Saturday, January 21, 2012

The prevalence of secret recordings

Smoking guns are hard to come by in this case. One must duck and weave through a wave of paltry excuses, revisionism and flat-out stonewalling. That, of course, doesn't stop the claims a-rollin' on in, though.

But one of the more explosive claims, something that could hammer a nail into the coffin—and reputation—of one of the 'vampire''s leading proponents, burying the case once and for all, is also one of the most elusive pieces of 'evidence'.

Oddly enough, it originated from one of the deepest, darkest recesses of the web: the MySpace page of an undead Hungarian scholar.1 His entry discusses a dinner held at Sean Manchester's place, notable for the presence of David Farrant's former friend, Tony 'Hutchinson' Hill. 'It was in the winter of 1969/70 that Farrant suggested to Hill they attempt to hoax a ghost story to see what the public reaction might be,' so claims Arminius Vámbéry.

CBS Miami
Vámbéry goes on to assert that 'Farrant could not afford to allow Hill to come forward if he wanted to retain any semblance of credibility because, more than anyone else, Hill knows that Farrant is a fake.' While none of the content of his blog entry contains any direct quotes—nor does its author disclose his attendence, suggesting he's relying on the story 'secondhand'—it also alleges Hill 'still possesses secretly recorded tapes of their forty-year-old conversations to prove it. On these tapes, Farrant can be heard conspiring to hoax a ghost story using acquaintances' addresses to send fraudulent letters to local newspapers, and by dressing up as a "ghost" and wearing make-up for photographs.'

There's certainly a precedent for the letters and Ghost Dave is backed by photographic evidence, do the tapes actually exist? Unfortunately, the credibility of Vámbéry's claims is undermined by saying, 'It was not long before Seán Manchester was advising caution where Farrant's claims were concerned, and by the end of that year he had publicly dissociated himself from Farrant on a television programme (BBC's 24 Hours, 15 October 1970) and in both the national and local press.' Considering the 'access' he has to Manchester's personal life—or so his photos of the dinner would suggest—you'd expect him to know that Manchester and Farrant's association continued long after this time.

But where Vámbéry stumbles, the Friends of Bishop Seán Manchester pick up the slack, by regurgitating his entry for their blog. In another entry, 'Mug shot', the the allegation of Farrant and Hill's hoaxing a ghost story, rears its head again. It also makes an appearance in Vampire Research Society member, Vampirologist's blog, under 'The ghost writers', but adds further detail: 'Hill was in on the hoax and can be heard colluding with Farrant in conversations secretly recorded in December 1969, January and February 1970.'

Farrant is certainly aware of these claims: I showed them to him and asked him to comment. For the record, he said, 'The content of this document is untrue, and apparently concocted because of a disclosure I made on an American Radio broadcast recently to the effect that the above named ‘Tony Hill’ together with his ‘side-kick’ and close friend one Mr. Sean Manchester, had hoaxed their version of the infamous Highgate Vampire in the year of 1969 by making a home-made 8mm cine film (this film was in colour but had no sound) about its (The Highgate ‘Vampire) alleged activities. This film showed Mr. Manchester himself disguised as a ‘vampire’ and Mr. Tony Hill assisted in its original production.'

That is an unlikely claim, due to the timing of the postings. I would suggest, along these lines, that the 'secret recordings' were a 'comeback' to Farrant's publication, The Seangate tapes, which feature alleged transcripts of incriminating phone conversations between Farrant and Manchester. These, too, were 'secret recordings'. As far as I know, Manchester—a man keen to invoke DMCAs, as Brendan Kilmartin, owner of The supernatural world forums will also attest—has not pursued legal against against Farrant for their publication.

But, on the other hand, Farrant, who took the Daily Express to court over allegedly defamatory comments2, has not made any such injunctions, either, despite repeated insinuations that Friends of Bishop Seán Manchester, Arminius Vámbéry and Vampirologist are actually Sean Manchester in disguise.

Seeing as The Seangate tapes have remained in circulation, relatively unhindered, I think it's time Friends of Bishop Seán Manchester, Arminius Vámbéry and Vampirologist—and Hill, too, presuming he actually made such allegations—put their money where their mouth is and produce the tapes. Otherwise, they should retract their statements.

1. The real Arminius died on 15 September 1913. See:

2. ‘Occult man appeals for help after libel cases’, Daily Express, 16 February 1980, p. 4 and ‘Witch left with £20,000 libel bill’, The Guardian, 16 February 1980, p. 3.

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