My dear friend Redmond McWilliams, Founder of the Highgate Cemetery Vampire Appreciation Society, was invited to appear as a guest on North London Paranormal Investigations (NLPI)’s recently revived Friday paranormal radio show, presented by Mickey Gocool.
The show was part 2 of a series based around London ghost stories, and people’s knowledge or experiences of these.
Redmond was asked, in particular, about his knowledge of the infamous ‘Highgate Vampire’, and his story is interesting to say the least. It is the story of a man who has researched the case for many years: indeed, it is one of the main subjects debated on his HCVAS Facebook group, on an on-going basis.
Among the topics discussed were the many sightings of darkly garbed black figures around the perimeter of Highgate Cemetery West (including Swains Lane and Waterlow Park), and the eternal tension between the ghost and vampire theories which attempt to explain paranormal experiences in the area.
As some of you already know via Facebook (and perhaps from watching old fashioned ‘television’!) I was recently asked by producer and director Bruce Burgess to take part in an episode of the popular series Forbidden History, which went out on Friday and Saturday last week on the Yesterday channel (available on Sky and Virgin).
The show was presented by Jamie Theakston, and Jamie and the crew spent several hours holed up in my front room asking me all manner of questions about – you’ve guessed it – the Highgate ‘bloody’ vampire. It was a good interview though, I must admit. Other contributors to the show include my old friends the Rev. Lionel Fanthorpe who I was first in contact with some years back whilst he was researching his book “The Worlds most Mysterious Places” (1999), and Andrew Gough, who has previously interviewed me for his website Arcadia (that interview generated a LOT of comments 😉 )
Fortunately for fans of the Highgate ‘vampire’ saga who, like me, do not own a television set, the show is available to view online at:
The final part of The Highgate Vampire Symposium2015 is now up on YouTube (length approx. 1hour). My apologies it has taken so long, but I think you will all agree it has been well worth waiting for!
For the first time in its long history of alleged hauntings, a team of paranormal experts were assembled under one roof to thoroughly explore and examine various sightings of a dark ‘cloaked figure’ that has confronted witnesses in and around Highgate’s famous old cemetery.
“Upstairs at the Gatehouse”, was the popular theatre club chosen for the venue, and by coincidence, or perhaps not, the theatre itself is reputedly haunted by a phantom figure that has been seen on the premises – an ancient coaching inn that lies in the close proximately of Highgate Cemetery.
There is no direct evidence that these two hauntings are directly connected, although when I wrote my book Beyond the Highgate Vampire back in 1991, I did point out that Highgate Cemetery was situated on a significantly powerful ley line and – as with cases of psychic manifestations in other parts of the country (the world in fact) – such energy lines are capable of transmitting psychic energy along their course. As a matter of interest, the ley that Highgate Cemetery is situated upon runs straight though several other haunted locations, including the old Gatehouse pub where last year’s Symposium was held.
One of the main purposes of the Symposium really was to get witnesses to relay their experiences of this tall, shadowy figure that has been witnessed in Highgate Cemetery over the past few years, and to have experts on hand to hear their testimonies in front of an objective audience. Questions were invited from anyone and these can be heard in particular in the audience participation in the currently released final session of the YouTube films.
We invite you all to listen to the experiences of the audience, including a shared scepticism that whatever haunted Highgate Cemetery was not– or indeed is – a ‘blood-sucking vampire’!
A ghostly unexplained apparition . . . yes. Particularly everyone was in agreement with this, but not with other ‘crank theories’ that there was any substance in the Hammer Horror film portrayals of their horror films portraying vampires, when that international film company had given this idea to thousands – if not millions – of cinema goers throughout that 1960s periods and into the early 1970s.
Many were influenced by the vampire horror movies (indeed, these attracted international audiences across the world) but many more tried to imitate this idea (especially college students) by actually trying to make their own amateur ‘vampire films’ in the cemetery itself. But these were really no match for a professional film industry such as Hammer, and such film projects were quickly forgotten, if seen by the general populace at all!
