December 2014

David Farrant and Kenny Frewin December 2014 (c) Della Farrant

Phantoms, Farrant and Frewin 1969 – 2014

David Farrant and Kenny Frewin December 2014 (c) Della Farrant
David Farrant and Kenny Frewin December 2014 (c) Della Farrant

Nice surprise on Sunday. My old friend Kenny Frewin paid us a visit. It is maybe significant because it was 45 years ago to the day that I first witnessed for myself the tall dark spectre that had been reported in and around London’s Highgate Cemetery. I had gone there late one night on the Winter Solstice in 1969 to try to see if I could find any explanation that lay behind the numerous sightings. I had no idea just what I was looking for intently aware that in the late 1960s Hammer Horror Films had used Highgate Cemetery for many of their Dracula movies and maybe, just maybe, this had influenced published perception of its resident ghost. But there was a little more to it than that. Earlier in that year I had spoken to two witnesses who both claimed to have witnessed this figure in person, and they seemed to be both sincere and logical people who were merely recalling their individual experiences without any view to exaggeration, and who were just recounting what they saw.

It strikes me as phenomenal however that one particular witness’s sighting out of the myriad of others managed to put Highgate Cemetery on the paranormal ‘map’ as it were, forever more. Maybe because after I had witnessed this spectre myself, I concluded this was no figment of imagination, but some apparition that was definitely of supernatural origin, and decided to launch a full scale investigation by the British Psychic and Occult Society into its origin, was the main reason but it was this investigation that eventually caught the attention of the media; and indeed put Highgate Cemetery on the paranormal map. Books began to be written about it, films made about it; international magazines and newspapers besieged the cemetery all after a ‘piece of the action’. The main slant of this ‘action’ (at least on behalf of the media) seemed to be that maybe this ghost case was somewhat different and that the genuine ghostly figure sighted in the cemetery might in reality be a ‘genuine vampire’ as portrayed in Hammer’s vampire films.  Anyway, this was really coincidental to Kenny as was not aware of this anniversary date, although he certainly remembers the Highgate ghost, as being a regular of the Prince of Wales pub in Highgate Village he was in discussion with many people who claimed to know all the (then) on-going gossip.

There was an occasion on Friday 13th in March 1970 when this ghost (or ‘vampire’ as one local individual vehemently claimed) was the subject of an ITV programme who were interviewing myself about this sighting. Another person being thus interviewed claimed (on the television) that ‘David Farrant’ would be returning to Highgate Cemetery that same evening and intended to ‘stake the ‘vampire’ so that the Highgate community could ‘rest in peace’. Although I had never made this statement and it was made on air only to attract maximum sensationalism, hundreds of people from the surrounding area descended on Highgate Cemetery all intent on a ‘mass vampire hunting spree’. The police were there in force with dogs evicting people who had managed to scale the cemetery walls and were ‘looking for a vampire’.
Kenny remembered the incident fondly as he was just one of the many sight-seers who walked down to the cemetery from the pub approaching midnight to see what was going on. By this time the crowd had swelled into hundreds – indeed, the police had trouble containing the numbers. He went down there with a couple of people I knew locally, including one individual nicknamed the ‘Eggmanne’ who was a personal accomplice of the man talking on the television about my own intention to ‘hunt down’ and ‘stake’ this ‘vampire. Of course he (Kenny) was well aware this was all just nonsense but he was bemused by all the people and police cars surrounding the cemetery.
Talking to one police officer standing beside his Panda car, Kenny said . . . “You know there’s a vampire in there, don’t you? “Yes”, replied the officer, “And we’ll arrest him as well if we find him!

As it transpired, they didn’t, but Kenny was highly amused and didn’t need much reminding of the situation.
He stayed for the best part of the afternoon and we were glad to hear that he was in good health, apart from feeling groggy from a slight touch of flu that is going around at the moment. But he invited Della and myself around for a drink at his new place ‘sometime soon’.
In the meantime he said he might just tale a trip to the coast to get some sea air, but after that we’d be welcome any time. Hope he gets better soon anyway. A sea trip might do him good!

