Price's Second Visit.

Bells, Black Ink and bird-cages.

by Andrew Clarke
copyright 2002

Harry Price made only three visits to Borley Rectory when it was occupied. The first was the famous visit with the news reporter whilst Eric Smith was rector, and the second, with his 'council', when the Foysters were in residence. The third was a hurried and brief appearance on the doorstep. Faced with the prospect of research which might provide the most definite evidence of the survival of the spirit after death, he apparently found more important things to do.

His initial three-day visit was commissioned from the Daily Mirror, with the purpose of maximising the news-worthiness of the story, (he later claimed that he was acting in his capacity of Foreign Research Officer of the American Society of Psychical Research), and his subsequent forays, after the Smiths had vacated the house were merely to show the house to journalists and colleagues, and to interview a handful of witnesses. No further research took place whilst Guy Smith was rector.

After this he seemed to be content to abandon the story altogether.

He was eventually persuaded to revisit Borley Rectory for the second occasion by the tenacious Ethel Bull, who visited him at his London offices on Sept 29th 1931, with her sister. The necessary introductions were made to the Rector, Lionel Foyster, who was Ethel's cousin. Despite reservations from Lionel's wife, Marianne, an invitation was extended. In the meantime, Lionel was reckless enough to send Mr Price the top-copy of his written record of what had happened, entitled 'The Diary of Occurrences.' He was never to see this again. When Price and his team came on the evening of Oct 13th, he promptly declared the phenomena to have been faked by Marianne. He was only dissuaded from returning to London the next morning by the promise of a shopping trip to Cambridge with Molly Goldney. A second night's research proved inconclusive and the party were asked to leave by an angry rector.

Price later summarised his visit

'Well, we went to Borley as arranged on Tuesday last, and have had two nights on the premises. It is the most amazing case, but amazing only in so far that we were convinced that the many phenomena that we saw were fraudulent because we took steps to control various persons and rooms, [and] the manifestations ceased. We think that the rector's wife is responsible for the trouble, though it is possible that her actions may be the result of hysteria. Of course we did not wire you because although, psychologically, the case is of great value, psychically speaking there is nothing in it.

Letter to Dr D. F. Frazer-Harris 15th Oct 1931

The fact that the investigators had discovered that the rector's wife was responsible may come as a surprise to readers of Harry Price's second book, where accusations that Mrs Foyster was responsible for the Phenomena were suppressed. 'of course, no word of this will appear in our report' , he wrote to the rector. Far from word of this appearing, he later tried to make out that it was a genuine poltergeist effect

... I have postulated a theory, for what it is worth, that these 'emanations' do, under certain conditions, produce phantasms or ghosts. Whether we can apply this very tentative theory to the causation of Poltergeist phenomena is another matter. Mrs. Foyster was a young woman during her residence in Borley Rectory and undoubtedly there was a very sympathetic nexus between her and the 'nun' - witness the wall-writings and the pathetic appeals for 'help'. But, except for a very brief period during the incumbency of the Rev. G. Eric Smith, and when I leased the place, there have always been many young girls living at the Rectory, and their 'mental vibrations' may still be clinging to their old home.

Harry Price Poltergeist Over England: Three Centuries of Mischievous Ghosts" (London: Country Life Ltd., 1945.)

After this visit, there was just a brief appearance two years later. He then waited nearly four years before revisiting, in May 1937. This was very odd in view of his later expressed belief in the haunting.

Harry Price's visit to Borley Rectory was just one of a string of investigations by various people and organisations, most of which ended with the conclusion that Marianne Foyster, the rector's wife, had caused the 'phenomena', perhaps unconsciously. Probably the most important of these visits was by Professor Cook of Cambridge University, which caused so much upset that it was left out of the Foysters subsequent chronicle. Lionel Foyster's brother recorded, though.

'Prof. Cook of Cambridge, whom I met at Aldeburgh, told me he had been to Borley, and investigated the matter, while the phenomena were supposed to be active and found there was nothing in it. [He] was apparently rather keen on this sort of thing and only came to the conclusion he did after a very thorough investigation of the full particulars he got, and with great disappointment'.

(A.H. Foyster 28 Aug 1937 in letter to Mr Glanville-from 'The Locked Book')..

