Nicola Kirk: Author and Collector of Paranormal Stories and Other Strange Encounters

Posts tagged ‘highgate vampire’

Vampire Hunting at Highgate Cemetery

I’ve never been vampire hunting before.  It’s not an obvious pastime in this day and age, but back in 2008 I went to Highgate Cemetery, London, to see if the Highgate Vampire fancied a chat.

This was my second visit to Highgate (dragging my ever so patient husband with me) but I wasn’t going back because I’d overlooked the walking dead the first time round; it was because Highgate Cemetery is such an incredible place and there’s so much to see.  It really is a huge ‘Victorian Valhalla’ with the added bonus that it also has a vampiric past.

Why was such a vast cemetery needed in the first place?  What was wrong with the average church graveyard?  In 1800 the population of London was 1 million. By 1850 it had gone up to 2.3 million and graveyards were struggling to cope with the sheer number of burials (people had a nasty habit of dying on a frighteningly regular basis back then).  The inner London graveyard ethic of ‘pile ‘em high, worry about it later’ was no longer working and graveyards were becoming serious health hazards. Sometimes bodies were left to rot, unburied, or they weren’t buried deep enough (some graves were just two foot deep … if the gravedigger was feeling generous).  It wasn’t unusual for graves to be emptied out for reuse before the resident had had a chance to even decompose.  Things were rather grim.

Highgate was built in 1839 as part of the ‘Magnificent Seven’, a series of modern cemeteries around the outskirts of London designed to cater for the numbers of dead that London could no longer cope with.

Highgate Cemetery is an amazing place, split into two parts, the East side and the West side.  The West side is the oldest site and is only accessible on a tour.  The Eastern side is accessible without accompaniment.

You Tube Tour of Highgate Cemetery – West Side

For those interested in odd stuff, Highgate Cemetery may already be known to you because of the Highgate Vampire.  In 1969, David Farrant pushed paranormal interest in the cemetery into the public arena by reporting a sighting of a grey figure which he considered to be otherworldly.  It wasn’t long before other people were saying they had also seen odd things too, either down Swains Lane, the long winding road that runs down the side of the old graveyard, or in the graveyard itself.  Interestingly enough though, no two stories reported were the same.

Another chap called Sean Manchester also got involved with the Highgate Vampire story.  He was keen to label the paranormal entity allegedly haunting the cemetery as a vampire, whereas Farrant was a little more hesitant to do so, referring to the entity as a ghost or a spectre instead but it was the vampire label that stuck.

The two gents have both had a lot to say on the Highgate Vampire subject and both brought out books on their experiences.  Having read both Farrant’s and Manchester’s accounts I found them to be so fantastical it was impossible to take them seriously.  But if you want to have a look for yourself you can get the books from Amazon:

Sean Manchester’s Book

David Farrant’s Book

Farrant and Manchester have spent the past goodness knows how long arguing about what happened and I understand the arguments still rage even now.

In my previous article, Red Eye At Night, Devil’s Delight, I mentioned a red-eyed spectre that had been encountered drifting around Swains Lane.  This spectre apparently spoke to the eyewitness, wishing them a good evening before disappearing through a cemetery wall.  Other ghosts allegedly seen at Highgate Cemetery include a ghostly cyclist who was seen making his way up the hill near the cemetery and in recent years a ghost of a mad old woman with long hair has been seen among the grave stones. That last sighting was not me, before you all start pointing the finger.

If you get a chance, I would highly recommend going on one of the Highgate Cemetery Tours, even if you’re not that interested in ghosts.  There are many famous people buried there and the tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and have many tales to tell along the way about the cemetery inhabitants.


©Nicola Kirk and 2010

Red Eye At Night… Devil’s Delight?

Bad guys in horror movies usually can’t hide their identities for long because the directors like to give them neon red eyeballs.  Vampires, werewolves, demonic doggies, they all get the same treatment.  But is this stereotyping?  Is there any basis for assuming all things evil should have eyes redder than a baboon’s bottom?

Whilst looking for other occurrences of evil red-eyed beings, I unearthed a story about a particularly evil statue known as Black Agnes, or Black Aggie.  An allegedly murderous statue by this name used to live in Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.  Rumours that the statue harboured murderous intentions were cooked up by kids and used as part of initiation ceremonies to scare the life out of their friends.  The story went that Black Aggie’s eyes would burn bright red at night and would blind anyone who looked into them.  Other versions of the story say that part of the initiation ceremony was to sit on the statue’s lap all night, but the last person who was brave enough to take up the dare was found dead the next morning, still sitting on the statue’s lap but with marks on her body apparently from the statue’s deadly embrace.  The statue was moved twice to put an end to the rituals and ended up in the Smithsonian Institute where it was finally made teenager proof.

Another creature of the night that regularly has red eyes is the Black Shuck, a demonic dog that roams around the Norfolk and Suffolk coastlines.  Some say it is as big as a Great Dane, others that it’s as big as a horse.  The Shuck may have been the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s, The Hound of the Baskervilles.  There are confusing reports about the Shuck and its motives for making an appearance.  Some say that if you see the beast then someone close to you will die.  Other say the Shuck sometimes accompanies women travelling on their own and acts as a protector.  Personally, unless it comes with a sturdy muzzle, I’d rather take my chances alone…  Some graveyards are reputedly prowled by a Shuck but the beast also enjoys lurking down side roads, snuffling around at crossroads (popular places to bury suicides), and, of course, slinking around dark and foreboding forests.

One of my all time favourite places also comes with a resident red-eyed ghost.  Highgate Cemetery, London, is famous for its vampire stories from the early 1970s but it is not the vampire that I’m interested in here.  There is a recent report (alas, I don’t have the exact date for the report) of a pedestrian who was walking down the lane that runs through the cemetery.  I can only assume they mean Swains Lane which runs between the east and the west cemeteries.  The pedestrian reported seeing a tall apparition with glowing red eyes and wearing a long black cloak.  The apparition whispered ‘good evening, sir,’ as it glided past and disappeared through a stone wall.  Perhaps it was the vampire that allegedly haunted the cemetery in the 1970s, but I understand Sean Manchester pounded the life out of that particular entity with a hammer and stake many years ago.

Going back to the theme of beasties with red eyes, I recently came across a story posted on Phantoms and Monsters about a couple who were on their way home to Illinois.  Just south of a place called Fuller Cemetery (unfortunate name), the husband thought he saw a large bird of some description by the side of the road.  He didn’t think much of it but his wife began to scream.  He pulled over into the entrance to the cemetery to calm her down, telling her it had only been a big bird she’d seen, but apparently that wasn’t what the wife had seen at all.  She had seen a large animal running along by the side of their car – it was so big its head had come to the top of the window!  She was sure the creature she had seen was a huge bear with red eyes but the area is not known for being a home to bears and certainly not ones with red eyes.

It would seem that although most people would rather not have an encounter with some red-eyed creature of the night, not all  are deserving of an evil reputation, for example the Shuck who likes to protect lone, female travellers. Although it might be advisable not to go and annoy graveyard statues, just in case.


©Nicola Kirk and 2010

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