But at the end of all this, the phantom figure witnessed in and around Highgate Cemetery lives on. It has been seen by too many witnesses to dismiss its credibility out of hand, as some sceptics and those attempting to jump on the ‘occult bandwagon’, apparently try to do.
The conclusion of the 9-hour Symposium (which went on until well into the night ‘after hours’) on July 19th last year, was that this ‘phantom figure’ was still ‘there’. But that it was by no means a ‘blood-sucking vampire’!
But after all, we have only got Hammer movie films, and a few of its pale imitators to thank for all that!
David Farrant, President, British Psychic and Occult Society.
Pleased to say that the final filmed session of The Highgate Vampire Symposium 2015 has now been fully edited and will be posted here in the next couple of days. Yes . . . at last! It has taken long enough to serialise all the sessions, but then other events occurred in the interim which needed attention which made the delay of its full release unavoidable. I will not go into all these except to say that these events took ultimate priority and had to be dealt with, which they now have been. I will not bore you all again by explaining all the difficulties except perhaps to remind people that arranging the event itself took some five and a half months prior to last July, and this in itself was a formidable task regarding all the prior necessities of arranging times, dates and availability of camera crews, the Speakers themselves and a host of other things necessary to make the whole thing run to the schedule. And then of course, there was the task of editing all the film coverage which arose out of this mammoth 8-hour day, which has now been done, so no need to go on about all of that really.
But the coverage has now all been fully edited and will be published in the next couple of days. Thanks again her to John Fraser, author and committee member of the SPR; Gareth Davies, American broadcaster and founder of Mind Set Central; Andy Mercer, co- host of KTPF (“Keeping the Paranormal Friendly), and witnesses of the Highgate case who agreed to appear in the film. So, as they say, just WATCH THIS SPACE! It could be sooner than you think!
In other news, I understand a televised interview I gave on the Highgate ‘vampire’ case is to be released in March. This is an independent film and copyright of the Television company and not to do with the Symposium mentioned above. But I will keep you all informed about that as well, as a separate issue.
In other issues: well these go on as usual. Della is here but fast asleep now curled up on the bed. And we had a good dinner earlier. I am going to have to disturb her in a minute or I will end up sleeping on the floor! But she looks so restful, that I don’t really want to risk waking her up! Better not risk it on second thoughts. Might snatch a couple of hours in my favourite arm-chair and give her a ‘kiss goodnight’ instead!
Just a little update on my last Blog relating mostly to events following The Highgate Vampire Symposium 2015 which took place in Highgate last July. I said that the last filmed session of this was due for release very soon, subject to some last minute editing. (In fact, to clarify, the Symposium was filmed by three professional camera crews from different angles and as all of the Speakers had their own ‘clip-on’ microphones the audio needed to be compared, adjusted and synchronised to fit each part of the recordings).
All well and good – so far. Except (and as you can read in my last Blog here) a certain ‘bonky’ individual has attempted to give his own version of these witnessed and recorded events and sightings . . . this person being one known as a certain “Bishop Bonkers”, the same individual pretending to be a ‘bishop’ in The Old Catholic Church who claims to have ‘staked’ two vampires back in the 1970’s/early 1980’s (one of which attacked him in the form of a ‘giant spider’!) and who released a ‘Vanity publishing’ book in 1985 about the Highgate ‘vampire’ to back up his story.
But regarding the Highgate Vampire Symposium of last July (and as I stated in my last Blog), this bonky individual seems to have taken great exception to this public event held at the theatre Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate Village. During that Conference, several witnesses came forward to confirm the ghostly legends and stories which have surrounded Highgate Cemetery for many years, including the appearances of a ghostly black-clad figure which have been claimed there. The general consensus during the Symposium however was that, although still unexplained, this ghostly apparition was definitely authentic as far as ‘earthly proof’ and testimony can ever go, but was definitely not a ‘vampire’ as this ‘bonky individual’ had been trying to make the public believe.