On Lionel Foyster's request, The Braithwaites held a séance there on the 13th August  1931. He had become distressed over a 'supernatural'  incident where several books 'mysteriously' fell of a shelf and some pages of his manuscript of his diary went 'unaccountably' missing. On the following day after the séance, Sir John Braithwaite drew Lionel to one side  and, in his usual forthright way, summed up his views. "I told Foyster that his wife was responsible for everything, being both psychic and hysterical.". In his notes written at the time he observed...

 'The big house is too much for her. Her husband is no use. Her sex life is apparently all wrong. He is so much older than she is. She has no child of her own and Mrs Whitehouse, when I asked her later, was doubtful if she could have any. She is altogether overwrought and goes over easily into a state where she is unconscious and does not remember. In this state, she writes on the walls, turns herself out of bed, through hysteria, mislays things, drinks he husband's tea, steals his papers, upsets his study etc ...The motive may be 'if the house is badly enough haunted, we shall get away from it'. I explained all this to Foyster. He argued against the view that it was all hysteria, quoting cases where she could not possibly have thrown the stones. I was not quite convinced."

The Society for Psychical Research had also visited on October 9th, the team led by Mr W. H. Salter, the hon. secretary and accompanied by Borley's churchwarden Sir George Whitehouse, who was a keen spiritualist.

'They looked round the house and gave it as their opinion that the trouble must be due to human agency. There was, as far as they could see, no other way to account for what was happening (they did not add however that [Marianne] was the human agent)'

Lionel Foyster p124 'Fifteen Months in a Haunted House'

W.H. Salter, who was the most eminent and respected psychic researcher of his generation, recorded the visit too

"I reminded him that a mutual friend, who had seen the wall writings, had pronounced them, and all the other queer happenings, as his wife's work. He said that was all nonsense. Asked to describe one of the recent occurrences, he said a dreadful thing had happened only the last week-end. His sermon, which he had left on the study table on Saturday night, had disappeared when he went to pick it up on Sunday morning. He spoke of this as if it were obviously the work of the powers of evil, a view I was unable to accept. He seemed to me to have little worldly wisdom and to be entirely dominated by his wife.

W.H. Salter advised against allowing Price's re-involvement. Lionel protested that he had already given a promise to Ethel Bull, and an invitation to Price, and could not withdraw it. Salter therefore urged that, if the visit was inevitable, Price be made to sign a statement against publicity. Salter pledged the support of the Society for Psychical Research.

Marianne remembered the visit well.

'Salter told Lionel that he shouldn't have anything to do with Price because - and Lionel said, "Well, I am committed to it," and Mr. Salter said, "You'll regret it," which we certainly did.

Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Most Haunted Woman in England' by Vince O'Neil'

Much has been made of this visit by some Price's apologists, and Ivan Banks went so far as accusing Salter of duplicity. Note, however that the SPR had already done their investigation, in a straightforward and confidential way. Despite Salter's warning, On October 13th, Harry Price visited with his secretary, Miss May Walker, and two members of his council, Mrs Richards and Mrs Mollie Goldney.

Even the Bulls, who were patrons of the living were not as one in their encouragement of Price.

'One of the Bulls who was especially dear to me said, "I hate Harry Price." Since they were given to rather extravagant speech, I did not put much stock in the statement'

Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Most Haunted Woman in England' by Vince O'Neil'

So the Foysters gritted their teeth and awaited the visit.. The Foysters were not expecting a sudden intensive examination, but a preliminary social call. Marianne was tired and rather wanted to go to bed early.

'He arrived rather late one evening and with him were two women and a man. He wanted to spend the night at the rectory. I was against it, especially as a man named Salter had been at the rectory in the afternoon, and greatly advised against it. Lion insisted that Price be allowed to come, since he - Lion - had promised Ethel to allow it' 

Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Most Haunted Woman in England' by Vince O'Neil'

Price and his party arrived at the rectory at eight in the evening.  Harry Price signed the agreement of confidentiality as advised by the SPR, so the Foysters felt reassured  The party  inspected the whole house and cellars

'With our torches, we went over the house, visiting the familiar spots, and examined all doors windows and fastenings'

Harry Price 'The Most Haunted House in England '

The Foysters were caught off-guard, and were ill-prepared for an all-night session.

