My good friend Jon Randall passed away at 7.06am yesterday morning (10/04/16) from an unexpected heart attack. I first met Jon at the beginning of this century through another mutual friend Gareth J Medway. Jon attended several Moot talks I gave in London on the subjects of the unexplained and the occult, and was himself a paranormal researcher and a Member of the Magic Circle. I also wrote several articles for his on-line magazine Pentacle in 2006/7 on Wicca and other unexplained mysteries. Aside from this we often met socially at gatherings and at parties. Jon was a good person, who called out bull dust when he saw it and was deeply committed to the Old Religion, largely considering arguements about origins a waste of his time – at least, that was how he expressed his feelings to me personally. He was one of the most spiritual people I have ever met; he respected what elders within the Pagan and Wiccan communities had to bring to the table and what they had contributed to the survivial of the Craft over the centuries. Indeed, Jon himself was selfless in his magickal work, sharing along with Maria their insight and support as those under their direction grew and developed their paths. He took his role as a High Priest very seriously indeed – not just learning the rituals and the methods but acting in a pastoral role for those he felt spiritually responsible for.
The photograph below was taken approaching Hallowe’en in 2012 and shows Jon and his wife Maria when they came for an impromptu dinner at our Highgate flat. What a fun night after a long, hard day!
From left right: Maria, my son Jamie Farrant, and myself sitting next to Jon.
Both Della and myself will miss Jon greatly, and our thoughts go out to Maria during this unhappy time. A time which has left the Pagan community and the magic community (Jon was an accomplished stage magician as well as an esoteric practitioner) shell-shocked.
The fantastic Doug Segal took it upon himself to start a crowd funding campaign yesterday, to help cover the costs of Jon’s funeral and to support Maria financially through the months ahead.
Many of my readers here will know and love Jon and Maria, and some of you may have heard of Jon but never met him. If any of you can afford even a few pounds or Euros, your support towards his funeral fund would mean so much.
I am delighted to announce that my old friend Patsy Sorenti nee Langley, Secretary of the FBritish Psychic and Occult Society, is planning the release of two new books: one is to be a new edition of her current book The Highgate Vampire Casebook due for release later this year and the other (presently in its planning stages), is a volume on Robin Hood’s alleged grave at Kirklees in West Yorkshire and its associations with a . . . vampire. (Yes, don’t laugh . . . a vampire!!) Patsy is determined to uncover the truth behind these vampire stories surrounding the grave, which have startled the local populace and served to attract sensation- seekers from all across the country. At least, such declarations of a ‘vampire’ have and certainly intrigued the provincial Press – and in the past Uri Geller – although I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Patsy believes the genuine psychic entity, or ‘ghost’, reported at the grave-site over the years has anything to do with a vampire!
Patsy’s ‘Vampire Casebook’ hit the shelves in 2005 and caused considerable dissention then in certain quarters from a few people declaring that the ghost reported at London’s Highgate Cemetery was a bona fide vampire, complete with fangs and glaring eyes which had gone on a spree of the local area seducing young maidens in their beds and turning them into ‘vampires’ as well. At least, so such claims were circulated at the time, although they caused more amusement than any desire to give them serious credibility.
This vampire story really began in the late 1960s/early 1970s following a spate of Hammer and Amicus movies which had been filmed on location in Highgate Cemetery. The cemetery with its crumbling vaults and mausoleums provided an excellent background to obtain the required atmospheric effects.
These films (which included Taste theBlood of Dracula, Tales from the Crypt and Dracula has Risen from the Grave) would – in fact did – give visitors to the cemetery (not to mention the public at large) an easy impression that a tall ghostly figure that had been reported at Highgate Cemetery for many decades was really a ‘vampire’!
This almost certainly encouraged one particular individual who released a vanity press publication in 1985 supporting this view. But this person went much further . . . he claimed in this book to have actually located the ‘vampire’ in the Wace family vault in Highgate Cemetery. Forcing open the door, there the creature lay sleeping in its coffin . . . its eyes horribly glazed and its mouth and fangs caked with congealed blood (presumably from its previous night’s feast!). He then claims to have performed an exorcism in the tomb using garlic bulbs, crucifixes and holy water before finally sealing up the door using ‘garlic impregnated cement’. But the vampire somehow later escaped (taking its coffin with it), and made its home in the cellars of a deserted manor house in Crouch End, a mile or so away from Highgate Cemetery. But this person tracked it down to its new lair then, with unnamed ‘assistants’, they dragged the coffin out into the overgrown back garden and staked the vampire through its heart, before incinerating the whole caboodle with a can of petrol – or so he writes!
In her current edition of the Casebook, Patsy explains how she first located the Wace family vault to check out its history but as its incumbents apparently had no living relatives (as they were interred at the end of the Victorian era, perhaps this is not so surprising), this was no easy task. But undeterred, she has managed to trace modern descendants of the Wace family and entered into correspondence with them. I have not yet seen this correspondence but I presume they would have assured her that there were never any ‘vampires’ in the family line and that nobody was ever authorised to enter the family vault other than the legitimate authorities and neither was permission ever sought by anyone else wishing to do so.
All these revelations – and more about Highgate Cemetery and its ‘vampire’ – are to be included in the next edition of Patsy’s book; but we will have to see exactly what these entail when the book comes out later this year.
Next on Patsy’s agenda will be the ‘vampire saga’ at Robin Hood’s Grave. She has already accumulated a vast amount of research material for that which explodes the vampire mythos but leaves in its wake the possibility that something very sinister lurks in the secluded woodland. Personally I can’t wait for this one.
