Friday, 27 February 2015

Does A Wampyr Walk In Highgate?

"On Friday, 27 February 1970, the front page headline of the Hampstead and Highgate Express asked does a vampire walk in Highgate? There would be no going back. The die had been cast." (Seán Manchester, The Highgate Vampire, Gothic Press, p. 70)
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The banner headline "Does a wampyr walk in Highgate?" appeared across the front page of Hampstead and Highgate's most prestigious newspaper in February 1970. The editor himself had written the piece after meeting privately with the president of the British Occult Society and founder of the then fledgling Vampire Research Society. He allowed himself to get slightly carried away by introducing the journalistic embellishment "King Vampire of the Undead" - a term that Seán Manchester did not employ, as stated by him on page 72 of The Vampire Hunter's Handbook, but what else did the editor get wrong that day? Apparently more than you might imagine!

After warning that a vampire might be active in Highgate Cemetery, the article goes on to correctly describe Seán Manchester as a photographer (he had run his own photographic studio throughout the previous decade) and the president of the British Occult Society (a position he held from 21 June 1967 to 8 August 1988 when the BOS was dissolved). He is then quoted accurately enough before reference is made to a King Vampire of the Undead which is not attributed to him in actual quotes but attributed nonetheless.

A very important residence in Highgate somehow manages to transform into a different house in London's West End. For house "in the West End" one should actually substitute Ashurst House, which once stood at the western end of the site now occupied by Highgate Cemetery, as would have been explained by Seán Manchester who told the editor at the time that Ashurst House was sold and leased to a succession of tenants of whom one was a mysterious gentleman from the Continent who arrived in the wake of the vampire epidemic that had its origins in south-east Europe. This is not quite the same as what was reported and, of course, does not have anything like the same sensationalist impact as "King Vampire from Wallachia"which Draculesque adornment the newspaper clearly preferred.

There then follows reference to a group of Satanists attempting to"resurrect the King Vampire." This time the reference to a King Vampire is included in quotes even though the term was not uttered.

Next we are misinformed that the British Occult Society had "no formal membership" but instead corresponded with "50 to 100 interested people."Completely untrue. The BOS had a formal membership of over three hundred people with at least one hundred actively involved in ongoing research and investigation.

Then we learn that the British Occult Society "believes in countering magic by magic" when all that was said is that the supernatural will not submit to scientific methods to measure and prove its existence.

The newspaper correctly states that some BOS members had "spent nights in Highgate Cemetery" which was obviously for the purpose of observing the strange nocturnal goings-on in the place as had been reported by people in the previous decade and was still being reported up to the time of the article.

Readers are then offered in quotes "the traditional and approved manner"by which folk must rid themselves of this hideous pestilence without it being properly clarified that this is how clergy dealt with the problem in centuries past and was not on the agenda as far as the British Occult Society/Vampire Research Society was concerned with regard to Highgate Cemetery.

That Montague Summers' books bore some influence on Seán Manchester's understanding of vampirism is mentioned in tandem with  the suggestion that Bram Stoker's novel is based on fact. That Stoker was influenced by genuine cases and read about real vampires before writing Dracula is not in doubt, but the clumsy journalism of the Hampstead and Highgate Express clouds what is trying to be conveyed by the man they are interviewing in the pursuit (presumably) of economising on words for the sake of space.

Finally we come to a quote attributed to "one of Britain's busiest exorcists, the Rev John Neil-Smith" (they couldn't even get his name right - it was actually Christopher Neil-Smith) by attributing to him the following: "I believe the whole idea of vampires is probably a novelistic embellishment." He said nothing of the sort.

The Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith (1920-1995) was an Anglican priest, originally from Hampstead, most celebrated for his practice of exorcism and his paranormal interests.[1] Like Seán Manchester, whom he knew, Reverend Neil-Smith believed that evil is an external reality and should be treated as such rather than as an abstract concept.

A vicar at St Saviour's Anglican Church at Eton Road in Hampstead, London, he performed more than three thousand exorcisms in Britain since 1949. In 1972, the Bishop of London authorised him to exorcise demons according to his own judgement.[2] Two years earlier, he was misquoted in the Hampstead and Highgate Express, 27 February 1970, saying that vampires are "probably a novelistic embellishment," but, as Seán Manchester subsequently pointed out, Reverend Neil-Smith claimed to have actually exorcised vampires, as confirmed in a book written by Daniel Farson and Angus Hall which records:

