‘The Haunting of Borley Rectory’ by Sean O’Connor

My Review (5 stars out of 5)

Moving into Borley Rectory in 1928, Eric and Mabel Smith discovered a human skull in a cupboard. Subsequent events suggested the house might be haunted. Within a year, the family had moved out. Reverend Lionel Foyster and his young wife then moved in and became aware of what appeared to be poltergeist activity. Reported in the tabloid press, the house attracted the attention of ghost hunter Harry Price and the events that followed gave the house its reputation as the most haunted house in England.  

The most exciting thing about a supposedly haunted house must be the possibility that it might actually be haunted. However, in this book, Sean O’Connor shows that the ghost stories were probably just that – stories. I’ve been aware of the tales surrounding Borley Rectory for many years and had always assumed that at least some of the sightings and phenomena must have some basis in fact. In this highly detailed and thoroughly researched account, Sean O’Connor reveals that while some events – such as the four sisters who allegedly saw a ghostly nun crossing the garden – could be put down to spooky shadows and youthful enthusiasm – other accounts, like the echoing footsteps in upper rooms of the house when no-one was actually upstairs, sound feasible. Some incidents, like flying pebbles and other objects were most likely the result of Harry Price’s slight-of-hand antics and his desire to promote his own reputation. As the Borley Report (published in 1956) pointed out, there was little evidence to back up Price’s claims and much to suggest several people played tricks on friends and visitors, keeping up the pretence of ‘spiritual’ activity for reasons best known to themselves.

What is most interesting about this book are the lives of the individuals who lived in the house and their various shenanigans and possible reasons for wanting everyone to believe it really was haunted. Though the pace of the book slows a little at times, it is nevertheless a fascinating account of what is most probably not the most haunted house in England.

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  3 comments for “‘The Haunting of Borley Rectory’ by Sean O’Connor

  1. 27/12/2022 at 3:16 PM

    Hi Colin, this sounds like an interesting demystification of the haunting. I hope you had a good Christmas.


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