Sunday, 3 January 2016

Harry Price: Ghost Worrier

Like a few others, I watched the ITV drama 'Harry Price: Ghost Hunter’ on Sunday night.

I knew it was an adaptation of the book ‘The Ghost Hunters’ by Neil Spring (an account of the Borley Rectory investigation) but hadn’t considered it would be a total work of fiction. We learnt nothing about Harry Price or the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). 

However, it was a good ghost story. Atmospheric and nicely shot. I particularly liked the scene where the woman of the house threw a sheet across the bedroom and it landed on the ‘ghost’ forming a human shape. 

Maybe this was the best account we could expect of the (in)famous psychical researcher. Price almost defies our need to categorise him as a ‘believer’ or ‘sceptic’. His behaviour was confusing - both (allegedly) faking and debunking paranormal phenomena. 

As explored by the programme the loss experienced by families during and after the war fuelled the rise of Spiritualism. The expectation of contacting loved ones, and the desire from others to provide comfort, must have been overwhelming. As Price explained “Give the people what they want!”

Post-war Women’s rights were also explored in the programme. The feminist perspective on Spiritualism itself is interesting, i.e. the role of ‘medium’ provided a position of power not afforded to women elsewhere in society. The lingering look from the female character during the final scenes to Harry’s request to join him suggests there may be a follow-up.   
My main thought after watching was one of disappointment. Not that it wasn’t a documentary but that people who do psychical research are not more prominent or well regarded as they were back then.

Whilst I am a sceptic and don’t think there is anything to find I don’t want to stop people looking. If they don’t find something they’ve only wasted their own time but if they do we all benefit! 

I remember watching programmes from 1970's and 1980’s when there seemed to be a real momentum to their research. Maybe it's my own nostalgia or that we’ve all become too cynical after Uri Geller, Psychic Sally and Most Haunted etc. 

Ultimately, I think it was a missed opportunity to learn more about this fascinating period.

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