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!
David Farrant (Forthcoming Symposium Speaker)