Recce at the Rectory

Traipsing through fields to find a rectory that doesn’t exist, trespassing, pissing off locals and being stalked by a cat in a graveyard can only mean one thing: Calamityville is back!

Borley churchWe’ve been planning to visit Borley Rectory with fellow writer, ghost hunter and honorary Calamityville team member Lesley (L K Jay) for about a year. Even though we knew it didn’t exist anymore, Borley has been dubbed the most haunted house in England, so we had to visit it. We set off at 7 p.m. Friday evening after our traditional Friday night chip night. The trip to Huntingdon went smoothly apart from being besieged by the most unholy stinks en route. One was caused by a lorry’s smoking tyres, one smelled like manure had been set on fire and the others we can only assume were down to demon manifestations. We made it to Lesley’s without getting trapped on the ring road for the first time ever. We know, it frightened us too.

Saturday morning we were joined by fellow writer Louise West, a mutual  Twitter friend. We’d never met her before, but she’s lovely. As soon as she arrived, we set off to Borley. Lesley drove, which would guarantee no major meldowns on our part. If we have one every episode, people would think we faked them 😀

We reached Borley church without getting lost once, which was a relief because when we were in the flat, Lesley’s Sat Nav tried to send us to Borley in France. As pretty as we’re sure it is, it’s not the home of the most haunted house in England. Though the Sat Nav assured us it would take twelve hours of driving time and traffic was steady. But as we’re not in the habit of carrying our passports with us for emergency excursions to Europe, we decided not to chance it. The only French we can speak is “Bonjour, Je’m appelle and Renault 4.” None of which would get us very far.

Borley church catWe wandered the churchyard and discovered a beautiful and friendly local – a grey cat. We spent a while fussing him then he started to lead us off somewhere. Thinking he knew the way to the rectory, we followed. Turns out, he wanted to eat some grass. Left to our own devices, we explored. The cat stalked us. Clearly he’d heard we love animals and wanted to be on the show. Louise managed to find the graves of Henry Dawson Ellis Bull who built Borley Rectory in 1862 and his son, Harry who took over when Henry died. Harry is actually one of the ghosts who haunts it. Apparently before he died, he swore that if  he was unrested after death, he would come back and make his presence known in a violent manner, such as throwing mothballs or glasses. We asked him to throw conkers at us, but he didn’t oblige.

Borley church

Grave of Henry Dawson Ellis Bull. And the cat.

The Ghost Radar mostly sprouted gibberish such as ‘potatoes’ ‘settlers’ ‘Washington’. Not exactly what we were hoping for. Lynx managed to find an old map online of where the rectory was, so after trying to compare it with the modern landscape, we set off across the road into a field. We circled behind a house into another field, then crossed a third field to get back to the road. We have no idea who owned these fields but there were no gates so we doubted angry farmer would shoot at us, despite the Ghost Radar promising us they would. (It said ‘shoot’ in the graveyard). There was no sign of the rectory, or where it once stood. There really needs to be plaques put up where an old sites used to be or you get idiots like us exploring fields. However a yellow blob showed up on the Ghost Radar in the hedge, which apparently means spirit energy is near. Lynx asked if there was a ghost to her left. The Ghost Radar said “Harry.”

The most famous ghost at Borley is the nun who haunts a path known as ‘Nun’s Walk’. The rumour is that she had an affair with a monk from the monastery which once stood where the rectory was. They planned to elope and asked the monk’s friend to drive them in a carriage. The elders found out and captured them. The driver was beheaded, the monk hanged and the nun bricked up alive in the vaults below the rectory. This is a really common ghost story, but at least the monk was also killed. Usually it’s the nun who bears the brutal wrath. The nun was such a frequent visitor to the rectory that Henry Bull bricked up a window to stop her staring through the window at his dinner guests. Nobody wants to see a drooling nun pawing the glass. Three of Henry’s daughters, Ethel, Mabel and Freda saw the nun one June afternoon. Their brother Walter often heard footsteps following him along Nun’s Walk, but there was never anybody there. The phantom coach was often seen driven by two  headless horses or horsemen, depending on which website you read. Footsteps were regularly heard in the rectory walking outside the bedrooms. They’d stop outside a door then three knocks were heard. In old superstitions, three knocks meant a special visitor: Death.

After Harry died, the church had trouble getting reverends into the rectory because of its reputation. The next reverend to move in was Guy Eric Smith and his wife. The first things they experienced were knocks in the bedroom. It didn’t matter which bedroom they slept in, the knocks followed them. One day when she was cleaning, Mrs Smith unwrapped a brown paper parcel. It contained a female human skull. After this, the servants’ bells started ringing by  themselves, despite being disconnected. Objects were moved and reappeared elsewhere. Keys would either be put into locks or taken out of them. They contacted the Daily Mirror and asked them to send someone from the Society of Psychical Research (SPR). They sent a reporter, V. C. Wall and Harry Price from the SPR. Wall saw a light in one of the rooms and sent Smith to investigate. When Smith was in the room, two lights could be seen from the garden, yet Smith didn’t see or hear anything in the room with him.

When Price arrived with his secretary, the secretary kept an eye on things in the rectory while Price and Wall stayed in the garden. Wall spotted the nun and ran over to her. As he got closer, she became more solid, but disappeared when he reached her. Price didn’t see her vanish as Wall was blocking his view. They returned inside the rectory and a pane of glass fell from the roof, narrowly missing them. Price admits this could have been coincidental.  They explored the rest of the rectory and as they were coming downstairs, a red glass candlestick from the Blue Room (where Henry and Harry Bull died) was thrown down the stairs, followed by a mothball.

