All images strictly copyright David Farrant unless otherwise stated. Not to be reproduced elsewhere without explicit permission.
Early 2000s press coverage got off to a positive start with national and regional reviews of my autobiographical works Dark Secrets and Shadows in the Night, Dark Journey – a compendium of a paranormal cases which I had researched over the previous decades, and The Vampyre Syndrome.
In 2003 The Ham and High published an article about the launch of my first website, which had been launched the previous year. This was a labour of love on the part of B.P.O.S. stalwart Dave Milner, who even managed to embed videos on the site – something practically unheard of back then when the web was relatively young and there were no sites such as Vimeo or YouTube where this can now be done relatively easily.
Contrary to popular opinion it should in fact be pointed out that I had always maintained a fairly cordial relationship with the The Ham and High, despite some of their more outré articles about myself in the 1970s. Indeed there was a nod to some of their goodnatured silliness in a 2004 piece about the second edition of Dark Journey, when they rigged up a ‘ghost’ behind me in a tree in Highgate Wood during a photocall. Of course I knew it was there, but they were only following a popular newspaper trend to report ghost stories lightheartedly, and for the sake of nostalgia I agreed once again to play along with them, as long as they gave me some serious editorial – a promise which they honoured. Former editor Gerald Isaaman had now moved onto pastures new, and I got a lot of support from the Ham and High during the mid 2000s, as they began once again to keep the residents of Highgate up to date with my investigations, including fresh sightings of a tall dark figure in Swains Lane in 2005 (you just can’t keep a ‘good’ ghost down it seems!). Sightings in 2012 were also covered by local newspapers including The Haringey Independent and can be read about below.
But on a less paranormal note, back in 2002 the local press were also keen to cover my arrest by the Bournemouth Police, who drove all the way to Highgate to investigate allegations which had been made by an old adversary of mine. These were to the effect that I had been ‘harrassing him’ by sending unwanted items to his private address – including, believe it or not, a homemade device containing ‘suspicious white powder’ which exploded in his face when he opened it! I better not name the person here to save his blushes, suffice to say that a BBC documentary now available on YouTube shows him playing with his chemistry set as far back as 1970 … The Police obviously later got this powder analysed due to the terrorist anthrax scare at the time, but originally concluded that this still constituted harassment even though I had not actually sent it! It was quite an amusing incident actually, and became known on the internet as ‘The Talcum Powder Plot’! But whatever, I was required to attend court in Bournemouth, where the Police had lodged the charges. On the first occasion the case was adjourned due to technicalities, but on the second the DPP informed the magistrate that they were dropping the charges due to lack of evidence. I was not happy with this decision, as they intended to leave the matter on file, and I informed the stipendiary magistrate that I would be reintroducing this allegation into court whereby I wanted witnesses present for questioning, whom the person had also involved in supporting his allegations. I also reminded the Judge that in 1971 the complainant had been bound over to keep the peace on the sum of £200 after indirectly harassing myself by intimidating a young housewife with threats of black magic, and that I had also had previous cause to attempt to redress in court other examples of his personal harassment of myself including theft of my property.
I returned to court a month later, prepared to deal with the allegations face to face with the complainant who had so far failed to appear in court, and the DPP informed the court adamantly that they had absolutely no intention of proceeding with the case. Presumably convinced that the ‘Talcum Powder Plot’ was just more example of the complainant’s bizarre behaviour, the stipendiary magistrate announced my formal acquittal of the allegations, and I was awarded full costs which covered my time, the preparation of my case and my travel expenses to Bournemouth.
With madness such as this to contend with, who knows what pieces will be added below as the 2000s progress??!
David Farrant, 2014
After enjoying a relatively ‘vampire free’ decade throughout the 1980s, I was in for a surprise when in the 1990s a fresh vampire frenzy gripped the UK. This was mostly due to films such as Interview with the Vampire and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and included a revival of interest – nationally and locally – in the Highgate ‘vampire’.
I had unwittingly pre-empted the public’s new found fascination with all things vampiric with the publication of my first book ‘Beyond the Highgate Vampire’ in 1991. Ironically this book focussed on the fact that the Highgate entity is NOT a bloodsucking vampire, but wide press circulation regarding its release – and the moniker under which the entity will, it seems, always labour – ensured that once again the phone was ringing off the hook with enquiries from journalists wanting to know more about it.
This was, of course, exacerbated when in 1997 I was handed over the reins of The Highgate Vampire Society, which has been founded by local historian Jennie Lee Cobban a year previously. Not that I am complaining, as the ensuing press coverage was very helpful in promoting the aims and work of the society, which quickly attracted hundreds of members and even published a quarterly magazine, Suspended in Dusk. Not everyone was happy about the society’s existence, however, as can been seen from some of the reports below!
