Awesome or Off-Putting is a weekly delve into cryptozoology, ufology, aliens, medical marvels, scientific wonders, secret societies, government conspiracies, cults, ghosts, EVPs, myths, ancient artifacts, religion, strange facts or just the plain unexplainable.
This week: Myths/The Unexplainable
The Highgate is a London cemetery with cases of vampirism often referred to as contemporary. Although a quick scour or the net hasn't shown anything implying sightings in the past 30 years or so, in the late 60s/early 70s there was an explosion of them.
Conflicting lead theories on the vampire are supported by two bitter rivals, apparently. The two men very much enjoy discrediting one another, yet both seem more than convinced there is some nefarious presence afoot.
Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado may we present The Highgate Vampire.
David Farrant, one of the two mentioned highgate experts, claims to have seen the cemetery-bound vampire at least thrice. Here are two of his quotes mashed together:…
"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 this field and I would be interested to hear if any other readers have seen anything of this nature….It took the form of a tall, grey figure, and it … [pauses] … seemed to glide off the path without making any noise."
Not only did Farrant see the entity – he wanted to kill it. According to the BBC:
"On August the seventeenth, Farrant decided to pay a midnight visit to the cemetery to combat the vampire once and for all. At the cemetery, Farrant was forced to enter by the back wall, as he still does today. He armed himself with a cross and stake, and crouched between the tombstones, waiting. But that night police, on the prowl for vandals, discovered him. He was charged with being in an enclosed space for an unlawful purpose, but later the Clerkenwell magistrate acquitted him. Now, in spite of attempts by the cemetery owners to bar him, Farrant and his friends still maintain a regular vigil around the catacombs in hope of sighting either the vampire or a meeting of Satanists."
Farrant's rival, Sean Manchester, is just as resolved to solve the Highgate mystery. Wikipedia gives us Manchester's vamp theory:
"…A medieval nobleman who had practised black magic in medieval Wallachia, had been brought to England in a coffin in the early eighteenth century, by followers who bought a house for him in the West End. He was buried on the site that later became Highgate Cemetery, and Manchester claimed that modern Satanists had roused him. He said the right thing to do would be to stake the vampire's body, and then behead and burn it."
In March of 1970 the two rivals and their vampire theories lit up the press. Enough so that a mass vampire hunt was announced for that month. Again, Wikipedia says:
"The ensuing publicity was enhanced by a growing rivalry between Farrant and Manchester, each claiming that he could and would expel or destroy the spectre. Manchester declared to his associates that he would hold an 'official' vampire hunt on Friday 13 March…. ITV then set up interviews with both Manchester and Farrant… These were broadcast on ITV early on the evening of the 13th; within two hours a mob of 'hunters' from all over London and beyond swarmed over gates and walls into the locked cemetery, despite police efforts to control them."
The media didn't say much about the mass hunt's results – at least that we can see. Manchester, on the other hand, did tell us what he did that night. He snuck into the cemetery unnoticed by police and, with some friends, went to a catacomb which he'd been earlier led to by a sleepwalking psychic girl. He and his friends lowered themselves into the structure through a hole in the roof where they found multiple empty coffins. They sprinkled these with garlic and holy water.
That's not where the rivalry ended. Since the great Highgate hunt there's been at least one arrest, jail time served, and the alleged staking of the vampire as it was found in the basement of a house. There were even rumours that Manchester and Farrant would face off in a magicians duel of sorts.
As to whether or not the vampire ever actually existed – the only direct accounts come from these two. Are they just trying to sell their books? And are those books even close to honest accounts? We have no idea.
But it's interesting.