I explained in my Blog that Bonky viewed (and views) the Highgate ghost reports of the apparition sighted at Highgate Cemetery as a serious threat to his ‘vampire tale’; a ‘vampire’ he claims to have tracked down from Highgate Cemetery after having escaped from a tomb he ‘sealed’ it up in, in 1970. He eventually found it sleeping in its coffin in the cellars of a semi-derelict mansion on the boarders of Crouch End in North London in 1973 (at least this is what he writes in his self-published book) and he, and a small group of assistants (unnamed), drag it out into the over-grown back garden (coffin and all) where he (‘bonky’) ‘staked it though its heart before incinerating the whole caboodle with the help of a can of petrol!
So the residential ghost at Highgate Cemetery, conflicting as it did with his ‘vampire sightings’ just ‘had to go’.
So Bonky thought up an ingenious plot by which he could convincingly make this happen . . .
He almost certainly remembered accompanying a group of us to a party one night on an occasion back in the bleak cold winter of 1969/70, when tales of a ghostly apparition at Highgate Cemetery were at their height. We had previously been in the Prince of Wales pub in Highgate Village and Bonky with a ‘bosom buddy’ he called the “Eggmanne” decided to join us as he realised our route went down the lane past Highgate Cemetery. We had previously been discussing this (as well as the short cut passing the cemetery) and they (that is Bonky and the Eggmanne) went along with us en route to this party.
Personally, I did not take too much notice of Bonky’s presence (or “Eggmanne’s”) as the pair of them were always drinking together in the pub – sometimes with their respective wives or girlfriends, as the case happened to be. But I was somewhat used to the pair of them by now!
Anyway, (and don’t lose interest dear readers, as we are coming to the important part which I didn’t think to be of enough importance to mention in my last blog) . . .
When we passed the North Gate of Highgate Cemetery (only 5 minutes walk or so from the Prince of Wales) Bonky made something of a ‘commotion’ by reminding the group that this was the place where the ‘ghost’ had been seen. He said that he wanted to get some photographs of the location and suggested stopping there for five minutes to enable him to do so. This ploy seemed to work and for a brief period everyone started examining the area and a few of us – including myself – climbed over the cemetery gate to explore the area inside the cemetery. The gate was quite easy to climb considering it was somewhat ‘dwarfed’ by the cemetery’s impassable high walls.
Nobody really took much notice either when Bonky suddenly produced a 35-m camera from a shoulder bag and started taking brilliant flash photographs of the darkened path inside the cemetery. Nowadays such a ‘camera break’ would go relatively unobserved, but we should remember that there were no mobile camera phones in those days (indeed, mobile phones themselves had not even been invented) and so Bonky’s short ‘photographic break’ did not exactly go unnoticed!
I stated in my recent Blog that Bonky sent one of these b/w photographs to the French paranormal magazine “L’Inconnu” in 1981, together with a signed A4 Press Release saying that this could be taken as exclusive ‘evidence’ that David Farrant, President of the British Occult Society, was really ‘mentally deranged’! The magazine published Bonky’s photograph in good faith, but apologised to myself a few weeks later in a later article which was published a few weeks later (which I referenced – with a genuine file pic
picture) in my Blog.
OK, so what’s new, you explained all this in your last Blog?, I can hear you all ask.
Well this is . . . What I did not mention in my Blog was this . . .
Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s (indeed since then and right up to the present day), the Bonky person referred to in my Blog developed an ‘unhealthy obsession’ with the work and research of the BPOS (British Psychic and Occult Society) and also with myself as its President. His main – if not only – motivation seemed to be that the BPOS members, including myself, simply did not accept his persistent claims (which led him to publish his Vanity Press book in 1985) that the ghost reported at Highgate Cemetery which we were investigating at the time was in fact, really a ‘blood-sucking’ vampire. Neither could we accept this person’s fictional account of how he later tracked down this ‘vampire’ and quite literally staked it through its heart before incinerating it (coffin and all) with a can of petrol; neither could we accept his story of how, a few years later, he also tracked down this vampire’s disciple and dispatched her in a similar fashion, but not before she had turned into a ‘giant vampire spider’!
