Marianne Talks About Borley
Robert Swanson and Eileen Garrett must have said just the right words during their talks with Marianne in new York. The most famous resident of Borley was encouraged to write her story in her own words. The challenge was accepted, and Marianne started writing an outline for a projected autobiography.
Neither the outline nor the autobiography were ever finished, but what remains provides a
fascinating insight to the lady and to her stay at Borley. The outline found its way into the hidden
pages of Trevor Hall's unpublished expose, Marianne Foyster of Borley Rectory. It is
unfortunate Marianne did not complete the work, and it is disappointing that no other author has
been able to take advantage of Marianne's own words. The complete text of her outline is found
in Fifteen Months in the Most Haunted House in England. The
excerpts deal strictly with her stay at Borley. The chapters have been put in chronological order.
Some of the sentences only whet our appetites for more, but this is all we have from Marianne.
Unpublished Outline for Her Autobiography
by Marianne O'Neil
Chapter One - The Decision
In which we make the decision to leave Canada and to return to Great Britain. We weighed the reasons for going against the desires to remain in the New World. We had so much to keep us in America; there were so many churches without pastors in Canada; I had found love, friendship and education.
On the other hand, Lion had been told that he could not undertake country mission work again. He had arthritis and had had one heart attack while we were vacationing on Prince Edward Island. He was unwilling to live in a city, and when Borley was offered to him for the second time, we both realized that it was an ideal spot for a sick man. We knew that he would go to the parish with a reputation. His uncle and cousin had both been rectors of Borley and had held the parish for over seventy years. We both realized that it would be a new life. We would not have the free and easy friendship of parishioners and friends. We knew that England had a different code of life and we knew the caste system was very strong.
On the other hand, Lion placed the fact that as far as he knew, there had been no missionary work done in the parish. He described both his uncle and his cousin, Henry and Harry Bull, as conventional church men. He went into detail of how he would establish a parish run on the lines of a Canadian parish and bring American ideals of democracy into the parish. He painted a beautiful picture of the English countryside, and we both planned the pastoral plays we would produce. Not only pastoral plays, but indoor plays, Miracle plays - and I was in high feather at the thought of all the theatrical costumes I would get the chance to make. He had done such fine work in Canada with play producing in the parishes, and I had a hay day making the costumes.
So with mingled feelings of sorrow at parting from our many friends, we looked forward to Borley with confidence.
Chapter Two - [untitled]
We arrived in England in August. London was hot and dowdy, and we were glad to arrive at Sudbury where we were met by a cousin, Kathleen Bull. After taking tea at Cornard Lodge, the home of the Bulls, we went to the house where rooms had been taken for us. The cousins, Alfred, Gerald, Kathleen, Freda, and Constance were all delightful people and we had a nice afternoon visiting. When we went to the room, we found it in a typical English villa of the middle-class. The landlady amused us highly by referring to our adopted child - Adelaide, aged two - as "Miss Adelaide."
We sought to establish a residence, but all the houses we looked at were either far too high in rent for us to afford, or they were too far away from the parish at Borley. Many of the places were ghastly villas with beetles in the basement. Others were farm houses, manor houses, and "Gentleman's Places." We determined not to be discouraged, and after a good deal of figuring and planning, we almost decided on living - as the last rector had done - in Long Melford. Until one day Gerald Bull - another cousin - said, "Borley Rectory was always such fun."
Hitherto we had not even looked at the rectory, but now, I persuaded Lion to think about it. On the following Friday, Bernard Foyster, a cousin - who had a say in the gift of the living since he was the family lawyer and fellow patron of the living - came down to stay over the weekend with the Bulls. He thought it would be nice to have a relative in the house once more, and with us he looked over the house.
Both Lion and I were enthralled with the grounds. The house was large - in fact it was huge - but not unwieldy for working since there were unlimited cupboards, closets, wide halls, and plain rooms with no nasty cornices and corners to collect dirt. It was a house built for family living when families were large and servants plentiful. But, it was a house that fitted into the American plan of shutting rooms off for the winter. We both of us decided that we would look no further, but that we would make Borley our home.
We consulted a local firm of contractors and they planned to make the place habitable; it had been sadly neglected by the Smiths, who had left the water turned on in zero weather with amazing results.
