The Infamous Highgate Vampire

Graveyards are supposed to be a place of peace and quiet, an everlasting repository for those who have passed on before us, passed on to their final destination… whatever that means. Anyway, around the world there are certain bone yards that have gained a reputation for being the home to some pretty restless spirits. Grave stompers, actively seek such places of eternal rest out in an attempt to have an experience of the paranormal kind. Unfortunately though, these amateur ghost hunters, whether intentionally or not, tend to be disrespectful and London’s Highgate Cemetery has been the scene of much disrespect over the years and probably due to this is why this seemingly innocent looking graveyard is said to house not just the spirits of the dead but a creature, a monster, that has been the subject of myths and legends for countless centuries. A creature that feeds on the blood of their victims, this creature that haunts this London bone yard I speak of is of course, the vampire.

Founded in 1839 by the city London to ease the congestion of the seven surrounding graveyards, Highgate Cemetery has suffered much desecration in it’s rather dubious history. For many years local police have discovered teens and adults alike skulking around the tombstones and vaults wearing black robes and taking part in dark satanic rituals to raise the spirits of the dead and summon the minions of the evil one. Many local researchers believe this is why Highgate is a hotbed of paranormal activity with numerous apparitions being heard, felt and seen over the years.

Local researchers who have made Highgate the focus of their investigations believe that the spirit population is far to numerous to count. Over the years folks walking past the cemetery have reported seeing such apparitions as a tall gray man wearing a long coat and a top hat. Some believe this spirit is the phantom of a caretaker from the early twentieth century still walking among the tombstones making sure his undead charges are OK. Other folks have seen the phantasm of a ghostly woman riding a bike on the adjoining sidewalk. Some believe her to be a woman who was struck by a car and killed outside the gates of the graveyard. While still others have seen the face and heard the diabolical cackling of the spirit of an insane man who is said to stick his head out the gate taunting passersby. However, one entity that is said to haunt the graveyard caused a stir and a panic among the citizens of London between the years of 1969 throughout 1974. The graveyard was no longer safe to traverse at night because the undead were reported to walk among the graves seeking for a human victim. A vampire or vampires were said to call the infamous Highgate Cemetery home.

The legend of a possible vampire haunting the graveyard started in the winter of 1969. A few nights before Christmas a group of teenagers who had an interest in the occult broke into the cemetery to look for ghosts when one young lad, David Farrant claimed to have seen the tall dark figure of a man with a hungry look that gave off an aura of pure evil and for whatever reason Farrant believed this entity to be that of the undead. Farrant, was so convinced of this he wrote a letter to the Highgate express stating that he believed that the graveyard was home to a vampire after finding the dead bodies of small animals that appeared to have been drained of that oh so vital fluid, blood. The paper printed the letter perhaps as a lark, and one brave soul answered the call to investigate the possibility of vampiric activity in one of London’s largest cemeteries. Enter Sean Manchester, fearless vampire hunter.

Manchester, believed that in the early days of Highgate a group of men from eastern Europe brought the sleeping form of what he termed, “A King Vampire”, and laid him to rest in an unmarked grave. Unfortunately though, Manchester believed, satanists in their attempts to conjure spirits they awoke this dread lord of the undead and he now walked amongst the graves looking for a decent midnight snack. If London needed a competent vampire hunter to deal with this creature, Manchester was certain that he was their man.

In March of 1970, Manchester and several associates including Farrant, broke into the graveyard and went about the business of hunting down this undead spawn of evil. In his 1985, book chronicling the events that transpired at Highgate, “The Highgate Vampire”, Manchester goes into great detail about how he and his associates discovered the empty coffins of what he believed to be the resting place of the vampires and how he and his friends sprinkled holy water and left garlic shavings in the caskets.

Manchester, was convinced that such action would keep the vampires from entering their coffins at sun up after a long night of blood sucking and the sun would destroy them. Whether or not this actually worked is somewhat sketchy. However in August of 1970 a body was found that bore all the classic signs of a vampire being whacked by a brave vampire slayer.

On a hot day on August 1, 1970 several police officers found the still smoldering charred remains of a naked headless woman in the churchyard of Highgate. The police were convinced that this poor woman met her fate at the hands of satanists as some kind of blood sacrifice to the devil. Could this woman who appeared to be so mercilessly treated really have been one of the undead slain by Manchester and his cronies? According to the folklore of vampire hunting this corpse that was eight pounds lighter and fried to a crisp bore all the classic signs of a vampire that met it’s fate at the hand’s of slayer. Unfortunately, we will never know.