It is perhaps not surprising that when this person’s account eventually found its way into a book and these ‘vampire stakings’ were promoted as ‘true life events’, the media were naturally interested in uncovering more facts behind this story in case more sinister motivations (such as real life murders) may have been involved.
Of course, this is precisely what this ‘bonky author’ wanted: to goad the Press and other researchers into thinking foul play may be a part of the equation but leaving its author smug in the assurance he had only been writing legally unprovable fiction!
One thing has proved itself to be fact on the part of his true motivations however . . . there was seemingly no place for his invented vampire (or vampires) to exist alongside the entity which really haunted Highgate Cemetery. Which really brings us back to where we started. But maybe not quite! . . .
In the early 1980’s when his vanity press Highgate ‘vampire’ book was in the process of being prepared, Bonky used to regularly visit me at my North London flat which was close to Highgate. We had an uneasy ‘truce’ during this period until this ended in 1985 following publication of his said ‘vampire’ book.
He obviously only used to visit me before this (maybe two or three times a week) to catch up on information with many people we knew who were still resident in the Highgate area. One of these was a person called Tony Hill who then lived close to Muswell Hill and ran a paper stall on the busy Holloway Road. Bonky no longer lived anywhere near Highgate and had fallen out with Hill at this time, although the Bonky knew I still used to see Hill on occasion and he wanted to be informed of all the latest information.
During these meetings (usually between an hour and two hours long), Bonky frequently discussed his forthcoming Highgate book, but was always very scant on details, other than to tell me that ‘my involvement’ in the Highgate scenario had been included. He told me little more, although – unbeknown to him – I secretly recorded most of his visits.
On one occasion in 1983, I remember that he produced several prints of the b/w photographs he had taken in Swains Lane of myself and “Eggmanne” inside Highgate Cemetery sharing the Victorian top hat on our way to that fancy dress party back in late 1969. He said he was intending to send some more over to France, as another French magazine wanted the ‘inside story’ on the Highgate Vampire story. But he wasn’t really happy with the photographs and remarked these seemed ‘too jocular’!
“I’ve had a very difficult time deciding on the pictures because the actual close-ups are too . . . they’re too jocular, and obviously not serious . . . although the setting might be, the expressions aren’t intent, and also, they’re obviously too posed, and the expressions are ones of obvious frivolity, whereas I had to pick those where the expressions were … something was going, something was about to happen or had just happened, and there was a look of intent on the faces . . .”, he said.
He was referring, of course, to the very same photographs he had taken himself around the top gate of Highgate Cemetery when that group of us were on our way to a local fancy dress party. The difference this time, is that this is an exact record of what he actually said as I recorded his words (quite literally) for prosperity!
[From my book series The Seangate Tapes, ISSN 1747-7077, first published in 2005, by BPOS].
Well I’ll finish this for now everyone. Just a little ‘eye-opener’ for you all to see some more of Bonky’s attempts to pervert contemporary paranormal research. There’s bound to be some more by next time! So until then . . .
David Farrant, President, British Psychic and Occult Society.
Well, we’re getting close now to the completion of the July Highgate Vampire Symposium; that is, in terms of uploading the filmed sessions. Three new speakers for you will be discussing the Highgate phenomenon for you: John Fraser of The Ghost Club and who is also involved with various committees of The Society for Psychical Research; Gareth Davies American Radio host, and Andy Mercer, author and co-host of KTPF (Keeping the Paranormal Friendly) run by that dedicated couple Suzanne and Steve Taggart. And we have two more guests for you, Debbie Meredith and Martin Trent both of whom describe their experiences with a ghostly figure they witnessed – on two completely different occasions – in forlorn Swains Lane.