The Rectory was finished long before [schedule], and Lion went to live in it by himself, and I could not allow him to live there alone. So I returned early in November [by October 16, 1930] when the air was filled with the scents of wood burning, and there was that hazy blue sky which speaks of good weather ahead.
We had fun that first night at the rectory, running 'round exploring and planning. We built a fire in the library and I produced play books I had brought with me from Ireland. Lion got excited over one play, Maid Marion, and could not make up his mind whether he wanted to produce that or start immediately on a Christmas play. I counseled him to wait until we were more firmly established. He was quite peeved with me, but soon got over it and we played chess and bezique for a long time. We heard steps overhead several times and we thought it was Adelaide getting up to go toilet. She always did that at night. But when the feet were heard several times, Lion thought it time to tell her to get back to bed. "Get into bed," he called. "You will catch cold."
We heard the steps again and Lion rushed upstairs bearing an oil lamp. Adelaide was in bed. "Must be rats," he decided. "Gosh, that's a pleasant thought," was my comment.
We did not hear the steps again for some days, but after that we heard them when we were together and when we were alone. Adelaide heard them and thought they were her daddy's.
We had become accustomed to the footsteps, and we were not particularly afraid. Lion had known that Borley was haunted. From the time he stayed there as a young boy the idea was familiar to him and he accepted it. I know that there are certain places where the unquiet ones have to come from time to time. I am familiar with that from Old Ireland.
What did irk us, however, was the way folk ran in and out to the bathroom. I began to lock the front door. This discouraged the people from using the front hall during the week days, but on Sundays it was different.
There was one who used the front hall, but who did not go out the front door. He - an old man with stooped shoulders and an aquiline face - used to walk through the study and up the stairs. Sometimes I would see him come down the stairs and go through the study. Once, I followed him out through the study and noticed that he used the path which led down to the part of the garden that was owned by Mrs. Ivy Bull. Another time I saw him in the summer house, and both Adelaide and I saw him go often into the churchyard. He wore a queer kind of long top coat with braid on the lapels. I asked Mrs. Parson who the old man was who wore such a garment. She turned a queer kind of greenish white and gasped, "Mr. Harry. He did wear such a garment."
I talked to Lion about the matter and he advised me not to mention it to anyone. I didn't until much later, after Lion had talked to someone about it.
Noises were heard quite frequently that spring, but it was not until June that we really had serious trouble.
Lion began to use the Scottish Litany according to the Laud Prayer Book of the Anglican Church. We prayed for protection against things that go bump in the night. We then began to do the house over using a paint that a crazy German-Canadian had taught us how to mix. The hall began to really look like something. We thought it had a medieval flavor, with my big oak chests and the huge pottery vases Lion bought very cheaply form his brother Arthur, who had inherited them from his mother.
In this theme we continued to "change the place" and Lion conceived the idea of making over a tiny dressing room at the top of the front hall into a little chapel. We had one at Salmonhurst in Canada, and one in Sackville. But this one at Borley we did up grand. There was a workman living nearby who made the altar rails, and I sent to McCaw, Stevenson and Orrin, Belfast for the paper which made the plain glass into stained glass.
Unfortunately, however, Lady Whitehouse - who always walked into the house on Sunday and up the stairs to the bathroom - saw the chapel, or prayer room, and disapproved. However, Sir George for some reason or other thought it was all right because we did not have chairs in it.
Chapter Eight - The Bulls
The Bull family were delightful folk. Relics of a long past culture. They would have been perfectly at home in the age of Dickens, or even earlier. Each member of the family was different in character. Freda was the eldest of the family, I believe. She was the housekeeper and had charge of the servants, money, and made all the arrangements.
Kathleen was the adventurous one. She drove an automobile. Ethel "kept hens." Elsie was a widow, very much so. Milly lived away from home and was a market gardener. Constance was regarded as "backward" by her family and was treated accordingly. Actually, she was kind of charming. Alfred was a schoolmaster - of the Mr. Chips type. Gerald ran a laundry and was considered the unconventional one. There was a brother whom they had not heard from for many years. He was believed to be, "in trade." He was not mentioned.
