the one to brick up the window in the dining room so that the family could enjoy dinner without seeing the nun staring at them.
Mrs. Smith said that she had noticed a shadowy figure of a nun walking around. On numerous occasions, she had tried to confront the ghost, but it disappeared. Before the investigators left, the reporter wrote an article for the Daily Mirror where he admitted that he had seen the nun and heard the sounds of the phantom carriage and horse hooves.
The Smiths moved out of the rectory shortly have Price’s investigation finished its research phase. Both Mr. and Mrs. Smith had started to experience ill-effects from lack of sleep and mental strain.
These supernatural occurrences reached new heights when the new rector moved in. Reverend Lionel Algernon Foyster and his wife Marianne, and four year old daughter Adelaide moved in on October 16, 1930. Foyster had been a cousin of Caroline Foyster Bull, the wife of Reverend Bull, so he was aware of what went on there. They had only been there for a few days when Mrs. Foyster heard a voice calling, “Marianne, dear.” Believing that it was her husband, she ran upstairs. Foyster said he hadn’t said anything, but had heard the voice as well.
There was one time when Marianne set her watch by her side as she got ready to wash her hands in the bathroom. Once she was finished, she reached to get it, and found that the band had been removed. It disappeared and never showed by up. When Reverend Foyster started to realize that the tales he had heard were rue, he wasn’t worried, because he thought his faith would protect him. He used a holy relic to quiet the disturbances whenever that got really bad, and he stayed claim enough to write about his experiences in a journal.
For some reason, Marianne was the brunt of the most sadistic and cruel parts of the haunting. As she was going to be, she was hit in the eye and it slashed her skin and gave her a large black bruise. Another time, she barely missed being hit by a flat iron that shatter the chimney of the lamp she was holding. Whole one aspect of the ghosts wanted to hurt her, another part wanted to contact her. She would find messages like “Marianne… please… get help,” written on the walls.
After Foyster realized that Harry Price had shown an interest in the rectory, he reached out to inform of the renewed activity. Once he got there, Price and his two assistants started to examine the house from top to bottom one more. While Price looked through an upstairs room, an empty wine bottle was thrown and narrowly missed him. Shortly after that, they heard the screams of their chauffeur who had stayed in the kitchen to smoke a cigarette. The man insisted that he seen a large, black hand crawl across the floor.
Foyster showed Price a journal entry he had made on March 28th. This was after his wife had seen a grotesque entity while walking up the stairs. She had said it was a black, apelike monstrosity. It reached out and touched her shoulder with an “iron-like touch.” Price learned that others had also seen this creature. Foysters also said that the haunting started bring out items that were not theirs. A small tin trunk had appeared in the kitchen as they had supper. A powder box that held a wedding ring showed up in the bathroom, and after they had put it away in a drawer, it disappeared. Price documented more than 2000 occurrences of paranormal activity that occurred while the Foysters were there. The endured the harassment for five years and left in October 1935. After they left, the bishop said that the rectory should be put up for sale. It should have been no surprise, but nobody was interested.
In May 1937, Price learned that the rectory was vacant once more and offered to lease it so that could create a ghost laboratory. His offer was accepted, and the investigator gather a crew of 40 men who would take turns living in the rectory for a period of a year. Price outfitted the house with special ghost-detecting equipment and came up with a booklet that he shared with his researchers of how to correctly record and observe any phenomena.
Not long after Price’s crew arrived, strange messages that looked to have been written in pencils started to show up on the walls. Each time the discovered a new note, it was circled and dated. Two Oxford graduates said they witnessed the formation of a message as they were cataloging another. It appeared that they missed Marianne. It wrote, “Marianne… Marianne… M… Marianne… light… Mass… prayers… Get lights… Marianne… please… help… get.”
The investigators started to notice clod spots in an upstairs passage. While this is common for haunted places, it had gone unnoticed in their other explorations, as well as by the previous rectors. The investigators shivered and felt faint whenever they passed through it. They found another cold spot on the landing outside of the blue room. Thermometers showed that these spots were always 48 degrees no matter what temperature the rest of the house was. On Price’s last day there, the wedding band showed back up. To make sure it didn’t disappear again, he took it back to London.
Captain WH Gregson bought the house in late 1938, and renamed it The Priory. He wasn’t intimidated by the stories, but he was upset when his dog went wild with terror on their move in day and ran away. He would never see his dog again. He was also worried about the strange track of unidentified footprints that circled the house in the snow. He swore that they had not been made by any normal creature. He tried to follow them, but they disappeared. On February 27, 1939, the house was destroyed by a fire. Captain Gregson later testified that a number of books had flown around the room and knocked over a lamp, which exploded into flames.
On Easter Sunday, 1935, a group of people who believed in the haunting of the rectory joined Mayerling and Marianne Foyster for a séance. Among those there was George Bernard Shar, TC Lawrence, Sir Montagu Norman, and Bernard Spilsbury. The kitchen bells would clang during the séance and a bright silver-blue light seemed to emanate from the walls and the ceiling. Mayerling was blinded by this and recovered sight in one of his eyes. Shaw and Norman would not stay the night, and Mayerling stated that the events of the night still unnerve him.
Nobody really knows what caused all of the phenomenon at the rectory, and some have stated it was all made up, but too many people experienced something on their own for something not to being making the house its home.