FOLKLORE FRONTIERS No. 75 Articles cover an in-depth mediawatch examination of the smut peddling which makes the Journalist of the Year so readable and is endorsed by Paul Screeton in his article ‘The Vagina Monologues of Caitlin Moran’.
Editor Paul also presides over the last rites of a great British tradition, greater than roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, Beefeaters and Jeremy Kyle put together – ‘Page 3, urban myth and bare-baiting’. And to complete a hat-trick, Paul spotlights real and fictional political assassinations, inspired by the warped mind of Hilary Mantel. Always on the look-out for fresh talent to publish, Paul has recruited Dav White to produce a series of whimsical ‘Postcards from Scarborough’, the first of which appears here. Familiar columns are also paraded: Newslines, Update, Oldie but Goodies, Proto-legends and Necrolog, plus sections on person-based apocrypha, rock ‘n’ roll rumours, putative traditions and mammary worship.
Also here are books by Della Farrant, Paul Screeton, Paul Adams and Gilly Pickup reviewed and magazines discussed.
Individual copies of Folklore Frontiers can be obtained at the price £2.50, two for £5.00 or three for £7.50. Cheques or risk cash to P Screeton [NOT Folklore Frontiers] at 5 Egton Drive, Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, TS25 2AT.
Well, I have just realised that I haven’t posted on here since before Christmas! New Year has come and gone, the dreaded time of fireworks and drunks staggering up Muswell Hill Road singing Auld Lang Syne in the dead of night. But at midnight, whilst avoiding the chiming of Big Ben (which is easy enough without a TV), we did have a nice surprise. At the other end of the line was none other than my old friend Kenny, wishing us a happy 2015. Kenny hates New Year’s Eve as much as I do, more than anything in fact – well, almost. This year it wasn’t too bad in his part of the world, he said. But what he was most animated about was the new laptop he had been given for Christmas. Well, not the laptop itself, but the windows it had opened for him regarding certain statements being made about himself and others online. By the time he telephoned he was in what can only be described as a ‘medieval’ mood, and was talking about stretching people on racks and much worse. “The F”, in a foul temper, truly is an experience in itself. Fortunately for me I have never got on the wrong side of him, quite the opposite. And I pity the poor fool who finds himself in that circumstance. But some people will insist on bringing these things on themselves …
It’s not the festive season so much which utterly enrages him, but aggressive people swaying drunkenly in the street fuelled by cans of lager. You see he is living in a quiet village in the country now, away from the busy streets of London; but even ‘country bumpkins’ can cause disturbances in quiet areas at this time of the year. However, despite all the festive rumpus, in his late night phone call Kenny still fondly remembered his days in Highgate. In fact, Kenny and I have been friends for half a century now, and our combined memories and knowledge of local people past and present could certainly lead to us being described as ‘a breed now virtually extinct’. However, like certain others of our Highgate generation, we have had the sense to commit much of what we remember from those times to paper for the record, considering our memories of those heady days to be of interest for future generations. We have salvaged what we can regarding illustrations – it wasn’t all thrown out on skips you know! Indeed this been quite a project of ours over the last year, and has involved quite a lot of travel – well, mostly to the outskirts of Greater London which was no real hardship, but sometimes further afield as we traced old friends who have moved away. We are presently working together, with others, to typeset our combined memories, and plan to publish them when possible – which we feel will be very soon. So look forward to that folks, on every level!
It will be Highgate as some people have never realised it, with all its local inhabitants – or those just visiting wanting to be witnessed mixing with its supposed elite – displaying their ‘true colours’ – under the relative ‘camouflage’ of its local pubs!
But Kenny was only too aware of this, and enjoyed joining in – sometimes just listening – to the gossip of its local populace. And, boy!, has he got some tales to tell!
So we plan to go ahead with the project of publishing the true life-styles of Highgate’s night life into an enjoyable book. It will not be too long forthcoming. But I’ll keep you all updated here.