I was greatly assisted in the running of the society by Kev and Chrissie Demant, which gave me time to focus on my continued paranormal investigations, including those at The Ram Inn, Waltham Abbey and various locations in Hertfordshire. There were many more, and we will be adding press reports about them here in due course.
On a more grave note the 1990s saw a fresh appeal – this time by the Missing Persons Bureau – for the safe return of Rita and Marlon Cabbidu who had vanished in April 1983 after Rita became entangled with a black magical group operating in the Highgate area. Rita has still not made contact with her family, despite coming into a substantial inheritance in 1994. Again, if you have information about the whereabouts of Rita Cabbidu or her movements in April 1983 then please get in touch via the CONTACT FORM.
David Farrant, 2014
The 1980s were upon me, and I was now hoping that the whole episode of the Highgate ‘vampire’ – or at least the negative ways in which it had impacted on my freedom and my personal life – would eventually just ‘go away’. But this was not to be, or not entirely at least. Of course, my interest in gaining some understanding as to the true nature of what was – and remains – a genuine yet intangible entity ‘inhabiting’ the environs of Highgate Cemetery was still very active and remains so. Despite by the late 1980s having investigated hundreds of allegedly haunted ancient sites and private homes all over the UK, I was by now accustomed to being asked primarily about the Highgate ‘vampire’ by national newspapers and broadcasting networks. But as the 1980s had progressed, and the sensationalist value of my trial waned in the popular press, I found it easier to publish articles and requests for information in regional newspapers during the course of my research work within The British Psychic and Occult Society. This was also helped by the public’s fading interest in ‘vampires’ – which I had never been remotely interested in anyway.
Building upon the original aims of the B.P.O.S. – which had continued throughout my incarceration of 1974 to 1976 and after – our society organised serious field investigations as far afield from Highgate as Rochdale in Greater Manchester; Denbigh , Beaumaris and Deiniolen in North Wales; Netley Abbey in Hampshire; Whittington Castle near Oswestry in Shropshire; Bere Regis in Dorset; obscure parts of Dartmoor in Devon; Gisborough Priory in Cleveland; and many parts of Surrey to name but a few. Being based in North London we also continued researching ‘haunted’ locations closer to home in nearby Hertfordshire and Essex. Some of the local responses to these investigations are reproduced below.
1987 was a particularly significant year, when, as reported by Quentin McDermott in City Limits magazine, The European Commission of Human Rights upheld my case against the Home Office to the effect that whilst in prison the prison authorities (upon the HO’s instructions) had illegally interfered with my attempts to prove my innocence. Specifically this was achieved by preventing me from corresponding with judicial figures, cabinet ministers, potential witnesses, legal representatives, and prisoners rights groups. Their actions in this regard rendered an appeal impossible, as well as kyboshing my right to launch criminal prosecutions against the police officers who had already been forced to admit that they had perjured themselves in court, provided unsigned statements and tampered with evidence.
It is interesting that Quentin was the only journalist in the UK who seemed to find this newsworthy, despite the fact that my successful case with the ECHR led to substantial reforms within the British prison system and aspects of the Criminal Evidence Act which are still in place in 2014. Whether there was an unofficial press embargo on the story I do not know, but in light of the not-so-subtle pressure exerted by the government upon the journalists who dared suggest my innocence upon my release in 1976 it is quite possible. Quentin today works for a large broadcasting network in Australia, and has unsurprisingly been nominated for the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission’s Television Award. I doubt that The Sun journalist who came up with the vastly more popular frontpage headline ‘King of Black Magic guilty’ has achieved such prestige.
In this section readers will also find some articles regarding a (still open) missing persons case pertaining to Highgate and the possibly tragic consequences of a young mother’s involvement with a dark occult group known to have been operating out of Highgate village itself for over a decade. Rita had visited me circa 1981 expressing her concerns about her involvement with this group, who still appeared to be completely under the police radar, as evidenced by the Met’s professed bafflement about exactly who her associates were in their statements to the press. Evidence of my own intimidation by a black magical group operating in the area had mysteriously vanished during the police raid on my flat in 1974, with all the analyzable signatures in blood, postal marks and fingerprinting opportunities which these would have afforded. With these matters in mind I attempted to draw attention to Rita’s case in the local and national press, but sadly she was never found. If you have any information about the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Rita and Marlon Cabbidu in 1983 please contact me in confidence and ‘of course’ – notify the police.
David Farrant – 2014
“There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.” – Brendan Behan
Over the decades various interpretations of this phrase have been expressed to me by reporters, freelance journalists and publicity seekers with their own agendas. Ironically, genuine endorsement of this assertion is usually only to be found among those who have something to gain from the generation of negative publicity for others. It is truly rare that one encounters an individual who has no qualms as to how low a tabloid will sink, as long as they are its subject.
