Tag Archives: Highgate vampire

The Legend of the Highgate Vampire

Highgate Cemetery statue

Highgate Cemetery (http://www.royalacademy.org.uk)

(This story first appeared on Quirky Travel a couple of years back but as there have been very recent updates to the story (including a marvellous vampiric squabble) I’ve added to it and republished.)

Stories of vampires at Highgate Cemetery began in 1967 when two schoolgirls allegedly saw corpses rising from their graves. One of the girls went on to have nightly visitations and blood loss à la Bram Stoker. Another couple are said to have seen a horrific ghostly creature not long after, and psychic investigator David Farrant sighted  a ghostly grey figure in the area.

This wasn’t all: many apparitions were being seen in and around the neglected graveyard. Even a ghostly cyclist was seen riding up Swain’s Lane, a road that runs through the eastern and western sections of the cemetery. Fox carcasses supposedly drained of blood and the headless corpse of a woman were also found. Seriously, there was a lot of stuff going on at that time. And there were rumours of a police cover-up.

Seán Manchester

Seán Manchester

Seán Manchester was the vampire hunter who was on the case from 1969 and he brought to the story tales of a psychic sleepwalking girl and a coffin transporting the vampire’s body to England (he’d obviously been reading too much Bram Stoker). A mass vampire hunt was instigated on Friday 13th March 1970. That must have been some sight.

He researched the ghostly and vampiric visitations for 13 years until he eventually found a blood-sucking miscreant in a neo-gothic mansion on the Highgate borders where it seems to have turned into a giant spider, then a beautiful young woman, after which it was staked.

The people who run Highgate Cemetery these days (the Friends of Highgate Cemetery) are squeamish about any mention of the vampire and the films like “Taste the Blood of Dracula” that were filmed here:

Highgate Cemetery in Taste the Blood of Dracula

Highgate Cemetery in Taste the Blood of Dracula (http://www.davidlrattigan.com)

I’m in two minds as to whether they’re right to feel this way or not. If it’s simply because they want to keep the goths away I certainly disagree, having wanted to be one myself at one time in life (but never quite having the nerve, never mind the wrong-coloured hair). I do understand why they have to restrict numbers, however, as they don’t have a bottomless purse to undo any damage done by marauding Hammer Horror fans.

Update June 2012: There’s to be a film of the Highgate Vampire, written and directed by Asa Bailey and based on his own novel. All I’ve been able to find to date is a Highgate Vampire trailer. Camden is described as being “gothic” in the introduction to it. (Having lived down the road from Camden I would describe it as many things. Gothic isn’t one of them.) And Seán Manchester let it be known that the film had nothing to do with the events that occurred back in the day.

Update July 2012: A news report claims that a ghostly figure is seen by two ghost hunters and a medium in the cemetery. It doesn’t state which bit of Highgate cemetery it was seen in, but it does add in the fact that one of the ghost hunters ran into George Michael on a previous outing in Highgate (how on earth is that relevant to the story?)

Update June 2013: There’s an excellent vampiric bunfight going on in the pages of the KentishTowner blog between various vampire factions, including the fabulously named Vebjørn Hästehufvud (or could that be Seán Manchester himself?) And the film “The Highgate Vampire” doesn’t seem to have surfaced yet. And ghosts are still regularly spotted in the cemetery, but, as in the case of this sighting, occasionally disproved. Just occasionally, mind …

Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery

There are two parts to this, the most famous Victorian cemetery in London – east and west. We’re interested in the slightly older western part, although the east has its attractions as well (Karl Marx, George Eliot, former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko and Malcolm McLaren.) The west cemetery was opened in 1854 as a result of the rapid expansion of London from a city of 1 million to 2.3 million in the first 50 years of that century.

It closed in 1975 and the entire cemetery was taken over by the “Friends of Highgate Cemetery” – an admirable charitable organisation whose heart is almost certainly in the right place, even though their PR could be improved a tad.

It’s a wondrously atmospheric cemetery and your guide will tell you that the idea is to let it go back to nature, while ensuring that the important monuments are preserved. You’ll see how important this is when you see the beautiful gravestones and other monuments. Of note are the “Egyptian Avenue” with its papyrus columns pictured at the top of this page. This reflects the Victorian taste for all things Egyptian. You’ll see the enormous mausoleum complex of the Circle of Lebanon with its giant Cedar of Lebanon.

The angel statues are haunting, elegant and of the highest quality as a result of the stipulation by the London Cemetery Company that all the graves by the side of the path had to have expensive tombs and statues.

You can now book tours in advance and beware there are limited numbers if you arrive on the day. Full details in the link below:

Highgate Cemetery visitors’ information

For London residents, volunteer to help out at cemetery – anything from general maintenance to guiding groups. Quirky Travel nearly got themselves involved in this, but every time they were having a group weeding session she was unfortunately doing something else – very bad timing. Sorry Highgate Cemetery!

How to be a friend of Highgate Cemetery

If you enjoyed this, read the tale of the Highgate Vampire (which the Highgate Cemetery people don’t like talking about …)