And in other ‘news’ now (though maybe a better term would be ‘ineffectual gossip’!), while the Symposium has proved to be a great success, it does it seems to have outraged one particular very ‘bonky’ individual. Perhaps slightly dismayed by its popularity and impact, this person has been raving on the Internet that, while there was (according only to him) most definitely a real-life ‘vampire’ in Highgate Cemetery back in the early 1970s, it no longer existed after he had ‘staked it through the heart’ in early 1974 and then incinerated it – coffin and all – with a can of petrol. Furthermore, he goes on to assert that he had also ‘staked’ one of its victims in 1982 after she had been bitten by the ‘King Vampire’ and changed into one herself. He also set fire to her in a lonely graveyard close to his home; but not before she had changed into a ‘giant spider’!
I kid you not! This same person claimed, on a programme arranged by the BBC when he was interviewed in front of an assembled audience, to have ‘staked’ scores of other vampires across the UK. He offered no evidence to support this fantastic story, but nevertheless attempted to present this as ‘fact’ before an audience of disbelieving people.
Anyway, to leave all the vampire fantasy, let’s get onto the good bit. . .
It is a well known fact that London’s Highgate Cemetery has for a long time been reputedly haunted by a tall dark figure that appears by night before suddenly disappearing mysteriously before startled witnesses. The ghost is often described as a ‘black-clad’ or ‘cloaked’ figure – its appearance giving an impression that it seems to originate from a previous century. So much for legend. But legend, like fact, can sometimes become an established part of local history.
That’s all very well, some might conclude; yet others might query how on earth ‘a vampire’ – or ‘vampires’ – somehow crept into this somewhat new mythos surrounding Highgate.
Perhaps the answer to this is obviously simple . . . For it is a fact that in the late 1960s/early 1970s, Hammer Horror films used the unique gothic location of Highgate Cemetery to film some of its more popular ‘Dracula’ films. As has been well documented, the ivy covered gravestones and crumbling Victorian tombs added an uncanny backdrop to such films as “Taste the Blood of Dracula”, “The Body Beneath”, “Tales from the Crypt” and “Dracula AD 1972” being just a few examples of the films which Hammer and other production companies filmed or set in the vicinity.
Thus stories, inspired largely by the fevered imaginations of film-goers, began to abound about the physical existence of some ‘Dracula-like creature’ that walked in Highgate Cemetery. And only a year or so after the initial hammer films, people (well ‘some’ people’) attempted to equate the local ghost which vaguely fitted the physical description of a cinematic vampire with these movies, which served, in turn, to turn its relatively indigenous ghost into some ‘blood-sucking vampire’!
Yet not content to embellish the Hammer movie film plots (not to mention nicking wholesale a certain scene from “The Devil Rides Out”) with fiction of his own about incinerating vampires and staking ‘giant spiders’, the same bonky person I referred to at the beginning of this Blog has apparently decided that stories of the ghost that haunted Highgate Cemetery do not fit into his ‘vampire theories’ and decided that the ghost has just ‘got to go’. As part of a supposedly amusing prank, this person has now recommenced his jaded and timeworn circulation of a photograph/s of myself standing by the top gate of Highgate Cemetery dressed in a Victorian top hat and making a sweeping bow to other people present: the allegation being that these photographs serve as irrefutable proof that I faked the entire Highgate ghost story.
In fact, these photographs prove nothing of the sort; except the extraordinary lengths that this disturbed person will go to, to ‘protect’ his invented vampire story. One look at any of this set of black and white photographs (never shown in its entirety under one name, on one blog / Facebook group) will show immediately that I was smiling in these photographs and posing for the other people present.
In fact, what had happened was (and as I have already explained elsewhere before), a group of us, after meeting in the Prince of Wales pub nearby, were on our way to a fancy dress party in a rambling old house not far from Hampstead Heath. Our direct route took us down Swains Lane and past the top gate of Highgate Cemetery. OK – some of us climbed over the gate for a look around. This much is obvious from the subsequent photos, and I have never denied it (in fact, I have admitted it before online).
