Price, Harry (1881–1948)
Prominent British psychical researcher. Price was born January
17, 1881, and was educated at London and Shropshire.
His interest in conjuring dated from his boyhood, when he
watched the medicine show of ‘‘The Great Sequah’’ at a fairground,
a performance with quack remedies, tooth drawing,
and magical tricks. At the age of fifteen, he conducted his first
scientific investigation of poltergeist phenomena, staying until
midnight in a reputed haunted house with photographic
equipment.
Price was involved in archaeological excavations in Greenwich
Park and discovered a prehistoric cave in Shropshire. He
assisted the early flying experiments of José Weiss, a year before
the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk. Price was an amateur
conjurer, a member of the Magic Circle, elected to the Society
of American Magicians, and from 1921 onward was honorary
librarian of the exclusive Magician’s Club.
As a psychical researcher, Price investigated Stella C. (Stella
Cranshaw Deacon), Eleonore Zügun, and Rudi Schneider. He
was a publicist for the cause of psychical research. Price went
on an expedition to the Hartz Mountains, Germany, during the
Goethe centenary of 1932, to test a fifteenth-century white
magic ritual said to change a goat into a ‘‘fair youth of surpassing
beauty.’’ The goat was not metamorphosed. Price was also
founder of Britain’s National Laboratory of Psychical Research
(which became the University of London Council for Psychical
Research).
Price also attracted attention for his investigation of Borley
Rectory, Essex, ‘‘The Most Haunted House in England,’’ and
his connection with R. S. Lambert and the story of the Talking
Mongoose of the Isle of Man. Price published many books and
pamphlets concerning his research and other experiences in
the Spiritualist and occult community. He also made an early
talking picture, Psychical Research, in 1935, contributed an article
on ‘‘Faith and Fire-Walking’’ to the Encyclopedia Britannica
(1936), and collaborated on a film script of the Borley hauntings
with novelist Upton Sinclair. Price died March 29, 1948.
His collection of some 20,000 volumes of works on psychical research,
magic, and related subjects, was donated to the University
of London as the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature.
After his death, Price was accused by fellow psychical researchers
of helping out or faking some of the Borley Rectory
phenomena. One of those, Trevor Hall, went on to write a biography
of Price critical of every aspect of his activities. Hall presented
him as a pretender, fraud, and dishonest investigator.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Dingwall, E. J., K. M. Goldney, and Trevor H. Hall. ‘‘The
Haunting of Borley Rectory; A Critical Survey of the Evidence.’’
Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 51 (1956).
Hall, Trevor H. Search for Harry Price. London; Duckworth,
Tex. Southwest Book Services, 1978.
Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology.
New York Helix Press, 1964.
Price, Harry. Confessions of a Ghost-Hunter. London Putnam,
1936. Reprint, New York Causeway Books, 1974.
———. The End of Borley Rectory. London Harrap, 1946.
———. Fifty Years of Psychical Research A Critical Survey. London
Longmans, 1939. Reprint, New York Arno Press, 1975.
———. Leaves From a Psychist’s Case-Book. London Gollancz,
1933.
———. The Most Haunted House in England. London Longmans,
Green, 1940.
———. Poltergeist Over England. London Country Life,
1945.
———. Search for Truth My Life for Psychical Research. London
Collins, 1942.
Price, Harry, and E. J. Dingwall, eds. Revelations of a Spirit
Medium. London Kegan Paul, 1922.
Tabori, Paul. Harry Price The Biography of a Ghost-Hunter.
London Athenaenum Press, 1930.