Borley Rectory: England's Most Haunted House True Story

Borley Rectory: The True Story Behind ‘England’s Most Haunted House’

Photo of author
Written By Haunting Realm

Adventurer. Cryptozoology enthusiast. Paranormal investigator. Storyteller.

In this article...

In the annals of paranormal lore, few places evoke as much fascination as Borley Rectory. Nestled in the quaint English village of Borley, Essex, this Victorian mansion has earned a reputation that transcends the ordinary.

Known far and wide as the “most haunted house in England,” the Rectory’s eerie tales have captivated audiences for decades.

Borley Rectory was constructed in 1862 and its walls have borne silent witness to a multitude of spectral sightings and inexplicable phenomena. 

The Rectory’s paranormal pedigree is unparalleled, from the ghostly figure of a nun and sightings of phantom carriages, to chilling messages scrawled on its walls.

Borley Rectory: A Historical Overview

The story of Borley Rectory begins in 1862, when the house was constructed under the auspices of Reverend Henry Bull. 

The site chosen for this grand edifice was no ordinary plot of land. It was, in fact, the site of an ancient monastery, a detail that would later fuel many of the ghostly tales associated with the Rectory.

Reverend Bull, a man of faith and the head of a large family, had the Rectory designed with an impressive 23 rooms to accommodate his 14 children. 

The house was a sprawling Victorian mansion, its architecture a testament to the era’s grandeur. Yet, beneath the surface of this domestic bliss, strange occurrences began to seep into the fabric of the Bull family’s life.

Borley Rectory winter room
Borley Rectory was a grand Victorian mansion built in 1862 by Reverend Henry Bull in Borley, Essex. The house, constructed on an ancient monastery site, boasted 23 rooms to accommodate the Reverend’s large family.

The Ghosts of Borley Rectory

The Bull family, particularly the Reverend’s daughters, reported seeing the apparition of a nun wandering the grounds. This ghost, commonly referred to as the Borley Church Nun, was often sighted at twilight, walking sorrowfully along what the family dubbed the “Nun’s Walk.” 

In fact, according to reports, the apparition was so frequent that the Bull family even attempted to communicate with her, but to no avail, as the nun would vanish whenever approached.

Related: Hinton Ampner Haunting: Investigating a Bizarre Poltergeist Manifestation

Several Bull’s family members also reported phantom coaches driven by headless horsemen. Furthermore, some guests noticed unexplained footsteps echoing through the house and strange sounds emanating from empty rooms, like whispers and muffled voices.

In 1892, Reverend Bull passed away, but the spectral occurrences within the Rectory did not cease with his death. His son, Harry Bull, inherited the Rectory and, along with it, its resident apparitions. 

The family continued to live with the inexplicable phenomena, their experiences adding to the growing lore of the Borley Rectory.

A Peak of Paranormal Activity

The Rectory’s narrative took a dramatic turn in 1928 when it became the residence of Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife. From what most paranormal investigators have noticed, an escalation in paranormal activity marked the Smiths’ tenure at the Rectory. 

They reported seeing the ghostly nun, hearing servant bells ring inexplicably, and even finding a human skull in a cupboard. 

However, it was during the tenure of the next residents, the Foyster family, that the Rectory’s paranormal activity reached its peak. 

Keep exploring: The Deadly Curse of Busby’s Stoop Chair: Fact or Fiction?

Reverend Lionel Foyster, his wife Marianne, and their adopted daughter Adelaide moved into the Rectory in 1930. Their experiences were far more intense than those of the previous inhabitants. 

Marianne reported being physically attacked by unseen entities, and objects around the house would move or be thrown by invisible hands. In one alarming incident, Marianne was nearly suffocated by a mattress during the night.

The Mysterious Wall Writings

Over the years, the house has been a stage for many apparitions and paranormal activities that have both terrified and fascinated its inhabitants and observers.

But, by far, the wall writings that appeared during the tenure of the Foyster family were one of the most intriguing aspects of the Rectory’s hauntings. 

Related: What Are Residual Ghosts? Everything You Need to Know About the Endless Replays of the Spirit World

The writings, often found on the house’s walls, were pleas for help, usually addressed to Marianne Foyster. 

The messages were written in a childlike script and included statements like “Marianne, please help get” and “Marianne light mass prayers.” 

The origin and meaning of these writings have been the subject of much speculation. Some believe they were the work of a ghostly presence, while others attribute them to Marianne herself.