' We thought this would be only sort of a preliminary visit, so [Marianne], who was very tired and wanted to go to bed early, went round with the relic for the sake of a quiet night. But there we were wrong. . .

'Fifteen Months in a Haunted House'

Price did not make a good impression on Marianne

'When I was introduced to him in Borley Rectory, he gave me the creeps. He had pointed ears, a balding head with high forehead, and eyes that were startling. They were not polite eyes.'

Price made the interesting observation of his hostess 'She struck me as being particularly self-possessed and normal' (letter to Gordon Glover BBC 1938)

Price was not pleased that Salter and the SPR had got to Borley Rectory first.

'When Lionel mentioned to Price about W. H. Salter's investigation, Price said that Salter wasn't supposed to have anything to do with these investigations and he was in complete charge of it'.

Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Most Haunted Woman in England' by Vince O'Neil'

Price was being pompous. His only contact so far had been whilst commissioned by the Daily Mirror. The previous Rector had asked for the SPR to investigate. Salter's visit had been arranged by the Churchwarden, with the Rector's full permission, and the prior knowledge of the Bulls. If anyone was trespassing, it was Price.

The visitors made their introductions and went off to check into the Bull hotel in Long Melford. Later they returned with a hamper.

Price at first was very charming. He and his cohort went back to Long Melford where they were staying and planned to bring equipment. They brought a picnic basket and had lost the male member of the party. There was a charming lady - a Mrs. Richards her name was, I think - and a woman named Mrs. Goldney. She was the vulgar type…."

Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Most Haunted Woman in England' by Vince O'Neil'

Mrs. Richards decided it was time to have a lunch. The study table was called into action and Harry Price produced a bottle of wine. Sandwiches were passed, neither Lion nor I took sandwiches, having eaten our evening meal just recently.
Price insisted that we should have wine. Lion refused wine, since he never drank it on any occasion. It hade his heart bump. I refused because I did not like the company and there is no sense to drink with those one does not like. Price pulled his wine into ink trick
- and I thought it was a trick of Price's. It was - well, it was just ink, and I thought it was one of his because he has told us that he was a member of the Magician's Club, and I thought that was one of his tricks.

Marianne Foyster Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Most Haunted Woman in England' by Vince O'Neil'

Evidently, this trick had been pulled by Price once before, during Price's previous visit whilst the house was occupied. This was remembered by the previous rector's wife, Mrs Smith, who had already met with the current incumbent and told Marianne of what had happened..

'I asked for glasses and Mrs Foyster fetched these from the kitchen quarters. I drew the corks from the bottles, and handed the burgundy to Mrs Foyster who poured a quantity into a glass. Consternation, Our beautiful ruby Chambertin had turned to jet-black ink…. At almost the same moment when Mrs Foyster was pouring out the burgundy, Miss Walker was serving the Sauterne. Suddenly she exclaimed 'It smells like eau de cologne! And sure enough it did'

H Price 'The Most Haunted House in England' p86

Mollie Goldney immediately roared with laughter, recognising a trivial conjurers' trick, and Price soon joined in, signalling to her his belief that Mrs Foyster had been responsible. 'I agree that Mrs Foyster's wine trick was rather crude (Letter to JJD 1946). May Walker also later confirmed that she felt certain at the time that the trick was done by Marianne by normal rather than supernatural means. 

Besides this, the evening seemed to be rather quiet.

'They seemed ready to stay all night. On the other hand the relic had been applied and all was quiet.

Lionel Foyster 'Fifteen Months in a Haunted House' p131

They talked about Lionel's chronicle of events, and Price was showing a great deal of interest in it. According to Marianne, the rector had great difficulty in explaining that it was fiction, not fact. Price talked a lot about his own researches, including his work with the medium Rudi Schneider. He surprised the Foysters by expressing the view that what he had seen on his previous visit to Borley Rectory had been faked by Mary Pearson, the former Rector's maid.

According to Marianne, there were other emotional undercurrents going on. One has to say that her testimony should be taken as poetic rather than literal truth.

