Monday, June 10, 2013

One of The Worlds Most Haunted Places Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery, London England:

     Is a place of burial in north London, England. It is designated Grade I on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. It is divided into two parts, named the East and West cemetery. There are approximately 170,000 people buried in around 53,000 graves at Highgate Cemetery. Highgate Cemetery is notable both for some of the people buried there as well as for its de facto status as a nature reserve.
   The cemetery in its original form – the northwestern wooded area – opened in 1839, as part of a plan to provide seven large, modern cemeteries, known as the "Magnificent Seven", around the outside of central London. The inner-city cemeteries, mostly the graveyards attached to individual churches, had long been unable to cope with the number of burials and were seen as a hazard to health and an undignified way to treat the dead. The initial design was by architect and entrepreneur Stephen Geary.
   The cemetery's grounds are full of trees, shrubbery and wild flowers, all of which have been planted and grown without human influence. The grounds are a haven for birds and small animals such as foxes. The Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon (topped by a huge Cedar of Lebanon) feature tombs, vaults and winding paths dug into hillsides. For its protection, the oldest section, which holds an impressive collection of Victorian mausoleums and gravestones, plus elaborately carved tombs, allows admission only in tour groups. The newer eastern section, which contains a mix of Victorian and modern statuary, can be toured unescorted.
  
    The Highgate Vampire was a media sensation surrounding reports of supposed supernatural activity at Highgate Cemetery in London in the 1970s.
   The publicity was initiated by a group of young people interested in the occult who began roaming the overgrown and dilapidated cemetery in the late 1960s, a time when it was being much vandalised by intruders. On 21 December 1969 one of their members, David Farrant, spent the night there, according to his account written in 1991. In a letter to the Hampstead and Highgate Express on 6 February 1970, 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. On the 13th, several people replied, describing a variety of ghosts said to haunt the cemetery or the adjoining Swains Lane. These ghosts were described as a tall man in a hat, a spectral cyclist, a woman in white, a face glaring through the bars of a gate, a figure wading into a pond, a pale gliding form, bells ringing, and voices calling. Hardly two correspondents gave the same story.
    A second local man, Se├ín Manchester, was just as keen as Farrant to identify and eliminate what he and Farrant believed was a supernatural entity in the cemetery. The Hampstead and Highgate Express reported him on 27 February 1970 as saying that he 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. He said the right thing to do would be to stake the vampire's body, and then behead and burn it, but this would nowadays be illegal. The paper headlined this: 'Does a Vampyr walk in Highgate?'
Manchester later claimed, however, that the reference to 'a King Vampire from Wallachia' was a journalistic embellishment. Nevertheless, the 1985 edition of his book also speaks of an unnamed nobleman's body brought to Highgate in a coffin from somewhere in Europe.
In his interview of 27 February, Manchester offered no evidence in support of his theory. The following week, 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.
   Farrant was more hesitant in identifying the phenomenon he had seen. In some interviews he called it simply a ghost or spectre, sometimes he agreed that it might be vampiric. It is the 'vampire' label which has stuck.
   In later years, Manchester wrote his own account of his doings that night (The Highgate Vampire 1985; 2nd rev. ed. 1991). According to his narrative, he and some companions entered the cemetery, unobserved by the police, via the damaged railings of an adjoining churchyard, and tried to open the door of one particular catacomb to which a psychic sleepwalking girl had previously led him; but try as they might, it would not budge an inch. Failing in this, they climbed down on a rope through an existing hole in its roof, finding empty coffins into which they put garlic, and sprinkling holy water around.
   Some months later, on 1 August 1970 (Lammas Day), the charred and headless remains of a woman's body were found not far from the catacomb. The police suspected that it had been used in black magic. Soon after this incident, there was a noticeable surge in both Farrant's and Manchester's activities. Farrant was found by police in the churchyard beside Highgate Cemetery one night in August, carrying a crucifix and a wooden stake. He was arrested, but when the case came to court it was dismissed.
   A few days later Manchester returned to Highgate Cemetery, but in the daytime, when visits are allowed. Again, we must depend on his own published book for an account of his actions, since neither press nor police were present. He claims that this time he and his companions did succeed in forcing open, inch by inch, the heavy and rusty iron doors of a family vault (indicated by his female psychic helper). He lifted the massive lid off one coffin, believing it to have been mysteriously transferred there from the previous catacomb. He was about to drive a stake through the body it contained when a companion persuaded him to desist. Reluctantly, he shut the coffin, put garlic and incense in the vault, and came out from it.
   A later chapter of Manchester's book claims that three years afterwards he discovered a vampiric corpse (he implies that it was the same one) in the cellar of an empty house in the Highgate/Hornsey area, and staked and burned it.
   Manchester's story is full of melodramatic details mirroring the Dracula mythos: the sleepwalking girl; the vampire transported to England in a coffin; a coffined corpse 'gorged and stinking with the life-blood of others', with fangs and burning eyes; his own role as a Van Helsing figure. If he did indeed act as he describes, it can be regarded as a good example of what folklorists (following terminology established by Linda Degh) now call 'ostension' and legend tripping. This means the real-life imitation of elements from a well-known tale, often involving role-playing, and sometimes leading to ritual acts of vandalism and desecration.
  
    Heres what the vampire might look like, along with some other spirits you might come face to face with:
  
  • The most famous spook in this cemetery is The Highgate Vampire, who is not really a vampire in the classic sense, but a phantom that is described as a 7-foot-tall, dark male figure with piercing, hypnotic eyes and wearing a long black coat and high top hat; he seems to vanish into thin air. There have been several dozen sightings and encounters since the late 1960s.
  • A man whose car broke down near the cemetery came face to face with a ghoul with glowimg red eyes that peered at him through the graveyard's iron gates.
  • The ghost of an insane old woman has been seen racing among the gravestones, her gray hair flowing behind her as she searches for her children, whom she allegedly murdered.
  • A dark shrouded figure has been see standing stock still and staring into space. When it is approached, it vanishes then reappears a short distance away, still staring into the void.
  • A businessman was terrified by a phantom that jumped over the fence and landed right in front of him. He described it as having pointed ears, glowing eyes, and large nose. This might have been the infamous Spring-Heeled Jack.
  • The floating ghost of a nun has been seen passing over the graves.