David Farrant, President, BPOS.
NB For anyone interested in more background on Robin Hoods haunted grave, you might be interested in watching a film made by the BPOS in 2013 For the record, in 2003 I was elected Patron of the Yorkshire Robin Hood Society (which is discussed briefly in the film) who investigated this case at the time.
Well Easter has come and gone, but seems to have left us with some nice weather. Nothing much to report really, except I’ve had a lot of feed back after the showing of the Highgate vampire film on “Forbidden History” on their “Yesterday Channel”. This was shown on March 11th and repeated on March 17th; although it can still be viewed online (approx. 45 mins) in case anybody missed it.
I got the usual point put to me (from the same old person actually) asking why – if I clamed not to believe in ‘vampire’ – I appeared on the television (and newspapers and magazines) holding a cross and a stake in Highgate Cemetery in 1970 as if ‘hunting a vampire’? The person invited me to publish his remark so I am doing this here in case any curious people may have missed my explanation on this point which has been published widely in the media, on numerous occasions.
The main point is that I DO NOT, nor ever have, accepted the existence of ‘blood-sucking vampires’. These only exist in Hammer Horror films, or in the imaginations of some gullible people who may be influenced by such films..
What happened was, the police arrived while a group of us were in the process of preparing to conduct a ‘magical communication ceremony’ one night in Highgate Cemetery in August 1970: its purpose to try and discover the nature of the unexplained phenomenon (or ‘ghost’) that had been witnessed there. For this purpose we had with us a psychic medium and several ceremonial implements, including charcoal and incense and small celtic crosses There was also a pointed piece of wood, engraved with Kabbalistic symbols and attached to a length of white cord. The intention of this was to cast a protective Circle on the ground and then summon the entity to visible appearance.
But the police arrived before all this could take place, and once realising they were approaching by seeing intermittent flash lights and the sound of loud voices echoing through the quiet night, members quickly headed for Swains Lane just outside the cemetery where two cars were parked. I headed for the back wall as I knew a short cut through a private back garden which backed onto the cemetery. Unfortunately, I was arrested before I could reach this and taken to Kentish Town Police Station where I was interrogated about ‘vampires’ ended up with being charged with . . . ‘Being in an enclosed area for an unlawful purpose’. The essence of this charge was really the part about ‘unlawful purpose’. For the police were later to claim in Court that my real intention was to search through coffins – opening them if necessary – until I found the ‘vampire’ when I would have ‘staked it through the heart’ and then ‘run away’. As ‘evidence’ to support this, the police officer conducting the case Det.-Sgt. Neville Brown had written out a statement on my behalf (in his own handwriting) giving his interpretation of what had been said at the interview and produced the stake and the white cord that had been intended to cast the protective Circle and said I really intended to ‘stake the vampire’!
In fact, Neville Brown had almost certainly got this impression from a television programme I had appeared in some five months previously talking about the Highgate ghost, but confused myself with another individual who had also appeared on the programme and stated that the reported ghost was really a vampire. To this end, he produced a large crucifix and a wooden stake for the cameras and proceeded to explain the best remedy to destroy a vampire. He said, once found, the vampire should be staked through the heart with a wooden stake (like the one he was holding), decapitated with a grave-diggers shovel and its remains then incinerated. Hence the interpretation that the reported ghost was really a ‘vampire’ had been firmly implanted in the minds of the police. The other section in the charge relating to being in an enclosed area was hardly given serious mention in the Court case – the Stipendiary Magistrate himself later admitting the cemetery may not be an enclosed area ‘in the strict legal sense’.
Perhaps not surprisingly when Neville Brown’s statement was read out on oath, some newspapers had a ‘hey day’ with all this ‘vampire sensationalism’.
The Daily Express the next day reporting . . .
VAMPIRE HUNTER – I won’t rest until HE does
Students of Count Dracula would recognise the scene immediately …
A man climbing over the wall of Highgate Cemetery, London. And in his hands a crucifix and a sharpened wooden stake.
Yesterday Farrant, founder of the British Occult Society, denied entering enclosed premises for an unlawful purpose – to cause damage to coffins. Afterwards Mr. Farrant said “I won’t rest until I catch the vampire of Highgate Cemetery. I know he is there.” After his arrest Farrant told the police about the vampire, and went on “I think he sleeps during the day in a coffin in the catacombs. Being that there is a full moon, I was certain to see him tonight when he emerges from one of the catacombs.
He has to be destroyed. He is evil. I was going to follow when he returned.
Having established the exact catacombs the vampire would have entered, I would have got into the catacomb, and searched through the coffins until I recognised the vampire asleep in one. And then I would have driven my wooden stake through his heart, and then run away”
[Daily Express, August 28th 1970]
Following the publication in the Express – and other National newspapers – I was contacted by BBC television who wanted to interview myself and film a reconstruction of my ‘vampire hunt’ at Highgate Cemetery. I agreed to this; not because I was actually ‘vampire hunting’, but because I knew the police had attempted to ‘set me up’ and get me found guilty of the more serious charge of intending to break open coffins. Yet I had been found not guilty of the charge and was assured that the BBC had obtained permission for the filming and so I didn’t have to worry about further legal consequences.
So the filming went ahead and was transmitted at peak time on the “24 Hours” news programme on October 16th 1970.
It is an ironical point, perhaps, that this programme is sometimes taken as absolute ‘proof’ by a small handful of people that I MUST believe in ‘vampires’, when nothing could be further from the truth!!!
Eerie Swains Lane that runs alongside Highgate Cemetery
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.