The Haunting of Borley Rectory: The Story of a Ghost Story

The Haunting of Borley Rectory: The Story of a Ghost Story
Published : 13 Oct 2022 - Simon & Schuster
In 1928, Eric and Mabel Smith arrived from India to take over the lonely parish of Borley on the northern border of Essex. When they moved into Borley Rectory, Mrs Smith made a gruesome discovery in a cupboard: a human skull. Soon the house was electric with ghosts. Within less than a year, the Smiths had abandoned it and the Rectory became notorious as the ‘most haunted house in England’. When Reverend Lionel Foyster moved into the Rectory he experienced a further explosion of poltergeist activity with an increasing violence directed at his attractive young wife. Marianne Foyster was a passionate and sensuous woman isolated in a village haunted by ancient superstition and deep-rooted prejudice. She would be accused not only of faking the ghosts but of adultery, bigamy – and even murder.

The haunting, sensationally reported in the tabloid press, gripped the nation. It was then investigated by Harry Price, a self-made ‘psychic detective’. With the instincts of a journalist rather than a scientist, Borley was the case that would make Price’s name as the most celebrated ghost-hunter of the age. He recorded the evidence of two hundred witnesses to over two thousand supernatural incidents. This surely confirmed that not only did ghosts exist but, finally, here was proof of life after death. With the pace and tension of a thriller and the uncanny chills of a classic English ghost story, Sean O’Connor vividly brings the story of Borley Rectory to life as an allegory for an age fraught with anxiety, haunted by the shadow of the Great War and terrified of the apocalypse to come.


I believe Sean O'Connor's is the book on Borley I have been waiting for all my life. He has a perfect ear for drama.

Roger Clarke

Borley Rectory is perhaps the definition of an old haunt, still exerting an extraordinary grip on the popular imagination. In Sean O’Connor’s meticulous and revelatory book, however, it comes up as fresh as paint. Balanced, surprising and strangely moving, this is the definitive account’.

Mark Gatiss

I thought I knew all there was to know about this legendary haunting. It turns out I have been sitting in the dark. Sean O’Connor’s book bursts open the doors of Borley Rectory and turns the lights on. Arresting and full of remarkable details, this investigation of an investigation is vividly compelling.

Reece Shearsmith

It is not necessary to believe in ghosts to appreciate a good ghost story. We all believe in death.

Audrey Niffeneggar

Entertaining and deftly told

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