on 23 April 2007
Richard Morris' biography of Harry Price was definitely not the book I was expecting to read. If you're looking for yet another book delving into Borley, then you won't find that in great detail here. But this is a good thing, because Morris' book is the first true warts-and-all look at the life of this fascinating and enigmatic man.
Harry Price was arguably the original popularizer of ghost-hunting in the United Kingdom. He had P.T. Barnum's flair for showmanship, coupled with the keen instincts of the consummate self-promoter. Where Morris' work breaks startling new ground is in covering the less savory aspects of Price's life.
Price is shown in a new light (particularly when one considers the former biographical material available on him) that shows him to be fairly unpleasant. Bickering and squabbling with others in the field of psychic research, performing intellectual U-turns when it suits his purpose (and outright backstabbing on occasion), and exhibiting an incredible degree of small-mindedness and blatant hypocrisy, this is an unseen and dark aspect of Harry Price that has never before been explored in any depth.
Morris makes no bones about the fact that Price may have personally stolen some of his own personal antiquities from a church, and (most damning of all) faked "paranormal phenomena" for his own personal gain. The casual reader will probably be aware of Price via his association with the Borley Rectory case, and the author shatters Price's credibility (and thereby much of Borley's claim as "The Most Haunted House in England", which was Harry Price's own contention) on the matter once and for all. Price's assessment of various purported mediums, his friendship and subsequent falling-out with Harry Houdini, plus a wealth of other personal and professional material are covered in great depth.
This book belongs on the shelf of any serious paranormal investigator, and will serve a great reading for anybody who is interested in the life of this enigmatic and colorful character. Harry Price's tale is ultimately sad, intriguing, sordid, and sometimes chilling. Richard Morris has written a biography that educates and entertains in equal measure, and an important contribution to the literature of paranormal research.
Harry Price was undoubtedly a complicated and difficult man. He fed on publicity and appears to have lied about his background. That in itself would alienate him to many and perhaps most. Yet, some of his work, particularly on Borley Rectory, was very well recorded and written but his efforts are marred both by elements of his personality and by obsessive detractors. One irksome implication of totally discrediting Price, at all costs, is to thereby, by association, discredit reliable and dignified witnesses to the 'Borley paranormal'.
I didn't like this book. Many books, such as this, start out with a preconceived conclusion and that will guide much of the text. I believe the book lacks balance. Harry Price, with all his shortfalls, was not as 'bad' as painted here!
I cannot recommend this book to others but it will have appeal to committed sceptics.
on 11 April 2013
This ia a book of great general interest. I'm amazed that anyone should take Harry Price seriously after reading this well-researched biography. It is a fascinating biography of a 'New Man', meaning one who reinvents himself with a bogus past and qualifications in order to delude others and themselves. I feel very sorry for the genuine believers in Spiritualism who were taken in by this man. Sadly, there were never any real ghosts at Borley.