Was Harry Price Really One Of The Greatest Paranormal Investigators Of All Time?
July 24, 2023 1:00 AM ‐ Paranormal
Photo: © Noel F. Busch
Harry Price was a British psychic researcher often touted as one of the greatest paranormal investigators of all time. He rose to fame after joining the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in 1920, and was known for his investigations into psychical phenomena and for exposing fraudulent spiritualist mediums. His most famous investigation was off the legendary haunted Borley Rectory in Essex.
Despite being praised by some as one of the most important and influential investigators to ever work in the field, many scientists criticise Harry's work, pointing to his disregard for scientific rigour and his love for publicity. So, does Harry truly deserves this title of greatest paranormal investigators of all time?
The Case Against Harry Price
Critics argue that Harry's flamboyance and self-assertiveness alienated fellow psychical researchers. His tendency to claim credit for work undertaken jointly with others, and sometimes for achievements in which he had played no part at all, damaged his reputation among his peers. Harry's credibility took a significant hit due to the Rudi Schneider incident. In the 1920s, Harry had investigated the psychic abilities of Willy Schneider and later his younger brother, Rudi. However, when Lord Charles Hope conducted an independent investigation on Rudi without Harry's involvement, Harry retaliated by accusing Rudi of cheating and presenting ambiguous photographs as evidence. This fuelled suspicions that Harry was ruthless and would use fraud to achieve his goals.
Harry's investigation into Borley Rectory was criticised in a 1956 report by three former colleagues, who accused him of various inconsistencies. The report, titled 'The Haunting of Borley Rectory,' addressed every point of contention as possible evidence against Harry, but also made claims that seemed to suggest their knowledge of the facts was incomplete. Although the report was later challenged by Robert J. Hastings in 'An Examination Of The Borley Report', the damage to Harry's reputation had been done.
The Case For Harry Price
Despite his flaws, Harry made significant contributions to the field of paranormal investigation. He conducted thorough investigations and sought ordinary explanations for seemingly paranormal phenomena, as evidenced by his work with the Schneider brothers and the Borley Rectory. Harry's dedication to exposing fraudulent mediums brought public attention to the tricks and deceptions used in the spiritualist community. His efforts to establish a Department of Psychical Research at the University of London and his creation of the Harry Price Library demonstrated his commitment to advancing the field of parapsychology.
Harry's approach to parapsychology had similarities with that of Sir William Crookes, a renowned scientist who also investigated paranormal phenomena. Both Harry and William tried to find ordinary explanations for extraordinary events and were more interested in the details of events than in establishing underlying principles. Harry's ability to maintain a sense of humour in his work, even when dealing with fraudulent mediums, may have helped his investigations as much as it damaged his reputation.
Harry Price's legacy is a complex one. While his flamboyant personality and desire for publicity may have had an impact on his credibility, his dedication to uncovering the truth and exposing fraud in the paranormal world cannot be denied. Despite his flaws, Harry did make significant contributions to the field of parapsychology and brought public attention to the existence of hauntings and ghostly phenomena. Whether he deserves the title of one of the greatest paranormal investigators of all time may be subjective, but his impact on the field is undeniable.
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