Thursday, 16 June 2016

Kilburn, the Ku Klux Klan and the Most Haunted House in Britain


This very unusual story connects the KKK, a famous haunted house and Kilburn.

On 2 May 1957 the MP Fenner Brockway spoke in the House of Commons and said:

I think it will be as much of a shock to you as it was to me, to learn that the HQ of the British KKK was in Kilburn!

He said there were 253 agents in Kilburn, Shepherds Bush, Birmingham and Liverpool. MPs and other people had been sent a KKK pamphlet and membership form from an address in Kilburn.

A Times reporter sent to the address, 80 Kingsgate Road, found it was Green’s Chemist Shop. The chemist said the man the reporter wanted was Ian Shaw, who lived upstairs. After giving the specified three knocks a woman answered the door and said Ian was out. Shaw later phoned the Times and said he would talk with the reporter as long as they did not reveal his name and address. 

On the 5 May, the Reynolds News, a paper published by the Cooperative Movement, carried an interview with Ian Shaw. He said he was the leader of the KKK in Britain and had joined because he hated Communists. He said that the Klan was not anti-Jewish or against coloured people. The next evening Ian Shaw appeared on TV in a Panorama interview with Christopher Chataway. He agreed to being named and his face being shown, because the press had already revealed his identity. Ian told Chataway that he had written to America for the KKK material which he distributed to journalists and other influential people in order to ‘worry the Communists’. But he admitted there was no British branch of the KKK which he had simply made up to get publicity for his anti-Communist views.

With further research we found that in 1948 Shaw had called himself the ‘General Secretary of the Arab Friendship Committee’, which was accepting registrations from people eager to fight for the Arab side in Palestine. Although the leaflet he sent out at the time did not use the word Jewish, it was clearly anti-Semitic.

Ian and his wife Margaret lived at 80 Kingsgate Road from 1949 to 1964. In 1955 Shaw was working as an electrical engineer at the EMI factory in Wembley. Short of money, he refused to take a second week’s holiday which caused the Amalgamated Engineering Union to call a sit down strike. Eventually he was persuaded to take time off and the strike ended.

Marianne Foyster and the Ghosts of Borley Rectory
It seemed that was the end of the story, Ian Shaw was a man with rather extreme right-wing views, but then we found out his mother was Marianne Foyster who was at the heart of a famous story about The Most Haunted House in England. This was the best-selling book by Harry Price published in 1940, and he followed it up with The End of Borley Rectory (1946).


Marianne Shaw was born in 1899 in Romiley near Stockport and the family moved to Northern Ireland in 1907. When she was 15 she and her first boyfriend Harold Greenwood, went on holiday to Scotland where she stayed with his relations. Harold was 21 and worked as a clerk in the same company as her father William Shaw. When Marianne returned home she shocked her parents by announcing that she had married Harold and she was pregnant.  Her son, Ian Geoffrey William Shaw, was born in Larne on 19 April 1915. Just six weeks after the birth Greenwood disappeared and Marianne never saw him again: later he went to New Zealand. Ian was brought up by his grandparents. Marianne had a series of affairs in England before returning to Larne where she continued to be ‘the talk of the town’. It’s likely her family were relieved when she decided to go to Canada in 1922, to marry the Rev. Lionel Algernon Foyster. 

Marianne Foyster, c1922

They met when she was only two and he was 23. As the local curate in Oughtrington in Cheshire, he had baptised the seven year old Marianne, and after moving to Canada in 1910 he kept in touch with the Shaw family. In 1922 he wrote to Marianne and proposed marriage and she accepted. Ian joined them in 1925 but was introduced to Foyster as Marianne’s younger brother rather than her son. They returned to England in October 1930 when ‘Lion’ as Marianne called him, took over Borley Rectory near Sudbury in Essex. The family of the previous vicar had reported various paranormal incidents at the house. 

Borley Rectory

At Borley, Rev. Lionel Foyster and Marianne also experienced many strange events: seeing apparitions, writing appearing on the wall, the house bells ringing on their own, and various objects suddenly flying around.

Harry Price, a well known ghost hunter, had been asked by the Daily Mirror to carry out an investigation of the events at Borley. Although he thought that Marianne and other people at the house were responsible, Price wanted publicity and said that Borley was, The most haunted house in England and the best documented case of haunting in the annals of psychical research. Harry Price became famous and his books made Borley Rectory a target for thousands of sightseers and psychic researchers alike. In December 2015 a drama called Harry Price: Ghost Hunter, based on the novel by Neil Spring, was shown on ITV.

Harry Price

George Bernard Shaw, T.E. Lawrence, Sir Montagu Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England, and Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the Home Office pathologist, were all believers in the hauntings and even attended séances at Borley. 

In 2000 Louis Mayerling who lived with the Foysters in the 1930s, published a book called, We Faked the Ghosts of Borley Rectory, where he explained how they created each of mysterious events. But despite this, belief in the haunting has remained so powerful that the case is still seen by many as incontrovertible proof of the supernatural.

Harry Price with the Foysters at Borley

Rev. Foyster and Marianne left the Rectory in 1935, and Lionel died ten years later. Marianne, who had a ‘live in’ lover at Borley, had more affairs, then married a GI and moved to America. She died in there in December 1992.

In 1956 Ian, who never forgave his mother for abandoning him with his grandparents, spoke to an investigator called Trevor Hall about the events at Borley and Marianne’s sexual appetite.

Ian had stayed with his mother at various addresses in Suffolk and Wimbledon before returning to his grandparents in Larne. He married Sarah Ross there in 1939 and had a daughter, but they were soon divorced. After the War Ian came to London as a builder and worked on the bomb sites. On 11 December 1946 he married Margaret Kearney in the Hendon Register Office. They had two sons and lived off the Finchley Road at 30 Hermitage Lane Childs Hill from 1946 to 1948, then after a short stay in 80 Kylemore Road Kilburn, they moved to Kingsgate Road in 1949. Ian was at 21 Kingswood Court in West End Lane in 1972 and 1973. They later moved to Oakfield Road Aylesbury where he died in August 1986.

Ian kept his secret to the grave. He never told Margaret anything about Borley or his mother Marianne. She only found out the truth in 2007 when another book about Borley was being prepared and she was contacted by the writers.

This strange story shows that Ian and his mother Marianne clearly loved being the centre of publicity and they both attempted hoaxes: Marianne at Borley and Ian with the KKK.



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