Monday, September 9, 2013


In a recent article for The Spooky Isles, David Farrant reported:
I have been researching stories of ghosts and legends in the area for over 45 years; indeed it was my own letter to a local newspaper in which I detailed a sighting of my own in 1969 which was to inadvertently spark off the vampire hysteria. I described seeing a ghost-like figure through the cemetery gates one night, and within months this had been distorted into a full-blown bloodsucking vampire with which it would forever be confused. This media manipulation was engineered by certain people with no interest in genuine paranormal research, but a very shrewd awareness of the vampire ‘pound’ which was such a lucrative form of currency for freelance journalists and publicity seekers back then – and to the present day.
While Farrant's letter may have "inadvertently" assisted the propagation of the Highgate Vampire legend, Farrant's far from the backseat driver he makes himself out to be. As to "media manipulation", it's true many issues were misrepresented by the press—but Farrant could just as easily be talking about himself.

Firstly, if Farrant has been researching "ghosts and legends in the area for over 45 years"—which takes us just past 1968—he made no disclosure of his prior research when he wrote his original letter to the "local newspaper", actually the Hampstead & Highgate Express. It was published in the paper's 6 February 1970 issue and titled "Ghostly Walks in Highgate." Rather than present himself as a paranormal investigator, he took the tone of a layman—exemplified by his closing statement:
SOME NIGHTS I walk home past the gates of Highgate Cemetery.

On three occasions I have seen what appeared to be a ghost-like figure inside the gates at the top of Swains Lane. The first occasion was on Christmas Eve. I saw a grey figure for a few seconds before it disappeared into the darkness. The second sighting, a week later, was also brief.

Last week the figure appeared, only a few yards inside the gates. This time it was there long enough for me to see it much more clearly, and now I can think of no other explanation than this apparition being supernatural.

I have no knowledge in this field and I would be interested to hear if any other readers have seen anything of this nature.
Even the number of sightings has been distorted—"three occasions", not "one night". 

Second, it didn't take "months" for Farrant's ghost to morph into a vampire. Within three weeks of the letter's publication, Sean Manchester, representing himself as the President of the British Occult Society, proclaimed that the ghost seen about the cemetery was actually a vampire in the Count Dracula mould; a "King Vampire of the Undead, originally a nobleman who dabbled in black magic in medieval Wallachia". Manchester's theory was published as the Hampstead & Highgate Express's 27 February 1970 cover story, "Does a Wampyr Walk in Highgate?"

The vampire angle overshadowed Farrant's ghost. The following week, the paper published another front page story, "Why Do the Foxes Die?" (6 March 1970). This time, Manchester and Farrant appeared together to discuss the connection between dead foxes found in the cemetery in relation to Manchester's vampire theory:
"Several other foxes have also been found dead in the cemetery," he said at his home in Priestwood Mansions, Archway Road, Highgate. "The odd thing is there was no outward sign of how they died.

"Much remains unexplained, but what I have recently learnt all points to the vampire theory being the most likely answer.
"Should this be so, I for one am prepared to pursue it, taking whatever means might be necessary so that we can all rest."
These comments were apparently made to "humour some over-zealous reporter". If his "ghost-like figure" had been "distorted" into a vampire, Farrant was clearly a willing participant.

The events of Friday, 13 March 1970 cemented the Highgate Vampire's infamy. On that night, a large group of people invaded the cemetery in search of the vampire. Shortly before that, Farrant and Manchester were interviewed for ITV's Today program. Here's what Farrant had to say:
Sandra Harris: Did you get any feeling from it? Did you feel that it was evil?

David Farrant: Yes, I did feel it was evil because the last time I actually saw its face, and it looked like it had been dead for a long time.

Sandra Harris: What do you mean by that?

David Farrant: Well, I mean it certainly wasn’t human.
Shortly afterward, mail order clerk, Barry Edwards, 24, stepped forward saying he was the vampire people had been searching for. His role as a vampire—in an amateur film for the Hellfire Film Club—had apparently triggered the sightings (Hampstead & Highgate Express, 20 March 1970, p. 1).

After Edwards' claim—disputed by Manchester and Farrant—coverage of the case died down. That is, until 7 August 1970, when evidence of tomb desecration and Satanic ceremonies was covered in another front page story by the Hampstead & Highgate Express.

On the night of August 17, Farrant was arrested, apparently with the intent to hunt the vampire. The case was trialled at Clerkenwell, but Farrant was acquitted on September 29.

Soon afterward, on October 15, Farrant was interviewed by Laurence Picethly for BBC's 24 Hours. So what did Farrant do after his ghost had "been distorted into a full-blown bloodsucking vampire with which it would forever be confused"? He encouraged it:
David Farrant: We have been keeping watch in the cemetery for … [pauses] … since my court case ended, and we still found signs of their ceremonies.
Laurence Picethly: Have you ever seen this vampire?

David Farrant: I have seen it, yes. I saw it last February, and saw it on two occasions.
Laurence Picethly: What was it like?
David Farrant: It took the form of a tall, grey figure, and it … [pauses] … seemed to glide off the path without making any noise.
The interview was preluded by a re-enactment of what Farrant was doing on the night of his arrest. Watch it from the 2:35 minute mark onward:

The following day, the Evening News published Barry Simmons' story, "Midnight Vigil for the Highgate Vampire." Once again, Farrant romped about the cemetery, armed with cross and stake: "David, 24, was all set, kitted out with all the gear required by an self-respecting vampire hunter. Clutched under his arm, in a Sainsbury's carrier bag, he held the tools of his trade."

In light of these shenanigans, what should we make of Farrant's statement that "media manipulation was engineered by certain people with no interest in genuine paranormal research, but a very shrewd awareness of the vampire ‘pound’ which was such a lucrative form of currency for freelance journalists and publicity seekers back then – and to the present day"?

Well, let's look at a statement Farrant made in 2011:
The worst I did was to go along with another person's innane wild assertions about a 'blood-sucking vampire', but again, this was only because this was the 'angle' the Press and television wanted at the time - 'vampires' apparently selling more newspapers or attracting more interested audiences for TV.
The "vampire 'pound'" is not just a "lucrative form of currency for freelance journalists and publicity seekers"—unless he's lumping himself in that crowd, too. Take a stroll through Farrant's publications and note how many are devoted—or allude—to his involvement in the Highgate Vampire case:

David Farrant - Psychic Investigator

The Spooky Isles article, itself, was obviously written to promote an upcoming talk for London Haunts and Horrors as attested in its postscript. The talk's subject?


While Farrant might lament his association with the Highgate Vampire case, as he recently did after giving a talk at the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena's Seriously Strange Conference—"Unfortunately, the Highgate ‘vampire’ case being so complicated time seemed to slip by so quickly, and there was only time left for two questions at the end"—it's facetious and duplicitous to castigate "freelance journalists and publicity seekers" for chasing the "vampire 'pound'", when he's clearly been doing the same thing for several decades.

Don't get me wrong, though. I've got no issue with Farrant wanting to turn a quid off the thing or enhance his own publicity through it. But at least be honest about it. Don't pass the buck onto others while holding your own hand out, too. Don't bite the hand that feeds.

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