"Yet not far from Highgate Cemetery lives a man who takes reports of vampirism seriously. The Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith is a leading British exorcist and writer on exorcism. He can cite several examples of people who have come to him for help in connection with vampirism. 'The one that particularly strikes me is that of a woman who showed me the marks on her wrists which appeared at night, where blood had definitely been taken. And there was no apparent reason why this should have occurred. They were marks like those of an animal. Something like scratching.' He denies this might have been done by the woman herself. She came to him when she felt her blood was being sucked away, and after he performed an exorcism the marks disappeared. Another person who came from South America 'had a similar phenomenon, as if an animal had sucked away his blood and attacked him at night.' Again, the Reverend Neil-Smith could find no obvious explanation. There is a third case of a man who, after his brother died, had the strange feeling that his lifeblood was being slowly sucked away from him. 'There seems to be evidence this was so,' says Neil-Smith. 'He was a perfectly normal person before, but after the brother's death he felt his life was being sucked away from him as if the spirit of his brother was feeding on him. When the exorcism was performed he felt a release and new life, as if new blood ran in his veins.' Neil-Smith rules out the possibility of a simple psychological explanation for this, such as a feeling of guilt by the survivor toward his brother. 'There was no disharmony between them. In fact he wasn't clear for some time that it (the vampire) was his brother.' The clergyman describes a vampire as 'half animal, half human,' and firmly refutes the suggestion that such things are all in the mind. 'I think that's a very naive interpretation,' he says. 'All the evidence points to the contrary'." [6]

The Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith, contrary to editor Gerald Isaaman's false attribution of 27 February 1970 in a local Hampstead newspaper, concluded that there really are such a things as vampires.

References:

1. a b Beeson, Trevor (2006). "The Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith". Priests And Prelates: The Daily Telegraph Clerical Obituaries. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0826481000.

2. Sands, Kathleen R. Demon possession in Elizabethan England. Praeger Publishers. "At around the same time, Father Christopher Neil-Smith, an Anglican priest, received a standing license from the Bishop of London authorizing him to exorcise freely according to his own judgment." 

3. Neil-Smith, Christopher. Praying for daylight: God through modern eyes. P. Smith.

4. Cramer, Marc. The devil within. W.H. Allen. "with the noted exorcist, the Rev. Christopher Neil-Smith, author of an anecdotal book entitled The Exorcist and the Possessed."

5. Spence, Lewis. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology.Kessinger Publishing.

6. Mysterious Monsters (Aldus Books, 1978) by Daniel Farson and Angus Hall.
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Saturday, 29 November 2014

Peter Underwood R.I.P.



Author of over fifty books on the paranormal and Britain's foremost ghost hunter Peter Underwood has died. He made Seán Manchester a Life-Member of The Ghost Club (and later an Honorary Life-Member of the newly formed Ghost Club Society). Peter Underwood, along with life-membership, was to become a Fellow Associate of the Vampire Research Society in 1973. He was already a member of the British Occult Society, an organisation that investigated the paranormal and occult phenomena, which was formally dissolved on 8 August 1988. Its last President (1967-1988), Seán Manchester, collaborated with Peter Underwood on an anthology titled The Vampire's Bedside Companion (1975) that would include the first published account of early events in the Highgate Vampire case. He left it to his esteemed colleague to tell the full and unexpurgated story which he did ten years later when The Highgate Vampire was published by the British Occult Society in 1975.

As already stated elsewhere by Seán Manchester: the sad passing of Peter Underwood irrevocably marks the end of an era.

Seán Manchester's obituary for his close friend and fellow investigator can be read by clicking on the image:


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Ghost Writers

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These published letters to the editor of the Hampstead & Highgate Express followed immediately in the wake of David Farrant's own letter claiming three sightings of a ghost-like figure at London's Highgate Cemetery. The first is written by Kenny Frewin, complete with Frewins genuine address at the time. He was a close personal friend of David Farrant and often acted as his "minder" throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The second is also written by a close friend of Farrant. He knew both Audrey and her husband Michael Connely, the latter joining him and his wife, Mary Farrant, on drunken forays with others to the graveyard after the pubs closed in the late 1960s. The only alteration is her married status from "Mrs" to "Miss". The third letter is written by someone by the name of R Docherty who was an acquaintance of Farrant. The fourth counterfeit letter to the local newspaper is attributed to "Nava Arieli" but, in fact, was written by Nava Grunberg (later to become Nava Jehans) who was undoubtedly Farrant's closest friend (and occasional girlfriend) at the time. The address is not hers. She lived in Hampstead Lane in 1970, and still does. The next couple of fake letters are no less interesting. Yossell Baker often drank in the Prince of Wales pub with Farrant and their mutual friends. He was drawn into the ghost hoax by Farrant. His real name and address was used on this fake correspondence. Finally, we come to a bogus letter written by a certain J McKennar of 142 Muswell Hill Road, N10. By a curious coincidence that is David Farrant's current address where he has resided for decades; indeed, ever since his parole release from prison in 1976. When David Farrant wrote his original hoax letter of 6 February 1970 (reproduced below) he resided at Tony Hill's coal bunker in a communal cellar belonging to 9 Priestwood Mansions, 294 Archway Road, N6. Hill was in on the hoax and can be heard colluding with Farrant in conversations secretly recorded in December 1969, January and February 1970.

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Sunday, 13 December 2009

One, Two or Three Vampire Sightings?

