Sunday, April 2, 2017

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Hightgate Vampire

Highgate Cemetery was constructed in 1839, but by the 1960's it had fallen into neglect and decay.Overgrown and sprawling, the gothic Victorian graveyard seemed the perfect setting for the strange and sinister events that would follow.

In the early 1970s, a wave of panic spread around the north London suburb of Highgate. There was a vampire on the loose.Tales of the sinister ghostly figure and bizarre occult rituals at the famous local cemetery had led many residents to fear for their safety.

Although Highgate cemetery had long been a hotspot for ghost sightings, the local and national media would soon come to seize on this particular apparition.


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 vandalized. 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 cult' that frequented the place after dark. They used the easily obtained bones along with small animals which they caught and killed, in their 'rituals'.

In 1963 two 16-year-old convent girls were walking home at night after having visited friends in Highgate Village. Their return journey took them down Swain's Lane which passed along cemetry's north gate.What they encountered was so terrible they were frozen to the spot, transfixed with fear.

They had come face to face with what would later become known as the Highgate vampire. A tall, dark figure, floating behind the railings. Its face was the worst thing, a ghoulish nightmare contorted in horror. 

More sightings would follow. A man walking his dog saw the same tall dark figure sliding over the wall along Swain’s Lane like ‘black treacle’. In 1971 several years after the many publicised vampire sightings, a young girl claims she was actually attacked by the vampire in the lane outside the cemetery. She was returning home in the early hours of the morning when she was suddenly thrown to the ground with tremendous force by a "tall black figure with a deathly white face. At that moment a car stopped to help her and the vampire "vanished" in the glare of the headlamps.

She was taken to the police station in a state of shock, luckily only suffering abrasions to her arms and legs. The police immediately made a thorough search of the area, but could offer no explanation to the incident. More mysterious still was the fact that where the vampire vanished, the road was lined by 12ft walls.

Another interesting case is that of the man who was hypnotised by something in the cemetery. He had gone into the cemetery one evening to look around, and as the light began to rapidly fade he decided to leave, but became hopelessly lost. Not being a superstitious person he walked calmly around looking for the gate when suddenly he became aware of something behind him. Swinging around he became "hypnotised with fear" at the tall dark figure of the vampire confronted him. So great was the intensity of his fear that he stood motionless for several minutes after the vampire vanished. He later recalled that it was almost as if he had been paralysed with fear by some force.

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, Farrant 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 offense, Farrant spent some time in prison.

However, David Farrant 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.

In an interview with the Hampstead and Highgate Express in February 1970, Manchester claimed the figure was a ‘King Vampire’, an undead 15th-century Romanian nobleman who had practiced black magic in Wallachia, the home of Dracula himself.Traveling to England, he had somehow ended up buried in what would become Highgate. Manchester told the paper that the vampire had been revived by the activity of the Satanists that were said to operate at the cemetery.

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.


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