Monday, December 14, 2009
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The Highgate Cemetery is an old Victorian-style cemetery located on the North London hill site spread over 37 acres. It is rumored to have been the source of inspiration for the famous scene of the cemetery in Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'. Dusty vaults, ivy-strewn pathways, desecrated coffins and shadowy goings-on. However, the noteriety of Highgate Cemetery reached a gothic climax during the 1960s and early ‘70s when it was alleged that a tall, dark, red-eyed phantom prowled the catacombs of this neglected burial ground.
In December 1969, David Farrant, decided to spend the night there, according to his account written in 1991. In a letter printed in a London newspaper, 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. Several people replied, describing a variety of ghosts said to haunt the cemetery or Swains Lane besides.
As a result, even the most bizarre reports were considered credible and London papers jumped on the bandwagon.
Sean Manchester, self-proclaimed vampire hunter and then 'President of The British Occult Society', relates in his autobiographical 'The Highgate Vampire' that the whole affair started when a pair of female teenage students from La Sainte Union Convent saw what they described as graves opening and bodies rising in the north gate section in the Western Cemetery, on Swains Lane. The phantom was later linked to dead foxes discovered in the cemetery, and reportedly drank the blood of several local women. Trespassers were supposedly left clutching their throats after attacks by an unseen assailant.
Manchester was reported to say that he believed 'a King Vampire of the Undead', a medieval nobleman who had practiced black magic in medieval Wallachia, 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 and later leased the home of Sir William Ashurst (Lord Mayor of London in 1694) on the site that later became Highgate Cemetery.
Manchester claimed that modern Satanists had roused him and the right thing to do would be to stake the vampire's body, and then behead and burn it, but regrettably this would nowadays be illegal.
It is surprising that the 'Highgate Vampire' does not rival London’s other mysterious figures, namely 'Jack The Ripper' and 'Spring-Heeled Jack' in popularity. The hysteria surrounding the phenomenon has all but vanished since the 1970s, when thousands would flock to the cemetery for nightly vigils in search of the undead.
After the hysteria in the 1970s, the cemetery is now 'guarded’ by the 'Friends Of Highgate Cemetery' who allow access only by guided tour.
Whatever the truth is behind Highgate's monstrous abomination, many believe something did and still may lurk in that shadowy place and locals fear that perhaps the darkness may return one day.
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