They lived in Cornard Lodge, or the dividing line between Sudbury and Cornard Magna. Some of them believed firmly that Borley was haunted, and had some juicy tales to tell. Others did not, or professed to not believe.
Harry, the preceding rector of Borley [prior to the Smiths], had married a widow. He would not allow [her] daughter to live in family with them. When not on boarding school, she had her own apartment in the school room wing. Some of the Bull's liked Harry's wife, some of them hated her. She was a pleasant and charming person and her daughter delightful. Her life at Borley was far from happy.
Chapter Nine - We Meet Obstacles
At this time we were having quite a difficulty in keeping the house free from rocks and pieces of iron. The rocks were generally of the sizes of large pumpkins, and the pieces of iron were odd looking items, the likes of which neither Lion nor myself were familiar. At one time a huge old-fashioned grate - which weighed nearly a hundred weight - was deposited on the stairs.
Since there were so many entrances and exits, Lion and I at first attributed a lot of the incidents to the spite of the backward peasants. We soon learned that some of that might me true, but that a lot of it could not be accounted for in that way.
I suspected a certain boy, who was rather mischievous, and after playing detective, I caught him throwing rocks on the roof. He confessed that he had often done that, but stoutly denied that he had ever done anything else. I believed him, since he was very frightened. He confessed that he had got the idea of doing it from hearing stories in the Smith's time.
Incidents began to get worse and Ethel Bull at this time introduced Lion to Harry Price.
Chapter Ten - Harry Price and His Cohorts
One of the Bulls who was especially dear to me said, "I hate Harry Price." Since they were given to rather extravagant speech, I did not put much stock in the statement, but when I was introduced to him in Borley Rectory, he gave me the creeps. He had pointed ears, a balding head with high forehead, and eyes which were startling. They were not polite eyes.
He arrived rather late one evening and with him were two women and a man. He wanted to spend the night at the rectory. I was against it, especially as a man named Salter had been at the rectory in the afternoon, and greatly advised against it. Lion insisted that Price be allowed to come, since he - Lion - had promised Ethel to allow it.
Price at first was very charming. He and his cohort went back to Long Melford where they were staying and planned to bring equipment. They brought a picnic basket and had lost the male member of the party. There was a charming lady - a Mrs. Richards her name was, I think - and a woman named Mrs. Goldney. She was the vulgar type, who not only believed in calling a spade a spade, but believed in knocking down women with the same instrument. Almost her first words to me were, "You are very much younger than Mr. F.."
This did not bother me at all, since I have known Lion since I was five years of age and had been accustomed to knowing that he is much older than I. She appeared not to like my being so cheerful over it. So she tried another attack.
"You have been quite sick this past few months, haven't you. You look healthy enough."
I told her - since she gave out that she was a nurse - that I had suffered from a female disorder.
"What type of disorder?" she questioned unpleasantly.
"I had two operations for it," I replied. "One in Fredericton and one in Grand Falls Hospital."
"Were they abortions?" she demanded.
"No!" I almost snarled. "It is to prevent catamenia being continuous."
"Did your husband know the doctors?" she persisted.
"Both of them," I retorted, and added, "It was he who arranged both operations."
At this point Mrs. Richards, who appeared to be more and more ill at ease said, "I don't think we should discuss Mrs. F's health."
Mrs. G. got snippy at this and declared it was pertinent.
More to change the situation than anything, Mrs. Richards decided it was time to have a lunch. The study table was called into action and Harry Price produced a bottle of wine. Sandwiches were passed, neither Lion nor I took sandwiches, having eaten our evening meal just recently.
Price insisted that we should have wine. Lion refused wine, since he never drank it on any occasion. It hade his heart bump. I refused because I did not like the company and there is no sense to drink with those one does not like. Price pulled his wine into ink trick.
There were the incidents of the bells being rung from Adelaide's room, though all the doors were shut.
Price and Mrs. Goldney were constantly running out together, and I noticed glances between them that surprised me. I sneaked out of the garden door and slipped through the side door. They got a surprise. So did I. They were in the throes of an affair.
The party lost its interest soon after that for both Mr. P. And Mrs. G. They said the atmosphere was not right and that they would come back next day. They did. They both solemnly declared it was I who was the Ghost.