On this occasion (the hosts of this party were ‘regulars’ at the Prince of Wales pub and we had often visited this house before), we were accompanied by this bonky individual himself (in fact, he was known by other nicknames, but I won’t repeat these here!) and a ‘chum’. These two people apparently had no interest in attending the party (nor were they invited) but when the group stopped briefly at the top gate the bonky person proceeded to begin taking photographs of us through the bars of the North Gate.
In the latest propaganda now doing its rounds on the Internet, this bonky person is now attributing his mate ‘Eggmanne’ to have been the sole photographer of this set of photographs; but wait just a minute, to ‘back this up’, he publishes one of these photographs of the ‘Eggmanne’ bowing (taking his turn) with the top hat. Whoops! The ‘Eggmanne’s’ hands are in full view and he is clearly not holding a camera.
This ‘mystery’ actually appears to have been solved some decades back when another of these photographs of myself was sent to the esoteric magazine L’Innconnu in early 1981 accompanied by a page of text to the effect that the photograph portrayed the ‘mentally deranged’ David Farrant. It was signed by the bonky one himself. [Numero 68 ISSN 03338-8190].
Interestingly enough, no suggestion was made of myself ‘hoaxing’ any ghost story. In fact, I remain perplexed as to why anyone would, could or should interpret the photographs in such a fashion. I have gone to great lengths to explain elsewhere the background to the photos in question, including reference to the party I was en route to (it was a house near the bottom of West Hill, and the owners kept a small pony indoors which caused great amusement, if any one actually cares). But should I really have to? Do any of you, my loyal readers, have to ‘explain’ photographs of you taken at or on the way to private parties, some 45 years ago, as if you were in the dock? Do you have to wade through drivel about whether or not it was snowing on the night you attended such party/ies? Of course you don’t. And neither do I, technically. But such is life in the land of Farrant, it seems.
My over-arching point, and one which certain ‘bandwagoneers’ to coin a bonky phrase seem to miss is this:
I NEVER CLAIMED IN MY LETTER TO THE HAM AND HIGH IN JANUARY 1970 THAT THE ENTITY I HAD ENCOUNTERED WORE A TOP HAT.
The verifiable top hat sightings, save for a letter from a Mr Docherty also published in the spring of 1970, were collated by myself (and continue to flood in) at a MUCH later date. Decades later, in fact.
Sometimes the truth is so obvious it can be missed. To any critics reading this – don’t blame yourselves. Obsession can do strange things to people. The burning question remains – just how could I be ‘hoaxing’ a ghost by posing in fancy dress on the way to a party, which differed in every visual component possible from the entity which I described in my letter? Why, if my intention as currently claimed by Mr. Manchester was to frighten members of the public into thinking a top hatted spectre haunted Swains Lane and/or Highgate Cemetery, did I not mention a hat – or a human appearance – in my letter? Why did I not publish early witness reports of a top-hatted figure? Why were top hats not in any way mentioned by me at all?
Simple. Because I was telling the truth, as I knew it at the time.
In anycase, some of you may be interested in reading my published response to Mr. Manchester’s article in L’Inconnu. I rather feel that it puts things in context.
And please, dear readers, don’t for a minute think that climbing over a cemetery gate at midnight in your youth makes you ‘dérangé mental’. I do not condone or advise this behaviour, but there are worse indicators of being a bit bonky – claiming to believe in vampires for a start.
You remember that forthcoming film I told you about due for release soon? Well, I’ve just had some news, so now its apparently OK to release a little more about the project . . .
Well, after the Symposium last year, I’m really just a little fed up with ‘vampires’! But apparently people in good old Italy don’t feel the same way. They love them, and anything to do with them! I’ve learnt this from personal experience in the past, but it was really brought home to me recently after two aspiring Italian film students approached me personally after attending July’s Symposium. They were absolutely intrigued by tales of the Highgate Vampire and found it difficult to believe that there really was not some fact behind all the sensationalised fiction. They even suggested that maybe I could be persuaded to feature symbolically at the outset of the film portraying a ‘real vampire’ about to visit an innocent young damsel in her bedroom at night … But I had to decline this at the onset, notwithstanding they had already prepared some pre-promotional shots for a film mag to advertise their project!
