- A Transcript of the Talking Film made by Harry
Price for the Movietone News in 1936
there are two pieces of film footage which show Harry Price in action.
The first is a short cine film by Price's sometime collaborator C.E.M.
Joad made on a trip to Germany in 1932 which culminates with the notorious
Brocken Experiment showing Price reading the lines from the Bloksberg
Tryst and trying unsuccessfully to transform a goat into a handsome young
man. A copy of this is kept at the University of London as part of
the Harry Price Library. The second is a 10 minute (1000 ft.)
talking film which Price scripted for the Movietone News in 1936
showing him in the rooms of the University of London Council for Psychical
Investigation at 13 Roland Gardens, South Kensington. Price gives a
potted overview to scientific psychical research, shows some early books
on the subject taken from his research library and describes the various
pieces of apparatus and instrumentation which he used as part of his work.
There is also a demonstration of some trick devices used by fraudulent
mediums in the séance room as well as look at some of the items contained
in Joanna Southcott's "box" which Price opened in 1928.
mentions the film briefly in the closing pages of his autobiography Search
for Truth, although he didn't consider it to be very successful as he felt
it failed to "get the atmosphere of the séance-room into the story".
Now it is an interesting historical document which gives us our only
exposure to the way Price really spoke (he has been described as a bit of
a 'splutterer' when it came to public speaking) and also an idea of his
mannerisms and his bearing. Anyone who has read any of his books or
writings will find the ten minutes in Price's company which this film
Psychical Research and the footage of the Brocken Experiment are
available to view on the archive website of Movietone News.
The cost of acquiring a licence to have both films on this website are
prohibitive to say the least, but you can enjoy Harry Price 'in the flesh'
as it were by going to
www.movietone.comand doing the simple piece of registration to get
access to their archive. Once this is done, just do a search for 'harry
price' and you will find both films to view. Below is a
transcription of Price's script for Psychical Research taken from
the newsreel together with the covers of the two books which Price refers
to during the film. The clairvoyant Price mentions in the film was
Josef Kraus ("Marion") and I have included a scan of a photograph taken
from Bulletin III of the University of London Council for Psychical
Investigation which shows the sentry box apparatus Price describes,
although this is not Price in the box!
2 January 2009 - Since the original version of this page was
created, Price's Movietone News film has now been added to the Youtube
website. I have linked to it below so now you can enjoy Price in
sound and vision.
The Movietone News Theatre presents:-
An Exclusive Film Interview with Mr. Harry Price
Honorary Secretary, University of London Council for
in the Research Library]
psychical research? A popular opinion says that it means going to
séances, holding hands in the dark, singing hymns and perhaps getting in
touch with your dead relative. But in this, popular opinion is only
partly correct because it is confusing psychical research with
spiritualism. Psychical research is a science and it is rapidly
becoming an exact science. It's object is to ascertain, by exact
experimental methods, how far the alleged phenomena of the séance room can
be brought into line with normality.
which are produced by people who claim abnormal powers and who call
themselves 'mediums', can be divided into physical and mental. The
mental include clairvoyance, psychometry, the 'direct voice' which spirits
are supposed to produce at séances and similar manifestations. The
physical phenomena include telekinesis or the abnormal movement of objects
without physical contact, the poltergeist phenomena you read about in
connection with haunted houses, and similar manifestations.
Title page of
Of Ghosts and spirites walking by nyght by Ludwig (Lewes)
Lavater, London, 1572 - First Edition.
There is an
idea that the study of alleged abnormal phenomena is quite modern, but
that is not the case. People have been interested in psychic
phenomena from the very earliest times and even the literature of the
subject is very old. In our research library of some 12,000 volumes,
we have books going back right to the sixteenth century. I'll show
you one of them.
there is one here written by Lewes Lavater called Of Ghost and Spirits
Walking by Night and this must be the very first book printed in
English which deals with survival as we know it today. I'll show you
another one. Here is one written by Oliver Goldsmith and deals with
the famous Cock Lane Ghost. The extraordinary part of this book is
that it describes a séance in a girl's bedroom exactly as if it might have
been written yesterday.
research proceeds on vastly different lines than what it did in the
sixteenth century. We now require a fully equipped laboratory, which
I'll show you.
in the Chemical & Physical Laboratory]
If a man comes
to us and claims he can produce abnormal phenomena, then we test him by
instrumental means. We have a number of special instruments for this
purpose including a dictaphone, a cinematic projector and cameras, X-ray
apparatus, infra-red, ultra-violet and many others such as microscopes
Now here are
some very ingenious slates which I have taken out of our museum of such
objects. Now these slates are very ingenious. Here you see a
pair of simple slates - but not quite so simple, and when I tell you I
gave £8 for them, you will know that there is a reason for the cost.
