First reports of the Highgate Vampire
In the 1960's and early 1970's, many people reported to the local newspaper, the Hampstead and Highgate Express that in the early evening they had seen a figure that they took to be the Highgate Vampire inside Highgate's Western Cemetery near the main gate. The phantasm was described as a tall, red-eyed man wearing a black cloak and tall black hat. When the newspaper published the reports, thousands of people flocked to the cemetery in the hope of catching a glimpse of the spectre.
At that time, the Western Cemetery was in an appalling condition. The graves and tombs were overgrown and the graveyard was vandalised. Bones could often be seen falling out of rotting coffins and also from those coffins that had deliberately been set ablaze by vandals. The cemetery even had its own 'satanic sect' that frequented the place after dark. The used the easily obtained bones along with small animals which they caught and killed, in their 'rituals'.
A group calling itself the, 'British Psychic and Occult Society' decided to investigate the Highgate Vampire. Members visited the cemetery one night, cast a 'protective circle' and attempted to invoke the demon. The police had been warned and when they turned up, the society members scattered. Their president, David Farrant, was caught and arrested. A wooden stake was found in his possession. It was pretty obvious the use to which they planned to put it. At the subsequent court case, Farrent was acquitted because Highgate Cemetery was legally open to the public at any time of the day or night.
The society allegedly gave up its investigations of the vampire in 1973. However, David Farrant was again in court in 1974 in connection with Highgate Cemetery. He was charged with maliciously damaging a memorial, interfering with a dead body, attempting to influence witnesses and, most seriously, possession of a firearm. For this latter offence, Farrant spent some time in prison.
One writer, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, in her book Vampires Among Us suggested that the Highgate Vampire was nothing more than Farrant in costume because the sightings ceased upon Farrant's incarceration.
Shades of Dracula
However, David Farrent wasn't the only one looking for the Highgate Vampire. Sean Manchester of the 'British Occult Society' said that he was investigating phenomena at the cemetery in 1967. He claimed to have discovered several girls who had the traditional puncture marks on their necks after they had visited the cemetery. A couple of them even involuntarily sleep-walked. In this state, one girl is supposed to have made her way back to the cemetery at night and Manchester saved her by throwing a crucifix in her path.
Manchester told the media the date when he intended to lay the Highgate Vampire and hundreds of people turned up to watch. Despite police being there, Manchester and his friends managed to make a hole in the roof of a tomb. Inside they found three empty coffins. These, they sprinkled with garlic and holy water and put a circle of salt around each.
But the mutilation of the corpses and the killing of small creatures did not end with this 'exorcism'. Sometime later, the body of a woman was found in the middle of a path. She had been dragged from her grave, her head had been cut off cut off and a wooden stake had been driven through through her heart.
If all this was not bizarre enough, in 1973 Sean Manchester claimed to have found the 'King Vampire' in a black casket in an abandoned house in Highgate. He and his assistant dragged the casket outside and kicked in the lid. In the book which Sean Manchester wrote, he describes the occupant as having, 'Burning, fierce eyes beneath black furrowed brows stared with hellish reflection. Yellow at the edges with blood-red centres, they were unlike any other beast of prey'.
Manchester claims that he drove a wooden stake though the ghoul's heart, covering his ears from the fearful scream as the body turned to brown slime. The casket and body were then burnt on a bonfire built for the purpose. Unfortunately, Manchester's assistant who was supposed to record events was so upset that he forgot to film anything. Isn't it always the way!
Highgate Cemetery Today
The people interred in Highgate Cemetery can now rest in peace. The vampire has gone and those intent on desecration can no longer get in at night.
In 1975, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery was set up. They cleaned up the graveyard, provided proper gates and had the remains they found out of place respectfully re-intered. The FOHC now provide a guided tour of Highgate Cemetery which is absolutely fascinating.
However, of the Highgate Vampire they will make no mention.
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