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"For a start, my letter to the Ham and High in 1970 badly misquoted myself (not deliberately I concede). I did not say that I had seen the figure (ghost) ‘on three occassions’: I was describing a figure that I said ‘had been seen on at least three occasions’. This is true – it had. But on these occasions, the witnesses were other people whom I had witnessed by this time." - David Farrant (Arcadia, 12 December 2009)

Is it really plausible that Farrant's letter was so monstrously altered by the editor of a highly respectable newspaper to mean something quite different to what he had actually written? Is it likely that Farrant would not have insisted on having such a tampered version corrected in the following week's issue if this had really happened? There is no record of him having asked for any such correction. There is no record of an amendment appearing even though his contact with that newspaper remained ongoing for the next few weeks. There are records of Farrant sticking with his personal "three sightings" account until October of that year when it suddenly reduced to "two sightings." Now it has become "one sighting." One is bound to wonder whether a further passing of time will establish "no sighting"?


What certainly exists as evidence from early 1970 is what Farrant wrote in the Hampstead & Highgate Express, 6 February 1970:

"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. The second sighting, a week later, was also brief. Last week, the figure appeared, only a few yards inside the gate. This time it was there long enough for me to see it much more clearly."

The next month Farrant stated to Today interviewer Sandra Harris on British television: "The last time I actually saw its face." Does this not suggest there was a time previous to the one he is referring to in that interview? I sense it does. But there is more. There is the BBC's 24 Hours interview broadcast on 15 October 1970.

Laurence Picethly’s interview with Farrant for BBC television was sandwiched between footage of the President of the British Occult Society that had been filmed at the society’s north London headquarters and on location at Highgate Cemetery. The man representing the British Occult Society was obviously not Farrant even though the latter would fraudulently adopt that title two years later. In fact, the British Occult Society had distanced itself from what Farrant was doing as far back as March 1970. The interview Farrant gave in late 1970 is important, however, because there are no editors for him to blame for altering what he had written in published correspondence to a newspaper. In the BBC programme he is seen speaking to the interviewer and the viewing public. The words can be heard from his own mouth and there is no escaping what he said.

Here is the 24 Hours television interview Farrant gave in October 1970:

Laurence Picethly: “On August the seventeenth, Allan [known locally as ‘Allan’ - his correct name being ‘David’] Farrant decided to pay a midnight visit to the cemetery to combat the vampire once and for all. At the cemetery, Farrant was forced to enter by the back wall [footage shows Farrant entering via the rear of the cemetery], as he still does today. He armed himself with a cross and stake, and crouched between the tombstones, waiting. But that night police, on the prowl for vandals, discovered him. He was charged with being in an enclosed space for an unlawful purpose, but later the Clerkenwell magistrate acquitted him. Now, in spite of attempts by the cemetery owners to bar him, Farrant and his friends [no friends were discovered by the police or subsequently identified by Farrant] still maintain a regular vigil around the catacombs in hope of sighting either the vampire or a meeting of Satanists.”

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.”

Farrant's interview ends at this point. It is reproduced above in its entirety.

Farrant was acquitted of the charge that had led to his arrest, it being that he was found in an enclosed area for an unlawful purpose. Highgate Cemetery is obviously not “an enclosed area” and that is all he was charged with in August 1970. The BBC report now returns to the President of the British Occult Society.

Three things are of significance in that BBC television interview from October 1970.


The reconstructed footage of what Farrant was doing on the night of 17 August 1970 clearly shows him hunting a vampire with a rosary around his neck, a large cross in one hand and a sharpened wooden stake in the other hand. There is no ambiguity about what led to his arrest in this report where he is featured reconstructing what he was doing at the time of his arrest at midnight in Highgate Cemetery. The image above is taken from the 24 Hours programme as Farrant reconstructs the actions which led to his arrest.

The second thing of significance is that when Laurence Picethly asks whether Farrant had ever seen the vampire, Farrant dis not attempt to correct the person interviewing him by saying it was something other than a vampire. Nor did Farrant make clear that he did not believe in vampires, or that what he witnessed was not a vampire. Indeed, this section of 24 Hours was titled Vampires.

The third thing of significance is that when asked if he had seen the vampire Farrant responded: “I have seen it, yes. I saw it last February, and saw it on two occasions.” He can be heard saying that he had two sightings of the vampire in early 1970, but in the interview he gave Andrew Gough for Arcadia Farrant states that he had only one sighting and this was in December 1969, not February 1970 as stated by him in his BBC television appearance some four decades ago.

So was it one, two or three sightings Farrant had in 1970 of the infamous Highgate Vampire? He nowadays tries to disingenuously convince everyone that he never claimed any belief in vampires and did not attempt to hunt one in Highgate Cemetery with a cross and stake. Images of him from newspaper articles at the time tell an entirely different story. A small sample appear below:





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Sunday, 6 September 2009

He Avoids Ugly Ones

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In this 1994 News of the World report about David Farrant are claims about his prowess as a "High Priest" of witchcraft. Yet today Farrant states he abandoned wiccan beliefs and ceased to be a witch as far back as 1982. He is also described as "a High Priest of the British Occult Society." The British Occult Society had no "High Priests" and existed purely to examine hidden phenomena. Furthermore, David Farrant owed absolutely no association with the British Occult Society who were quick to refute his fraudulent claims wherever they appeared. (Click on these press cuttings to read them more easily).
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