Sunday, 13 March 2016

Forbidden History

(Click to view the entire programme.)

Forbidden History, now in its third series on the "Yesterday" channel, is one of those programmes that chooses sensationalist subjects but after viewing frequently leaves its audience with a feeling of disappointment. The programme about vampires, transmitted last Friday, had all the ingredients of a topic that would hold the viewer's attention. Inevitably and inexorably, by the time it reached its climax with the Highgate case at the top of the vampire menu, disappointment was all they could evoke. Seán Manchester wrote to the series director and producer. It is now understood that Forbidden History accepts that a mistake was made on their part, and they have agreed to pay an appropriate compensatory sum to Seán Manchester for illicitly using his image in their programme.

Seán Manchester wrote:


Forty-one minutes into the programme, a black and white photograph of me appears for seven seconds.

I am the lawful and exclusive copyright owner of that image which shows me standing by the North Gate in Swains Lane, Highgate.

To add insult to injury, my image has been used in the programme to support the words of a charlatan who has shamelessly exploited my work for his own self-serving ends and voracious appetite for publicity for over four decades.

The photograph has been filched from somewhere I have had it legitimately published. If you intended to airbrush the author of The Highgate Vampire from your coverage of the case you should not have included this photograph.

When Andrew Gough, a personal friend of Farrant for some years, first approached me about this programme last year he assured me that "David [Farrant] would not be interviewed." (See below).

Having been a contributor to television for almost half a century, I naturally take nothing I am told at face value. I feel that my persona has been seriously abused by linking me to anything this Farrant character claims.

Most in the section on Highgate is misleading and factually inaccurate. There is enough evidence on public record, however, to have avoided this occurring, even if you expurgated, as you clearly did, all reference to those who actually investigated the case.


†Seán Manchester

Seán Manchester had fittingly and somewhat ironically written on his website on 13 December 2013:

"I quickly came to realise many years ago that interviewers, regardless of the subject, simply do not know the right questions and the questions are every bit as important as the answers. Another problem in the new century has been one of trust. Seldom have I encountered an interviewer in recent years who keeps his or her word. Consequently, any condition I might have set for providing a contribution was frequently and almost immediately compromised. Without trust and a sense of honour there is nothing. I cannot interact in that way and would rather stay silent than witness yet another agreement broken. I am still having to regularly turn down television and radio interview requests, along with a plethora of other invitations to partake in projects that would maintain a perception of me remaining a public figure."

Despite Andrew Gough's assurance to Seán Manchester that "David Farrant would not be interviewed," in actual fact, Farrant was the only contemporary person who was interviewed about the vampiric goings-on at Highgate. Others who offered their opinions throughout the programme, whether about Highgate or not, were hardened sceptics who view everything in purely materialistic terms. They approached the subject of vampires from a scientific point of view. The problem is that the supernatural cannot be approached in that way because it transgresses the laws of science.

Seán Manchester states in his correspondence to the programme's director that "the section on Highgate is misleading and factually inaccurate." Let's examine that section to see what he means.

Thirty-four minutes into the documentary it finally reaches what a lot of people will have been waiting for when they first began watching: the case of the Highgate Vampire. What the viewer ends up with is a young American woman proclaiming that the Highgate story is "the ultimate British B movie" with "someone running around claiming he's chasing vampires." While this is being stated the viewers are shown Roger Simpson's article about David Farrant's penchant for sacrificing cats in Highgate Woods that appeared in the Hornsey Journal, 13 August 1973, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the case of the Highgate Vampire. Forbidden History is careful not to reveal the article's headline: "Cat's throat slit during witchcraft ritual in woods." Cat's throat slit by Farrant according to Farrant himself!