I was 25 years old when my relationship with the popular press began. “Back in those days everything was simpler and more confused …”. It was 1970, and then as now the media loved an anti-hero, someone who does and says things which its readers would never dare to, but can experience vicariously. Someone who can seduce and entertain them, and become a sacrificial goat sent into the wilderness when the next cause célèbre hits the headlines.
For the first three years of the 1970s rarely a week passed when I was not the subject of media attention. The occult and the supernatural sold papers fast, as the nation flirted with and recoiled in horror at the ‘witchcraft’ craze which was spreading fast through England, Europe and the rest of the western world. The Temple of Satan was flourishing in America, and Anton LaVey had become the new Joe DiMaggio. The Munsters had been good, safe fun to watch but now the all too real Manson Family had filled their niche and no one knew where it would end. Living in Highgate, then a nucleus for many black and white magical groups, and as an outspoken practitioner of Wicca, or the Old Religion, I became a kind of ‘poster boy’ as my wife Della has posited for the zeitgeist of these energetic times.
I contributed many articles to newspapers outlining the true objectives of Wicca and its fundamental differences to Satanism and the black arts. I also wrote heavily on the subject of the paranormal, especially in relation to the Highgate ‘vampire’ case. The latter had become distorted out of all recognition after my original investigation into a local ‘ghost’ had been hijacked by the local and national press, not helped by my own arrest for ‘vampire hunting’ in 1970 – a charge of which I was acquitted. My decision to, with what I then perceived as the support of the press, parody this arrest led to many bizarre and sensationalist headlines and photoshoots which in my naivety I considered to be a bit of lighthearted fun – and a poke in the eye for the prejudiced Metropolitan Police force. Suddenly every argument I had with a fellow occultist was documented by the press. And when I wasn’t sending ‘voodoo curses’ to famous musicians and kidnapping their cats, I was dancing with naked girls in crypts, receiving challenges to occult duels or lighting fires in abandoned mansions daubed with magical sigils. All good fun, I suppose!
But what had started as an attempt to develop my own understanding of the paranormal and educate the public about the reality of white magic had become a rollercoaster of absurdity. Below you can read some of the many newspaper reports which chronicle my dark and strange journey through the 1970s and decide for yourselves the truth behind these various accusations and reports.
Fast-forward to January 1974, and I wasn’t just hitting the headlines but being hit by them. The police had not forgotten my acquittal, and were determined to pin something on me – anything – and stop my perceived subversive influence upon society and mockery of its traditional values. Overnight I was transmogrified from an enfant terrible to a bête noire. What happened next – my trial at the Old Bailey for what amounted to witchcraft and my jail sentence of four years and eight months – is documented elsewhere, not least in my autobiographies In the Shadow of the Highgate Vampire and Out of the Shadows. On the day of my conviction The Sun ran the front page headline “King of Black Magic Guilty” accompanied by a large photograph of myself clearly intended to be interpreted as a ‘mug shot’. I have never practised Black Magic in my life, let alone proclaimed myself a ‘king’ in that arena. Fortunately my parents had both passed away by this time, and were not exposed to such a horrific piece of reporting, but the social impact upon my friends and members of my society was understandably devastating. Indeed, the headline is only reproduced on this site in the hope that it will lead readers to articles such as this which encourage a deeper understanding of the very human impact which results from the vilification and dehumanisation of an innocent person.
I was granted early release from prison in July 1976 following a near-fatal hunger strike in protest at the Home Office’s refusal to let me contact my legal team, the press or groups which campaigned for prisoners’ rights. The tabloid press mysteriously made little reference to my hunger strike and its implications. However some maverick journalists picked up the story and were brave enough to encourage the public to consider whether they had perhaps been a little too eager to swallow the version of the truth fed to them by the gossip columns.
One of these was Peter Hounam, who in 1976 drew attention to a campaign which I had launched upon my release with the slogan “Farrant is innocent – OK?” Peter swiftly come to the attention of the British government , who firmly gave him the unequivocal ‘suggestion’ that he should “leave the Farrant issue alone.” But such suppression proved fruitless, as more journalists began to take up my cause. One such reporter was Peter Gruner, then writing for the North London Weekly Herald, who began to challenge various aspects of my trial. This included questioning who really made the Black Magical markings in the Cory-Wright mausoleum and why, if they really were persons unrelated to myself, they appeared to have immunity from the police. Gruner’s research was lent weight by my many published articles opposing Satanism and Black Magic – something which the popular press also chose to ignore after my ‘fall from grace’.