A touch of a spring and you'll notice that they are covered with writing
and drawing of an alleged spirit.
Here is another
exhibit from our museum. Apparently it is a well-made mahogany box
which I will proceed to lock. Now that for all intents and purposes
is locked fast. But, by touching a screw here, one can open the box
whether it is locked or not. This is the kind of thing that some
fraudulent mediums use, though not of course under any scientific control.
Title page of
The Mystery Revealed... by Oliver Goldsmith, London, 1742.
I will now show
you the very ingenious mechanism of this box in detail. You will see
that the staple has been forced in the lock. Of course the staple
has come from the lid. When I close the box again and replace this
pin, you'll notice that the box is again locked. I will now unlock
it and of course the staple is back in the lid again. Although it
would defy anyone to find where the mechanism was hidden.
We get some
extraordinary investigations to do, but I think the most extraordinary was
the opening of Joanna Southcott's famous "box". This box was opened
at the Church House, Westminster in 1927 and a wave of excitement passed
through the audience when I cut the steel bands. The box contained
the most extraordinary collection of objects. Here is a wire puzzle
- a very ancient puzzle; Joanna Southcott's night-cap - very curious; a
dice box, for what Joanna wanted a dice box I can't say; a lottery ticket
number 382 for 1814 - I'm afraid it didn't win anything; a horse pistol;
an ancient purse full of really very valuable coins - this is a most
interesting exhibit; a book - several books as a matter of fact; and a
piece of paper printed on the Thames, February the third, 1814.
Well, I have
shown you the very curious contents of that box, but I am afraid that
there is nothing in it which Joanna Southcott said would save the nation
in a time of emergency.
standing back in the Research Library]
Well you have
seen our laboratory and we are now back in the library, which is also our
séance room where all our tests are held. I will now show you our
latest piece of apparatus. Here is a box like a sentry box, which
was made to test an alleged clairvoyant, or thought-reader. This man
stated he could find objects in a room, so we had our suspicions that he
found these objects by watching the audience or by getting indicia from
the movements of the audience. So we had this box made so that we
could cover up portions of a persons' anatomy, a part at a time.
For instance that is panel number one. We found that our theory was
correct, because when the person who knew where the object was, was
entirely hidden in this box, the clairvoyant failed - he could not find
the hidden object.
apparatus used in the "Marion" experiments (Reproduced from
Bulletin III of the University of London Council for Psychical
Now here is a
totally different piece of apparatus. If a man comes to us and says
he can make objects move without physical contact, we try this table on
him. This table is in two portions - it is really a cage within a
cage, and the centre portion rises - we hope it would rise by psychic
power, but unfortunately we have never got it to rise by those means yet.
But this is a fraud-proof table. Inside the table are various
musical toys like a toy piano and the pan pipes, etc. The eight
panels in this table can only be moved by opening this flap and putting
one's hand down into the table. Therefore, if we get any of these
musical toys being worked upon while we are sitting around the table, and
the table - the flap - is closed, then we know the noises have been
caused, or rather the movements have been caused by abnormal means, and we
proceed further with our investigation.
So you see,
that psychical research means a good deal of knowledge about many things.
But we are progressing. Not only are we progressing, but orthodox
science is taking a very keen interest in the subject, and already many
universities in various parts of the world, for instance at Leiden,
Holland; Duke University in America; John Hopkins University in America,
and more recently a group connected with the University of London has been
formed, and it is hoped that some information will be derived from our
I do earnestly hope and trust that any of you who come across cases of
hauntings, poltergeists, unusual happenings of any sort, will communicate
with me, care of the Movietone News.