The Highgate Cemetery was opened up in 1839 when the English capital, completely lacking of room for burial, decided to make use of the “Magnificent Seven”, seven big cemeteries placed in the outskirts of the city. Highgate is a cemetery with a luxuriant vegetation and almost entirely spontaneous where many famous names rest, from the philosopher Karl Marx, the writer George Eliot, to the singer George Michael, recently disappeared.

Below: picture by John Armagh shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

During WW2, when the Nazis bombarded London, many Highgate tombs went destroyed, left open. In the 60’s the cemetery was almost entirely ruined, considered as a shame: what earlier was a sumptuous and trendy burial site had become shelter for drug addicts, outcasts and vandals.

In the early 70’s many enthusiasts of occultism were hanging out at the cemetery during night time, and soon many legends about supernatural presences at Highgate started spreading, incited even by the press of the time.

Below: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Amongst all the nocturnal regulars of the cemetery, there were two guys, both extremely interested in occultism: David Farrant and Sean Manchester. Manchester was (maybe still is?) a vampire hunter presided over the British Occult Society, and founded the “Vampire Research Society”. Farrant, mystic and wicca follower, founded the British Psychic and Occult Society.

The level of abandonment of the cemetery shocked intensively both Manchester and Farrant, who then wrote:

“Vaults had been broken open, and coffins quite literally smashed apart. One vault near the top gate (although not visible from outside it) was wide open, and one could see the remains of a skeleton where it had been wrenched from a coffin”.

Below: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

The authority tried somewhat to contain the vandalism, but the citizens were not too sure whether the guilty parties were entirely human: some spotted evanescence figures, and two eyewitnesses described a ghastly encounter  with a “dark tall spectrum” which had temporarily paralysed them.

Below: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

On the 21st December 1969, Farrant decided to spend the night at Highgate, trying to find evidence of the presence of the scary ghost. While he was proceeding towards the gates of the cemetery, around midnight, he noticed a very tall figure (over 2 meters – 6.5 ft), wandering inside. The guy went closer, and noticed two eyes on the higher part of the “inhuman” figure. Disturbed by fear, the young occultist ran away but, when he turned back, the mysterious presence was gone.

After that upsetting evidence, Farrant wrote a letter to Hampstead & Highgate Express, looking for other witnesses willing to talk about the Highgate ghosts. Many statements arrived, talking about the tall ghost appearing since many years, as well as about a man with a hat passing through the Swains Lane, a way of the cemetery, disappearing within a wall while the chapel bells were chiming.

Below: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Not much time after the publishing of Farrant’s letter people started talking about foxes corpses and other animals, died with wounds to the throat and entirely drained of blood. The only acceptable explanation was the presence of a vampire, at least according to Manchester that explained, one more time to Hampstead & Highgate Express, how they were dealing with the “Vampire King of the Undead” coming from Wallachia: a medieval nobleman who was practicing black magic. His followers had brought to England his body inside a coffin in the 18th century. Doesn’t this version resemble at the story of all Dracula by Bram Stoker? It is not clear how but the King of the Vampires had ended up to rest at Highgate Cemetery, up until someone had diverted him from his sleep.

Below: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

The legend of the Highgate Vampire was born, which became very popular in the English capital. The rivalry between Manchester and Farrant, who often were arguing through the press, gave strength to the story. Both the guys declared to be able to destroy the evil presence and in March 1970 a Vampire hunt was unleashed.

During a joint interview through ITV News, the two stated that on the night of Friday the 13th they would have opened the hunt. A bunch of journalists from press and tv, curious people as well as hunter wannabes showed up at the gate. Despite the attempt of the Police to prevent people from entering, a big number of the participants found their way to the cemetery by climbing over the enclosure. But the vampire, that night, didn’t appear.

Farrant and Manchester carried on with their paranormal research inside the Highgate cemetery throughout the 70’s and kept on quarrelling with each other, accusing one another of tricks and whatnot. They challenged each other to a wizard’s duel, supposedly happening on Friday the 13th of April 1972 but the event never occurred. Both of the guys wrote books and talked extensively about their experiences, and the rivalry which divide them is alive still today as they are still both engaged in paranormal phenomenons.

The great promotion over Highgate cemetery has however led to a positive result: in 1975 a new organisation was born named “The Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust” which since then takes care of the maintenance and conservation of the site, today signed as the parks and gardens of historical interest in England. The hysteria over the alleged vampire has throughout the years calmed down and today Highgate is a place to visit only for its enchanting gardens.

Vanilla Magazine - History, Culture, Mistery and Legends