gave my long-awaited talk “The Highgate Vampire – Fact or Fiction?” in Islington this Monday past, for London Haunts and Horrors which is run by David Saunderson of The Spooky Isles – a website dealing with all manner of hauntings and unexplained phenomena.
The Talk was booked by ticket in advance, but if people just turned up expecting to pay on the door they were allowed admission if space was available. Nobody was turned away at my Monday Talk, but by the time it began there was standing room only. I know a lot of my readers here from further afield than London would have liked to attend, and the Talk was filmed largely for their benefit, but while the bulk of the footage is being edited this brief write up will have to suffice.
The Talk ended up being quite a productive networking event in some ways, as the attendees were all very friendly and sociable, each with their own interests and/or ongoing activities in the world of paranormal research. As well as the stalwarts of the London Haunts and Horrors scene quite a few members of The Last Tuesday Society, which hosted July’s ‘Cinematic Survey of Highgate’ event were present, as well as members of Redmond McWilliams’ Highgate Cemetery Vampire Appreciation Society (and the man himself of course – Redmond that is, not the ‘vampire’). There were also many paranormal authors at the Talk, including Paul Adams, who previously worked with Peter Underwood on titles such as the ‘Borley Rectory Companion’ and ‘Shadows in the Nave’, and is currently working on his next book ‘Written in Blood’, a cultural survey of vampirism in Britain; as well as Alan Murdie, Chairman of the Ghost Club of Great Britain who readers may remember wrote a very balanced article about the Highgate ‘vampire’ case for the Hallowe’en edition of Fortean Times in 2012. I was also able to catch up with John Fraser of the Society for Psychical Research, who I understand is speaking at ASSAP’s Seriously Staked Vampire Symposium conference in March next year, and my old friend Neil Arnold, author of dozens of supernatural surveys including ‘Paranormal London’ for which I contributed an introduction in 2010. So, as Redmond commented yesterday, ‘who says that the paranormal world (Highgate especially) has to be a battlefield overrun by troublesome trolls and flame wars?’ !
But perhaps what made this particular Talk exceptional, in addition to the fantastic audience, was the inclusion of speaking slots by three independent witnesses who had all had their own experiences with entities or perhaps the same entity, in or near Highgate Cemetery. Their experiences were also recorded on film with their respective permissions.
The first witness to speak was popular historian, medium and psychic researcher, Patsy Langley who is also the author of best selling book ‘The Highgate Vampire Casebook’. In brief Patsy spoke about the archival research which formed the backbone of her book, and her own experiences with others when she visited the cemetery in the mid 2000s. One interesting thing which Patsy mentioned was in response to a question put by Neil Arnold about the real origins of photographs which have been circulated on the internet which allegedly depict the Highgate ‘vampire’ in the flesh – or in some random corpse’s flesh if one was to go along with the notion that that it/he is in fact a ‘demonic revenant’. I won’t relate all the details here as her full interview will soon be released on YouTube, and people will have a chance to watch it themselves. But the real reason is that it is going to save me a whole load of typing!
Second up was Mickey Gocool, founder of North London Paranormal Investigations (N.L.P.I.) who related an experience which he shared with a member of his group in June 2012, of a tall dark figure which appeared to them in Swain’s Lane round about the time of the Summer solstice. You can read more about his sighting here, and here whilst waiting for the footage to be uploaded in the next few days.
And finally was Martin Trent, a longtime resident of Highgate Village, who gave a very credible and sincere account of a disturbing encounter which he had with a tall dark figure – again, in Swain’s Lane – in 2005. Martin’s original account as published online in 2007 can be read here. His interview is already up on YouTube, and anyone wishing to view can do so here:
All in all it was a very intensive yet fulfilling evening, with some great comedy moments, some serious debate, and a good atmosphere, and from the feedback received I think everyone had a good time. But I must say that I was relieved to get a lift home and relax over a glass of wine when the crowd had dispersed at the end of the night.
I’ll be back tomorrow with another blog, but until then, I hope you all enjoy Martin’s interview.