Chapter Eleven - More Nuisances
We had barely gotten rid of Price when we were tormented by the Press. We gave the man short shift and told him to go. He went, and after interviewing Price printed a story - nothing to it really, just a rehash of previous stories. The difference in ages was stressed, and the fact that I was pretty.
Edwin Whitehouse came on the scene 'round about this time. Nephew of Sir George Whitehouse, he had received a nervous discharge from the Navy. He had served in World War I at the age of 15 as a midshipman, and had really been through the mill.
He was, at the time I first made his acquaintance, recovering from a love affair. He was seriously thinking of becoming a monk. He was tall after the fashion of the upper middle-class Englander, and pleasant enough at first sight. Later he became a nuisance. He was forever wanting to analyze his feelings, the reactions of others to his feelings, and religion was his chief topic. Sin was his preoccupation.
He tried to convert Lion. Lion was very naughty about him. Whenever he saw Edwin coming, or heard him, Lion used to fly out of the house - anywhere - mostly he took refuge in the church. I was stuck.
To my chagrin I realized that Lady W. fancied that I encouraged Edwin. I openly told Edwin this and he appeared delighted. I mentioned this to Lion and he though the whole thing a joke. He said, "You should not be so pleasant to him," and caught me in my own trap. I was constantly telling Lion to be pleasant to people. Even when he did not like them.
Chapter Twelve - Mediums from Marks Tey
Ian stayed with us 'round this time, and really led the world a merry chase. Irish, 18 years of age and full of fun, he enjoyed himself to the hilt. [1933?] When he was not off hunting, he was singing through the house at the top of his lungs one minute, and the next he would be out in the garden hunting for buried treasure.
All that he ever found were the remains of what had once been a tunnel. It went under the road leading into the field by the churchyard. I decided that it might have been the remains of a sewer system of an earlier time. I forbade him to enter it. He was not the kind you can forbid much, and traced its entrance to the cellar. I was exceptionally thankful when its entrance caved in, and soon after that he returned to Ireland.
We had a group of people from Paddington and a group from just outside London. They were spiritualists, and although they were kind and helpful, I counseled Lion against having such people in the house. But he persisted.
At this time there was coming over Lion a change. He was no longer interested in plays and play production. He gave up the pastoral play and spent more and more time immersed in reading. His health was much the same as usual, except that he had horrible palpitations and his rheumatism was increasing.
He had some kind of communication with some folks at Marks Tey and they came over to the house. They were pleasant folk and sang hymns and held seances. I refused to sit in their seances for a long time, and then one day I did so. There was nothing to it, and while we were in the middle of it there were some terrific bumps.
Chapter Thirteen - Mark Teys Continued
The chapter, as they called themselves, continued to come on and off, and one night they brought with them a man whom they said came from Hempstead Heath, and another from - I believe - Clacton on Sea. These men really were mediums. They later held a seance upstairs and in the night it began to rain - torrents of it. When we got up in the morning it was like a new world all washed clean.
The mediums told us we would not be really bothered again. We might have little happenings, but there would never in our time be much trouble. There wasn't. At least not to be compared with what had actually happened.
Chapter Fourteen - Local Superstitions and Traditions
These are really dillies, some of them, and often kept Lion and I in stitches of laughter
when we would recount them to each other.
Chapter Fifteen - The Four Manor Houses of Borley
Borley Manor had only a population of 136 in 1932. At one time it was much larger. In the reign of Edward Confessor [1042-1066] it was in the hands of Lewin, a freeman. In the Doomsday Book it is recorded in the hands of Adelizia, a half-sister of William De Fortibus. In 1307 it went to Edward I by exchange, and in 1346 Edward III gave it to the Convent of Christ church of Canterbury. In 1539, at the time of the dissolution [of the Monasteries Act of 1538], it was given to the Waldegraves.
Within the manor proper there was 811 acres and plenty of common pasture for 130 sheep; arable land 702 acres; 15 acres of woods; manor house land 15 acres. There were tofts [for outbuildings] of two acres each.
Extent of the manor in 1308 - stewards, clerks, reeve [official charged with enforcement of local regulations], and tenants of the manor. One pleasant messuage [premise], well built with 25 acres of grass. (This is Borley Place.) Lord of manor was patron of church, worth ten pounds yearly.