So the two students, Sophia and Bethany, decided to contact me personally to see if I might be able to help with their film project. I am not really at liberty to disclose the plot in full; (and in any event I do not know it) but essentially it involves a young Italian girl who, after qualifying for a film career in Naples at University, had a frightening experience whilst visiting London in the 1960s to investigate a black magic Cult practising there. Perhaps not surprisingly the location chosen was a rambling old house was Highgate, North London, where several unsuspecting young people had fallen under the influence of this ‘Satanic Cult’ that was operating in Highgate Cemetery at the time.
Now, the fact that this had actually happened in reality, and the two young film makers were acquainted with the true facts underlying this case (facts which they had heard exposed by several witnesses attending the Symposium) did not appear to have dimmed their enthusiasm: indeed, they thought this would make an excellent film project for their own highly Catholicised country. The ‘shock value’, I suppose, being ‘diabolical practices’ that are seen to be openly displayed publicly (albeit by means of commitment to celluloid) , and are blatantly opposed to the traditional standards of the Catholic faith.
Whatever, I had to agree that the whole subject provided potential for using actual facts as the basis for creating a non-fiction film. The rest is really up to them!
All this happened last week – at least our provisional meeting did. Can only really wait and see what happens now . . . but I will keep you all up to date on this new venture.
When Della’s Farrant’s popular book on ghosts and hauntings, Haunted Highgate, first hit the shelves of national and local bookshops in October 2014, it caused not least a bit of surprise amongst the residents of this quaint old London village. Highgate – or rather its bordering Highgate Cemetery – had already been entrenched within the public persona as being the haunt of a blood-thirsty vampire: a story that owed its roots most probably to the activities of Hammer Horror films who chose the cemetery as a popular location in the late 1960s/early 1970s to make some of its most favourited Dracula movies. Stories of a ‘vampire’ abounded (most likely due to the success of these movies), but these also conflicted with many other stories of different ghosts and haunted locations that seemed to abound in the Highgate area. As a result, Highgate became associated with a mass of volatile ‘vampire’ stories which inevitably became entangled with much older stories of ghosts and legends, that originally took precedence in Highgate’s history.
It seemed Della was faced with the formidable job of trying to unravel an absurd mix of fact and fiction (or rather, what constituted fiction as opposed to genuine stories and legend) when undertaking research for her book, and still accounts come to light from people who, having read her book, are reminded of experiences of a ghostly encounters they may have had themselves, that have persuaded them to make contact.
The account below from former Highgate resident Declan Walsh is just one of these. In fact, Declan’s account was mentioned in a much shortened version in the book, but he subsequently made contact again with Della via her website hidden-highgate.org and was asked for more details about his sighting in Swains Lane – the eerie lane that skirts Highgate Cemetery – back in November 1991 . . .
Thank you to Declan for sharing his memories, and to Della for helping to collate stories such as Declan’s for posterity.
Having found your website and read some of the stories I felt I had to tell you of my experience on Swain’s Lane.
I used to work at a community NHS unit near Parliament Hill Fields and I often walked to work from my flat just off the Archway Road. A lovely walk in the summer but on a cold, damp autumnal morning…I would walk briskly. There were a number of ways to get to work but the quickest one was via Swain’s Lane. It was steep and quite narrow in parts and as you near the halfway point to your left is the East section of Highgate Cemetery. I have visited the cemetery many times as a legitimate visitor and as a kid during the 60’s / 70’s who climbed over at night with his mates. It is fair to say that I had a pretty good knowledge of the cemetery.
