Paranormal

Harry Price Versus The Psychic Frauds

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Harry Price, the renowned English ghosthunter, had a passion for exposing supernatural fraudsters. RICK HALE delves into three of Price’s most revealing cases

Harry Price, the renowned English ghosthunter, had a passion for exposing supernatural fraudsters. RICK HALE delves into three of Price's most revealing cases
Harry Price

Over the last two decades, an industry has arisen around the field of paranormal research and investigation. 

Thanks to equal parts to television, the internet and social media, there are dozens of websites selling all manner of ‘spectre detectors’.

Now, many falsely believe that a muscled DJ from Las Vegas or two plumbers from Rhode Island were the first to use scientific gear in the quest to obtain proof of the existence of ghosts.

That, of course, is incorrect. That singular distinction belongs to a psychical researcher who took spook chasing out of the hands of 19th-century academics and made it accessible to common folk. The Gentleman Ghost Hunter himself, Harry Price.

Considered highly controversial by many of his peers at the time, Harry, gave us two of the most outrageous investigations into the unknown in the early decades of the 20th century.

Borley Rectory opened up the possibility of an extreme haunting that can last decades.

And Gef, the so-called talking mongoose – a case so bizarre that it leaves even the most scientific among us scratching their heads in consternation. 

And even though many throughout the history of organised psychical research would consider Harry Price to be the world’s first swashbuckling ghost hunter, there was another pursuit he wholeheartedly engaged in: the exposing of fraudulent psychics. It was a pursuit he was relentless at.

Frauds Abound

In my time as a paranormal investigator, I have met a number of people who claim to have a gift for either talking to the dead or predicting future events.

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And to be completely transparent, I can count on one hand those I’m convinced have a legitimate gift. Or curse, depending on your point of view.

In Price’s time, it was no different. Predatory con artists were everywhere. So Harry Price, a former stage magician, took it upon himself to expose these unscrupulous people. These are some of his most famous cases.

Harry Price
Harry Price

William Hope

In Price’s day, spiritualism and photography were two things that seemed to go hand in hand. They still do to this day.

And like the ridiculous orb pictures, and photos that clearly show cigarette smoke, fraudsters and fakers of old used these photos of alleged ghosts to separate the bereaved from their money. 

In Britain, no one was quite as adept at this as William Hope.

In February 1922, William Hope was brought into the College of Psychic Science by Price, James Seymour, Eric Dingwall and William Marriott.

Their aim, test the man’s extraordinary claim that he could catch images of the dead on camera plates.

The four researchers were fairly certain Hope was full of bunk. Price was able to determine that Hope was pulling a little slight of hand by substituting his own plates for those of the sitter.

In turn, Harry pulled a little slight of hand himself. Price marked Hope’s plates with the Imperial Dry Plate Co. Ltd. logo. If Hope used them, the mark would be transferred.

And Hope fell for the ruse. He replaced Price’s marked plates with his own, proving he was nothing more than a fraud.

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When the smoke cleared, there was an unexpected consequence of Hope was exposed.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was so offended, believing the SPR was anti-medium, that he, along with dozens of others, resigned from the SPR.

Harry Price later wrote that he was publicly maligned and abused by Doyle and his followers. Such crass behaviour persists to this day.

Rudi Schneider 

To say that Rudi Schneider was extraordinary was something of an understatement. 

At a number of his sceances,  Rudi astounded the sitters by not just manifesting ghosts but also using the power of his mind to levitate objects.

To the untrained and uninitiated, such a thing was nothing short of miraculous. Harry Price was not among them. He was convinced Rudi was a fraud and would prove it.

According to Price, he had a picture in his possession of Rudi Schneider getting his hand free during a sitting and moving a handkerchief. 

When the photo was released, the mainstream scientific community applauded Price. 

Unfortunately, his peers in the SPR didn’t share that opinion.

They accused Price of a conspiracy to discredit a man with a legitimate gift.

He was accused of faking the photograph but was eventually vindicated by several photograph experts who diligently analysed the picture and concluded it was indeed genuine.

Rosalie

Mistakes happen, and that’s just a hard fact. Now, you would think that a seasoned professional like Harry Price couldn’t be taken in by mere parlour tricks.

Unfortunately, he was, and his detractors pounced on it like a flock of ravenous vultures. 

In December 1937, Price was attending a séance when the inexplicable occurred. 

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The ghost of a small girl named Rosalie came forth.

The ghost actually allowed herself to be examined by Price. And when Price was done, he was convinced this was just another fraud. Until the lights came on.

When the séance was over, Price made a number of disturbing discoveries.

The cornflour he spread around the room was undisturbed. The doors he locked were still locked. And the tape he used to seal the windows was still intact. Was this a true manifestation of a spirit? 

Shortly thereafter, two of Price’s greatest detractors, Eric Dingwall and Trevor Hall, called shenanigans,  claiming the séance to be completely fictitious. 

Thankfully, a few of the sitters who were in attendance came forward to confirm the séance wasn’t only real, but it had shaken Harry Price to his soul.

Many years later, Peter Underwood published an anonymous letter and photograph confirming Price was indeed there.

However, it revealed that Rosalie was indeed a fake. The child was nothing more than an actor hired by the father of Rosalie because he owed the mother money. I don’t know about you, but to me, that is sick and twisted.

Harry Price, scourge of frauds and a gentleman, has gone down in history as one of the paranormal’s greatest ghost hunters.

Of course, many would disagree, believing he was nothing more than a showman. Nevertheless, regardless of what you may think, Harry Price left one hell of a legacy.

Tell us your thoughts of Harry Price in the comments section below!

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