There was one water mill (still in existence) let at sixty shillings per year. One pleasant messuage thereto (still existing). There are two other manors still in existence. Both interesting. About Borley there are so many things to tell about the manor houses. Some interesting and some historical.
Chapter Fifteen [continued] - The Church
Without a dedication. A beautiful little church with brasses and tombs dedicated to long dead folk. The local story of the disappearance of the church silver is interesting.
There is a story that the coffins in the Waldegrave crypt move. There is the story of the tunnel from the church to the cellar. The rectory cellar was an extraordinary place. Obviously built on an old foundation, it had three wells in it and all kinds of crypt-like places in its domain. It was dry as a bone and as cold as Greenland.
Chapter Sixteen - Animals Were Odd
We could never get a cat or dog to stay at Borley. We tried several - the cats died and the dogs ran away. There were several incidents which make good reading, but the fact remains we could not get a dog to stay with us. There was, however, in the garden a very odd animal who did stay. The gardener called it "That Owld Thing." It lived under the summerhouse and was about the size of a large mongoose, but it was not a mongoose. It used to appear at night on the lawn and would disappear under the summerhouse if one approached.
Chapter Eighteen - Borley Village
The inhabitants are out of this world, or were. It is bypassed by all leading arterial roads, and stays like an oasis. The children still follow their fathers into business and the girls still talk about going into service. It has no village store, just a post office. There is one road through it, and all the cottages are over four hundred years of age. Many are nearly seven hundred.
There is a cedar [tree] in the rectory garden which is many hundreds of years of age.
There are beautiful oaks and lovely trees. The churchyard is a beautiful place with its quaint yews
cut into quaint figures. The graveyard itself is a tiny spot with bones dug up every time there is a
burial, yet the villagers resent the thought of an addition to the churchyard. They want their
bones to be with the bones of their fathers.
Chapter Twenty Three - The Gardens of Borley
The rectory garden was both warm and cold, barren and bountiful, according to the section in which one was in. The courtyard was as different as chalk from cheese to the inner courtyard, and the terrace garden was a joy.
There was a walk in the garden which was pleasant and warm, there was a place to rest in the sun and violets grew in great profusion there. Giant Campanulas made a blue showing, and other warm summer flowers made the air sweetly spiced on a summers day. We called this section the jungle, and there we could sit and read in the summer time, listening to the drone of the bees.
Within ten feet away there was another walk, also hedged in with box, but nothing grew. We tried all kinds of shrubs, seedlings and bulbs, but nothing flowered. Box would grow and yew, but lilacs no. Rhododendrons, no. No flowering shrub would grow.
The outlying villages near Borley are many of them just as old style as Borley. Belchamp Walter, Belchamp St. Paul, Eyston, Pentlow and Liston, are some of them. Suffolk owed its prosperity to the Wollen prosperity brought over by the displaced Flemings.
Borley never felt it. It is truly rural. The people are worth a chapter.
Chapter Twenty - Ghost lights in the Window
In this chapter are many incidents which will be discussed, including the Ghost lights, the
bells, and the apparitions.
Chapter Twenty One
Harry Price, Edwin Whitehouse, Mrs. Goldney, and some mediums. Mrs. Goldney voltfaced [about-faced; reversal in policy] so often she left me dizzy. One thing only annoyed her, she knew I knew she and Harry were that way about each other.
Chapter Twenty Two
Miss Warren came as housekeeper to Mr. Viall and lived in the rectory at the time Lion bought the flower shop I was to run. It would have been a good arrangement if Lion did not expect too much. As it was, he became increasingly ill and yet wanted me to take over as breadwinner, yet he did not want me to be away from home.
At last I couldn't stand it any more and I gave up the shop. I went home and got a job in Ipswich, selling washing machines called Jiffy. I did well at it and could have been made supervisor, but just at that time Lion began to have queer fainting fits and I talked with Dr. Tyler who said it was his heart. Lion went to the Heart Hospital in London and there was told of his heart's bad health. It affected his speech at times, and made it hard for him to remember. He also got very quarrelsome with everyone but me. Then one Sunday he collapsed in church and the doctor said no more preaching.
The house had been quiet enough for over three and one-half years when we left Borley Rectory.