Next, while being shown posed images from TitBits magazine of Farrant prancing about in Highgate Cemetery, we are told "a group of ghost hunters in the 1960s, 1970s were ghost hunting in Highgate Cemetery, and one of them spent the night there and believes he saw a ghost, a figure dressed in a cape wandering through Highgate Cemetery." This is clearly a reference to Farrant who did not describe anything "dressed in a cape" and whose wife at the time, Mary, stated under oath at the Old Bailey during his criminal trials in 1974: "We would go in, frighten ourselves to death and come out again. It was just a silly sort of thing that you do after the pubs shut." Mrs Farrant added that her husband’s friends who joined in the late night jaunts were not involved in witchcraft or the occult.

We are then told about Satanists who broke into Highgate Cemetery, exhumed a corpse and  "hammered a metal stake through the coffin lid and through the heart of the person in the grave."  None of which happened, needless to say. Yet, as the viewer is told about these Satanists, they are shown simultaneously a 1972 photograph of David Farrant and Victoria Jervis being arrested in Monken Hadley churchyard in High Barnet, which owes no connection to the the Highgate case.

Viewers are at last treated to something that at least vaguely relates to the cemetery vampire case, albeit in a sensationalist article by Barrie Simmons in the Evening News, 16 October 1970,  covering the antics of the publicity-seeker where he is portrayed as a rank amateur with a protective cross comprising of two twigs held together by a shoelace, plus a Sainsbury's carrier bag for his stakes.

Presenter Jamie Theakston informs viewers that he has "come to Highgate" to meet David Farrant, but Farrant, who hasn't lived in Highgate for four and a half decades, actually lives in Muswell Hill. Theakston interviews him in his bedsit at the top of a house in Muswell Hill Road. He asks Farrant what it was he saw on that night inside Highgate Cemetery, but Farrant's original letter to the editor of the Hampstead & Highgate Express explicitly states that it was while walking along Swains Lane as he passed the North Gate that he saw something on the other side of the iron railings. A description of something as tall as the iron North Gate is alleged while simultaneously the massive stone arch leading to the Circle of Lebanon, which is at the heart of the graveyard, is shown on screen. While all this is being explained, the above image of Farrant armed with a crude wooden cross and stake emerges on the screen. Farrant has always previously insisted that he doesn't believe in vampires and  has never seriously sought them out. This is not a revelation made on Forbidden History

As a press cutting of the outcome of his criminal trials at the Old Bailey is shown, Theakston asks Farrant why he was arrested and allows Farrant get away with answering: "I was arrested and charged with indecency in a churchyard." True. He was found guilty of indecency in 1972, but the press cutting related to his trials two years later at which he was found guilty of graveyard desecration and tomb vandalism relating to Highgate Cemetery, threatening witnesses with black magic in an attempt to pervert the course of justice in the trial of a self-proclaimed Satanist who was and still remains his colleague, possession of a firearm and ammunition, plus theft from a hospital.

None of which is mentioned or alluded to, apart from one press cutting, throughout the documentary.

At this point, Andrew Gough proclaims that Farrant "headed the British Occult Society and had a really important role in the whole Highgate Vampire story." Nothing could be further from the truth.

"He's the one going into the tombs and uncovering the fact that satanic rituals were going on there."

"He's the one who identifies this entity, as trying to be manifested, and he's the one who kind of goes on this journey to find the vampire."

Or so claims Andrew Gough who is pictured with David Farrant in the latter's Muswell Hill bedsit. The girl at the centre is an acquaintance of Gough's whose curiosity must have got the better of her.

The fact is that Farrant was exposed by the British Occult Society from very early on. He has had no connection with that organisation beyond pretending to be associated to bolster his own publicity-seeking pranks. Newspapers invariably added to any such claim he made the prefix "self-styled."

Far from being the one who uncovered satanic rituals in tombs, Farrant was found guilty by a jury at the Old Bailey in the summer of 1974 of causing the satanic symbols and thereby rituals in tombs.

Gough's claim that Farrant went on a journey to find the vampire is perhaps the most absurd statement of all. Farrant has spent most of his life strenuously denying the existence of vampires and all newspaper reports that briefly in August 1970 he adopted the role of a "vampire hunter."

