Haunted Highgate by Della Farrant
Mention Highgate to most people and you can almost guarantee they will have heard of the ‘Vampire’ sightings – made famous in the 1970s and still captivating audiences to this day. I still remember the first time I heard of the Highgate Vampire and David Farrant, so out of all the books within the Haunted series, this one has been highly anticipated by myself and I have to say Della has not disappointed me.
As with the Haunted series, Della Farrant focuses on the whole area, covering a range of paranormal events within the book with specific chapters on Swains Lane, Highgate West and East Cemetery, local pub’s, houses, animals and nearby woods.
Della examines the local area which has long been steeped in paranormal occurrences and strange events. Swains Lane is an ancient droving road, used for centuries in taking swine to market at Spitalfields, a strange and eerily quiet road it now intersects the West and East cemetery. Having walked up and down it’s length during the day I can confidently say I would hesitate to walk it at night. As Della points out you are surrounded by hundred’s of thousands of London’s dead which does little to assuage a strong sense of foreboding.
A fairly recent account from 1996 is of a Ghost trying to hitch a ride in a local taxi – a newcomer to the area, Deborah was flagged down by a man in black clothes resembling Abraham Lincoln. Stopping alongside the cemetery entrance to offer a ride Deborah felt uneasy and drove away, looking back in her mirror the person had vanished where there was no easy place to disappear. The figure has been seen on numerous occasions, and by Deborah again. Legend has it the woman he loved is buried in the cemetery and he awaits her return to him.
Other tales based around Swains Lane include a Victorian Gentleman in Black who seems to feature in a number of different accounts and could all possibly linked to the same entity. Della is able to take us through each case, presenting the facts and incorporating the witness statements while at the same time leaving it up to the reader to reach their own conclusions. Another account by the North London Paranormal Investigations group features within the chapter on Swains Lane – without giving to much away it makes for an interesting read and provides the reader with background information on the murky world of Victorian body snatchers.
Highgate Cemetery West is a remarkable site – the chapter starts with a great overview of it’s history and how it expanded and developed as the fashion for elaborate mausoleums grew. An account from 1969 told to David Farrant by an elderly female describes a tall dark man hovering above the grounds just inside the main gate, disappearing before her eyes as it came towards her. Similar sightings have also been reported about this ‘huge, towering dark presence’.
Della goes on to give us an excellent account of her husband visiting the cemetery to see for himself if he could explain anything about these sightings – she goes on to talk in detail about his encounter with this spiritual apparition and the even mentions the Qabalistic incantation David used to disturb the entity before it disappeared.
The attraction of people to the cemetery in the 1960s and 70s included a number of magical and occult groups, an account from the British Psychic and Occult Society who in 1971 conducted a ritual within the cemetery causing an entity to briefly manifest. The increase in activity had seen David Farrent arrested the previous year by the Police, and accused of ‘Vampire Hunting’ – charges were later dropped. Della gives a good account of the drama surrounding this and the subsequent damage done to the cemetery through vandalism.
Moving onto the East Cemetery one account features a spectral female sighted within the grounds, supposedly a mad woman who’s murdered children are buried within.
When I visited Highgate a couple of years ago I had a meal in the Gatehouse pub, one of the notable landmarks in the area, it has been a public house since 1670 and it has it’s own haunting tales to tell which Della covers in this next chapter – accounts include a resident ghost known as ‘Mother Marnes’ who was reputedly murdered in the seventeenth century, and has had various sightings over the years. Another ghost seemingly has a shoe fetish, with shoes disappearing and reappearing again later! A second pub in Highgate, The Flask, has at least four ghosts within it’s walls – including a spectral Spanish barmaid and an apparition of a Cavalier seen in 2012 disappearing through a wall.
Della continues in the book with a chapter on haunted houses, showing us that not all the activity in Highgate is located around the cemetery and pubs – The house that dripped blood is a particularly gruesome paranormal account. Further tales of ghostly activity include a haunted housing estate, a haunted scout hut and magic ritual remains discovered in a house during renovations. A brooding spectre was reputedly see at a local landmark known as ‘Suicide Bridge’ and there is an interesting account of activity in Cromwell Avenue which remains unresolved to this day.
The final two chapters cover animal ghosts and the local woods – although not as extensive as the previous chapters there are some interesting tales and accounts covered by Della here, and they add to the overall breadth of hauntings within the Highgate area.
Overall it’s a good book to read, Della features a lot of extracts and interviews with witnesses and it’s nice to have the first hand accounts from the people involved. If you are visiting London then I well recommend a visit to Highgate – take a copy of this book with you and walk the streets, see the surrounding area and if you can book onto a tour of the cemetery then you should take the opportunity.
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: The History Press (6 Oct. 2014)
Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 0.7 x 23.4 cm