It’s been an extremely busy few months promoting The Ghost Hunters. I have been overwhelmed by the support of readers. As things stand, we are approaching 20,000 copies sold already; Over 125 readers have reviewed the book online and it’s already in its third printing. Thank you.
I received a great many questions from readers who wanted to know more about Borley and my research for the novel. To reflect that interest, I took the opportunity to put a few questions to a real life ghost hunter - Eddie Brazil, whose research helped me enormously.
Eddie is the co author of The Borley Rectory Companion – a book I highly recommend.
Below are my questions and Eddie’s kind replies. I hope you agree they make for fascinating reading.
NS: What is the most convincing phenomena you have experienced in or around Borley?
EB: Apart from the photo I shot in 1972 of the figure within the churchyard, I haven’t experienced phenomena at Borley. However, in saying that, I have always felt there is an atmosphere to the place which can be palpable at times. During vigils I have camped in fields adjacent to the churchyard, and experienced a certain” something” which is hard to define. It may well be auto suggestive if one goes to Borley with prior knowledge of the haunting. Yet there is definitely a “feel” about the place.
One which suggests that Colin Wilson’s theory that the very ground of Borley is psychically charged and conducive to producing paranormal phenomena seem plausible. On a visit in 1972 I met a guy who told me his father had once been churchwarden. One morning when he went to open the church he felt the door being held against him. Thinking the door was stuck he pushed with all his strength, but it was forced back as if someone was barring him entrance. He eventually opened the door certain he would find someone inside playing a joke, but the building was empty.
NS: Do you think that Harry Price enjoyed a secret affair with his secretary?
EB: This a hard one. I have discussed this with Peter Underwood, and he thought it unlikely. Although Price was complex personality he was also a devout churchgoer, devoted to his wife of 40 years, Constance and a tireless investigator of the paranormal. Yet, Richard Morris, in his heavily anti Price biography suggests otherwise, claiming letters and gifts of money to Kaye from Harry prove that their relationship was more than just professional. I personally don’t buy the illegitimate child story. In time it would have surely hit the headlights, and ruined Prices career. If such a thing was fact, then Lucy Kaye had a gun to point at Prices head, as would his many enemies. One thing we do know is that Kaye was detested by her son, David. In 2002 he destroyed several of her photo albums that contained photos taken by Price in Germany, which may or not have revealed the true extent of their friendship.
NS: How important to your mind re the characters involved in the Borley affair? To what extent are they responsible for the phenomena reported there?
EB: I think the characters in the Borley drama are one of the main reasons, together with the phenomena, for its continuing fascination. It’s as if they could have been invented to play their parts in this strange case of haunting. Borley is not only a tale of ghosts but also a incredible human comic/ tragedy. Most of those connected with the case came away from it different people with baggage and cupboard skeletons. Infidelity, neurosis, domestic violence, philandering, deceit, mental breakdown, ill health, and if we are to believe the stories, murder are all there within that gloomy old house which stood at the top of the hill. Certainly the psychological makeup of those who passed through the doors of the rectory is a factor in how the haunting panned out
NS: There is something transfixing about Borley - the place and the history. Why do you think it means so much to so many?
EB: For myself, Borley ticks all the right boxes and pulls the correct strings where a haunted house is concerned. And that may be its Achilles heel when the sceptics examining the case. It is a story which appears to be to good to be true, whereas more mundane, though no less important, hauntings such as the Enfield, Cardiff and South Shields Poltergeists would seem to true to be good. Phantom Nuns, executed Monks, dappy Victorian vicars, A nymphomaniac Rectors wife, acusations of murder, intrepid paranormal investigators, Oxbridge academics and a charlatan fascist sympathiser who torches the rectory for the insurance. Its all there. You couldn’t write it, but then again, you just have.
Another factor in Borleys continuing appeal is, I think, that the rectory died when it did.. If Gregson had not lit the fire the building might well have been requesioned by the military. After the war the ex black shirt would have cashed in on Prices books. Today it would still be standing converted in to retirement apartments, and all the romance and mystery of the haunting would be lost in the trivia and reality of the 21st century. The rectory left us at just the right time. The surviving grainy black and white photos of the building reveal just enough to let the imagination fill in the blanks. Pristine colour digital pictures and video would have destroyed the myth.
Perhaps another, loose, but interesting parallel is the decade defining Woodstock music festival held in 1969 in the US. Today the stage has gone, the fans have gone, and some of the bands who played have most definitely gone, yet still thousand of people, many who weren’t born when the concert took place, throng to this Mecca and shrine to 60s counter culture in search of something. Perhaps Borley has the same pull. Certainly for myself, even though I have investigated many haunted houses, Borley Rectory is the one case which calls to me still.
NS: Do you think that the villagers deliberately conspire to keep details of any modern haunting secret? Are you aware of any very recent accounts of paranormal phenomena reported on Hall Road or from any residents living now where the Rectory once stood?
EB: I think the villagers are fed up with all the idiots who continue to go to Borley believing the rectory still stands, and the place is full of ghosts. My own visits have sometimes met with hostility. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Nun put in an appearance today, the people of Borley would keep it quite. However during research for the Borley Companion Paul and I interviewed a family whose bungalow stands on the site of the rectory garden. They informed us that they have experienced apparitions in their home along with disembodied footsteps in the garden. Late at night the notes of the piano in the front room sounded out. Their two young children seem to have befriended invisible playmates. We were also told that the church, too, was the scene of paranormal activity when workmen carrying out repairs to the interior repeatedly had there electrical equipment mysteriously tampered with. It would appear that Colin Wilson’s theory will prove correct, and that it was the psychic energy of Borley which invested the rectory and not the haunting of the rectory which effected the surrounding area.
NS: Did you think it was an appropriate to write a novel on the affair and why?
EB: I think it absolutely appropriate to write a novel on the Borley affair. What surprised me is that no one had done it earlier. It is not only the Mount Everest of haunted houses and ghost stories, but also a fantastic human drama peopled by extraordinary characters. Perhaps many look upon Borley as just another haunted house, yet if you took away the ghosts you would still have an amazing soap opera of a tale to tell. As they say Neil, you couldn’t write it, but I am very glad you did, and I believe, following the positive reaction the book has received, there are many writers who wish they had first recognised the literary potential of the most haunted house in England.
NS: Thank you Eddie, for you time and your wonderful research. The Borley Rectory Companion is a great read and available here: