I spent a very pleasant evening last night contributing to the weekly internet radio show Keeping The Paranormal Friendly, hosted by Susanne and Steve Taggart, with their co-host Andy Mercer. The show has been running since 2007, and covers a variety of subjects ranging from the supernatural, UFOs, cryptozoology, conspiracy theories, ghosts … the lot!
Tonight’s show was focussed upon my own involvement with the affair that has become known as the Highgate ‘vampire’. I have spoken on this subject on radio shows many times. But this show was somewhat different, especially because of the interesting questions, including those contributed by Andy – and the phone in from The Highgate Cemetery Vampire Appreciation Society admin Felix Garnet.
I just tried to answer all the questions honestly, which is all I can really do. I must say, however, I was very impressed by the informal and friendly atmosphere which came across from the KTPF team; this maybe encouraged me to go into more detail than I normally would have done.
Unfortunately I was informed that there had been a bit of Unfriendliness towards the paranormal, and indeed the subject of the Highgate ‘vampire. The show had apparently received several Facebook messages and unwanted comments on their FB group, attempting to get it banned, simply because – wait for it – I was a scheduled guest. Rather childish really, but the team certainly recognised the sole source of this harassment and responded appropriately. By the way – if any of my readers receive similar messages, I strongly encourage you to contact me to discuss them. Don’t be embarrassed to speak out!
Anyway, The Highgate Vampire Symposium came up, but I thought it better to hand that enquiry over to Della as it is she who is organising the event. As Della explained, the event will be filmed, so the sessions will be available to view on YouTube after the event. A short article about the Symposium will be published in KTPF’s magazine next week or so, which you will be able to find here.
My interview with Keeping The Paranormal Friendly can be heard at the link below.
Well a couple of weeks have sped past since our trip to Borley, and it seems so much longer – I guess that is because so much has been taking place here in London recently. I won’t go into it all now, as there have been so many visitors to the flat in recent days, all relating to different matters.
I expect some of you will know that I was interviewed for the BBC Radio 4 programme Black Aquarius recently, as this has popped up on Facebook and so on. The radio broadcast focussed upon the Occult revival in London during the 1960s and 1970s, concentrating mainly on the young and the fads and cults which sprung up at the time. My segment was recorded in Highgate Cemetery, and you can hear it here via the BBC archives here.
One of the other big things which has been happening of course, which many readers will be aware of, is the organisation of The Highgate Vampire Symposium 2015, which is taking place on July 19th at the popular theatre Upstairs at the Gatehouse, situated – would you believe it – in the upper storeys of the haunted Gatehouse public house in
the heart of Highgate Village.
The Symposium commences at 1pm and finishes at approximately 8pm, making it the longest and most significant event ever to be convened in honour of Highgate’s local ghost. ‘Local ghost’ – sounds a bit lowbrow doesn’t it? But with scores of recorded witness statements to back up its appearances, this ‘tall menacing figure, with hypnotic red eyes soon found
itself the subject of international interest over the years, and was even claimed by some to be a genuine, blood-sucking vampire …
This latter misinterpretation was almost certainly influenced by the fact that in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, London’s Highgate Cemetery was used on location to film some of the Hammer House of Horror’s popular vampire films, and it wasn’t such a big step to assume that the ghostly entity sighted there soon acquired fangs with a taste for human blood. Human imagination was soon to do the rest!
Along with 11 other speakers (with more to be announced shortly), I welcome the rare opportunity to debate the nature of this incredibly misrepresented apparition. Indeed, the Highgate ‘vampire’ and I have a lot in common. How so, you might ask? Well, we have both had our reputations and credibility hijacked by certain people who wanted (and still desperately wish) to “cash in” on the fictional concept of a vampiric entity which once stalked Highgate, N6.
Where our similarities end can be observed by anyone sensible via the photographs routinely published online (and taken by) by one of these fame-seekers. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the modern habit of constantly snapping away and chronicling every minor event for publication on the internet was alien (indeed, the Internet was hardly known then outside of the US military). But a couple of photographs from that time taken of myself (which with hindsight must have taken considerable planning) en route to a local party are currently being contrived as evidence that I in fact AM the Highgate ‘vampire’! I was even asked to pass my hired top hat to another person (Tony Hill) by the photographer (Sean Manchester). At least one of the photographs showing Hill standing out the top gate of Highgate Cemetery also wearing this same hat with myself in the background has been published online by Manchester himself! Thus indicating that we were all just young ‘friends’ having fun together on our way to the party having met up in the pub!
These harmless photographs of myself have been peddled by Mr. Manchester to newspapers and magazines (such as L’Inconnu, issue 68, 30/10/81) for decades, and more recently reproduced on the world wide web. Such is the desperation of one man who will clutch at any straw to deny the existence of a ghost which has been attested to by so many local people and visitors over the years. Of course this is unconnected to his self-published ‘non-fiction’ work wherein he describes staking and torching this ‘vampire’ in a back garden in Crouch End in the early 1970’s, and later (in 1982) to have tracked down its disciple (he calls “Lusia”) where he also staked her after she had turned into a ‘giant spider’!
So why am I looking forward to the Symposium so much? Not to ‘trash’ and belittle the notion of vampires. I do not accept the existence of Hammer Horror-esque vampires, no, as many know: I have explained this many times in my talks and public broadcasts. As far as I am concerned I know that the Highgate entity is not a vampire. That is my opinion as a speaker at the Symposium, but of course other people are fully welcome to suggest supportive evidence to the contrary should they wish to do so (and they no doubt will).
What I am particularly excited about, however, is the chance to discuss the true nature of the entity which has been so often witnessed both in and around London’s Highgate Cemetery. I witnessed it myself in fact, one winter’s night in December 1969. It was standing motionless inside the top gate of the cemetery, before it abruptly disappeared leaving behind an area of ‘icy coldness’. I know what I saw in 1969, or at least, I know what I saw was supernatural. I know that many other people have also seen something which seems to be the same entity, or which could be another entity with similar attributes also apparently exuding menace. With so many sensible and educated panellists lined up for The Highgate Vampire Symposium 2015 perhaps I and other witnesses to this phenomenon will get somewhere closer to an understanding of what ‘it’ is and why it is here. I can’t hope for more than that.
Anyway, the official website for The Highgate Vampire Symposium 2015 can be found here. Many more updates about speakers and sessions to follow, but now you all know that it is happening, check it out! Perhaps finally those of us who have any remotely commonsensical (yet open minded) approach to whatever the apparition that haunts Swains Lane and Highgate Cemetery is, will finally get to have our day!
It has been all work and no play for the last three weeks, because of a rather large project which some of you may already be aware of. More on that in my next post!
So Della and I were pleased to have an interesting day out on Saturday. We had arranged some time ago to travel up to Borley with some friends, and check out a couple of things in the old churchyard and indeed the surrounding area. Patsy Langley, Secretary of the BPOS, drove us up there together with her fiancé Ricky, Redmond McWilliams of the Highgate Cemetery Vampire Appreciation Society, and our friend Simon.
We left Muswell Hill at about 11.30am, after everyone had convened at the flat, and reached Borley after a couple of hours on the road. Borley hadn’t changed much, in the three years or so since I last visited the place, except we noticed that the locals had chained off the usual parking space by the church, obviously with the intention of discouraging visitors. Can’t really say I blame them in a way, because tourists (including ghost hunters) tend to make their way to the site of the former rectory which was once known as the ‘most haunted house in England’, sometimes engaging in vandalism and generally making ‘a nuisance of themselves’. I suppose they, like ourselves, are always hopeful for a glimpse of one of Borley’s famous ghosts, but such people have gone about this in a manner which seems to have made the locals pretty defensive towards strangers.
We only passed one local, which is unsurprising considering how few people live in the hamlet. But we were pretty sure that more people were watching us than we observed!
The rectory was mysteriously burned to the ground one morning in 1939, and new properties have since been built on the land it once occupied. We were curious on this occasion to have a look at what might remain of the old land boundaries and the eastern extremity of the garden. And we weren’t disappointed. Although we did not spot the remains of the smaller summer house, we did park up accidentally as it happens by the gate which Paul Adams describes on his website devoted to Harry Price.
As Paul mentions, it is impossible to tell if the gate is original, but the art deco diamond patterns certainly give it an air of antiquity, as do the matching ornate pillars on either side. The gate now has substantial amounts of wicker work pushed against it from the inside, but beyond it were discernible the discarded remains of a substantial building. It would be interesting to know if this debris was indeed dumped in the copse after the fire, and we were surprised that these anonymous lumps of stone had not been removed by earlier pilgrims to the site as souvenirs (we obviously left the site as we found it).
We also enjoyed walking around the churchyard, and finding the graves of the Bull family who once occupied the rectory.
It was a glorious, warm afternoon, and the churchyard affords a timeless vista of the old rectory cottage, its roofline so reminiscent of the now vanished rectory which once stood adjacent.
Sadly the church was locked, as are so many rural and suburban churches these days when no service is being conducted. I do recall that in 1979 when I visited the area there was a small notice displayed on the church porch, which said that visitors could obtain keys to enter the church from a local house, possibly Rectory Cottage although I cannot now recall. On that occasion we did obtain the key and went inside the church, wherein I took quite a few photographs. I will post one of me below, but there are more which I will endeavour to find and post soon, one of which shows an inexplicable bright oval light in the air above my left shoulder. Borley church itself is reputedly haunted, and many people have reported strange experiences there over the years.
After leaving Borley we visited nearby Liston church, only a mile or so away, where legend has it that the bones of the nun who was said to walk the grounds of Borley Rectory were reburied. Liston has a slightly larger population than Borley, but the intense silence was the same, with not even the sound of skylarks to distract us from the paranoid sense that only we were disturbing the strange, locked in atmosphere. Yet it was so peaceful … well, I suppose devoid of the sound of London traffic anywhere would appear to be so.
Out of interest, the bones of the nun were reburied in an unmarked grave, which is very difficult to precisely locate. If anyone wishes to find it you can do so however by locating the only thistle in the graveyard, or at least on the left hand side. It seems that this hardy plant is the only one which can survive for long on this small patch of ground which is traditionally barren.
Anyway, we finally headed back for London, but not before stopping off for a late dinner at The Bull in Long Melford, a 15th century tavern which has enjoyed sensitive restoration and retains its ancient atmosphere. It was here that psychic investigator Harry Price stayed, whilst conducting his investigations at Borley Rectory, and he would certainly have been familiar with the pub, and very well have sat at the same table where we enjoyed our meal!
We finally got back to North London around 10pm, and all piled back to the flat for a chat and a drink. Oh, I should mention that Redmond had brought me a present when he first arrived, and I have finally had a chance to sit down and read through some of its pages. The book, Bloodlust in Whitby and Highgate by James J. Browne, contains a chapter which attempts to address some of the media inaccuracies presented about myself concerning the Highgate ‘vampire’ flap back in the 1970s. Unfortunately it adds a few more, in a rather humourless fashion, but Browne has done his best, and as he has given me a whole chapter of his 70 page book I suppose I shouldn’t complain. And it was refreshing for once to hear someone point out that the relationship between a ‘certain person’ and the police had become strained by August 1970, and to see an acknowledgment of this person’s ‘cyber sock puppets’ in print for the first time. What a strange way to court publicity!
Anyway, thanks Redmond. Haven’t finished reading the rest of the book yet, but I will!
Well that’s all for now, everyone. Will keep you all up to date I promise.
Well, Easter has come and gone and, as I have said many times before, I prefer the relative quiet of Easter to the ‘dreaded Christmas’. Its lighter and warmer for one thing; for another, it seems to be speeding us away from those dark gaudy days that envelop the festive season. You can keep all the presents, the sickly rich food and all the other commercialism; that doesn’t amount to much in comparison to being able to feel the newness of Nature. For that is alive and it’s progressing now, and leaving far behind the cold and morbidity of the fake decorations that smother most people at Yuletide.
So, I don’t mind Easter. It just feels ‘free-er’ to me. A time when the future seems ‘alive’, and not just buried beneath some religious archives that have long lost their true religious meaning. But nothing is really lost. And time keeps moving on . . .
Anyway, to return to the Blog proper (maybe because so many people have been reminding me that I have been neglecting my personal diary), there is indeed some personal news that I’d like to share with you on the paranormal side of things . . .
Della’s new book “Haunted Highgate” has been doing pretty well with a series of recent reviews. I believe I have already posted one here from Paul Screeton (of Hexham Heads fame) which appeared in his magazine FOLKLORE FRONTIERS in March. (Issue No 75).
Ian Topham has also released another fairly long review on his Website MYSTERIOUS BRITAIN AND IRELAND in his book review columns. I would like to re-publish Ian’s review on here but must first get his permission to republish it. Sure he won’t mind, but have to ask him beforehand obviously. Hopefully you can all read it here soon, as trying to keep all reviews and book news together.
Also, another very recent review has appeared in the magazine of the Ghost Club. It is by John Fraser, himself a Ghost Club member and also a Council member of the Society of Psychical Research whom I first met while giving a Talk at ASSAP in 2013, and I do now have his kind permission to reproduce it on Della’s behalf on my own humble Blog! (Well, he gave Della permission anyway, so hopefullly this applies to myself!)
So, here is John’s review as it appeared in the Ghost Club Journal just a few weeks ago . . .
Thank you John for taking the time to read Della’s book, and for the insightful comments in your review.
I remember that old Church in Haworth on the North Yorkshire Moors so well, but never its name. I should have remembered it as the Brontes used to worship in it, and the tombs of two of them are identified by plaques on the floor; but somehow the names of churches all sound much the same .
It was a magnificent building, and April sunshine filtered through coloured glass; though this seemed to stop there and made no impact upon the darkened floor. It was dark. Dark and almost dismal. Not only the cold stone, but an atmosphere of almost melancholy that appeared all around you. It was there in the large stone slabs and seemed to almost resonate in the air.
I had gone to Yorkshire with a small group of people. We had been visiting local places of interest; not least, if not foremost, the secluded grave – or supposed grave – of the legendary Robin Hood. That was some 15 miles behind us on this chosen day to visit the birth place of the Bronte family. A town as usual filled with tourists, even before the height of the season. It bustled with activity; though it seemed most of this was in the streets outside compared to the relative few who seemed to have ventured into that imposing Church.
Even the few that had, seemed almost impervious to the potent atmosphere that (I sensed at least) the whole place seemed to radiate. Most seemed content with picking up brochures or coyly signing the Visitors Book, as if to leave some oblique mark of their presence.
Yet I seemed to sense that something was wrong – if not ‘wrong’, then just not quite right or ‘normal’. It just didn’t seem like some distinguished ‘tourist Church’ – rather that some depressing unquiet lay in its internal air that could never be cleared by any form of religious worship. For worship in abundance there must have been there – both in its sad forms and happy ones – but no lingering presence of this seemed to remain, just a vacuum of antiquity that seemed to have stored but little of what may have taken place in its midst.
It was lunchtime now, and a few of our scattered group slowly assembled outside. It’s funny really, but the thought of food always seems to unite people with some common directive.
We were walking back to the main street along some cobbled alley, reading some of the grave stones – or the ones that could still be read.
It was then that a strange thing dawned on me: many of the graves were of families buried close together, and closer inspection showed that family deaths all occurred within a specific year, and family ages – whether from children to those still young – seemed to show no respect for each other. More reading of other gravestones displayed just the same pattern; a plethora of deaths that seemed to have occurred in only a one year period and little more.
At first this seemed like some newly discovered historical ‘detective mystery’. But this was not so as subsequent enquiry was to reveal.
Haworth, like so many rural towns like it, had once fallen victim to an epidemic of the Black Death which had decimated most of its 17th century population.
The old Church would almost certainly been at the centre of such tragedy and loss. Indeed, it seemed to be ‘telling’ me on that sunny April day, although I was not to be made aware of this until later. It seemed to be saying that death is ‘no respecter of persons’; screaming it out in its silence perhaps, immediately, in the busy present. Yet no-one else, staring at the faded gravestones, seemed to share this realisation . . .
IN ENFIELD OLD TOWN, on the northern outskirts of London, there have been reports of a spectral black coach drawn by a team of phantom horses that rushes silently down bell lane and suddenly vanishes.
If legend is to be believed, the coach belonged to the evil ‘hanging judge’, Judge Jeffreys, who rides inside – the notori¬ous 17th century Lord Chief Justice who believed in
incarcerating and hanging political rebels until his own un¬timely death in the Tower of London brought an end to his reign of terror.
These reports of the coach, however, have been forthcom¬ing for many years and it would appear sightings of it are usually at dusk or by night and that it is invariably seen trav¬elling in a southerly direction.
One of the earlier reports on record relates that in1899, three factory girls from Ponders End on their way home from work witnessed the coach ‘rising out of the ground’ where¬upon it sped off noiselessly with featureless passengers who could be seen through the windows.
In 1912. It was again reported by a lamplighter who saw it ‘passing through’ a house – presumably one that obstructed its original path.
Of course, it is obviously difficult to check the authenticity of some of the earlier sightings but a first hand report from one local resident that recently came to light gives an unique insight into this phantasm and (notwithstanding that this sighting occurred a while ago) provides new details about the Enfield mystery.
Mr David Hanchett (a pensioner who sadly died in De¬cember 1992) who lived close to Bell Lane at the time, re¬called his encounter with the phantom coach to the author in 1989 and his intriguing account is as follows:
It was an unusually hot and humid summers evening on June 28th 1944 when, at about a quarter to ten whilst he was cycling home, just as he approached the junction of Bell Lane, (that particular section of Bell Lane having since been re¬named Eastfield Road), he noticed an ominous black cloud approaching from the Southwest that was rapidly obscuring the remaining light.
He stopped temporarily to switch on his cycle lights. It began to drizzle when, to his surprise, he saw two moving lights behind a hedge which bordered some allotments to the left (now the site of council flats). These were some way off but, prompted by a sudden feeling of apprehension, he paused to watch, somewhat consoled by the fact that it was probably people walking out late. The lights got brighter and larger and it was plain that they were approaching the hedge.
The next moment, a tall black box-shaped coach drawn by a team of black horses, rocking silently from side to side with a coachman in the driver’s seat, came ‘straight through’ the hedge and sped parallel to this for some distance before veer¬ing off in a gradual curve and disappearing through the gates leading to some old garages which served some cottages standing a hundred feet or so away. The coach made no sound but an ‘electrical blue light’ surrounded its outline (in¬cluding the wheels which were a foot or so above the ground) and as it passed directly in front of him, a brilliant white light momentarily illuminated the interior to reveal several passen¬gers inside. The driver was wearing a tall black hat and a long whip was attached to a socket at his side.
But this was not quite the end of the story. Apparently, a young boy on a push-bike nearby also witnessed the incident. He fled, but David Hanchet was sure that he would not have forgotten the occurrence and that if he came forward (al¬though he would now be in his late sixties) he would be able to verify this account.
After the coach had disappeared, Mr Hanchet rode about a hundred yards to Enfield Highway and asked a pedestrian if he had noticed an ‘unusual coach’ in the vicinity. This person had seen nothing, but Mr Hanchet noticed that the trolley-bus cables overhead were vibrating wildly and he thought this un¬usual as there was virtually no wind and no trolley-buses were in sight.
Anxious to shed further light on this incident, shortly afterwards, Mr Hanchet visited nearby Forte Hall and there he noticed an old map displayed on a wall that showed an old trackway and boundary line that ran alongside a field, denot¬ing the exact route that the phantom coach had taken.
Asked about his reaction to what he had witnessed, Mr Hanchet explained that there had been more disbelief than fear, although he remained adamant that he had definitely seen the coach.
In an attempt to discover more about David Hanchest’s experience (and aided by a detailed diagram drawn by him¬self), I visited the location where he had seen the coach dis¬appear. The garages themselves were no longer there, but a resident of a house in the immediate vicinity remembered the old cottages.
85-year-old Mrs Jessie Hargreaves had resided in the house since it was built in 1952 but said that the cottages themselves had long since been demolished. She had never seen the coach although her late husband had. He had been walking home late one night and had seen a coach drawn by black horses travelling down Bell Lane; interestingly enough, in precisely the same location that Mr Hanchet had seen the ghostly coach.
Another report from a resident who lived in the immediate vicinity would appear to verify further the existence of this elusive coach. Mrs Brenda Guiver was brought up at number two Eastfield Cottages where she lived with her family from 1948 until 1967.
It was Christmas morning in 1957 (she was then nine years old). She awoke in the early hours and, looking out of the window, she saw a coach and horses which she thought was the Christmas sleigh bringing presents. Excitedly, she woke her brother and both children distinctly saw the errie outline of a coach as it passed the gates of Albany Park before disappearing from sight down Bell Lane.
Evidence for the existence of Enfield’s phantom coach might well be accumulating by virtue of previously unpub¬lished accounts such as these. In fact, there probably exist many other sightings spanning decades that may never come to light, partly due, perhaps, to the reluctance of some wit¬nesses unwilling to risk their personal esteem or credibility.
Yet another report that I followed up might be seen to give further credence to the existence of this ghostly coach; albeit that on the occasion the coach was sighted in an area some two or three miles distant from Bell Lane. It comes from Mrs C. Ellis who describes her experience with few reservations about what she had actually seen.
The year was 1951 and Mrs Ellis – who lived in Lordship Lane at the time – describes a sighting she had in February of that year when she saw a coach clearing visible against the snow gliding silently down the road before it abruptly dis¬appeared.
One evening in February 1951 about 8 o’clock when I was eleven years old and my whole family were in the living room laughing and gossiping and making the usual noise, I went over to the window to gaze at the snow which was falling heavily. It was so thick that that it came almost level to the kerb. Cars were few and far between then, and everything was so silent and so white, it was beautiful. I was only there about five minutes when this coach appeared from nowhere, but it was so plain to see. It was white with gold trimmings and the horses were slender and they were white too. There was a man sitting on top, he wore a red coat and black top-hat. That is all I saw; it was going at such a fast speed. I pressed my cheeks sideways against the window and just saw the rear wheels disappear. Even at that age I felt that something was not quite right but, although I told everyone I was not believed as there were no trackmarks the snow.
This sighting, whilst occurring about 2 miles away from the common haunt of the Enfield coach, should not nec¬essarily assumed to be an entirely different phenomenon.
Of course, the question remains open to debate, but in many of my past writings on this subject, (and as already stated) I have pointed out that a fact often overlooked when investigating psychic phenomena, is that many apparitions – be they of objects, animals or people – are subject upon certain conditions to bring about or aid their materialisation, an im¬portant one being the element of water.
But another important factor in the ‘psychic equation’ should not be overlooked here. For it is possible – in fact, highly probable – that many ghostly apparitions are dependent upon the presence of ley lines to aid their materialisation and that ‘they’ can travel along the course of these lines to appear at different locations upon them, and be subsequently witnessed by unsuspecting people.
Briefly: ley lines are invisible – yet potent – lines of energy that criss-cross the earth’s surface connecting many ancient sits and monuments; or it would be more correct to say, that many ancient monuments – such as Abbeys, churches and stone circles – were constructed directly upon them.
This is not to imply that all cases of psychic phenomena are dependent upon the presence of ley lines to aid their mate¬rialisation, but it does mean that many cases of psychic phe¬nomena (and I believe this to be the case with the spectral coach witnessed at Enfield) or ‘active apparitions’ could in¬deed prove to be no more than non-intelligent images or re¬flections of past events that have somehow become ‘caught’ in these fields of energy to be intermittently ‘replayed’ as shad¬ows of their original forms.
The mystery of Enfield’s phantom coach is, of course, an old one and in the absence of scientific fact to explain its ap¬pearances – like so many cases of unexplained phenomena – will probably remain as romantic legend, with sceptics branding potential witnesses as being over-imaginative or misguided.
That much might be true in accordance with a scientific line of reasoning. But then it should perhaps be remembered, that many cases of ghostly phenomena cannot simply be ex¬plained away as ‘unsolved fact’, when so many rational people (many of whom are not even involved in the field of psychical research) attest so frequently to their actual validity. FIN
The following article appeared in the North London Weekly Post. It is really self explanatory and gives a condensed view of David Farrant’s involvement in the early 1970’s with the so called Highgate Vampire . . .
HIGHGATE VAMPIRE HUNTER BITES BACK
By Russell Vaughn
HE WAS the vampire hunter turned hunted. His dabblings in the occult got him locked up and branded ‘evil’. Time may have healed a few wounds but he is still the target of a relentless hate campaign. Now David Farrant wants to “set the record straight” and has released a candid new book: The Return Of The Vampire Hunter. The Weekly Post’s Russell Vaughn went to meet him to see if he could rattle a few skeletons.
On the face of it Highgate looks like a quiet, leafy North London suburb. But 30yrs ago, it was a hotbed of ghostly goings on. Vampires? Satanists? Nude orgies? Skeletons found in cars? Surely not here?
Well, travel back three decades and you too may have found yourself caught up in a sea of scandal. The chattering classes were chattering all right. Parlour rooms and pubs were rife with sordid tales and net curtains were twitching like never before.
At the centre of it all was a young man called David Farrant. Mention his name now to some Highgate locals and they will recoil in horror. After all, he was their very own vampire hunter or ‘Psychic Investigator’ as David prefers to be known.
Problem was they didn’t call on him to slay the vampire supposedly haunting Highgate Cemetery. Nor did they take too kindly to his witchcraft antics there either. Nor did the police or the courts.
With all this in mind, I felt a little spooked as I made my way to meet the man himself. So I was rather surprised to encounter the slightly shy and retiring figure that met me on a chilly November afternoon. His manner is polite and unthreatening and I soon felt at ease that he was not going to unleash a bad spell on me – even if I was a journalist.
He is open and willing to talk about his past in detail, and of course his book, The Return of The Vampire Hunter.
Expelled from a private school at 15 for refusing to have his hair cut, rebellion seemed a path he was destined for. As did spiritualism. Two years prior to his expulsion his mother had died. But in the time he had known her she had opened the door into this mystical world. Soon after, as he told me, he felt “drawn towards it.”
In his late teens David left Weymouth for foreign fields. He worked his way around Europe by fruit picking and picking up bar work. Three years later he returned home but came back with more than just his backpack. Whilst abroad he met his first wife whom became pregnant with his child. He has since been married once more and has two children.
Luckily for the young couple money wasn’t a concern. A sizeable inheritance meant that David didn’t have to go hunting for work nor consider any graveyard shifts. It was about this time that David’s destiny with White Witchcraft (Wicca) and unexplained phenomena, ie ghosts – two different things bloomed.
But at the end of the 60s and at the start of the 70s it all started to go horribly wrong. For David, the peace and love he had enjoyed in the flower power era suddenly wilted.
His new book Return of The Vampire Hunter picks up the story from here. It begins inevitably with the story of the Highgate Vampire and nicely captures the sensationalism surrounding the arrest and subsequent court case.
David’s further brushes with the law are dug up in full too, including his time in prison and his suspicions that he was framed.
“IN RECENT YEARS, CERTAIN PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ATTACKING ME… [SAYING THAT] I’M INVOLVED IN BLACK MAGIC, I’M A SATANIST, I CONDUCT NUDE ORGIES, I’M A HOMOSEXUAL…IT’S BEEN A HATE CAMPAIGN AND ITS ESCALATED.”
This in-depth discussion was conducted by author Rob Milne. Its interview format gives it a slightly more objective edge. But David insists that the book was born out of accident rather than by design. “I was approached by Rob and the book came about really spontaneously,” explained David. “He came to interview me about Highgate Cemetery because he was writing a separate book on it. So we decided let’s make a book of it.”
But a lot of those things happened decades ago, so why the book now? I asked. “In recent years, certain people have been attacking me – mainly on the internet,” he replied. “The gist of this stuff was that mainly I’m involved in black magic, I’m a Satanist, I conduct nude orgies, I’m a homosexual (all of which David categorically denies)… It’s been a hate campaign and it’s escalated in the last few years.
It’s got so bad that David called the police. An irony perhaps, but at least it seems to have suppressed some of the bile. But it’s not just his controversial past that he wants to put right. It’s his religion too . . .
Wicca is something that David insists has “nothing to do with Satanism or black magic.” “It’s a religions based on nature worship which is about powers inherent in nature but more importantly powers inherent within yourself and how to develop them, “he explained, but warned: “it’s magic that’s neither white nor black but it’s something you have to learn about before you can being to tap into it.”
David was instrumental in forming the British Psychic and Occult Society (BPOS) which is an organisation separate from Wicca. Its purpose is to “investigate unexplained phenomena.”
But he frowns on the popular use of Ouijaboards and Seances and warned: “You should definitely not do it. It’s opening a gateway… I think it’s very dangerous.”
But wasn’t this exactly what he tried to do in the past? I counter.
David becomes slightly agitated. “It’s not a contradiction,” he says”…the whole of this (Wicca) has been a learning process and I hadn’t quite come to that understanding yet (of various categories of unexplained phenomena) and I partially believed that you can make communication by calling it back.”
So were you trying to make this thing (a pirate ghost in one particular incident) appear? “That was the intention, yes. To actually make it appear at the gravestone.” It was exactly this sort of behaviour that ended up attracting the police and ended in arrests, trials and punishment.
First Highgate Cemetery in 1969. After several reported sightings of an unexplained phenomena David decided to investigate and claims to have seen it. “It was the only time in my life I saw as something as concrete as that, “ he says. “It was a definite figure and it looked as if it was suspended in air.”
But later his curiosity was to cost him dear. He returned with others on several occasions, and a year later was arrested by the police – mistakenly as he insists.
So who was to blame? “Vandals and black magicians, the Satanists were using a small mausoleum there…and they’d been there before.” But David’s first court appearance ended in an acquittal from a magistrate – the ironically named Christopher Lea.
He wasn’t to be so lucky after that however. It seemed that the police knew his every move and sure enough more arrests followed.
Finally it all came to head and David found himself in the dock at the Old Bailey in 1974. He was charged with several offences. One was a bizarre incident that resulted in a local architect finding a 130-year-old skeleton in his car. David was later let off but only after high-spirited students came forward and claimed that it was their prank.
But other charges stuck. These were thanks largely to pictures of a naked girl taken by a grave. There was also the matter of the two effigies sent to the police.
He got two-and-a-half years, which made him feel “extremely embittered” Why? “Because I knew I’d been sentenced for things I hadn’t committed,” he remarked ruefully.
So desperate was he to prove his innocence at the time he went on hunger strike. But the authorities didn’t budge and David lost twice – he wasted away to just 7st.
Those dark days may be long gone but David now wants to “set the record straight”. His new book, he hopes will “enlighten people” and “tell the truth.” It may also ruffle a few feathers, I suspect.
Nowadays David’s appetite for ghost hunting is as potent as ever and he continues his work with BPOS and Wicca. Trips to far-flung corners of Britain to track down ghosts are still “fascinating and interesting – and certainly not frightening.”
So if you suddenly start seeing strange sightings or hear things that go bump in the night forget Ghostbusters or Buffy. David Farrant is for real. FIN
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.