Borley Rectory

possible site of Borley Rectory, where Cat trespassed

After the Smiths left the rectory, it lay empty for a while until the Foysters moved in. Lionel Algeron Foyster was a cousin of the Bulls. His wife Marianne experienced the most activity in the rectory. There were so many incidents that Foyster kept a diary over a 15 month period. Again the bells would ring by themselves, footsteps were heard, Marianne saw Harry Price by the Blue Room, their daughter Adelaide was locked inside a room with no key. Marianne was struck in the face, leaving a cut below her left eye, but she was alone. She also said she’d been thrown out of bed three times in one afternoon, but again was alone. Pebbles or bricks were thrown, objects were left in random places, a jug of water was poured over them when they slept, Marianne was half smothered by a mattress. One day Marianne took off her watch which was set in a gold bracelet, and set it aside to wash her hands. When she went to put it back on, the bracelet had gone. It was never found. A wedding ring dated 1862 appeared one day. Writing on the wall appeared saying ‘Marianne, please help get me out’. Foyster sent his diary to Price, who returned to investigate the rectory again.

The rectory was empty again after the Foysters left. Price rented it out for a year, but didn’t stay in it himself. Instead he put an advert in The Times asking for ‘observers’. The 48 he chose had no knowledge of the rectory or psychical research. One of his helpers was Sidney Glanville and his son. Glanville’s daughter, Helen conducted a seance in Streatham, London and apparently made contact with the spirit of Marie Lairre, a French nun who’d left her order to marry a member of the Waldegrave family who owned Borley Hall, a 17th century manor house. She claimed she was murdered and bricked up below the rectory. On 27th March 1938, Glanville and his fellow observer, Mark Kerr-Pearse contacted a spirit who swore the rectory would burn down and human bones would be discovered beneath it.

Eleven months later, Captain Gregson moved into the rectory. When he was unpacking, he knocked an oil lamp over. The rectory caught fire. In 1943, Price returned to the rectory with Revered Hanning and a laborer and they cleared the well in the cellar and dug it up. They uncovered the parietal and temporal bones of a skull and the left mandible with five teeth still attached. The bones were believed to be that of a young woman, but the Borley parish refused them a Christian burial due to rumours the bones were from a pig.

After Price died in 1948, three members of the SPR investigated his claims and came to the conclusion that he’d faked some of the phenomena. Although we can’t comment on that, we will say that the rectory had a reputation before Price arrived. Apparently Harry’s children were surprised to learn they were living in the most haunted house in England. They’d fit in well with Calamityville.

Borley Rectory

L-R Lesley, Louise & Lynx searching for the stream.

After failing to find the rectory in the three fields, we went looking for a stream our old map swore was there. We didn’t find it, so headed back towards the church. Louise spotted gates flanked by grey stone pillars. The gates were chained and brambles had been stacked against them. Could this have been the drive to the rectory? A low wall stretched out from the pillars so armed with a camera and camcorder, Cat climbed over and went exploring. Lynx, Louise and Lesley stayed by the roadside, shouting ‘duck!’ whenever a car drove past, and studied the old map as though we were lost. MI5, if you need spies who specialise in ghosts, give us a call. Louise fitted in well with Calamityville’s ‘borderline criminal/unscripted’ style of investigating 😀 After Cat returned from her trespassing adventure, Lynx found a map dated 1984 which showed the position of the rectory in relation to a more modern landscape. Using this, we concluded the rectory was behind this red brick farmhouse. We studied the map then the house, only to be disturbed by a woman knocking on the window. Louise went over to see what she wanted. Apparently our filming was invading their privacy, despite the fact we weren’t filming their house. The only thing Lynx was filming was the map on the phone.

Borley Rectory

possible site of Borley Rectory

Deciding to call it a day, we finished the hunt in the traditional Calamityville way – in a haunted pub. This pub was The Bull in Long Melford. Apparently two men had been fighting about politics when one stabbed the other. His body was placed in the hall, but when someone returned to it, it had gone. He is said to haunt room 4. We asked the girl on reception about the ghost but she’d only been working there three weeks. We have a knack for finding the newest member of staff and telling them their workplace is haunted.

We headed back to Lesley’s to finish the evening in the best possible way – playing Cards Against Humanity. Lesley’s Taekwondo friends and an old school friend joined us. We’re not normally great in large groups, but Cards Against Humanity is a brilliant ice breaker. We actually met our mate Tom through playing Cards Against Humanity. We crawled into bed at 2 a.m. (after the clocks had gone back) only to be woken at 7:30 by guys moving metal trolleys around outside. Guys, while your early morning enthusiasm is admirable, it wasn’t welcome. We got home at 1:40 p.m., allowing us enough time to bath our iguana, write this blog post and get ready for tonight’s Halloween event – Frightmare. Yes, we’ll be back on the road heading to Gloucester dressed as ghost ship pirates. We cannot wait. The Bull

 

6 Comments

  1. That stinks that you never did find the location :/ I wonder how many people stand behind that person’s house filming though for the same reason you were. Maybe they should think of bricking up their windows 😀
    In any case, sounds like it was fun!

    • LOL! Yeah, like the Bulls did to stop the nun looking in 😀 It was a lot of fun and we’ll still manage to make an episode out of it. After all, failing to find things is a Calamityville tradition 😀

  2. You know how to have fun.

    –Julie

    • we try 😀 even when there’s no place to see we like to make an adventure of it.

  3. Great adventure, glad you found a feline friend 😀

    • Thanks! We were so tempted to take that cat home with us.


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