'Well, Mrs. Goldney - he slobbered all over her - excuse me, she was smiling up to Mr. Price all the time, very obviously, and he was kind of goofy towards her. They were, I think, in the throes of having a mild romance - I guess that's how you would put it - and I think that is the reason that Mrs. Goldney took such a violent dislike to me. They had made several trips and he would go out first and she would follow, and then on another occasion she went out and he would follow. I wondered what it was all about and I went out as softly as I could - there was a coconut matting in the passage - and then I went and opened the door rather sharply. They were behind the butler's pantry door, and he had his arms around her, and her dress was all hiked up, and she had pink pants on - the kind that we used to call "bird cages." I was very much amused, and sniggered, and I think that that was the reason why she disliked me so intensely'.

Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Most Haunted Woman in England' by Vince O'Neil'

Harry Price was certainly a very libidinous fellow, and we now know that he and his secretary, Lucie Kaye, had been lovers. 

In the Library, as opposed to the Butlers' Pantry, things were uncomfortably quiet

'Talking about it seems to stir things up more than anything" I suggested, and so we talked'

Lionel Foyster 'Fifteen Months in a Haunted House' p131

Around 9:30, Marianne said she was not well, and then collapsed in an apparent faint, having to be carried upstairs. 'Mrs Foyster said she felt unwell and would retire' (The Most Haunted Woman in England' p69) Foyster does not record this fact, and remembers, instead, that he suggests that she go to bed. At the request of the Rector, Mollie Goldney, a trained nurse, gave first aid. She afterwards recalled that Marianne had a normal pulse and no signs of physical distress.

I was ill when they arrived, and I'd been flowing, and I was ill. And when I would have those long flows I did faint, which I don't think is anything unusual. Certainly Dr. Alexander didn't feel it was unusual, and Lionel helped me up to bed. She [Goldney] said, "There's nothing wrong with her. There's nothing wrong with her."

Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Most Haunted Woman in England' by Vince O'Neil'

Once she was away in the bedroom upstairs, an empty claret bottle was thrown down the staircase well, and bells started ringing violently.

'This naturally caused quite a bit of excitement amongst the members of the council'

Lionel Foyster 'Fifteen Months in a Haunted House')

Pebbles also came rattling down the stairs.

I was put in the room - and I believe there were some incidents of stone throwing. You see the mystery about the bottles - there were no bottles around Borley at all. There was no storage of bottles, and the mystery always to us was where the bottles came from because they wee old bottles, and there was no storage or place around Borley because I looked, and we never did discover where the bottles came from.

Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Most Haunted Woman in England' by Vince O'Neil'

Marianne obviously never looked in the cellars, which were stuffed with bottles, or in the store-room off the yard, which was also full of them. The yard, incidentally, was pebbled, but Marianne had forgotten the fact.

Marianne had first one and then the other door of her room locked.

'' response to [Marianne]'s request, I took her up a cup of tea. As usual I attempted to go in by the door opening on to the landing, but- nothing doing: it had been mysteriously locked and the key of course gone. However the other door was open so I took it that way. Not very long afterwards I came up again.
Hello, this is locked too." I exclaimed trying the door I had lately entered by

Lionel Foyster 'Fifteen Months in a Haunted House' p131

One of the doors came unlocked in answer to the Lord's Prayer.

Meanwhile, according to Price, the council's chauffeur was having much better luck experiencing the paranormal.

'The chauffeur James Ballantyne had ensconced himself on a chair by the kitchen fire. As he was quietly reading the evening paper, he afterwards informed us, he happened to look up. Perhaps some sound disturbed him. ..He was mildly surprised to see a grisly black hand move slowly up and down between the jamb and the door and then disappear. This occurred twice.

Harry Price, 'The Most Haunted House in England

This was so obviously a Scottish Joke by the chauffeur that one wonders why Harry Price inserted it into the book. If the chauffeur was seeing such dramatic apparitions in the kitchen, how come the entire party was convinced that Marianne was causing the phenomena. Her hands were, after all, not at all black and grisly. One has to be very careful of Price's account.

"The Council" meanwhile were making quite a noise over their investigations. They were running about the house, calling out to each other and in a general state of excitement. The children were awake, the little servant girl wondering what was happening, and it was getting late. 
"I can't put up with very much more of this," my wife remonstrated "Lionel, do you think you could get them to go?"