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.
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.
Well as many of you will know by now – especially if you keep tuned into the Highgate Vampire saga and BPOS investigations into the Paranormal around the UK – Muswell Hill held its first ever Geisterfest at Hallowe’en aimed at promoting community spirit and businesses in the local community. I gave a basic report about this in my Blog of November 9th and also gave a brief summary of my appearance on Carrie Kirkpatrick’s Oracle TV on Sunday November 2nd (and I provided a link to this 4-hour programme which touched on the case of the notorious Highgate ‘vampire’), but what I really ‘held back’ was that after the Geisterfest itself, there was another project to complete: a promotional film to promote Della’s new book “Haunted Highgate”, and more importantly to give readers who have never had a chance to visit Highgate to see some of its most haunted locations for themselves – on the eeriest night of the year! The film features Della and paranormal author Paul Adams, and was filmed entirely on location in Highgate.
I thought it best not to mention this at the time because 1) the project had not yet been completed and 2) I wanted to see the finished footage which had not then been viewed, let alone edited! So I decided to ‘err on the side of caution’ before releasing this ‘breaking news’ and attracting accusations from potential critics that we had actually filmed inside Highgate Cemetery at night and amounted to illegal trespass within the cemetery! This in fact, did not happen, although we did go to several different Highgate locations most of which had been the sites of witnessed ‘ghost sightings’, and such-like.
Well, I have since seen the edited footage and, apart from some technical lighting problems, it is now virtually completed, for release in about a week or two. But I’ll let everyone know and provide the playable link.
So, everything seems to have quietened down a little now after the last couple of weeks. Della and I really have been overworked a little during the Hallowe’en period. But we can relax a little now at least, and the only way to do that is with a couple of glasses of wine!
When I compose Blog entries, I usually pick the title last, but this Blog is an exception to the rule! You see, on this day in 1967 something happened which changed my life forever – my first born son came into the world. Jamie.
1967 was a hectic and confusing year. I had returned from Spain with Jamie’s mother, and although we had some fun times together in Highgate, as young parents from different backgrounds and with very different interests we found it hard to integrate our lives together there. Although we cared deeply for each other, and I would never describe our relationship as simply a holiday romance, things seemed so different when we returned from our carefree existence abroad to start a new life together in London. So many rumours were flying around Highgate village about strange, seemingly paranormal goings on at The Gatehouse, and in Highgate Cemetery and Swains Lane, and I immersed myself in them. Having been away for around a year, I also had a lot of catching up to do with esoteric and magical acquaintances, and I threw myself back into my life in Highgate with less care than was perhaps fair for Jamie’s mother – who had quickly and sensibly formed her own circle of friends in the village. Knowing that I was about to come into a large inheritance I was careless with money, and lived for the moment. How things change!
I can’t look back now and revise history; those early years of Jamie’s life were turbulent for me, and I was young and did things very differently from how I would now. I was imprisoned in 1974 as a result of my ‘Witchcraft Trial’ at The Old Bailey, and had last seen Jamie (and his brother, my second son Danny) in 1971. But I never stopped thinking about them, despite the haze of chaos which surrounded me both in and out of prison as my life in Highgate, and my life in general, collapsed around me.
Many years later Jamie contacted me. I was suspicious at first; because of the Highgate case I get so many crank emails, including ones from people giving false hope and offering erroneous information about personal situations. But when Jamie emailed me a scan of his passport I knew instantly that he was for real, and saw the boy I knew in the man staring back at me from my computer screen. I also learned that I was a grandfather, of a charming and well brought up young lady who is the spitting image of Jamie, her grandmother and myself.
Well, happy birthday Jamie : 1967 seems a long time ago now, and we have had a lot of lost time to catch up on. As I say in my autobiography David Farrant : In the Shadow of the Highgate Vampire:
Our first son, Jamie, was born in November. There was no shortage of visitors to the flat at this time, and inevitably he had no shortage of attention.
