Price, Harry (1881-1948)
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 fair-ground, 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.
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: Long-mans, 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.