Acquisitions (49): Harry Price

Harry Price: The End of Borley Rectory (1946)

William Hope: Harry Price (1922)

Harry Price: The End of Borley Rectory (1946)
[Acquired: John Perry's Global Village Antiques, Helensville - Sunday, January 3, 2021]:

Harry Price. The End of Borley Rectory: 'The Most Haunted House in England'. 1946. London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1952.

No trip to Helensville is complete without dropping by and seeing how things are going in the old Regent Cinema, now the home of Global Village Antiques, one of New Zealand's most extensive and fascinating collections of pictures, prints, books and general bric-à-brac.

Its owner, the fabulously knowledgeable John Perry, former Director of the Rotorua Museum, and pioneering Folk Art collector, generally opens his doors on weekends, and we were lucky enough to find him in a couple of Sundays ago.

TVNZ: John Perry (2019)

It seems somehow appropriate than one of the books I found there on this occasion was a copy of the second volume of Harry Price's classic account of the (so-called) "Most Haunted House in England", Borley Rectory.

Would that I had both books - the one above as well as its sequel! Still, never mind, one of these days I'm sure to find a copy - it has been reprinted a number of times, after all.

The other two Harry Price books I own are as follows:

Harry Price. Fifty Years of Psychical Research: A Critical Survey. London: Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd., 1939.

Paul Tabori. Harry Price: The Biography of a Ghost-Hunter. London: The Athenaeum Press, 1950.

Price, it must be admitted, is a controversial figure. Was he a huge fake? He certainly tried to cultivate a reputation as a hard-headed and 'scientific' ghost-hunter, and was instrumental in exposing some pretty dubious spirit mediums. But he also indulged in a number of ridiculous publicity stunts, such as his celebrated journey to the Brocken Mountain in Germany with C. E. M. Joad in 1932. Their plan there was:
to conduct a 'black magic' experiment in connection with the centenary of Goethe. The "Bloksberg Tryst", involving the transformation of a goat into a young man by the invocation of a maiden, Ura Bohn (better known as the film actress Gloria Gordon ...), produced a great deal of publicity but not the magical transformation.
Price claimed subsequently that he was only doing it "to prove the fallacy of transcendental magic," but follies of this kind did nothing for his credibility.

Eric J. Dingwall, Kathleen M. Goldney & Trevor H. Hall: The Haunting of Borley Rectory (1956)

His masterpiece was undoubtedly the haunting of Borley Rectory. This seemed - at first sight - to offer an abundantly documented account of a genuinely haunted house, complete with spectral nuns, poltergeist activity, and mysterious fires. However (to quote again from Wikipedia):
After Price's death in 1948 Eric Dingwall, Kathleen M. Goldney, and Trevor H. Hall, three members of the Society for Psychical Research ... investigated his claims about Borley. Their findings were published in a 1956 book, The Haunting of Borley Rectory, which concluded Price had fraudulently produced some of the phenomena.
The "Borley Report", as the SPR study has become known, stated that many of the phenomena were either faked or due to natural causes such as rats and the strange acoustics attributed to the odd shape of the house. In their conclusion, Dingwall, Goldney, and Hall wrote "when analysed, the evidence for haunting and poltergeist activity for each and every period appears to diminish in force and finally to vanish away." Terence Hines wrote "Mrs. Marianne Foyster, wife of the Rev. Lionel Foyster who lived at the rectory from 1930 to 1935, was actively engaged in fraudulently creating [haunted] phenomena. Price himself "salted the mine" and faked several phenomena while he was at the rectory."
Robert Hastings was one of the few SPR researchers to defend Price. Price's literary executor Paul Tabori and Peter Underwood have also defended Price against accusations of fraud. A similar approach was made by Ivan Banks in 1996. Michael Coleman in an SPR report in 1997 wrote Price's defenders are unable to rebut the criticisms convincingly.
So there you have it. The Borley saga retains its fascination whether any of it ever happened or not. It's alleged that on at least one occasion Price faked poltergeist activity by throwing a brick - but of course that doesn't actually prove that all the other apports and such-like were equally fraudulent. A good deal of it does depend on his unsupported word, though, and it does seem that a good deal of his autobiographical writing was also economical with the truth.

