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?
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.
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.