One night in 1963, a couple were walking home down Swain’s Lane, which passed along cemetery’s north gate. What they encountered was so terrible they were frozen to the spot, transfixed with fear. They had come face to face with the vampire - a tall, dark figure, floating behind the railings. More sightings would follow: a man walking his dog saw the same tall dark figure sliding over the wall along Swain’s Lane like ‘black treacle’.
David Farrant, who runs the British Psychic and Occult Society, said he saw the vampire in 1969. The Highgate Vampire then became a media sensation that ran through the 70s.
He said: “My first reaction was like it was so real that I actually thought it was someone dressed up or messing about because all these stories about vampires were in the news. It was by some branches but as soon as I turned up I was aware of something standing there and it was exuding a feeling not of evil, but menace. It all happened so quickly. The whole thing lasted for four to five seconds and felt like whatever it was filled me with energy, it is difficult to explain, and suddenly it just vanished.”
The Hampstead and Highgate Express reported on 27 February 1970 as saying that Seán Manchester 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.
On 6 March, the same paper reported David Farrant as saying he had seen dead foxes in the cemetery, “and the odd thing was there was no outward sign of how they died.” When told of this, Manchester said it seemed to complement his theory. In later writings, both men reported seeing other dead foxes with throat wounds and drained of blood.
In 1971 however, a more sinister story was circulated involved a young girl who was attacked in the cemetery by a tall, pale-faced creature. She was thrown down onto the ground but the vampire was luckily spooked by a car passing-by.
A charred and headless body of a woman was found nearby, which the police suspected to have been the product of a black magic ritual.
Was it staked?
There had been claims that the vampire was staked by Manchester:
“With a mighty blow I drove the stake through the creature’s heart, then shielded by ears as a terrible roar emitted from the bowels of hell. This died away as suddenly as it erupted and all became still. We witnessed the bodyshell cave in and quietly turn filthy brown which soon became a sluggish flow of inhuman slime and viscera in the bottom of the casket.” (Occult London)
Although beforehand Manchester at his first attempt could not stake the vampire due to pity and instead placed a wreath of garlic upon its coffin and sprinkled holy water.
However there is no complete evidence other than first person accounts that this event has truly taken place.
Has it returned?
This year, Declan Walsh recalled seeing the vampire walk through a locked gate in 1991 on his walk to work. The vampire was described to appear like a “Victorian nobleman” in appearance, dressed with a top hat.
“He was extremely tall, well over six feet in height and he was very thin. He wore a long black cape-like coat and a top hat. His dress looked Victorian in style and he appeared all black. He also appeared to glide and there was no sound. The ground was littered with leaves yet I heard no sound from him nor did he take any notice of me.”
He said although many people expect ghosts to be transparent, the spirit was in fact black and solid, as well as having two piercing bright white eyes.
Another witness watched the figure float from Swain’s Lane, from the east side to the west side of the cemetery, in August 2005.
And in 2012 it appeared the vampire was captured on camera. James Dobbin took a photo as he toured the historic Grade I-listed cemetery, which dates back to 1839.
A witness, who wished to remain anonymous, claims the male spirit was dressed in a three-quarter length coat and a top hat. The figure even whispered “Good evening to you sir” to the terrified onlooker, despite him standing more than eight feet away.
There are sightings and reports of the vampire that still continue to this day.