This particular morning (6.30 a.m.) in November 1991 I was walking towards the cemetery gates when I spotted him. He was walking directly towards the gates and about 200 yards away from me. I don’t know how I knew it, but I instinctively knew something was wrong. He was extremely tall, well over six feet in height and he was very thin. He wore a long black cape-like coat and a top hat. His dress looked Victorian in style and he appeared all black. He also carried a small package. However, he walked directly towards the gates which I and every other local knew was locked to prevent intruders gaining entry. I watched as he walked straight at and through the gates, not once altering his stride or reaching out to open the gates. I stood frozen to the spot and stared at the gates. I kept thinking “Those gates are locked. I know they are locked”.
I walked towards the gates whilst keeping to the right hand side of the road, keeping some distance between myself and the figure who had disappeared once he had entered the cemetery. The gates were securely chained and padlocked. To get in one would need the key or would have to climb over. I stared at the gates and I realised that I had seen someone not human. It’s funny what details stick in your mind because as well as his extreme height, thinness, the clothing and the blackness of the figure, he also appeared to glide and there was no sound. The ground was littered with leaves yet I heard no sound from him nor did he take any notice of me.
I have to confess I made it into work in record time and one of my colleagues stated “You look as though you’ve seen a ghost”. When I told them what I had seen I was met with laughter and ridicule.
However, I know what I saw that morning and I remember it distinctly to this day.
As I saw the figure my instincts / feelings were of dread. It sounds very corny but I felt cold and full of dread. I recognised as I watched that something was wrong and immediately afterwards my instinct was to run. In the weeks and months afterwards I avoided that spot and to be honest I used other routes to get to work. I also reran it all through my mind and questioned whether I had really seen this apparition. I don’t recall having ever dreamed about the event or the apparition. When I think about it now I realise how lucky I was to have had this experience although at the time I certainly did not think so.
As to whether it was a vampire…I have absolutely no idea as to the existence of vampires although I do believe I saw an apparition.
Just an update on the latest uploaded session of the Symposium, which was released today.
This session – “Why Highgate? Liminal Space and Environmental Influences” – ‘stars’ Carrie Kirkpatrick, High Priestess of Hecate and founder of Oracle Television, and former Highgate Cemetery tour guide and historical blogger Sam Perrin.
It is always a pleasure for me to hear new accounts of unexplained phenomena in the Highgate area, and indeed about the experiences of other magical practitioners.
I am sure you will all agree with me that this filmed footage is both enlightening and engaging. Well done Sam and Carrie!
And do keep an eye out, my dear readers, for the next uploaded session – many more witness accounts to come!
Well, the New Year is nearly here, and once the crazy celebrations are out of the way tomorrow, we hope to catch up on some long over-due news items. There are already at least 3 pre-recorded films of the Highgate ‘vampire’ case scheduled for release by independent Film Companies and Broadcasters, although I am limited to what I can say about these until they have been made public. I would love to be able to tell you: but alas, I can’t being bound by contract. But you will not be disappointed, I can assure you of that!
And then,of course, there are the two remaining episodes from The Highgate Vampire Symposium 2015 which will be uploaded for you in the next few weeks. (Just ‘Watch this Space’, as they say!). Really the Symposium films should have been completed by now as all the episodes have now been filmed and are just ‘waiting to go’! Unfortunately, as many of you know by now, a certain ‘Bonky person’ took exception to the Truth coming out and tried to suppress the coverage as this didn’t suit his frivolous ‘vampire story’ But it didn’t work and so people will be free to watch the whole film saga in just a few weeks. It appeared the person just got tired of playing with his Hornby train set in his bungalow and wanted to spoil the enjoyment of others,, not least by releasing photographs of himself stuffing down his displayed Christmas dinner and surrounded by cheap Christmas decorations instead! (All photographed for self-publicity and some sympathetic effect, of course!).
But anyway, life goes on, and we do hope that you can join us all for the New Year, and perhaps take solace in the more serious issues that life has to offer!
Happy New Year when this inevitably comes now the day after tomorrow . . .