Richard Morris’ biography is an investigation into an investigator. There must be a clever Latin phrase for that sort of caper, but I know not what it is. I saw an excellent exhibition of Price’s ghost investigations at The Photographers’ Gallery a few years ago and came away with the impression that he was a serious scientist, although something of a show-off. Morris’ research, however, unearths evidence to prove that he was often responsible for the phenomena he was trying to debunk. Indeed, in an early piece of writing, he admitted that many people prefer the “bunk” to the “debunk”. He was essentially an accomplished showman who was desperate for recognition. Although greatly admired in some quarters, he was never sufficiently successful to give up his day job as, of all things, a paper bag salesman.
I can’t help thinking he undermined his authority by his unwise selection of cases. Only the terminally credulous could believe in Margery the Ecotplasmic Vesuvius, from whose vagina “teleplasmic hands, like misshapen Danish pastries” emerged. Surely they’d be muffins? Price also travelled to the Isle of Man to visit Gef, a mongoose with a penchant for gossip and cream buns. Surprisingly, Gef had nipped out when Price arrived, but thoughtfully sent him a hoof print afterwards. To be fair to Price, he wasn’t the only one to be duped – an American film director was desperate to buy the film rights for $50,000, but Gef refused to appear for the screen test. He hated make-up, apparently.
Price is never less than interesting and entertaining, but he also had a thoroughly unpleasant side. He seems to have largely ignored his wife Connie, and instead focused all his energies on paranormal hoaxes and a succession of mistresses. Until the end of the book, I kept reminding myself that he’d at least made a valid contribution to posterity by bequeathing his considerable library to Senate House. However, one is not so impressed after discovering that he’d originally tried to sell his collection to the Nazis. As if being a love rat and charlatan weren’t sufficient, he was also a great admirer of Herr Hitler, even after the horrors of Kristallnacht left nobody in any doubt as to the regime’s real agenda.
I wonder whether he’ll read my blog in impotent rage from the Other Side?
Harry Price – The Psychic Detective by Richard Morris