I am sure you have had a lot of attention tonight Jamie, as you always seem to. Like myself at your age (and younger) you are always surrounded by friends. So have one on me tonight, and you can have your proper birthday drink next time you come and stay – and it won’t be a bottle of pop this time!
Well, the Muswell Geisterfest has been and gone, and a very good Halloween celebration it was as well. People turned up in their hundreds to Muswell Hill bringing (it seemed) just as many children but as the whole thing had been scheduled to coincide with the half-term weekend the kids got to enjoy an almost ‘extra holiday’.
The main gathering point was O’Neills pub in the centre of the Broadway, and it was here that Della, Paul Adams and myself were all selling our separate books. Della’s new book Haunted Highgate also attracted a lot of interest and we learned it had already sold out in nearby Muswell Hill Bookshop. They have got some more stock in now which has coincided nicely with local newspaper reports today of the Geisterfest in the “Ham and High” and “Broadway” newspapers which had mentioned the new book and the Geisterfest as well.
We managed to film a great deal of the general activity, and for this purpose we had brought along Dave Milner who has covered much of the Highgate ‘vampire’ story in the past, and Drew Hartley, a Press Officer who was formerly employed by Yorkshire Television.
About 7, Della was asked to go on the stage to say a couple of words about her book which she did admirably. I guess she was saying in essence that she did not intend to bore people with a long speech but the book was available if anyone wanted to go and see it in more detail.
We had to leave around 7.30 to venture forth on another filming assignment at Highgate Cemetery. That filming all went very well and will make the basis of another film which we will be releasing next week – maybe before; but keep watching this space (rather Blog!) for details on that.
But the endless Hallowe’en week was still not over! I had agreed to be interviewed by Oracle Television on Sunday evening by the vibrant Carrie Kirkpatrick (proprietor of the Channel) mainly about Della’s new book but also to clarify some old history about Highgate’s Queens Woods and the well known case of the Highgate Vampire.Also watch out for Gareth J. Medway, and the amazing Ken Rees.
Carrie’s 4-hour programme is now available to watch live on the Internet, and the link is here.
My part was really in the last part of the show. Anyway, hope you enjoy that. Carrie kindly gave me a lift home afterwards – which was just as well as, by this time, I really was getting a little exhausted!
Yet still a lot to do in the aftermath of all that. So a couple of glasses of wine seem appropriate at this time!
I am STILL sticking to my promise of updating my Blog regularly, and I have some exciting news for you all this time.
This Hallowe’en sees the inaugural launch of the Muswell Hill Geisterfest – a unique Hallowe’en festival – cum – local celebration which is taking place on Friday October 31st 2014.
As a resident of Muswell Hill for many decades (and previously Highgate where, in fact, I was born), it was with great honour that I noticed my name had appeared in the Geisterfest posters plastered around Muswell Hill. Well, I say my name, but actually I have been billed as “The Highgate Vampire Hunter” – and I know which old friend on the planning committee is responsible for THAT!
Anyway. the real purpose of this event is to bring the local community together; and to this end organise a series of events and programmes, supported by local people, shops and traders. There are many activities planned to amuse and entertain local children as well as adults, from mask-making to pumpkin-carving competitions, as well as a full performance of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Activities are planned all around Muswell Hill Broadway, including the Crocodile Café which will be converted into a spooky grotto, Avenue Mews where a Scarecrow Festival is taking place and O’Neill’s public house where a spooky selection of stalls can be found upstairs in the gallery.
It looks set to be a really fun community event, and all of us here in Muswell Hill are really looking forward to it. And Paul, Della and myself look forward to meeting any London-based readers on the day. We will have to wrap up around 7.30pm as we have other Hallowe’en related commitments in the evening, but if you can make it after work then we look forward to seeing you.
All proceeds from the raffle at O’Neill’s – to which we will be donating prizes – go to the charity All People All Places, which supports homeless and vulnerably housed people.
