Peter Underwood: The Official Website
The Borley Bell

Author, broadcaster, paranormalist

ABOUT PETER UNDERWOOD FRSA

 

Born at Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire on 16th May 1923 and privately educated he took part in the first 'official' investigation into a haunted house more than 50 years ago, in the company of the then Research Officer of the Society for Psychical Research.

 

Life President, Ghost Club Society (founded 1851)

President, Unitarian Society for Psychical Studies

Patron, Paranormal Site Investigators

Patron, Ghost Research Foundation

Patron, Ghost Investigation

Life Member: Vampire Research Society

Fellow: Royal Society of Arts

Member: Society for Psychical Research, (SPR), Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP), Society of Authors, etc.

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Harry Price and Borley RectoryHarry Price

Among notable cases he has been associated with are the Borley Rectory haunting where he spent many years investigating and tracing and personally interviewing practically every living person who had anything to do with the 'most haunted house in England' including a wealth of correspondence with Marianne Foyster and Harry Price; after Price's death he became literary executor of the Harry Price Estate.

 

Greenwich Ghost PhotographPeter at the site of the famous Greenwich Ghost Photo

He spent 12 years, on and off, exploring the remarkable Langenhoe case of haunting that extended to the manor house, the church and surrounding area; and he thoroughly examined and explored the Queen's House, Greenwich haunting and researched the unique Greenwich ghost photograph - probably the best known genuine ghost photograph ever obtained.

 

Other cases

There was Bramshill, the Hampshire police college with its nine authoritatively authenticated ghosts; Newark Park the National Trust property where ghostly visitors have been heard, seen, felt, recorded on tape and film and reported by scores of independent witnesses - including animals! These are just a couple of examples of exceptional hauntings encountered in  something like 70 years of ghost hunting.

 

Broadcasting and Lecturing

Peter broadcast extensively on TV and radio, especially 1948-1988, including writing and personally presenting a series of ten programs under the general title, The Ghost Man; he was subject of an hour-long radio profile; took part in one episode of TV's Strange But True, hosted by Michael Aspel, devoted to the Borley hauntings and appeared in the TV film The Ghost Hunters that was repeated annually for several years.

In 2007 Peter gave two illustrated lectures at Bydgoszcz University, Poland, accompanied and assisted by Marlena Sypniewska: 'Queen Victoria and Her World' and 'A Short History of English Literature'. 

In 2008 he lectured the Borley Rectory hauntings at the London Society for Psychical Research, together with Paul Adams and Eddie Brazil.  All three were authors of the recently published Borley Rectory Companion (The History Press) a volume that contains a wealth of new information and about 100 photographs, many previously unpublished.  The lecture was reviewed in the SPR Paranormal Review, by John Fraser whose volume 'Ghost Hunting -  A Survivor's Guide' (2010) contains several quotes from Peter who is described as 'the veteran ghost hunter' and 'certainly the best known host hunter in the country'.

Previously his lecture venues have included Grayshot Hall, monthly for seven years, and Oxford and Cambridge and other English Universities.  He also introduced a season of horror films at The National Film Theatre on London's South Bank.  In 1987 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.  He has been a member of the London Savage Club since 1966.

 

Later lifePeter Underwood in 2005

For some years he was Hon. Librarian of the Constitutional Club and later at the Savage Club where he is a former Member of the Qualifications Committee.  In 1976 his head was sculpted by Patricia Finch, winner of the Gold Medal for Sculpture in Venice.  Married in 1944 his wife Joyce died in 2003 after suffering with Parkinson's disease for 14 years.  Since 2004 his life has been immeasurably enriched, enhanced and brightened by his friendship with Polish Marlena Sypniewska.

 

Patronage

To the Patronage of The Ghost Research Foundation (founded in Oxford in 1992) who term him King of Ghost Hunters, he has also accepted an invitation to be Patron of Paranormal Site Investigators (Swindon) an admirable organisation whose scientific enthusiasm, investigating procedures and overall aims and approach to these difficult problems he much admires, and another excellent organisation Paranormal Investigation (Cornwall).

 

Current News

 

Peter is currently working on several new books and he has written a Foreword to PSI's Haunted Swindon and to Damien O'Dell's Ghostly Hertfordshire - his home county.  He has also contributed a Foreword to Darren Ritson's Supernatural North, to Beers and Spirits: Haunted Pubs of the Black Country by David Taylor and Andrew Homer, Two Haunted Counties by Tony Broughall and Paul Adams and Haunted Southampton by Penny Legg.

Peter was featured in Jason' Karl's beautiful and authoritative Illustrated History of the Haunted World (New Holland) and he gets honourable mention in Darren Ritson's In Search of Ghosts (2007) and in Jason Karl's 21st Century Ghosts (New Holland).

