Borley Rectory is infamously known in England as that country’s most haunted house.
Built in 1863, on ground that was allegedly the former site of a monastery, the rectory was quite large. The first occupants, the family of Reverend Henry Bull, included 14 children and a small staff.
Strange happenings began almost immediately after the Bull family moved in. The initial incidents were fairly benign: ghostly footsteps and whispered voices.
Puzzled, Reverend Bull wondered what could be the cause of the hauntings. He soon learned of a popular piece of local lore that stated that centuries ago a monk from the monastery and a nun fell in love and decided to elope. They were intercepted and punished: the monk was executed and the nun was confined in a room that was quickly bricked up. Legend states that the two lovers have been spiritually tied to the rectory ever since and have been trying to find each other again.
As time went on, the character of the hauntings changed. Occasionally the Bull family were disturbed by the face of the nun peering through windows into the rectory. Sometimes the nun would appear in broad daylight on the grounds but would vanish when approached. The phantom nun and monk were soon joined by the apparently unrelated apparition of a coach with horses galloping up the drive.
The hauntings were disturbing, but not harmful.
That would change.
Many years later, in 1928, the Reverend Guy Smith moved into the rectory with his wife. They would also see the two ghosts but would additionally bear witness to bells ringing without being touched and strange lights in the rectory’s windows when glimpsed from outside. Even more alarming, Mrs. Smith discovered a human skull deep inside one of the rectory’s cupboards.
Seeking assistance, the Smiths contacted paranormal investigator Harry Price, who came to visit the rectory. With Price in the house, the phenomena escalated to more severe poltergeist activity such as objects thrown across rooms and rappings in the walls. Price came to no conclusions, but when he left the phenomena calmed down.
The Smiths moved away in 1929, and the rectory was soon occupied by Reverend Lionel Foyster, his wife Marianne, and their daughter. This would lead to the pinnacle of the strange goings on, as the unseen presences seemed to fixate on Marianne. In addition to the familiar phenomena, messages were scratched into walls begging Marianne for help (“Marianne, please help get” and “Marianne light mass prayers”), windows would shatter for no reason, and stones would appear from nowhere and be thrown at the rectory’s occupants. Marianne was physically assaulted on several occasions.
After the Foysters left in 1937, the rectory was unoccupied, so Price returned and rented the rectory for further investigation. He recruited 48 people to take turns staying at the rectory and to gather information on any strange events. A séance supposedly contacted a nun (or possibly two) and the ghost of a man who threatened to burn the rectory to the ground.
True to his word, in 1939 an oil lamp in the rectory mysteriously fell over and started a fire that caused significant damage to the building. Witnesses said they saw ghostly faces in the windows as the fire burned. Later, Price found a few bones buried beneath the house. He transferred them to a local cemetery and gave them a proper burial.
The rectory was never rebuilt, and the ruins were demolished in 1944.
For a building that once held so many puzzling secrets, there have been few solid reports of any recent paranormal activity on the site.
Famous Haunted Places website, pulled 8/17/11
“Borley Rectory,” Wikipedia, pulled 8/17/11
“Borley Rectory: The Most Haunted House in England,” Britannia Internet Magazine, pulled 8/17/11
“Borley Rectory” The Haunted Museum website, pulled 8/17/11