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


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.


Sunday, 13 December 2009

One, Two or Three Vampire Sightings?

"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:


Sunday, 6 September 2009

He Avoids Ugly Ones

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).


Friday, 28 August 2009

Prison Correspondence from Lone Vampire Hunter

Prison correspondence (with the envelope in which it arrived that was sent care of an address where David Farrant had been ensconced in a coal bunker belonging to its occupant, Tony Hill, in Archway Road) from "A D Farrow" (a pseudonym given to police by Farrant when he was arrested in Highgate Cemetery on the night of 17 August 1970) to Seán Manchester, president of the British Occult Society, an organisation for the study and research of hidden phenomena.

"speak for me. I don't know if they have" [missing words from top line]

Below is a signed note written a week prior to the prison correspondence that was hand-delivered by David Farrant to the north London office of the British Occult Society for the attention of its president.

And below is a much later sample of David Farrant's still very recognisable handwriting in 2005 as it appears on the label of unsolicited mail sent to Keith Maclean care of the "Holy Grail Church."


Monday, 1 December 2008

Why Hunt The Wampyr?

The person who was at the epicentre of the Highgate Vampire investigation from start to finish was Seán Manchester. He was president of an occult investigation team within the British Occult Society who, probably as a consequence of the quickly unravelling Highgate case, founded the Vampire Research Society on 2 February 1970. The VRS has always maintained its integrity with high quality membership comprising clergy, scholars, academics, professional researchers and authors of the paranormal, which he purposely kept to a relatively small number, as with most specialist organisations, despite the incredible public fascination the topic still holds to this day. The VRS at no time sought to be a subscription club and membership over the last two decades has been only by invitation. Nobody, therefore, is better placed to comment on the wampyr believed to have once walked in Highgate. Seán Manchester was recently asked (on the internet) why he ever hunted vampires in the first place and continues to exorcise them when found to this day. His answer (edited for reasons of space) follows. In it he speculates about the supernature of the wampyr ...

"First, I am a Christian and therefore commanded to drive out demons (see Mark 16: 17) of which the vampire is a variant.

"Second, I am an exorcist who specialises in vampirology, a sub-branch of demonolatry, whose task is to cast out demons.

"Third, there is a dearth of exorcists willing to engage in this particular ministry. The only true exorcists I know are Christian. There are those I would not classify as true exorcists whose employment of the word 'exorcism' is unrecognisable to a Christian exorcist. This looser application can embrace activities such as banishment rituals using ceremonial magic which efficacy I cannot vouchsafe to have practical effect. For a Christian the authority to cast out demons requires at least baptism into the Christian faith. Catholics, and some other major denominations, require priests to perform major exorcisms and only then with the permission of the diocesan bishop.

"We are each limited within the constraints of our particular discipline. A Catholic priest, for example, must have permission from his bishop in order to carry out a major exorcism. Minor exorcisms in certain circumstances may be carried out by priests and laity alike without consent. Though the sacraments are not corrupted by a tainted priest, and are still valid despite the medium through which they are provided, the exorcism rite will probably not meet with much success when a corrupt person attempts the traditional formula. Indeed, it might prove extremely dangerous for someone thus tainted to attempt an exorcism. Though exorcism is not a sacrament itself, the use of the Blessed Sacrament (the Host) might be applied in certain situations. The efficacy of the Host will not be lessened by the priest's degree of corruption provided the intent of the exorcist is genuine. The bishop does not select priests for exorcism. Those who are called to the exorcism ministry already exist. If, however, they are under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church, permission must be sought by any priest who is an exorcist to execute the major rite, but not the minor or smaller exorcism ritual.

"The vampire of history is a contradiction in itself, an oxymoron, a non sequitur, or as the French would say je ne sais quoi, meaning the subject matter is indefinable; it cannot be described or conveyed in a manner readily understood. Today's secular mind finds no apparent reason for the vampire's existence. The exorcist, however, must remember that although the vampire is supernatural and originates from the ranks of fallen angels, it is simultaneously a physical entity which is capable of death and destruction. It is this unearthly combination of the corporeal and the demonic which instils such dread where the vampire is concerned. The term 'undead' is certainly applicable, but what does that mean? If the vampire is sentient then why use 'undead'? What a curious word to describe a revenant. Yet we know these vampires are not living people, but neither are they God's true dead. The Devil's undead is perhaps a term more apt than we might at first imagine. Certainly no other description can come as close to conveying the meaning of this phenomenon. Perhaps the vampire's ingestion of blood into the living cadaver is similar to the manner by which the vampire bat is able to ingest blood and obtain nourishment from it? No doubt there is some level of nourishment to be obtained from blood, but most people if they ingest more than a mouthful will vomit. There are proteins and iron to be found in blood and perhaps that is what nourishes the physical aspect and enables the wraith to remain as a corporeal manifestation? The biological aspects of vampirism notwithstanding, how does one explain the immediate and rapid deterioration of the corpse once exorcism has taken place? It will fall apart and decay as do other corpses, from a few days to many years according to its true age, once the stake has impaled the undead heart. It collapses into a pile of dusty bones where centuries have elapsed. As I attempted to explain in interviews with the American broadcasters Art Bell and George Noory a few years back, it would seem that time catches up with the vampiric wraith at the moment of its destruction. It returns into what it always was and ought to have been. Impaling the heart is sufficient in and of itself to end the pollutions of the vampire, more so if cremation follows, but the real danger with these undead is that they are totally evil and, of course, biocidal. They should not be compared with vampire bats who take a few drops and move on. Vampires are evil and a potential threat to human life. They are a form of Antichrist and should be dealt with accordingly."