Following he death in April 2009 of his old friend Hans Holzer, the leading American parapsychologist Peter wrote, on invitation, an obituary for "The Guardian".  The continues to contribute reviews, articles and bits and pieces to "Drumbeat", the Journal of the Savage Club.

Peter is also contributing to a new biography of Boris Karloff.  In 1972, he was the author of the first biography of the greatest of all horror actors; there are now eight such biographies! Meanwhile, Peter's portrait has been painted by renowned artist Derek Wheeler, who lives in Wales.

Peter's first book A Gazetteer of British Ghosts, published by Souvenir Press in 1971, has been published in a Japanese edition with specially written preface.

 

Unhappy with the way the Ghost Club Society was heading, the administrators having closed down the website, arbitrarily restricted membership, ceased holding meetings, stopped the Quarterly Journal, discontinued subscriptions, refused to co-operate with assistants and did not answer critical letters, Peter as President came to the conclusion that the club could not exist given these restrictions and in all the circumstances and with mutual consent he is now in the process of completely reforming the Ghost Club Society more along the lines of the original with new people in an organising capacity but this looks like taking some months and will involve forming a new Council and complete reorganisation.  Fortunately there is a hard core of long-standing members who treasure the memory of what the club once was and what it can be again, a force for good in the wide realm of psychical research and investigation.  As always, Peter can be contacted at the Savage Club, 1 Whitehall Place, London, SW1A 2HD.

 

In 2008 Peter, accompanied by Marlena, visited Paris - a place they always enjoy and this time apart from the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Champs Elysees, the Arc-de-Triumphe and Notre-Dame, they visited the Latin Quarter, the Conclergeric - a grisly ante-chamber to the guillotine much used in the revolution, the Place de la Concorder, Jardin des Tuileries, Church of Madeleine, the impressive statues of de Gaulle and Churchill, the Musee d'Orsay, the British Embassy and the enormous and truly wonderful Palace and Gardens at Versailles - scene of one of the most famous ghost stories of all time.

During 2009 Peter visited Poland for the tenth time and he and Marlena spent an evening with Sheila Merritt, the doyen of American writers on horror, terror and the usual.  She and her husband Phil were on holiday from Carlsbad, California and meeting renewed a friendship that spans something like forty years.  Sheila writes knowledgeably, instructively and perceptively about books, movies and art dedicated to the horror genre. 

 

Two of Peter's successful earlier books, Haunted London illustrated by his son Chris, (originally published in 1973) and Ghosts of Wales (originally published in 1978), have been reissued by Amberley Publications.

 

In 2010 John Stoker contributed to Paranormal Magazine a six-page, copiously illustrated article on 'one of the most important figures in paranormal investigation' where 'the legendary Peter Underwood' is described as a 'tireless investigator of the paranormal' while The Cornish Guardian contained a full-page illustrated article by Michael Williams where Peter is described as 'a hugely respected figure who brings authority and a sense of perspective' in the study of psychical activity.

 

Peter has been appointed President of the Unitarian Society for Psychical Studies whose previous Presidents have included Prof. Henry Habberley Price, Wykeham Prof. of Logic at Oxford, with whom Peter carried out an investigation of a haunted house in Gloucestershire many years ago.

Unitarians trace their descent from 1662 and the Unitarian Society for Psychical Studies was founded in 1965 "to encourage the study of psychical phenomena in all its aspects with a critical and open mind" and to publish a quarterly journal, Psychical Studies, and to hold meetings and an annual conference at which "a lecture is given on some aspect of psychical studies by someone prominent in the psychic world".

Peter gave his Presidential address at the USPS conference at Chester, taking as his subject: "The Art of the Possessed" or "Discarnate Influences on the Arts", exploring the possible paranormal influences on the arts experienced by numerous poets, novelists, artists and composers.  Peter contributes a regular President's page to the society's journal.

 

In September 2010 Peter visited his beloved Cornwall once again and in the company of his long-time friend and former publisher Michael Williams he spent time visiting and exploring some fascinating and haunted sites in north Cornwall.  Peter also addressed members of Cornwall's Paranormal Investigations society.

 

Peter is currently working with Paul Adams and Eddie Brazil on a new and exciting illustrated volume Haunted Churches.

Peter's latest book is The Ghost Club - A History published by Limbury Press; it is an illustrated account of the 150 year existence of the oldest organisation devoted to the study of psychical research and allied phenomena; the story of a remarkable club in its heyday when members included Michael Bentine, Donald Campbell, Peter Cushing, Lord Dowding, Dame Jean Conan-Doyle and Dennis Wheatley.

 

In October 2010 Peter lectured on ghosts at Swindon GhostFest, introduced by Lionel Fanthorpe, and event excellently organised by Paranormal Site Investigators (founded in 2004), of which Peter has been Patron since its inception. 

His recent work has included contributions to "Drumbeat", the Journal of the Savage Club, and to Ripperana - the crime magazine.  He is currently working a new book on haunted houses.

 

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