Duncan Campbell who like Gruner and Hounam has remained respected for his integrity throughout a long media career, also published articles in support of my cause. Some of these appealed to fellow journalists to encourage the reporter who I knew only as ‘Hutchinson’ to come forwards regarding a photograph he took of me in the Terrace Catacombs at Highgate Cemetery in 1971. This photograph was used by the prosecution to contrive a charge of offering indignities to the remains of the dead – a charge which would have been dropped if the journalist in question had confirmed in court that I did no such thing and merely posed next to an already vandalised coffin holding a torch. I was given a two year jail sentence for that.
Ironically, when the Sunday People learned of my quest to trace Hutchinson they informed me that they had indeed located a journalist of that name. In 1977 they specifically asked me to leave this to them before contacting anybody else with this new information. I did as they requested, but heard nothing further. When I contacted them again a little later that year they told me that they were ‘still working on it’. Hutchinson worked as a freelancer, and it is perhaps commonsense to conclude that once approached by this leading Sunday newspaper, and informed that I was still attempting to encourage him to come forward, he declined due to the potential adverse publicity which would be instigated by the very press machine which he himself worked for. Potential damage that doing so could have caused his career was no doubt a factor. He had, after all, had ample opportunity to stop what he knew was an erroneous prosecution case back in 1974, but said and did nothing when the press reported my explanation of the circumstances surrounding the photograph.
A word to the wise, which Max Clifford himself could have benefitted from observing: the press is a vicious and unpredictable creature, a snake which can be petted but could at any moment fatally sting its ‘owner’. Do I regret courting the press before it turned and bit me? Of course I would do some things differently with 40 plus years of maturation behind me. But at least I lived to tell the tale. I began with a quote, so perhaps I shall end with one, from a man who was also pilloried by the very press which had helped make him famous:
“There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
What will people be saying about yourself in 44 years time, dear reader?
David Farrant 2014
If any of these words ring a bell with you, then you have probably read them in a newspaper or a shoddily researched (or deliberately misleading) blog entry. And there are a lot of them out there! Many people have been influenced by such media over the years, without making any attempt to read my serious writings upon the paranormal, Wicca and the occult.
In many ways the internet makes life easier for researchers to find historically datable sources upon which to build an opinion. However, many of the newspaper articles they find readily online have been specifically curated in order to present a one-sided view. Since 1998, for example, one dedicated person has made it his life’s work to post online as many negative newspaper reports about me as he can ‘dig up’. In a society where the majority of people are very aware of the insidious attempts of the media to manipulate opinion and feeling, this kind of ‘archive’ for want of a better word is naturally insulting to the active and unbiased intellect – not to mention frustrating.
To this end here at davidfarrant.org we are slowly but regularly creating an online archive of media reports – ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – which can help the curious form their own opinions about what really happened at Highgate all those years ago – and the parapsychological research of David Farrant and The British Psychic and Occult Society over subsequent decades. We hope that serious researchers find them useful.
David Farrant 2014
The mausoleum in question is not as easy to find as some of the grander monuments in the cemetery, hidden away from the ‘tourist’ paths. Its unusual placement presumably played a significant role in its choice as a ritual space for a group of black magic practitioners based in Highgate who were using it during 1971, if not much earlier.
The photographs taken by myself and my society were intended to act as a record of our discovery of this group’s activities, which in light of their choice of location and the sigils and glyphs involved were naturally interpreted by us (I still maintain, correctly) to indicate necromantic and extremely negative magical rituals. Amongst the remains of rituals which we discovered were the burnt down stubs of thick black candles, along with inverted pentagrams and other symbols chalked upon the floor. A heavy marble bust, representing one of the gentlemen whose ashes were interred within the mausoleum had been moved to the apex of a triangle around which these symbols were inscribed, indicating that there had been some potential attempt to communicate with his spirit in a necromantic and entirely unwholesome fashion. Despite the fact that I had openly sent these photographs to the Ham and High in an attempt to put a stop to – or ‘discourage’ – such practices – the photos’ presence in my home some three years later when I was raided by the Police in preparation for what would become my Old Bailey ‘witch trial’ were taken as an indication that I was in some way responsible for these markings. As can be seen from the colour photograph which was published in Man, Myth and Magic, the heavy door to the vault had been left unsecured, meaning that anyone at any time prior to this could have created them. But to a modern, educated and unprejudiced readership that is surely pointing out the obvious …
How do I know that this group were based in Highgate? Well amongst other ‘clues’ (such as the spate of threatening letters which I received after publishing photographs of the remains of their rituals, all of which had North London including Highgate postal stamps) the bottle of methylated spirits which I photographed at the time and which has been included below bore the label of the Highgate Village chemist. I can only presume that this was left in situ because of its helpfulness in keeping a fire alight for a prolonged period of time where the need to represent the element of fire was present.
David Farrant, 2014