Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nicked at Highgate Cemetery

The reproduction to follow, was originally a response to a request I put to David Farrant, via Don Ecker's now-defunct message board, Dark Matters Radio Exploration.¹ The matter is featured in "Getting Bothered" and "Still Getting Bothered".

David has kindly given me permission to reprint his version of the story:²


This is not just for you personally, Overseer, but to set the record straight over all the confusion that might have occurred about this original Court case; the one which mainly contributed to the story that a ‘blood-sucking vampire’ really lurked in London’s Highgate Cemetery, and which saw myself at the centre of the whole affair.

[The following points have been put in note form to save endless repetition of this event.]

In the late 60s there were voluminous reports about a ‘tall, dark figure’ that had been seen in and around London’s Highgate Cemetery. With the British Psychic and Occult Society (BPOS), I decided to launch an investigation into all these accounts to see if there might be any foundation for them.

December, 1969, I visited the cemetery alone in an attempt to see if there might be any logical explanation behind these reports. That same evening, I actually witnessed a tall dark shape just inside the top gate of Highgate Cemetery. After this, the Society had members stationed in the cemetery by night to see if we might be able to obtain some photographic evidence of the entity’s appearances.

Then, in August 1970, a group of five of us eventually visited Highgate Cemetery (with a psychic medium) with the intention of holding a séance. For this purpose, we had with us several ‘magical implements’, including small Celtic crosses, cameras, candles, incense, and a tape recorder. The area chosen to perform the séance was a flat area of ground above the ‘Circle of Lebanon’, a Victorian circle of tombs not far from the back gate of the cemetery.

Unfortunately this was interrupted by the police, who had been keeping a watch on HC because of serious vandalism in months prior to this.

As the police approached, the four other people headed back towards the front of the cemetery, where they had two cars parked. I decided to leave via the back garden of a house which backed on to the cemetery, situated in South Grove. I knew the people who lived there, and therefore felt quite confident should I have been spotted in their garden. I discarded some of the paraphernalia I was carrying, but was shortly afterwards apprehended by the police.

I was taken to Hornsey Road police station, and the police had obviously found the discarded items, as they were lined up on a desk. These included a wooden cross, a wooden stake with a piece of string attached to it, some candles, my portable tape recorder, and a small camera.

I was questioned extensively by the police, who had already heard stories of a ‘vampire’ that lurked within the cemetery. I told them virtually nothing, except to say our presence was due to a serious psychic investigation into this phenomenon. To protect other members of the society from unwanted publicity, I refused to disclose their names. I also gave them a false name, and refused to give them my address in Highgate (which in fact is why some newspapers quoted me as being of ‘no fixed address’).

The detective in charge said if I was willing to plead guilty to the charge next morning, the case would be over without any fuss, and I would only get a technical warning for trespass.

I took him at his word, and pleaded guilty. But as soon as I had entered my plea, this detective made a statement to the court involving statements that I was alleged to have given. He said the ‘accused’ had told him that I had intended to search through coffins in vaults in Highgate Cemetery, to look for the ‘King Vampire of the Undead’. When I found it, he added, I intended to drive a wooden stake through its heart and then ‘run away’. He went on to say that there had been unlimited serious vandalism at HC since these vampire stories had started, and he believed I was one of those people responsible for it.

Now, ironically, as I had pleaded guilty to the offence, it is little wonder that all of this was being believed by the stipendiary magistrate, Mr. D. J. Purcell. It is also perhaps of little wonder that he remanded me in custody for medical reports, and remarked that I really ought to see a doctor.

As soon as I realized (in fact within half an hour) that the police had attempted to ‘frame me’ by entering a plea of guilty, I immediately changed my plea and decided to fight the case. Unfortunately, this was too late to prevent newspapers from picking up the story, whose reporters had been present in court, and apparently been granted free licence to ‘quote the police evidence’. (Please remember, my own evidence had not even been heard at this stage.) Subsequently, I became known as a ‘vampire hunter’ by the press, and this label has somehow always ‘stuck’.

In reality, after entering a plea of not guilty, I was given bail and went back to court determined to fight the case. It was adjourned twice more (on the second occasion it was heard by Magistrate Christopher Lea!) but finally heard on September 30th 1970. I informed the court that the police evidence had been untrue, that the stake had not been intended to ‘force open’ any coffins, and that in any event it was just as akin to ‘hunt vampires’ (which was the essence of the charge) as it was for some to spend small fortunes hunting out the Loch Ness Monster.

When he had heard all the evidence, the magistrate (D. J. Purcell again), stated that he was quite satisfied that my intention had not been to damage or open coffins. Had he though otherwise, he added, he would have treated the matter much more seriously by issuing a custodial sentence. He also added at the end, that in any event, the cemetery was not even an ‘enclosed area’ in the strict legal sense.

I was formally acquitted, the court having not believed the original police evidence.

End of story really, everyone, it is only some people with seemingly desperate intentions who try to make the facts seem otherwise.

David Farrant.

N.B. Don, please do not take any offence at my attack on the police, as I know you used to be a police officer yourself. But the difference is, in the 60s and 70s the Metropolitan police were notorious for ‘setting up’ innocent people when they could not catch the real culprits. This was before the days when tape recordings, and access to solicitors, were made compulsory.

The response certainly raises some questions, which I'll raise in a future post.

¹ David Farrant. "Re: From David". Sunday, 21 September 2008 12:57:25 AM. The attached Microsoft Word document, from which the reproduction is taken, was called "FOR THE OVERSEER + Vampire hunting case".
² David Farrant. "Re: From David". Thursday, 25 September 2008 3:34:33 AM.

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