Lionel Foyster 'Fifteen Months in a Haunted House'

The ghost-hunters were asked to leave. Price, in his first book, gives an alternative story, saying that they felt tired, and so left. In fact, they had long exhausted the patience of their hosts.

As soon as the council had left, they discovered that they were unanimous in their conclusions as to what they'd seen.

'We were convinced that the rector's wife, (a young woman of about twenty-five) was just fooling us-for some reason best known to herself'.

letter from Harry Price to the Hon. Everard Feilding 19 August 1935

The Council next day declared their opinion that Marianne was responsible for the phenomena they'd seen, including the stone and bottle-throwing. According to Price 'we told Foyster we thought that his wife was cheating' (Harry Price, letter to Hon. E. Feilding 19 Aug 1935)

Foyster remembered the statement as follows 'We are all of the opinion -in fact we have not the slightest doubt about it -that the trouble is being caused by [Marianne]' ('Fifteen Months in a Haunted House' p133). The 'council had, according to Foyster, attempted to have a private word with the rector out of Marianne's earshot, but this was scotched by the arrival of Edwin Whitehouse, the nephew of the churchwarden. Edwin overheard the conversation and somewhat noisily flew to Marianne's defence. The whole conversation therefore became rather heated. However, because Mollie Goldney had pleaded with Price to put their theory under test by putting Marianne under surveillance, they all agreed to reconvene that evening at the Rectory.

That evening, according to Lionel, a bell rang away merrily by itself at intervals whilst they tensely waited for their visitors.

Once the visitors arrived, things were quiet. Edwin Whitehouse had promised to arrive too, but it is unclear as to whether he was present. According to Mollie Goldney, Marianne became increasingly agitated until she finally flung herself on her knees, pleading to St Anthony for vindication. Marianne subsequently denied she ever did this.

"In the first place, St. Anthony is not the patron of vindication, he finds lost things, and I wasn't apt to fling myself on my knees and call St. Anthony, I think that's a little of her romancing."

Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Ghosts that Will not Die' by Vince O'Neil

This type of intervention was much more likely to have been by Edwin, it is much more his style. At this point, as if responding to a cue, a bell from bedroom rang while Marianne was in full view of the council...'An excited throng rushed upstairs '' (Fifteen Months in a Haunted House' p136)

He said that since I was in the room when the bell rang, which was quite true - we were in the kitchen when the bell rang; then it obviously wasn't me.
'they declared that it was Adelaide who was suspect, and Mrs. Richards who tried to reach the wire. You see these wires ran… around the top of the ceiling but they weren't - the bell pulls had all been taken away.
She said, "Good gracious, nobody could reach that, much less a child," and she was quite annoyed with them about it, but Price said, 
"It couldn't have been Mrs. Foyster so it must have been Adelaide. She is suspect now." 
And Mrs. Goldney chimed in and said, "She is suspect."
I said, "Well, it couldn't possibly have been Adleaide," and I said, "Well, it's just on a par with your saying it must have been me," and he said he thought now that it could be Adelaide

Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Most Haunted Woman in England' by Vince O'Neil'

'so [Adeleide] was sealed up and the bell did not happen to ring any more'

(Lionel Foyster 'Fifteen Months in a Haunted House' p136).

Soon afterwards, Frank Peerless, who was living in the cottage, appeared and the evening's surveillance was ended. Frank obligingly informed the investigators that phenomena had occurred whilst the Foysters were both sound asleep in bed. And so the evening ended..

' I became very angry and told him that he should go and never come back. I told him that it wasn't with my good will that they were in there'

Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Most Haunted Woman in England' by Vince O'Neil'

Mollie Goldney was puzzled by this bell-ringing incident, though Price was confident enough to recall, in his book 'Confessions of a Ghost Hunter' that 'the super-normal played no part in the phenomena'.

Mollie Goldney did not know that Frank Peerless was a confederate of Marianne, and later confessed to Marianne's son Ian that he had been responsible for a lot of the phenomena. He had a key to the servants' door and could have easily got to Adelaide's room up the back stairs and back out whilst popping in to see whether his son François was tucked up in bed. St Anthony was, I think, flesh and blood.