Good to see you again Kenny, and Della says hopes you will enjoy her Highgate book.

Your old friend

David (Farrant)

A walk around Haunted Highgate with Della Farrant

 

It’s only been a week or so now, but Della’s new pilot film “A walk around Haunted Highgate”, made to accompany her recently published book “Haunted Highgate”, has already caused huge interest on the Internet. Thanks for all the hits, everyone! The film basically depicts Della dressed in Hallowe’en costume walking around Old Highgate and being interviewed by well known supernatural author, Paul Adams – who was also dressed impressively in early Victorian costume. Earlier that day Paul and Della had been at the Muswell Hill Geisterfest with myself, so that Hallowe’en was certainly busy!

The filming begins, perhaps appropriately , at Highgate Cemetery taking in both its old Western and Eastern parts, both of which were opened to the public in 1839 and 1853 respectively and both of which have for long since been reputedly haunted, including the narrow Swains Lane (or “Swines Lane” to quote it original orientation), that still divides the two. In fact, Swains Lane has changed little in original appearance over the centuries, with tarmacking of the surface to accommodate modern traffic, being the only major difference. Ironically perhaps, it was this modern virtue, with its sporadic sound of petrol engines that served to interfere with a film that was only intent on trying to capture the tranquillity of its ancient history. Well, maybe its ancient ghosts as well – at least, to record some of their reported appearances and history . . .

But this, of course, might be an almost impossible task, when ‘ghosts’ sometimes choose not to appear ‘at will’ (certainly not to order for modern day filming projects) and stories and legends relating to their original appearances have faded over centuries leaving only comparatively ‘present-day’ locations that might provide any clue to their original validity. But through the existence of certain locations that may have been slower to fade with time, the stories and legends and might have originated from these have an almost uncanny way of living on in human memory; whether as ‘ghosts from the past’ or those that are seen to confront the physical forms of those still living.

So it was at well known Highgate Cemetery that the organisers of Della’s ‘Ghostly Walk’ first chose to begin the filming; then walking slowly up Swain’s Lane into Old Highgate Village to view some much older locations which are reputedly haunted, including Pond Square – alleged haunt of a frozen chicken, The Gatehouse which has at least three ghosts, and The Flask which can also boast at least three including that of a tragic Spanish barmaid. Della couldn’t really bring herself to take the chicken story seriously, not least because of its association with Sir Francis Bacon. The assumption that Sir Francis died of pneumonia after stuffing a chicken with snow in Pond Square is just that, as Della points out in her book – it is much more likely that he died from an accidental drug overdose, believe it or not, which leaves the ghostly chicken slightly stranded! As for the courting couple in a doorway who supposedly saw the phantom fowl in 1969, why I never heard this story at the time is perplexing and suspicious to say the least. Possibly because it never happened??

I hope you all enjoy the film, which took a lot of effort to complete, not least editing out the strange interference which occurred at certain locations (the East Cemetery gate and the West Cemetery’s North Gate) when Della was describing Martin Trent’s 2005 sighting and my own from 1969. That both cameras were affected despite being different models, and that nothing anomalous showed up on the viewfinders at the time was not just rather eerie to watch on playback, but very vexing for Della who had enough trouble editing out passing cars let alone ‘ghosts’! Still, she got there in the end, and it was certainly worth it. Of course it was impossible to cover all the supernatural stories which Della investigates in Haunted Highgate in a little under 45 minutes, but hopefully the video will be interesting for people who have never visited Highgate and yet have an interest in its paranormal legends.

Haunted Highgate is available from Amazon, or signed at http://www.davidfarrant.org/publications

Thumbnail image of Della and Paul Adams (c) Redmond McWilliams

For now,

David