“I wrote to the then Rector of Borley Church,

the Rev. Alfred Henning,

and asked about the possibility of spending a night on the ‘haunted’ site of the by then vanished Rectory...”

Former site of Borley Rectory, with Borley Church in the background.

“He sent me a charming letter,

and said he had passed on my request.”

Underwood with Reverend Alfred Henning


“Accompanied by Tom Brown,

I went to Borley for the first time.”

The tiny village of Borley is located in rural Essex.

The steam train service running through Essex.

“We arrived at The Cottage at 3.00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.”

The cottage, showing signs of conversion, and part of the Rectory site outlined by a low brick wall, May 1947.

“We visited Borley Church and churchyard…”

“...where we saw the graves of those who lived and died at Borley Rectory and who are alleged to have haunted the Rectory and grounds - and perhaps still do…”

“Inside the church we saw the imposing tomb of the Waldegraves…”

“Seance messages assert that it was a member of this family who murdered 'Marie Lairre', the ghost nun…”

“Others assert that Arabella Waldegrave, the unnamed daughter on the tomb. may have been the ghost nun…”

“Nothing is left of the Rectory above the level of the ground, but the foundations have not been disturbed and it is possible to trace the shape of the old Rectory from the line of these foundations.”

In 1947 the area of the rectory was still visible.

“Some of the Nun's Walk has of necessity been dug up. It was originally bordered by a low hedge on each side and that on the south side is still standing.”

The Nun’s Walk

“Tom Brown and I placed a number of controls in and around the rectory site.”

Tom Brown photgraphed by Underwood at the site of the Rectory, with the cottage  behind.

“None of these controls were moved, and our thermometer readings showed no abnormality…”


“We both thought we heard faint footsteps

from the direction of the Nun’s Walk at both 3.15 a.m., and again at 3.40 a.m.”

“On the second occasion we suddenly flashed a torch, 

but the torchlight revealed nothing

and the sounds continued…”

“The area where the sounds

appeared to originate

was plainly visible in the bright moonlight…”

“…nothing was discernible to account for the footsteps…”

Underwood writes up his investigation.

“I sent this report* to Harry Price.”

Harry Price’s ‘Blue Book’: The Alleged Haunting at B----- Rectory - Instructions for Observers (1937), which he originally gave to each of the forty eight investigators during his year long tenancy of Borley Rectory which began on 19th May 1937.

*The full report, entitled ‘My First Visit to Borley in 1947’, can be found in the Borley Postscript (2010). Underwood’s full account of the paranormal history of Borley is entitled The Ghosts of Borley (1973)

“I wrote this poem after my first visit to Borley in 1947. I tried to convey some of the phenomena experienced rather than an account of the night we spent there...”

‘Night at Borley Rectory’, 1947

The tall dark trees swish ominously
A branch of the elm tree creaks,
The moon lights up queer shapes on the ground,
And the hinge of the yard-gate squeaks.

The church tower gleams between the trees -
 'Gainst the ever-darkening sky
A weird white shape glides up the Nun's Walk
And an owl flies silently by.

Raps and taps come from the site
Where the old Rectory stood
Footsteps creep between the trees -
Eyes look out from the wood.

What drama has left its mark for ever
And drenched the very atmosphere.
Of this so quiet, tranquil spot
That night is never peaceful here?

When dusk has fallen and silently gone
Then the ground itself seems in anguish
An air of expectancy lies over all
With just a suggestion of sadness.

There's a weird and wonderful something here
That rules when darkness falls
And those with eyes can see things
That have happened between these walls.

But now the dawn is breaking
And beauty and peace reign again,
And the powers that rule in the night-time
Disappear like clouds after rain.

Christopher Josiffe
Moss-clad remains at the former site of the Borley Rectory in Essex (2017)