Certainly, one is forced to conclude, he was a colossally vain as well as a distinctly untrustworthy man. He did collect an excellent library of occult and spiritualist literature, though. He subsequently donated the 13,000 most valuable items from it to the University of London as "The Harry Price Library of Magical Literature." Doesn't that make him some kind of a hero - if only to bibliophiles such as myself?

Harry Price, Ghost Hunter (1947)

Harry Price

  1. [with Eric Dingwall] Revelations of a Spirit Medium (1922)

  2. Cold Light on Spiritualistic "Phenomena" – An Experiment with the Crewe Circle (1922)

  3. Stella C. An Account of Some Original Experiments in Psychical Research (1925)

  4. "A Report on the Telekinetic and Other Phenomena Witnessed Through Eleonore Zügen." Proceedings of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, Volume I, Part I (1927): 1-63.

  5. "Short-Title Catalogue of Research Library From 1472 to the Present Day." (Proceedings of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, Volume I, Part II (1929): 67-422.

  6. Rudi Schneider: A Scientific Examination of his Mediumship (1930)

  7. Regurgitation and the Duncan Mediumship. Bulletin I of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research (1931)

  8. An Account of Some Further Experiments with Rudi Schneider: A minute-by-minute record of 27 séances . Bulletin IV of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research (1933)

  9. Leaves from a Psychist's Case Book (1933)

  10. Rudi Schneider: The Vienna Experiments of Professors Meyer & Przibram. Bulletin V of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research (1933)

  11. [Ed.] Official Science and Psychical Research. With C. E. M. Joad, René Sudre, Sir Richard Gregory and R. S. Lambert. Bulletin VI of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research (1933)

  12. Supplement to Short-Title Catalogue of Works on Psychical Research, Alleged Abnormal Phenomena, Spiritualism, Magic, Witchcraft, Legerdemain, Charlatanism and Astrology in the Research Library From 1472 A.D. to the Present Day. Bulletin I of the University of London Council for Psychical Investigation (1935)

  13. A Report on Two Experimental Fire-Walks. Bulletin II of the University of London Council for Psychical Investigation (1936)

  14. Confessions of a Ghost-Hunter (1936)

  15. [with R. S. Lambert] The Haunting of Cashen's Gap: A Modern "Miracle" Investigated (1936)

  16. The Alleged Haunting at B----- Rectory - Instructions for Observers. University of London Council for Psychical Investigation (1937)

  17. Instructions for Using "Telepatha Cards": Extra-sensory perception (1938)

  18. Fifty Years of Psychical Research: A Critical Survey (1939)

  19. Christmas Ghosts (1939)

  20. The Most Haunted House in England: Ten Years' Investigation of Borley Rectory (1940)

  21. Search for Truth: My Life for Psychical Research (1942)

  22. Poltergeist Over England: Three Centuries of Mischievous Ghosts (1945)

  23. The End of Borley Rectory (1946)

  24. Poltergeist: Tales of the Supernatural (1993)

  25. Secondary Literature:

  26. Banks, Ivan. The Enigma of Borley Rectory (1996)

  27. Coleman, Michael. "The Flying Bricks of Borley." Journal of the Society for Psychical Research Volume 61, No. 847 (1997)

  28. Dingwall, E. J., K. M. Goldney, & T. H. Hall. The Haunting of Borley Rectory - A Critical Survey of the Evidence (1956)

  29. Hall, Trevor. The Search for Harry Price (1978)

  30. Hastings, R. J. An Examination of the 'Borley Report'. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 55 (1969): 66–175.

  31. Morris, Richard. Harry Price: The Psychic Detective (2006)

  32. Tabori, Paul. Harry Price: The Biography of a Ghosthunter (1950)

  33. Tabori, Paul & Peter Underwood. Ghosts of Borley: Annals of the Haunted Rectory (1973)

  34. Underwood, Peter. The Ghost Hunters: Who They Are and What They Do (1985)

Trevor Hall: Search for Harry Price (1978)

  • category - Occult & Supernatural: Fact

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