"Curiously, to this day, there are reports in Swains Lane of civilians reporting to the police of a tall man walking across the street with dark, piercing red eyes; walking across the street and through the wall. This gets reported to the police every two or three years," claims Andrew Gough near the end.

This is untrue, as the police themselves will confirm. There have been no credible witnesses since the 1960s and early 1970s. Recent claimants have turned out to be associates of one man: Farrant.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Occult Duel

Jacqueline Simpson was born in 1930 and is a resident of Worthing, Sussex. She was president of the Folklore Society from 1993 to 1996 and has also been its honorary secretary. She published exceptionally misleading and grossly inaccurate statements in a book she co-wrote called The Lore of the Land, having placed reliance on her American colleague Bill Ellis whose flawed material inRaising the Devil is equally, if not more, unreliable. Some of the press cuttings referred to in Ellis' book are wrongly attributed and his writing is exceptionally biased, as is Simpson's for the same reason, because the supernatural is summarily dismissed. Ellis wrote the following response when Seán Manchester brought to his attention irrefutable evidence - in the form of copies of original reports - of his many erroneous and false attributions: “... we agree that the contemporary press handling was often inaccurate, and that most subsequent discussions were even more distorted. ...”

Jacqueline Simpson’s terse response to Seán Manchester's concern over her damaging mistakes being repeated in a pending second edition of The Lore of the Land were to appear on the internet:

“Wording changed to 'young people' and 'young man'. Name of organisation dropped, Farrant referred to simply as a 'member' of 'a group of young people interested in the paranormal.' Words 'which the paper called' inserted. No reference now to who did the challenging. Instead, neutral phrasing in allusion to press reports: 'rumours spread that a magical duel ...' The other points are rejected, and no changes will be made there.”

Unlike Bill Ellis, she has always refused to engage in any correspondence with Seán Manchester who kindly sent her copies of newspaper articles and a complimentary CD relevant to the Highgate Vampire case. While she proved most unfriendly towards Seán Manchester, she gladly agreed to speak at Farrant's Symposium held over a Highgate pub in July 2015 in order to dismiss the Highgate case further whilst inserting unprofessional, untrue and snide comments about Seán Manchester.

This is how some supposed “scholars” apparently operate. Simpson's paperback edition contained an incorrect date for a crucial newspaper article about the mysterious death of foxes even though she had cleared that up to her own satisfaction in advance. All reference to Seán Manchester's episcopal standing, albeit not entirely accurate in the first edition, was completely expurgated. She seems to know next to nothing about the case apart from what other people have published or claimed on the internet. Yet Jacqueline Simpson is entirely responsible for the Wikipedia entry about the Highgate Vampire. What she has written is full of error and totally reliant on her colleague in the United States who opted to interview Farrant in July 1992. It had already been established that he would not be able to interview both David Farrant and Seán Manchester. He had to choose. Farrant obviously provided Bill Ellis with highly prejudiced material and selected press cuttings most favourable to himself.

