Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Most Haunted House In England–Count Harry Price


It has been my experience that finding a book written on a paranormal topic by someone with a scientifically skeptical mind is a very hard thing to do.  I feel like it is just as shortsighted to dismiss the idea of paranormal activity outright as it is to believe it wholesale.  While I am definitely interested in things described as supernatural I am not interested in reading accounts by people who approach the subject willing to accept every single bump in the night as proof of ghosts and ghouls.  But, the vast majority of books I have encountered on the subject are written by those types of people.  It bothers me that paranormal investigation has to (almost always) be undertaken with an idea of all or nothing.  Some people believe all, and in doing so damaging their credibility and the study they are trying to prove, and some believe nothing, not bothering to try at all to understand anything described as paranormal.  That leaves the market for nonfiction paranormal books flooded by phony baloney conmen seeking to sell something of which they are not really trying to understand.

Enter Harry Price and the story of Borley Rectory.  Price is exactly the kind of person I want to see investigating paranormal phenomena, a skeptic who is willing to admit that strange things happen.  A scientist in the truest sense of the word he tried to know the unknown, he did not disregard it (as most scientists are wont to do) as mere foolishness or figments of men’s imaginations.  Even if the things people see and experience are part of intricate hallucinations, wouldn’t science benefit by understanding why the human mind is playing such “tricks”? Instead of following this course, science is all to ready to ignore the entire area of study.  It is a shame.

borley-rectory-2-tnBorley Rectory is a fantastic case of paranormal activity.  Locals reported strange phenomena in the vicinity of the building as early as 1863.  Sightings included those of a wandering nun (supposedly bricked up in a wall for her sins) and a ghost carriage driven by a headless man.  In the book Price debunks the story of the nun, yet continues to record sightings, witnessed by himself and others.  During the years of his investigation of the Rectory Price notes the sinister change in the activity from mere sightings of repetitious apparitions to full fledged poltergeist activity.  Ringing bells, flying objects, names and messages scrawled on walls by unseen hands.  Price not only recounts phenomena witnessed by himself but he also lays out a case for the scientific study of the supernatural.  He details an entire process of bringing new and skeptically minded observers into the house in order to garner untainted information from many different witnesses.  His description of the set up borders on ingenious.

Borley Rectory soon became known as a cursed place, abandoned by even the church that owned it.  In the effort of his study Price actually rented the building for a year to continue his work.  All of which is laid out with great detail in The Most Haunted House in England.  Price has a refined writing style that bespeaks a gentile nobility and a fine, educated mind.  This book was a pleasure to read.  If only there were more books of this ilk on the topic, perhaps we would know so much more about the paranormal than we do today.


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