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The Highgate Vampire and the Dueling Magicians

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Back in the early 1970’s, the case of the Highgate Vampire was repeatedly in the news. It was a scary and somewhat grisly story and I recall reading in horror and fascination everything the media printed at that time. In retrospect, the subplot of two men interested in the occult and determined to outdo each other is even more interesting.

Highgate cemetery was built in the 1830’s and was the place to be buried in society at the time. Many famous people are interred there including Karl Marx. In line with the style of the time, the graves are marked by ornate and Victorian headstones, statues and figures, and there are a good deal of family tombs built in gothic and other styles as well. After a while, the cemetery became unused and uncared for. It was overgrown and soon became a place for teenagers and down and outs to hang out complete with graffiti and vandalism. Seances were held there and so were supposedly anyhow, satanic rituals. Then, in 1970, a man called David  Farrant wrote to a local newspaper the following letter;

Some nights I walk home past the gates of Highgate Cemetery.”

“On three occasions I have seen what appeared to be a ghost-like figure inside the gates at the top of Swains Lane.

“The first occasion was on Christmas Eve. I saw a grey figure for a few seconds before it disappeared into the darkness. The second sighting, a week later, was also brief.

“Last week the figure appeared, only a few yards inside the gates. This time it was there long enough for me to see it much more clearly, and now I can think of no other explanation than this apparition being supernatural.

“I have no knowledge in the field and I would be interested to hear if any other readers have seen anything of this nature.”

David Farrant, Priestwood Mansions

Farrant reportedly spent a night in the cemetery where he witnessed several apparitions. Unsurprisingly perhaps, his letter produced several responses from various residents who had also seen strange things in and around the cemetery, though many were later shown to be fraudulent. Despite this, the letter attracted the interest of another man – Sean Manchester. Now up until this point, there doesn’t appear to be any talk of a vampire – simply an apparition. However, Mr. Manchester wrote claiming that the figure was that of a mediaeval Romanian nobleman buried there who had been reawakened by satanists and was, in fact, a vampire.


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