|Borley Rectory: the most haunted house in England|
WITH a legendary reputation of being ‘the most haunted house in England’, it’s not surprising that the bones of Borley Rectory have been dug up to produce what is set to be a prominent best-seller in the fiction market.
I remember, in my youth, reading a book about Victorian ghost hunter Harry Price’s investigations at the notorious haunted house of Essex. That book terrorised me so much that I couldn’t read more than half of it. I had nightmares for years and it put paid to my fascination for the paranormal and things that go bump in the night for many more.
It wasn’t just the pictures of the imposing house, the eerie figures, bricks suspended in mid-air or spectral writing on the walls, it was the witness statements and true accounts of horrific paranormal phenomena that occurred in and around the rectory, even when Price was conducting his investigations.
The rectory appeared to have more than one ghost and there was a strong suggestion of poltergeist activity that could not be explained away by fact or science. From my distant recollections, I remember reading about the ghostly figure of a nun who would walk through the garden and peer into the window of the dining room. The vicar got so fed up with the meal-time intrusion that he bricked the window up. A spirit attached itself to a woman called Marianne and would write on the wall beside her, appealing to her to light mass candles. When one young lady got hauled out of bed by the hair by unseen hands and dragged across the room, enough was enough for me and I slammed the book shut forever, finding a cold comfort beneath the covers of my bed with the light on.
There have been very many books, films and documentaries created about Borley over the years and very many websites dedicated to its name. Some dispel the assumption of paranormal activity; others claim to verify the truth of it. Some have even dramatised the events which took place at Borley in serial fiction. Irrespective of whether the stories are true or arise from the mischievous imaginations of some of the rectory’s inhabitants, it makes a fabulous ghost story and an off-the-peg template for an instant best-seller.
Now novelist and entrepreneur, Neil Spring, has resurrected the haunting once more in his book The Ghost Hunters which is due to be published next week. From the excerpt I have read, it is a well-crafted, stylised work by an intelligent author who gives meticulous care to structure and sense. There wasn’t enough story-line in the excerpt, so I can’t fairly comment on his ability for characterisation or plot, but I have a spooky feeling it will be excellent.
The Ghost Hunters follows Price’s investigations through the first-person narrative of his young assistant, Sarah Grey, and Spring asserts that ‘the novel isn’t just about a haunting, it’s about the interpretation of hauntings and the nature of belief.’
I would love to read it but I’m not sure if I have the nerve to re-visit the stories that have haunted me since childhood. Perhaps it’s time to lay my ghosts and man-up!