The Foysters got an undertaking from Price to keep the affair confidential. Soon, however, events proved W. H. Salter's warning to have been correct

'We had barely gotten rid of Price when we were tormented by the Press. We gave the man short shift and told him to go. He went, and after interviewing Price printed a story - nothing to it really, just a rehash of previous stories. The difference in ages was stressed, and the fact that I was pretty'

Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Most Haunted Woman in England' by Vince O'Neil'

Price maintained that he had seen Marianne Foyster on two occasions. This second visit is not recorded by Lionel Foyster, but Marianne spoke of a second attempted visit by Price, who was said to have arrived unheralded and uninvited, following the report of a fire having occurred in the schoolhouse wing of the rectory.

Price explained that he had heard of the fire through a lady in the neighbourhood with whom he corresponded, (perhaps the tenacious Ethel Bull), and turned up at the rectory doorstep. This was also remembered by Miss Dytor, who was a nurse at the house for a while in 1932. Miss Dytor was sent out with the children for a walk whilst Price was there. Price once alluded to this visit in a letter, but we know little of what went on. This may be the occasion at which Price tried to persuade Marianne to develop her talents as a medium, as he would scarcely have done so on the previous visit. Harry Price was not alone on this visit. This is because this must surely be the visit referred to by Lord Charles Hope in 1943 when he and Harry Price together inspected the 'wall writings' and talked to the 'housekeeper' Miss Dytor. (later Mrs Wildgoose)

"Writing & Messages. H.P. makes no mention at all of a pencilled Adelaide in similar writing on the kitchen wall. I asked him about it, when I was there, & he brushed aside the question. The writing is at the same height as the Marianne| messages!! I asked the housekeeper about the writings—she said :—Adelaide was a terror for scribbling— she used to write on every wall—& I spent hours washing them out— you can see the marks still—& told me the rooms where I found little lines of doll's houses, etc.,—none of which are mentioned by H.P."

Although relationships with Price were strained, Lionel Foyster continued to correspond with Price during the whole time they were at Borley, feeding him with stories of the alleged happenings, evidently to gain Price's opinion, and to obtain background knowledge for his book. He also corresponded with Sidney Glanville, who did a lot of the spadework that underlay Harry Price's subsequent book. Foyster also sent him the manuscript and solicited his opinion about its merits for publication. After a while. Price was able to boast that he was beginning to get on quite well with the Foysters.

From what one can glean from the various accounts of Price's second visit, it is clear that Harry Price was convinced that the hauntings were faked. One even gets the hint that he had reached the same conclusion about the first visit. It is therefore unsurprising that he left Borley Rectory well alone for the next few years. He was slow to change his mind. And his conclusions vacillated. He admitted, five years later 'I want to go down again, and am waiting for Mr Foyster to move out of the place. five years ago the place was literally alive with something' (letter to Hon E Fielding).

There is quite a discrepancy between his private beliefs and public utterance. This was noticed by Marianne Foyster after her brief but fiery meeting with Price.

'He blew hot and blew cold and said that he did not believe it one minute and then, in the next breath, said that he did'

Marianne Foyster, quoted in 'The Most Haunted Woman in England' by Vince O'Neil'

Much later, we see Price come up with several different opinions.

'I happened to meet Mr Price at the fete at Borley rectory last June (1939) when he told me that he accepted the phenomena as veridical but preferred the physical to the spiritual theory as the explanation'

So said Captain Deane in 1940. If one understands the spiritualist use of the words, Harry Price is saying that he is convinced that the phenomena were genuine but were caused by a person rather than a poltergeist. On 29th April 1939 he wrote to the Times Newspaper to say "A) I do not believe in spirits and B) I do not believe in the [Borley Rectory] legend". This leaves very little room for doubt

This is the same man, who proclaimed, in the first sentence of the article in the Listener in November 1937

'I believe in ghosts! Sceptic as I am regarding the alleged supernormal, I have been forced to the conclusion that certain buildings and paces are inhabited by invisible beings-call them spirits or entities, or what you will, which manifest themselves in various ways.'.

By the time he wrote 'The End of Borley Rectory', not only had all public trace of his doubts been swept away, but they had disappeared from the record. Both his visits to the Rectory were described without any trace of the author's former conclusions. As he was known to joke to his friends, and state in his lectures, the public 'preferred Bunk to Debunk'.