Harry Price is one of the most controversial and famous psychic researchers and authors in the history of spiritualist studies. He is particularly famous for being maligned by many of his peers but simultaneously becoming extremely popular with the public due to his fascinating studies on haunted houses, psychic activity, mediumship and other supernormal phenomena.
With his level of interest in these fields combined to his awareness of magic, Price was an adept magician as well, he was able to uncover a number of fraudulent claims to supernormal activity during his lifetime because he was aware of how to create these false claims. Harry Price wrote several books during his life and these still have a huge following in the world of psychical study and beyond.
The Life of Harry Price
The life of Harry Price began in 1881 in London. His first experiences of psychic activity occurred when he was only 15. He and a friend discovered an old manor house which was believed to be haunted and with permission they stayed the night in this house to see what they might experience. Harry Price claimed in his autobiography that on that night there were a number of noises which indicated the presence of a ghost and when Harry tried to take a photo he overloaded his camera with flash powder and the photo never came out. Regardless of this failure it was this experience which helped set Harry Price on a path which would dictate his whole life.
During his formative years his passion for magic also began to take root and he became obsessed by magicians, illusionists, hypnotists and fortune tellers and he also became a skilled magician as well. However it wasn't until later in his career that his magic skill was recognized and he became a member of the Magic Circle as well as a member of the Society of American Magicians. Harry Price used the innumerable magic techniques he learnt and researched to then launch one of the most well known facets of his career; uncovering fraud.
With his vast knowledge he became an expert at revealing false claims to the supernormal and these claims were particularly frequent at the turn of the 19 th century. After finishing school Harry Price continued his research into psychic activity but he could not commit to it as a full time job until he married his wife, Constance Mary Knight, in 1908. By 1920 he joined the Society for Psychical Research and although he was already known as one the leaders in his field it was from this point on when his reputation began to spread.
One of the first investigations which shot Harry Price to fame was his uncovering of the spirit photographer William Hope. Hope was making a living by taking photographs of people which would feature the spirit of a dead relative. Hope's photos were of course faked and in 1922 Harry Price went to visit Hope, on behalf of the Society for Psychical Research, in order to investigate what was actually going on. Inevitably Price uncovered William Hope as a fraud and he succeeded in doing so by secretly switching Hope's photographic plates with some of his own which revealed that all along Hope had been using pre-prepared plates with images of spirits on them. After publishing his findings Harry Price's reputation grew whilst William Hope's crashed.
However this was not the main body of Price's work and uncovering frauds was merely part of a much broader investigation. His next major study in the world of psychical research fell upon him by chance as he met a young woman named Stella Cranshaw. After meeting Cranshaw on a train the young woman told Price that she had been experiencing some very odd supernormal activity in her life. She explained that for the past few years she had been experiencing cold chills in her house, strange rapping noises and had even seen objects flying. Harry Price was instantly fascinated and after informing Cranshaw of his credentials she agreed to be a test subject in order to help understand this psychical activity.