Two Haunted Houses in England: Background information when reading Slade House

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Slade House

by David Mitchell

Slade House by David Mitchell X
Slade House by David Mitchell
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2015, 256 pages

    Jun 2016, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kendra Wright-Winchester
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About this Book

Two Haunted Houses in England

This article relates to Slade House

Print Review

You might not find Slade House in the real world, but England, where the novel is set, boasts of haunted houses with their own sinister histories. Here are two of them.

The Borley Rectory

The Borley Rectory The rectory in the village of Borley in Essex was built in the 1860s for the Reverend Henry Dawson Ellis Bull. After his death in 1892 his son, Harry Bull, took over the parish. On his death in 1928, the Rev. and Mrs. Smith moved into the vicarage and started to report odd phenomena. They contacted a tabloid newspaper who sent in paranormal researcher Harry Price, and immediately the level of paranormal activity increased. Mrs. Smith would later say that she thought that Price had instigated much of it. Local lore at the time (believed to have been either encouraged or instigated by Price) had it that the house was built on the site of a 14th century Benedictine monastery. According to the legend, a monk and a nun fell in love and tried to elope but were caught. The monk was executed and the nun bricked up in the walls of the monastic buildings. It is said that the specter of the nun roamed the grounds. The same legend says that Harry Bull believed the nun watched his family through the windows of the house, causing him to brick them up, and that the reverend's family heard footsteps, voices, and other strange sounds.

In 1935 the then resident vicar, Lionel Foyster sent a report to Harry Price including details of his own experiences and those of his wife. Once again, Borley Rectory caught the imagination of the British tabloids - and the interest of several other psychic researchers. These researchers concluded that, while they couldn't explain away all the phenomena, it appeared that the vicar's wife, Marianne, was consciously or unconsciously the cause of some of the incidents. Not long after, the Foysters left the vicarage and Price took a lease on the property. He recruited a large team of volunteer observers to record evidence of supernatural activity - and apparently found ample. Four years later, the rectory caught fire when a resident was startled and dropped an oil lamp onto the floor. The damage was such that the builder was later demolished.

After Price's death in 1948, two of his closest associates investigated his claims regarding Borley House and concluded that most of the phenomena had been faked by Price or was the result of natural causes such as rats. In addition Marianne Foster admitted that, despite her earlier claims, she had seen no ghosts and instead that the incidences were a combination of her playing practical jokes on her husband and covering up for an affair she was having with their lodger. Harry Bull's children also expressed surprise that they had lived in the supposedly most haunted house in England, saying that they had never seen anything.

To this day, the location of the burnt rectory remains a tourist attraction for supernatural fans and ghost hunters.

The Ancient Ram Inn

The Ancient Ram Inn The Ancient Ram Inn, in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire is one of the oldest haunted houses in Britain. In an article in The Daily Mail, the current owner, Caroline Humphries, says that after hearing that the inn had been built on pagan burial grounds, her father pulled up parts of the floor and found remains of human sacrifice. The inn's visitors have reported seeing apparitions, a haze-like mist, and children's crying voices. Humphries says that she kept hearing children's voices in a particular room in the house, but after she set out toys there, the crying stopped. The television shows Most Haunted (UK) and Ghost Adventures (US) featured The Ancient Ram Inn, and psychic, ghost hunters, and mediums frequently visit, seeking answers to the mysterious hauntings. Humphries refuses to participate in her visitors' attempts to communicate with the spirits, saying that she would be too scared to live in the house if she tried to commune with the supernatural herself.

Picture of Borley Rectory from
Picture of Ancient Ram Inn by Brian Robert Marshall

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

This "beyond the book article" relates to Slade House. It originally ran in November 2015 and has been updated for the June 2016 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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