More Hallowe’en events to be announced soon, but for the moment,
October is always a busy time year in the “Land of Farrant” for obvious reasons. The build-up to Hallowe’en always signals the frequent ringing of the telephone and various emails from reporters anxious for a ‘Highgate vampire’ story to run. There will be a few of these in popular magazines over the next couple of weeks, but I better not say which just yet! The new website has many pages which discuss other topics, but to save reporters getting lost in the morass of other sites out there which offer vague and/or incorrect – and sometimes entirely fictious – accounts of what that case really involved I decided to add for the first time a page solely devoted to the subject. Perhaps unsurprisingly this has proven to be the most ‘hit’ page so far since my new site’s launch on Wednesday October 8th. As it seems to be so popular we have added a bit more information to the page, which can be found here: http://davidfarrant.org/the-highgate-vampire/
In other news, as many readers will be aware Della’s new book Haunted Highgate hit the shelves this week, and she has been invited to appear on Nocturnal Frequency Radio hosted by Steve Genier and Alex Rondini tomorrow. The show is very popular on the West Coast, and will be broadcast on Sunday 11pm (EST) – that’s 4am for us in the UK, and you can listen to it here: http://www.newvisionsradio.com/. But don’t worry if you miss it – it will be in the archives. Pity poor Della who has to stay up all night for the show, and has a paranormal investigation connected with Highgate the following night which will go on til cockcrow no doubt! But these things have to be done – at least on the basic principle of investigating matters on the ground, so to speak, as opposed to just attempting research from behind a computer! Best of luck to you guys though, at least you seem to be taking an interest!
Speaking of which, I have sadly had to block one particular ‘dissenter’ from the new website already, who after a few minutes of sitting in shock staring at it proceeded to immediately hit pages which apparently reference himself (http://davidfarrant.org/cabinet-of-curiosities/the-mysterious-magister/ seemed to particularly interest him) before downloading as many pages and pictures as he could bare to look at. Strange, I know, as was this person’s evident interest in associates of mine involved in the Highgate ‘vampire’ case such as John Bradish (who he obviously met in court when bound over for intimidating John’s wife and children) and my friend Rob Milne who challenged him to a duel some years back to redress a similar attempt at intimidating an innocent ‘wee lassie’ as Rob would put it. Anyway this oddball is in the minority fortunately, so please everyone just don’t take any notice of the maniacal claims which he will no doubt be posting on Facebook under his usual aliases accompanied by stolen photographs from the new site. He is to be pitied, really.
I mentioned that Hallowe’en always seems to provoke fresh interest in the Highgate ‘vampire’ case – here is a link to a short radio broadcast which went up yesterday and which some readers may enjoy! I can’t say I agree with all of it sentiments, but it makes some valid observations (and is quite amusing!) and nevertheless I believe in free speech so here it is: http://halloweenhaunt.wordpress.com/
What else? Oh yes, thank you for your photograph Yashkamiko, and I am pleased to learn that various news seems to have spread to Tokyo! Thanks for your email too – I’ll be in touch soon.
More news to follow shortly about forthcoming Hallowe’en shenanigans, but for now everyone,
Regular readers of this blog – and the website – will have doubtless noticed that it has had more than a minor facelift!
In fact, Della – my long suffering wife – has been working on what you can see now for around four months. We hope you like the changes! These were largely made based on feedback from readers about what they would like to see more of.
Some of the differences (without boring you all to death with a list of all the changes – which would take up several irrelevant pages!) are:
What else ? Oh yes, you can even record your own ‘FarrantCam’ now should you wish!
If you spot any broken links or glitches then please do let us know via the CONTACT FORM – with over 730 blog entries, 110 pages, a dozen or so books not to mention the galleries and vintage news reports this has been a behemoth of a site for poor Della to overhaul. But we are very pleased with the results and hope you all enjoy the new new site.