Blood Sucking Fiends Part 7: Strange Nights in Highgate

Before I start, I would like to dedicate this to the memory of David Farrant who was an eccentric member of the paranormal field who will be missed.

Ideally, cemeteries are supposed to be a place of peace and quiet. They are an eternal repository for those who have passed on to their final reward. Unfortunately, there are a number of these necropolises that have gained a macabre reputation as being a home for restless spirits. Grave stompers and thrill seekers actively seek these places out in the quest to have an encounter with unexplained forces. Sadly, due to this, many cemeteries and graveyards have been subjected to disrespect and severe desecration.

Highgate Cemetery in London, England, which is the city’s largest metropolitan cemetery, has experienced its unfair share of disrespect as this seemingly innocent looking cemetery is said to be crawling with ghosts. Thrill seekers sought out something else is that is said to be lurking among the ivy-covered tombs and age old gravestones: a bloodthirsty creature of darkness. 

Highgate was said to be haunted many years ago by none other than a vampire.

Opened in 1839 by the London Cemetery Company, Highgate was the first of the “Magnificent Seven;” one of a group of cemeteries built in response to a lack of burial sites in the ever growing city. Since opening, Highgate has suffered much at the hands of vandals who care not about respecting the dead. It’s not uncommon for the police to find people wandering among the tombstones searching for ghosts. More importantly, it’s not just the amateur ghost hunters that jump the fence at night. Individuals with a much darker agenda pay the cemetery frequent visits.

Evidence of black magic rituals have been discovered throughout the grounds. Makeshift altars and the remains of animals apparently used in blood sacrifices have been discovered near graves. One well-known story concerns a volunteer and her family being chased out by sinister people dressed in black robes carrying torches. Some researchers hold these cultists and their arcane rituals responsible for the haunting of Highgate.

According to many people who have encountered the ghosts of Highgate, they often attest to how terrifying these spectral encounters are. One entity caused a stir among the citizens of London in the early days of the 1970s. The cemetery was no longer safe to enter at night after the shadows swallowed the burial grounds. It was at night that a resident vampire (or vampires) roamed the hallowed grounds of Highgate.

A few nights before Christmas in 1969, a small band of courageous young men entered Highgate looking for ghosts. One of the men, David Farrant, claimed to have had a frightening encounter with one of the cemetery’s ghostly residents. As he walked along a path, a tall gaunt figure dressed all in black with hypnotic eyes and an aura of pure evil appeared before him. 

Shaken by his experience, Farrant composed a letter to The Hampstead and Highgate Express about his encounter. Surprisingly, the newspaper printed the letter and one intrepid soul answered the call to investigate: Sean Manchester, fearless vampire hunter.

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When researching the possibility of a resident vampire at Highgate, Manchester made an interesting discovery. According to Manchester, men from eastern Europe brought what he called a “Vampire King,” to London and buried it in Highgate. Manchester further believed that occult rituals may have been responsible for awakening this dread lord of the damned. Such a being, or beings, could not be allowed to terrorize the good people of London. Sean Manchester believed he was the right person to rid London of this monster.

In March 1970, Manchester, and several associates gained access to Highgate and went about the business of tracking down the vampire. In his 1985 book, The Highgate Vampire, Manchester went into great detail of their adventure seeking out the vampire and it was everything you might expect from a book of true horror.

According to the book, Manchester discovered the vampire’s grave and sprinkled holy water and garlic shavings over it. Manchester was convinced this would prevent the vampires from entering their coffins, eventually the rays of the sun would finish them off. Of course, whether or not this worked is debatable, as many people found Manchester to be looking for celebrity status. 

However, in August 1970, a body was discovered in the cemetery that bore the classic signs of a vampire dispatched to the afterlife by a vampire hunter.

The morning of August 1, 1970 police discovered the smoldering remains of a naked, headless woman in the cemetery. Although a statement was never made, the police speculated the victim may have fallen afoul of the cultists who frequented the cemetery. Or maybe this was in fact one of the vampires Manchester killed in his bid to rid London of its vampiric threat. No one really knows for sure.

When it was thought that events at Highgate Cemetery couldn’t get any stranger, they most certainly did. Police discovered David Farrant in the cemetery clutching a crucifix along with a camera and sharpened stake with a cord attached to it. When questioned, Farrant replied, he was there to conduct a seance and make contact with a ghost. He was arrested and charged with breaking and entering. Fortunately, the charges against Farrant were dropped and he was set free.

The vampire scare at Highgate Cemetery finally came to an end when Sean Manchester, declared the undead threat was gone from London. As for the string of increasingly bizarre events at Highgate, what are we to make of them? Was the cemetery truly a hunting grounds for a vampire? Or, was it an uncommonly malevolent ghost as David Farrant suggested? 

I may not have been there, in fact I wasn’t even born yet, but I find David Farrant’s theory far more probable than some king of the undead lurking in Highgate Cemetery.

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About Rick Hale 26 Articles
Rick Hale became interested in anomalous phenomenon at an early age after encountering an apparition in his grandparent's home. Rick is the author of "The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghost and Demons," and "Behold! Shocking True Tales Off Terror...And Some Other Spooky Stuff." Rick has been published in Haunted Times Magazine, Paranormal Underground Magazine, The Supernatural Magazine, Spookyisles.com and Legends Magazine. Rick appeared in Ghost Tapes 2 and Ghost Tapes: The Series found at YouTube.com.
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