The Borley Rectory was a large Gothic style Victorian mansion in the village of Borley, near Sudbury in Essex. It was built in 1862, by the Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull who was the rector of the Borley church.
The legend goes that it was built at the site of an old monastery that burned down in 1841, and along the so-called “Nun’s Walk”.
According to the legend, back in 1362, there was a rebellious nun working in the nearby nunnery at Bures who had fallen in love with a monk from the Borley monastery. She used to walk every evening to the monastery and meet her loved one. They wanted to escape but their affair was discovered. The monk was executed and the nun bricked up alive in the convent walls.
Only a year after the rectory was built, people of the village started noticing and reporting unusual events. It all began when the closest neighbours started hearing mysterious footsteps around the house. People started noticing strange and unexplainable incidents.
In 1900, the four daughters of the rector Henry Bull claimed that they saw a strange figure only 40 metres from the house, at twilight.
As they went out to meet it, they were convinced that it was a ghost of a nun. But the figure faded away as the sisters approached it. But it wasn’t their only acquaintance with what they believed was the ghost of a nun. They were convinced to have met it on several occasions.
Some villagers were disturbed by a phantom carriage driven by two headless horsemen. They claimed to have seen the carriage several times, riding in the evenings.
By 1928, Henry and his son Harry Bull had passed away, and the following year Reverend Guy Eric Smith and his wife moved into the house.
Not long after moving in, they started reporting incidents such as footsteps, noises, lights in the windows, ringing bells, and on top of everything, Smith’s wife claimed to have found a brown paper package containing the skull of a young woman while cleaning a cupboard. The paranormal researcher Harry Price visited the house but the Smiths left Borley in 1929.
In 1930, Reverend Lionel Algernon Foyster moved in the house with his family. In a period of five years, Lionel Foyster wrote a report about various strange incidents occurring in the house such as those that the Smiths noticed. Foyster’s wife and daughter claimed that they had been attacked by an invisible force. The family was visited by many paranormal researchers who investigated the house.
Later, Foyster’s wife claimed that she herself caused some of the incidents to cover up her sexual relationship with the lodger. However, she was still convinced that some of the phenomena were genuine. The family left the house in 1935 and in 1937 Harry Price returned to investigate the house and lived there for a year.
Price never doubted the strange phenomena surrounding the house and was convinced they are genuine. In 1940, he published a book about his experiences of a year spent in the house. He even claimed that he got in touch with spirits somehow related to Borley, through mediums.
On the other hand, members of the SPR never suspected that the house was haunted and even though it was popular in the media, their investigation revealed that there were no such paranormal activities in the house.
In 1939 when the new owner of the rectory, Captain W. H. Gregson was moving in, he accidentally knocked over an oil lamp in the hallway. The fire spread fast and the old house burned.