New Light on the Haunting of Borley Rectory. . .

In 1940, Harry Price popularized it as the “most haunted house in England” and then the knave set about to muck it all up with some of his own poltergeist antics. Those who had experienced Borley eventually came to believe there was something truly strange there and then eventually to believe that Price was responsible for hoaxing most of it. He was England’s premier ghost hunter, and until Borley he was one who frequently debunked claims of the paranormal. Therefore when he endorsed Borley Rectory as being a true haunt, people listened.

Attempts to debunk the haunting fell very short, however, long after Price’s death when members of the Psychical Research Society spoke with those various residents involved (those they could find) decades after-the-fact. There was a lot of rationalizing, and plain ennui kept the investigators from doing their own investigation.

rectoryfromtower

For example, Rector Eric Guy Smith’s widow came to fervently believe that there had been no such haunting and squarely condemned Price. The investigators were honest enough to quote her contemporary letters back and forth with Harry Price to show she had reservations, but they wouldn’t challenge her explanations. They liked Mrs. Smith’s excuse that the passing train lights were responsible for the glowing lights seen in the rectory rooms 7 and 11 (numbers given on a map of the house).  They thought this reasonable and didn’t see any reason to pursue anything preternatural. Yet as any map will show, this wing of the house was opposite the train tracks which were far away on the other side of the house. Borley Rectory was also surrounded by high trees.

Borley R-G Maps3

The train tracks can bee seen about a mile to the right of the rectory, still shown as the major building in Borley. Rooms 7 and 11 face in the opposite direction.

Anybody can look on a Google Map today to see the juxtaposition of the tracks in relation to the rectory.  Some staunch believer in the haunting, or for whatever reason, made sure the map still shows the rectory, as though the old demolished building is still standing in Borley.

Eric Guy Smith’s letters to Price indicate he kept an open mind and believed something evil was afoot, though he did not believe in ghosts.

Rector Smith was, of course, Anglican. And although the next Rector, Lionel Foyster was Anglican, his wife Marianne was Catholic. It is a fact uncovered by all who investigate such claims of hauntings that, frankly, Catholics make for the best “haunted” victims. Their teachings don’t really allow them to believe in ghosts. So that when strange things happen some tend to believe evil spirits are responsible. The Catholic Church is adamant. Ghosts do not exist. . . but demons do.

My own personal experience with the survivors of hauntings has revealed that amongst Catholics such anxiety was created in them during the “haunting” that they experienced its effects even when back home (in the case I am referring to the haunting occurred during a vacation). One survivor even experienced being thrown out of bed, and then eventually admitted that when she no longer believed in it (the haunting) the experiences stopped.

This pattern rings true in some of the most famous hauntings. The “demonologists” Ed and Lorraine Warren even used to warn those they consulted that the haunting could follow them if the moved. This was supposedly experienced by the Lutzes, the objects of the much maligned Amityville Horror.

I’m not here arguing the authenticity of various cases or of all the details and claims made about them. I am drawing a similarity– invariably the worst hauntings are experienced by Catholics, and the “symptoms” of the haunt follow the same pattern: such fear is developed that remarkable events take place suggestive of supernatural power (poltergeist) or the fear is so intense that somewhat unusual events in the house are given the most frightening interpretation and thereby the witnesses frighten themselves even more into an irrational state.

Arthur C. Clark even wonder if during such moments the brain and eye relationship is reversed and the eye acts not as a receiver of light but as a projector of what is in the mind. The “haunted” victim then is seeing an apparition which their own mind has created.

In the SPR’s superficial investigation of Borley Rectory the combined authors (their work culminated in The Haunting of Borley Rectory, 1956) state that Marianne Foyster leaned toward Catholicism. This statement was based on the fact she had been heard to pray to St. Anthony during one of the poltergeist moments in the Rectory.  Mrs. Foyster was, in fact, Catholic. Anybody searching Ancestry.com can uncover her documentation to Canada in 1924 and 1926 (years before the haunting in 1931-32) where she lists herself as Anglo-Catholic.

Everybody was eager to blame Mrs. Foyster for the haunting, since its most intense phase occurred during her first 2 years at the rectory with her husband. He was much older than her, and the excuses are that she needed to get away. She hated the dull rectory and wanted to live a more interesting life, and those who say she invented it all say that her motive was to force her husband to move away to another living.

It is a fact, however, that she maintained a flower shop in London for 18 months and was seldom at the rectory except on the weekends. When there the problems occurred.

Some of the events were childish, including the turning of water into ink– an old magician trick of slyly putting a pellet of ink into someone’s water glass.  Such pellets were easily available at all magical shops in London. Harry Price, though endorsing the haunting, admitted in private letters that he believed Mrs. Foyster was to blame.

She seems most certainly to have been responsible for some of it.

But most of this negative opinion of Marianne Foyster comes down to us through the sieve of the SPR in London. It was not their intent to besmirch her, but their level of investigation was not anything that lived up to the word. It was rationalizing based on what they had heard.

There was much that needed investigating at the Rectory, but little was truly done. Price took advantage of it. Others tried and came up with various haunting entities. But few have considered that Marianne Foyster may have believed in the haunting more than the naysayers have realized. Like all good Catholics she would have been raised with the teaching that ghosts don’t exist. But demons do. . .

It is this difference in Catholics and protestants that is critical. Protestants might be disposed to believe in ghosts, that is, surviving personalities, whereas ultimately if things happen that cannot be explained, Catholics will fear the worst. Those I have known have been sent into towers of adrenaline, and the far more interesting powers of the brain came to be involved, powers that could throw a person from bed in a fit of adrenaline.

The paranormal crowd of a 100 years ago explained why some did not experience a haunting in a house and others seemed to act as a conduit for it. The explanation was: some are “sensitives”– the word used to explain the mediumistic. They had channeling powers where as most don’t. Therefore a haunting surrounds one individual and the others are only ephemeral witnesses to minor events in the house– moans, poltergeist effects– and tend to think the “sensitive” is merely hoaxing.

There may be a median ground between the two extremes: the “sensitive” is not channeling supernatural forces but rather is so intensely believing in the haunting about them that they are facilitating unusual events. Fear causes us to concentrate like nothing else. If you have the faith, say unto this mountain be ye removed to the sea, and it will be so.

The other explanation is a classic one: That the house is so designed (incidentally) as to house enormous electromagnetic power, and the “sensitive” in this case is channeling this power to create (inadvertantly) the effects of the haunting.

All the theories underscore one thing: some houses are very different. Strange events happen to some within them and not to others, and no one can come up with a satisfactory all-encompassing explanation. The house then truly is haunted. . . . but by what?

*         *          *

Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.

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