ell Easter is upon us again, and it looks like being a cold one this year. But at least the snows gone – in London anyway. I believe I mentioned the two film-makers from Brazil. Joao and Vinney. They arrived in mid March to work on a documentary about the Highgate ‘vampire’ case and we have already met to discuss the preliminaries. I have since seen the basic script (at least, in relation to myself) and am quite intrigued with it. I won’t give any details here due to the confidentiality involved, but basically it will relate the story of the ‘tall dark apparition’ that was witnessed in the 1960’s and 70’s in and around London’s Highgate Cemetery, but which has a much longer recorded presence. Indeed, I remember as a child my playmates and myself daring each other to go down Swain’s Lane at dusk, and being reprimanded by elderly relatives who remembered being told tales during their own childhoods of a menacing dark spectre which was known to frighten and attack passers by. There was an apparent lull in its appearances at the cemetery in the mid 1970’s (although this was probably due to the strategy employed by The Friends of Highgate Cemetery – the cemetery’s new ‘guardians’ – to keep people away from the cemetery by night), although it continued to be witnessed at nearby Highgate Village and in areas close by; at least, a figure portraying remarkably similar characteristics and fitting an almost identical description did.
The Hampstead and Highgate Express reported many of these early sightings as did its (then) sister paper The Camden Chronicle and included several letters from people swearing to have seen or encountered this sinister entity.
One of the earlier sightings occurred in July 1969 when one witness described the figure thus:
“In July last year, on my way home from work about 9.30 pm I passed the cemetery while walking up Swains Lane. I had just recovered from a minor operation and on account of this had frequency suffered from short bouts of depression.
On this particular night I stopped short at the sight of a figure running towards me without making any apparent noise. As soon as I realised this, I began to panic, but when I looked again, the figure had disappeared.
I know that many similar incidents have been related, but this may serve to confirm what has already been said.” [D. Osbourne, 8 Priory Close, N6.]
While Osbourne gives no detailed physical description (at least in this public letter) of what he obviously took to be a supernatural entity, his depiction of a figure charging at him in the lane is commensurate with other encounters where witnesses have been violently attacked without warning and flung to the ground by, never reporting any sound. Invariably the assailant then vanishes without trace, indifferent to the 15ft high stone walls which would make this impossible for an aggressor of human origin
In fact, an even earlier sighting was reported to myself in 1997 when Mr Brian Bourne from Exeter, who ran the esoteric magazine “Hedgewitch”’ wrote to my magazine “Suspended in Dusk” citing an incident that he witnessed personally at Highgate Cemetery in 1965. He had his dog with him and was walking down Swains Lane approaching the top gate of the cemetery. As he neared this he was confused to see a large quantity of black matter resembling treacle, oozing over the cemetery wall and forming a kind of pool of darkness in the middle of the lane in front of him. As he watched, the mass seemed to rear up, and take on a vaguely humanoid form. Brian describes what he saw as a ‘tall dark figure’ with ‘red eyes’, between 7 and 8 ft tall, which towered over him. The dog was petrified and quickly ran back up the lane. Brian swiftly followed. He went back to the Flask where he’d been earlier and quickly ordered a couple of double brandies to calm his nerves. He said he had been on his way to a party to try and ‘get off’ with a girl he fancied, but had abandoned his invitation after his sinister encounter.
All those years later Brian still concluded . .
‘This wasn’t a ghost, this was an entity. There was nothing remotely human about it. It simply was not human. As an ex-Army Officer I’d come up against life threatening situations, but faced with that thing the fear was worse than anything you could imagine.’
I presume he meant the Highgate ‘vampire’, not his abortive love interest! Due to the precise locale and the descriptions of the entity, it seems highly likely that the figure seen by Brian Bourne and possibly that seen by D. Osbourne was the same entity which has been reported in stories which date back to before the last century. I did not include many of these references in my book ‘Beyond the Highgate Vampire’ because that book was written primarily to deal with the Highgate ‘vampire’ scare and to set the record straight. As I have pointed out, I am reserving much of this particular research for forthcoming publications
But back to Joao and Vinnie’s documentary, they have certainly done a lot of research so far, making field trips to relevant locations, consulting primary sources and interviewing witnesses. I understand that their thoroughness is even taking them as far afield as Scotland in the very near future. And they have promised not to drag me to any freezing cemeteries for ‘atmospheric interviews’, which I am very relieved about due to this interminable cold bout we are experiencing here in London at present. However it has been intimated to me that one of their interviewees will not get off so lightly! But anyway, I will keep everyone up to date on how the film progresses, but at the same time not give too much away in advance of its screening at Brazil’s most influential film festival. I am very enthusiastic, because the whole story will be comparatively new – even unknown – to the Brazilian audience. We’ll see!
Have a happy Easter everyone,