The famous "floating brick" photo
The “floating brick” incident occurred during Harry Price’s investigation of Borley Rectory. Price and his team claimed to witness a brick levitating in mid-air, an event captured in a photograph that became a symbol of the Rectory’s hauntings.

Harry Price Investigation

The hauntings of Borley Rectory attracted the attention of Harry Price, a renowned paranormal investigator of the time. 

Price first visited the Rectory in 1929, after being invited by the Daily Mirror to investigate the Smiths’ reports of paranormal activity. He would later return in 1937 to conduct a year-long investigation.

Price’s examinations at the Rectory were thorough and methodical. He invited a team of “official observers” to stay at the house and document any paranormal occurrences. 

You may also like: Stockwell Ghost: The Maid, the Mischief, and the Mystery

The findings were startling. 

They reported seeing the spectral nun, hearing phantom footsteps and voices, and witnessing objects moving of their own accord. Price himself claimed to have been struck by a pebble and a piece of china by unseen hands.

One of the most sensational incidents reported was the “floating brick” incident. Price and his observers claimed to have witnessed a brick levitating in mid-air, seemingly of its own accord. 

This incident, captured in a photograph, became one of the most enduring images associated with the Rectory.

However, Price’s involvement with the Rectory was not without controversy. 

Borley Rectory alleged wall writings
The alleged wall writings appeared during the Foyster family’s tenure at the Rectory. The writings, pleas for help in a childlike script, were often addressed to Marianne Foyster. The origin and meaning of these writings remain a subject of speculation.

Controversies and Allegations of Fraud

His methods and findings were often questioned, and he was accused of exaggeration and even fraud. 

Some suggested that the “floating brick” incident was staged, a trick of wires and creative photography. Others pointed to inconsistencies in the observers’ reports and questioned the reliability of their testimonies.

But despite the criticism, Price remained steadfast in his belief that the Rectory was genuinely haunted.

Keep exploring: What is a Ghost Orb? Paranormal Orbs of Light Explained

Nevertheless, the narrative of the Borley Rectory haunting took a dramatic turn when Marianne Foyster confessed to orchestrating some of the paranormal events. 

In a series of letters to Price, Marianne admitted that she had staged some “hauntings” to cover up her marital affairs. She claimed that the wall writings were her work and that she had moved objects around the house to create the illusion of poltergeist activity

However, she maintained that not all the incidents were fraudulent. She insisted that unseen entities had physically attacked her and that she could not explain all the phenomena at the Rectory.

Harry Price attending bone consecration ritual
After the Rectory’s destruction by fire, workers discovered the bones of a young woman in a cellar. This led to a consecration ritual attended by Harry Price. The discovery fueled speculation that these could be the remains of the frequently sighted spectral nun.

The Aftermath

The final chapter in the Rectory’s spectral saga came in 1939 when a fire destroyed the house. 

The fire, believed to have been started by the new owner, Captain W.H. Gregson, reduced the once grand mansion to ruins. However, even in its destruction, the Rectory continued to yield secrets. 

During the clearing of the site, a discovery was made that added a chilling postscript to the Rectory’s tale. 

In a cellar, workers found the bones of a young woman, along with a silver medallion. Could these be the remains of the spectral nun who had been reported so many times?

The investigation and controversy surrounding Borley Rectory have contributed to its enduring allure. The house may be gone, but its legacy lives on, a testament to our fascination with the unknown and the unexplainable. 

FAQ Section

Who lived in the Borley Rectory house?

Borley Rectory was home to several families over the years. The house was built by Reverend Henry Bull in 1862 and was inhabited by the Bull family for many years. Later, the house was occupied by the Smiths and then the Foysters.

Where is Borley Rectory located?

Borley Rectory is located in the village of Borley, Essex, England. The house no longer stands, but the site continues attracting those interested in its paranormal history.

What was there before Borley Rectory was built? 

Before Borley Rectory was built, the site was home to an ancient monastery. This detail has often been cited as a possible explanation for the spectral nun sightings at the Rectory.

Why is Borley Rectory haunted? 

The haunting of Borley Rectory is a subject of much speculation. Some attribute the hauntings to the site’s history as a monastery, while others point to the families’ experiences there. The involvement of paranormal investigator Harry Price also played a significant role in the Rectory’s reputation as the “most haunted house in England.”