HIGHGATE VAMPIRE HUNTER BITES BACK
By Russell Vaughn
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 . . .
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 the 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 Ouija boards 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.
[Article copyright North London Weekly Post 2003]