Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I recently discussed Della Farrant's comments on Kai Roberts' write-up of the Highgate vampire case. She took issue with the coverage Roberts gave to David Farrant's 1970 trial for being in an 'enclosed area for an unlawful purpose', i.e. intending on breaking into tombs [to stake a vampire] at Highgate Cemetery.

I contrasted her criticism—'. . . when referring to David Farrant’s arrest for ‘vampire hunting’ in 1970, Kai omits a crucial point. David was, as everybody will remember, acquitted of this charge. The charge itself was being [caught] in an enclosed area for an unlawful purpose'—with what he actually wrote, and quoted a relevant passage.

However, my counter was a bit short-sighted. Roberts wrote more on the case than I realised at the time of writing the blog entry. I should've paid closer attention to his text. My goof. Anyway, here's what he added:
When Farrant's case finally came to trial, he was discharged after his lawyer successfully argued that hunting a vampire was not in itself unlawful and that a cemetery did not satisfy the legal definition of an enclosed space.1
It's this particular definition Della was unsatisfied with, which is why she added:
Kai was apparently misinformed when he summarises that David was acquitted on 2 technicalities, namely the definition of an enclosed area, and the fact that it is not actually illegal to hunt a vampire. This was not in fact the case. The main indictment in that case was the element of unlawful purpose. That was the only reason David was arrested by police who attempted to persuade the court that his purpose was to break open coffins in search of the reputed vampire. The police evidence (again given under oath) was that David had later told the arresting officer that he intended to drive a wooden stake through the vampire’s heart and then ‘run away’ . . . However…David denied making this statement, in court, and the stipendary [sic] magistrate obviously did not believe the police evidence and so the unlawful purpose element was thrown out of court. The conclusion is clear: that David was not acquitted because it is not illegal to hunt vampires, but because the court did not believe that he was trying to do so in the first place. To inadvertently misguide the reader over this important point is regrettable, as it contrasts sharply with many of Kai’s other points which he has investigated thoroughly.
If Roberts was 'apparently misinformed' about this matter, the 'blame' falls squarely on his source: 'Ellis, p26'2, i.e. Bill Ellis' 'The Highgate Cemetery vampire hunt: the Anglo-American connection in satanic cult lore' (1993). Though the source isn't directly correlated with her critique, he does cop a serve—on an entirely different matter: his 'angle regarding the validity of contemporary claims that most of the damage at Highgate Cemetery during the late 1960s and early 1970s was caused by “adolescent gangs expressing rebellion to adult norms or carrying out dares or hoaxes.”'

While her criticism of the way Roberts covered Farrant's acquittal seems reasonable, one can only wonder why she sidestepped Roberts' coverage of the trial's aftermath. After focusing so much on this aspect of the case, you'd think she'd have something to say about it:
Following his acquittal, Farrant made his intention to continue hunting the vampire perfectly clear. The ensuing blaze of publicity saw him holding a nocturnal vigil in the cemetery, accompanied by a reporter [Barrie Simmons] from the Evening News. The article was published on 16th October under the headline "Midnight date with Highgate's Vampire", alongside photographs of Farrant wielding a cross and stake.3
Indeed, Farrant's 10 January 2012 comment to a recent Hampstead & Highgate Express article boasts this event as the first time the cemetery's undead denizen was explicitly labelled the 'Highgate Vampire':
As a matter of interest, the title “The Highgate Vampire” first appeared in an article published in connection with myself in the London Evening News on October 16th 1970. This headline ran “Midnight Vigil for the Highgate Vampire” [sic] and followed a BBC television transmission the evening before which featured myself and my investigation into a ‘vampire-like figure’ that had been sighted in and around Highgate Cemetery.
Roberts mentions the transmission—and Farrant's 'investigation', too:
The previous day, the BBC had broadcast a segment on events at the cemetery as part of their flagship current affairs programme, 24 Hours. It featured reconstructions of both Manchester's exorcism in the vault and Farrant's fateful vampire hunt of 17th August, in which he is once again seen brandishing a cross and stake.4
Farrant's YouTube channel features relevant 'excerpts' from this episode—with Manchester's participation cut-out:

Fortunately, Kev Demant's website provides a full transcript of the vampire segment. Instead of an 'investigation into a "vampire-like figure" that had been sighted in and around Highgate Cemetery', the clip features a much more literal rendering: 'Now, in spite of all attempts by the cemetery owners to bar him Farrant and his friends still maintain a regular vigil (of the ?) catacombs in the hope of sighting either the vampire or the Satanists.' Not the first time Farrant's commentary on contemporary coverage doesn't tally with what's represented.

That said, the Simmons article appears to be the first public source to confirm Farrant's unbelief in vampires. At least in 'the commercial sense of the word'; mainly because Farrant clearly believes in a different type of vampire. This explains why he repeatedly emphasises 'bloodsucking vampires' when ridiculing Manchester's account; to take the heat off his own vampiric allusions and publicity-seeking antics. Perhaps Della's critique should've been asking: who was 'inadvertently' misguiding who?

1. K Roberts, Grave concerns: the follies and folklore of Robin Hood's final resting place, CFZ Press, Bideford, U.K, 2011, p. 96.  
2. ibid., p. 196, n 39. 
3. ibid., p. 96. 
4. ibid.

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