Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Mystery of Luisa, Pt. 1

"Luisa" is the pseudonym given to a victim of the Vampire in Sean Manchester's The Highgate Vampire: The Infernal World of the Undead Unearthed at London's Famous Highgate Cemetery and Environs (London: British Occult Society, 1985).

Manchester warns us, early on, about the use of fake names (p. 19):
My task would have been easier and more comprehensible to the reader if it was possible to disclose everything in its entirety, but there must be limitations where confidences are involved and I have to omit using names in full where requested.
The smoking gun to the falsity of Luisa's name appears on pp. 45-46:
Among the many people who contacted me as a direct result of this public pronouncement was the sister of a beautiful twenty-two-year-old woman, whom I shall call Luisa.
The attempt to preserve her anonymity is somewhat tempered by photographic depictions of her. Thus, on page 30, she appears seemingly naked from behind, arms outstretched to the ceiling and captioned:
This remarkable picture shows Luisa somnambulating in the dark hours at her Highgate flat
On page 31, she is shown standing amidst some rubble at Highgate Cemetery:
Luisa points to the spot where her sleep-walk ended - before the large iron door which could not be opened but beyond which lay three empty coffins
She is also shown in sultry close up, cleavage exposed and wearing an Iron Cross around her neck on page. 32. The caption, somwhat amusingly, reads:
Luisa, beautiful and innocent as a child, who fell prey to the undead
On page 59, she is shown crouched and pointing at a pentagram drawn into the ground:
Luisa inside a protective circle cut into the ground outside the catacombs feared to be the resting-place of the vampire
She's shown standing with a group including Manchester and Reverend Pauley on page 64:
Reverend Pauley with Luisa and other participants at the purification of objects defiled by Satanists. The chalice and tabernacle can be seen on the table to the left of the picture
Her image is superimposed over the top of an 18th century themed masquerade Manchester can be seen participating in. It gives the illusion of her giant head floating in mid-air (p. 101):
Luisa's image haunted the masquerade - as certainly as some substantial body is perceived in the dark though it cannot be discerned
She gazes into the camera, in front of a tombstone (which she is quite possibly superimposed on top of) on page 141:
The last recorded photograph of Luisa
And lastly, her role was obviously so integral to the case, that a variant of the image on page 32, appears on the front cover. The title page even labels her "Luisa".

I think we can agree that the woman depicted in the photographs was quite clearly meant to be the mysterious Luisa in question.

Except for one problem: it's not her at all.

The VRS's "Luisa" page samples some text from Sean Manchester's Stray Ghosts, an unpublished memoir. Most tellingly, it reveals the following:

She is someone who has never been identified — a photographic model, and much later an actress, portrayed Lusia in representations of her in the case. This was due to the tragic outcome, and a need to preserve her identity in perpetuity.
The question is, why wasn't this bit of disclosure revealed in the original book? Why go to the lengths of "representing" a woman whose identity was meant to be a secret?

And most importantly, why was the model/actress repeatedly labelled "Luisa" if it wasn't actually her?

Talk about deceptive.

However, readers, it looks like Manchester has dispensed with the notion of preverving her identity in "perpetuity".

In his "Luisa" entry for Metaphysical Meanderings, he reproduces an oil painting her made of her "from memory" as well as a photograph of the real-Luisa-deal:

Lusia has never been identified by her real name and, until now, a photograph at the time of my knowing her has not been published. Sufficient decades have perhaps passed to permit one.

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