Bill Ellis coverage of the so-called occult duel is based on whatever press cuttings he was given by David Farrant. Ellis, therefore, provides only Farrant’s perverse version of what was described in the sensational press as a “magical duel” in 1973. Ellis writes in his book Raising the Devil“Shortly before the event, a tabloid press article muddied the water by claiming that both Manchester and Farrant intended to slaughter a cat in front of an assembly of naked witches.” Ellis does not identify the newspaper in his text, but this is what the Sunday Mirror, 8 April 1973, actually reported alongside a photograph of Farrant with a naked girl: “The bizarre ceremony will involve naked witches, demon-raisings and the slaughter of a cat.” Seán Manchester is quoted, saying: “My opponent intends to raise a demon to destroy me by killing a cat - I will be relying solely on divine power.” Farrant insisted: “Blood must be spilled, but the cat will be anaesthetised.” The Sun newspaper, 23 November 1972, had earlier quoted Seán Manchester stating that Farrant’s boasts ought to be put to the test: “The quickest way to destroy the credibility of a witch trying to earn a reputation for himself is to challenge his magical ability before objective observers.” Yet unlike the print media, who did invite versions from both sides, no balancing comment was sought from Seán Manchester by Ellis, and certainly not by Simpson. Seán Manchester told what really happened in a work Ellis refers to in passing in his text - From Satan To Christ - which he nonetheless chose to completely ignore. The notorious posters advertising the “duel” were traced at the time to David Farrant who had engaged a small printing company used by him on earlier occasions. Ellis repeats Farrant’s falsehood to imply that Seán Manchester was responsible for these posters. Yet even Brian Netscher, editor of New Witchcraft, revealed in his magazine’s first issue: “As to the ‘test of powers’ challenge, it is a matter of public record that Mr Farrant not only accepted it but publicised it widely in the national press and by means of a rather crudely-made poster.” Seán Manchester wrote in From Satan To Christ“There was no sign of Farrant. He had been fearlessly called to account and, like so many others who use witchcraft to instil dread, could not fulfill the least of his claims when the day of reckoning arrived. … Farrant’s excuse was that he would have been lynched by the crowd of onlookers whose arrival was entirely due to the publicity he had created in the preceding weeks.”

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Highgate's Portal

Seán Manchester's early recollection of Highgate Cemetery:

It was a very long time ago that I first came across the sloping field of crumbling masonry. I took the right-hand path. It swept steeply upward - towards, from my perspective, uncharted territory.

What brought me to this eerie landscape still escapes me; other than to say I was drawn for some inexplicable reason. I was struck on that day by the odd fact that no birds sang and there were no other people in the vicinity. Indeed, I met not a solitary soul on that first visit. Continuing along the silent, tree-shrouded route, I slowly stopped, sensing something strange and sinister in my midst.

It was the sombre pathway to an iron door, the inner circle and beating heart of the steep hill sewn with corpses that had a mystery and atmosphere like no other. The path led darkly to the portal.

This is an artistic impression of my first encounter. It shows me facing away from the portal and yet eerily drawn back to it - as if something unnatural was pulling me into a metaphysical realm.

These are my last artistic impressions, showing the figure further along the path, but still facing away from the door; inwardly sensing the untold horrors that lay behind it; yet unable to resist.

The view in the opposite direction, ie down the leaf-strewn pathway from the portal's perspective.

Returning for the last time to the lane where the unearthly had been experienced many years prior, I cast a lingering glance through the bars of the now permanently closed cemetery's north gate.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Secret Exorcism at Highgate Tomb

In the summer of 1970, both vampiric and satanic outrages were occurring at London's Highgate Cemetery, culminating in the press learning of Seán Manchester's secret exorcism of a tomb:

Such exorcisms were not uncommon and a theory about Satanists summoning an erstwhile dormant vampire had already become established in some quarters. This exorcism was reconstructed two months later by the BBC for their television documentary programme 24 Hours, 15 October 1970.

"The best advice I can give is to avoid involvement in the dark occult, ie Left-hand Path occultism, and do not seek the malign supernatural. Leave well alone. The Devil can tempt us, but he cannot touch us directly unless we open the door and let him in. We should not fear Satan and his demonic horde, but neither should we look for him in the day to day happenings of our life. There are positive aspects of the supernatural such as healing, miracles and visions. Phenomena that once existed with regard to places on any proposed Highgate Vampire tour list no longer afflict those places today, and all one can do is visit areas where something is alleged to have once occurred in the past, and very well might have done so back then. But nothing vampiric or demonic remains today.

