Many years ago, a young man by the name of David Farrant achieved a degree of notoriety when, with a group of colleagues, he visited the somewhat dishevelled Highgate Cemetery in London due to their interest in the occult. What later became known as the Highgate Vampire affair made headlines across the world. On December 21, 1969, Farrant and his colleagues actually spent a night in the cemetery, but one of the truly shocking highlights of the case occurred a few days later. Whilst walking past the graveyard on Christmas Eve, David saw a spectral figure which from his perspective was obviously of paranormal provenance. Further witnesses then came forward with their own accounts of things they’d experienced in or near the cemetery and the nearby Swains Lane. Numerous ghost-like figures had been espied, including a tall man dressed in black, a woman in a white gown and, bizarrely, a phantasm riding a bike.
The belief that a vampire was running amok at Highgate seems to have had its origins in the Victorian era, and the notion that a stereotypical blood-sucker – as depicted in horror movies – lurked among the gravestones does not seem to have originated with Farrant himself. However, something distinctly malign was present within its walls, he believed.
Later, Farrant was jailed for a number of offences which he was alleged to have committed at Highgate, including vandalism and desecration. He has consistently and passionately denied that he was responsible for these occurrences, and in a lecture at which he was present he gave a credible account of what he says really happened.
My previous perception of David Farrant had been thoroughly poisoned by reports in the press.
However, having listened to him speak I became convinced that he had been the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice. After the lecture was over, I had the opportunity of talking with David at length. I have to confess that I couldn’t spot so much as a trace of the demented grave-desecrator that I’d envisioned.
Instead, I found myself chatting with a quietly-spoken man possessed by a calm, measured demeanour. True, he was unconventional in his approach to life and certainly not your average bloke next door, but there was a certain dignity about him that I found rather appealing. Farrant certainly wasn’t ostentatious – there was just the faintest touch of flamboyance in his attire – but beneath it was a man who gave every indication of being studious, intense. At that moment I found it difficult to believe that anyone could find it within themselves to dislike the man, although some most certainly do.
I do not know everything there is to know about Farrant. There may, for all I know, be elements of his lifestyle that I would find objectionable were I but aware of them. Of course, this applies to every person we might chance upon in any walk of life. All I can say is that if there is a dark side to David Farrant I certainly didn’t see a hint of it during our conversation. At one point in our conversation he paused and asked me to wait for a moment whilst he popped back inside the conference hall. He returned moments later with a copy of his book Beyond the Highgate Vampire (British Psychic & Occult Society, 1997). “Here”, he said quietly, “I’d like to give you this”. He extended his hand and kindly presented me with the book, which I still have to this day.
I seem to recall one newspaper describing David as, “Britain’s Most Evil Man”, although I haven’t been able to locate the article concerned. How on earth could the gregarious but mild-mannered chap in front of me possibly deserve such an epithet? The only option open to me was to find out more, and next week I’ll detail exactly what I discovered when I was given the opportunity to interview one of the most mysterious and intriguing characters in the world of occult research… END
(c) Mike Hallowell 2012
The above article first appeared in Mike’s ‘Wraithscape’ column in “The South Shields Gazette” – 26th January 2012.