As if the events at Highgate Cemetery couldn’t get any stranger, they most certainly did. Police discovered Farrant, wandering through the graveyard clutching a crucifix to his chest and carrying a sharpened wooden stake in a deathlike grip in his other hand. Farrant, was arrested and charged with breaking and entering, however when the case went to court, the charges against Farrant were dropped and the young man was free to go. A few days after Farrant’s arrest, Sean Manchester and several of his friends paid a visit to Highgate during the day to search for vampires sleeping in their coffins. An alleged psychic who was along for the ride advised Manchester, that she could feel an evil presence very near and proceeded to point out the grave of a recently deceased woman. Convinced this woman was one of the undead, Manchester prepared to drive a stake through the wicked beings heart to send it along to hell. One of Manchester’s companions, for whatever reason stopped the fearless slayer of the undead from doing such a rash action so instead Manchester, poured holy water over the corpse and closed the lid. A few days later Manchester, claims to have cornered the corpse in the cellar of a nearby home and staked it through the heart. Score one for the good guys.

The vampire scare at Highgate Cemetery finally ran out of steam in the summer of 1974. Farrant was jailed on charges of desecrating graves and being disrespectful to corpses. Farrant, claimed emphatically that he was not responsible for the crimes and blamed satanists. However I’m sure, as were the London coppers, that Farrant believed the sleeping forms of the dead to be the bodies of the undead resting before the sun went down and it was time to once again party. And as for Manchester, well he believed that the vampire menace was now good and over and he returned to a relatively normal life.

So then when it comes to the bizarre events that transpired at Highgate Cemetery, what are we to make of it? Was the London graveyard the hunting grounds for a mythical creature of pure evil? Or were these two men caught up in the frenzy of a fantasy world populated by spooks, specters and ghosts? I don’t know I was not there, however something strange happened. Londoners and visitors alike still claim to see the apparitions of the dead on a daily bases at London’s Highgate Cemetery, but what of the vampire? Well it’s dead because one man was brave enough to kill the beast before things got out of hand (God, I love sarcasm).

Highgate Cemetery is a cemetery located in Highgate, London, England which opened up in 1839. It is the resting places of Marxist Karl Marx and Sir Ralph Richardson. The cemetery is known to supposedly be haunted by quite a few ghosts including a ghostly old woman wondering the graves and numerous ghost faces starting from the gates to the cemetery. The most famous of all the reported ghosts of the cemetery would be the Highgate Vampire.

The Highgate Vampire was a media sensation surrounding the cemetery dating back to the early 1970s. The hype began when a group of young people roamed the cemetery back at a time when it was heavily vandalized by intruders. David Farrant, one of its members, on December 24, 1969, saw a gray figure when passing by the cemetery which he considered to be supernatural. All the others claimed to have seen a variety of different ghosts they reported to be roaming Swains Lane in the cemetery.

Sean Manchester, a second local man, confirmed Farrant’s account and claimed that a “King Vampire of the Undead”, a medieval nobleman, who practiced black magic in the medieval Wallachia, had been brought to England in the early eighteenth century by coffin. Manchester claimed that modern satanists have roused him. He said that the right thing to do would be to stake the body, then behead and burn it, which is considered illegal so it was never done. Later, Farrant claimed to have seen dead foxes in the cemetery, with throat wounds and drained of blood. He later agreed that it might be a vampire.

Both Farrant and Manchester had an emerging rivalry between each other, fighting over which one would be the first to bring down the vampire. Manchester said to his associates that he would have a vampire hunt on Friday, March 13, 1970 to rid of the claimed vampire in the cemetery. Within two hours of having interviews of Farrant and Manchester shown on TV, a swarm of people climbed over the gates and walls of the locked cemetery beyond the police’s control.

Although the vampire was never found, Manchester kept making returning trips to the cemetery in later years. He had a psychic sleep-walking girl lead him to many places in the cemetery with some companions. She led him to a specific catacomb that was empty. After climbing down a rope through a hole in its roof, he found empty coffins into which there was garlic and sprinkled holy water put on. A few months later, charred and headless remains of a woman’s body was found not far outside the catacomb. This led to a massive surge in both Farrant and Manchester’s activities. Farrant was caught outside the cemetery with a crucifix and a stake. Manchester, led by his psychic sleep-walking friend, visited the cemetery a few days later, during the daytime. He was about to stake a corpse that he believed was transferred from a previous tomb until one of his companions asked him to desist and he did. In his book, he claims to of staked and burned a body in an empty house in the Highgate area.

Farrant was inevitably jailed for damaging memorials and interfering with body remains which Farrant claims to have been done by satanists, not him. Both Farrant and Manchester compete to this day on who is the more competent exorcist or better researcher of the paranormal. Hmmmmm…

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~ by upbeatmag on June 26, 2009.

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