|Highgate Cemetery, London.|
The Highgate Vampire was a media sensation surrounding reports of supposed supernatural activity at Highgate Cemetery in London.
Many popular books on ghosts, like the book called "The Highgate Vampire", mention a vampire which purportedly haunted Highgate Cemetery in the early 1970s. The growth of its reputation, which can be traced through contemporary media reports and subsequent books by two participants, Seán Manchester and David Farrant, is an example of modern legend-building. The most academic account is given by a folklore scholar,
Professor Bill Ellis, in the journal Folklore. He writes from the viewpoint of sociological legend study; this concerns public perceptions of a real or purported event, and how these are shaped into a narrative by processes of rumour, selection, exaggeration and stereotyping.
Other narratives which treat these purported happenings as fact are available in the books and websites of Seán Manchester and David Farrant.
The publicity was initiated by a group of young people interested in the occult who began roaming the overgrown and dilapidated cemetery in the late 1960s, a time when it was being much vandalised by intruders. On 21 December 1969 one of their members, David Farrant, spent the night there, according to his account written in 1991.
In a letter to the Hampstead and Highgate Express on 6 February 1970, he wrote that when passing the cemetery on 24 December 1969 he had glimpsed "a grey figure", which he considered to be supernatural, and asked if others had seen anything similar. On the 13th, several people replied, describing a variety of ghosts said to haunt the cemetery or the adjoining Swains Lane.
These ghosts were described as a tall man in a hat, a spectral cyclist, a woman in white, a face glaring through the bars of a gate, a figure wading into a pond, a pale gliding form, bells ringing, and voices calling. Hardly two correspondents gave the same story.
The vampire theory
A second local man, Seán Manchester, was just as keen as Farrant to identify and eliminate what he and Farrant believed was a supernatural entity in the cemetery. The Hampstead and Highgate Express reported him on 27 February 1970 as saying that he believed that 'a King Vampire of the Undead', a medieval nobleman who had practised black magic in medieval Wallachia (Romania), had been brought to England in a coffin in the early eighteenth century, by followers who bought a house for him in the West End. He was buried on the site that later became Highgate Cemetery, and Manchester claimed that modern Satanists had roused him. He said the right thing to do would be to stake the vampire's body, and then behead and burn it, but this would nowadays be illegal. The paper headlined this: 'Does a Vampyr walk in Highgate?'
Manchester later claimed, however, that the reference to 'a King Vampire from Wallachia' was a journalistic embellishment. Nevertheless, the 1985 edition of his book also speaks of an unnamed nobleman's body brought to Highgate in a coffin from somewhere in Europe.