"This is certainly true of Highgate Cemetery where a demonic contamination was in evidence over forty years ago, but no longer is there evidence of that manifestation at any of the places associated with the case which was finally closed in 1982. The neo-Gothic mansion was demolished back in the 1970s, and Highgate Cemetery has been regularly maintained and patrolled by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery (FoHC) since the graveyard was relinquished by the private owners, the London Cemetery Company, during the time of the terrifying supernatural occurrences. These reached back many years. The eleven acre woodland graveyard that once comprised part of the Great Northern London Cemetery where a secondary contagion occurred, linked to Highgate, was built on by property developers soon after the unearthly incidents and exorcism of same took place. Little remains to visit and certainly nothing directly associated with the infestation itself."

(Seán Manchester, from his writings regarding the occult.)

Monday, 13 July 2015

Highgate 71 Revisited

A small sample of what is being exhibited. Monochrome images displayed below were first published in their original form in either one or both editions of The Highgate Vampire (1985 & 1991) by †Seán Manchester.

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Largest Vampire Hunt of the 20th Century

It began like most days when the cold winter won't go away. The bitterness of former weeks not only intensified as the unseasonal snow refused to melt away, but somehow seemed to be growing worse.

Today is the forty-fifth anniversary of a Friday the 13th that would go down in the annals of history as the largest vampire hunt of the twentieth century. How did it arise? What led up to it happening?

Gerald Isaaman, editor of the Hampstead & Highgate Express in those far off distant days, recently recounted his meeting with Seán Manchester in February 1970: "Manchester arrived at the office wearing a black cloak lined with scarlet silk and carrying a cane." Isaaman forgot to mention the top hat and tails that were included with the opera cloak and cane. There was also an accompanying young lady, also not mentioned, who was equally formally-attired. It was late in the afternoon and Seán Manchester had no idea how long the interview that had been requested of him would take. 

He and his lady friend were dressed ready to go on to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, from the Hampstead offices of the Hampstead & Highgate Express. He frequently attended the opera in those days and continued to do so whilst in London, always preferring the correct dress code. 

The elderly and now ex-editor reminisced in Jauary 2009:

"The story of the Highgate Vampire [in a recently published book about London's folklore] is attributed to 1970 reports in the Ham & High, where I was then the editor. It recalled the fantastic events of a few months that year and the following one, which culminated in a TV programme inviting people to decide for themselves what was going on. That resulted in three hundred people, allegedly armed with home-made stakes and Christian crosses, storming the cemetery that night to kill the demon vampire lurking among the decaying tombs."

In fact, there was considerably more than three hundred people on the hunt that night for Highgate's vampire. They were there because of a broadcast earlier that evening which brought the case to a much wider audience. There was no announcement by the team officially investigating the mysterious happenings at the cemetery that they would be embarking upon a vampire hunt that night even though that was the case. The official hunt had been planned in private for some time.

Two weeks earlier, also on a Friday the 13th, the Hampstead & Highgate Express had posed the question "Does a wampyr walk in Highgate?" to its readers in the form of a front-page headline. The results of Seán Manchester's conversation with Gerald Isaaman were contained, albeit with considerable journalistic embellishment and misquoting by the newspaper, beneath the headline. This led to wider media interest to the dismay of Seán Manchester who felt pressured to reveal what he and his team of researchers knew about the supernatural and satanic elements present in Highgate.

Thus the mass vampire hunt at Highgate Cemetery on the night of Friday the 13th of March 1970, followed reports in local and national newspapers, but was mostly triggered by a television interview with various witnesses earlier that evening on British television. It also led to a spate of amateur vampire hunters inflicting themselves on the cemetery with home-made stakes, crosses, garlic, holy water, but very little knowledge about how to deal with any suspected undead if they encountered it. 

The president of the British Occult Society had made an appeal on the Today programme at 6.00pm to request the public not to get involved, nor put into jeopardy the investigation already in progress. Not everyone heeded his words. Over the following months a wide variety of independent vampire hunters descended on the graveyard — only to be frightened off by its eerie atmosphere and what they believed might have been the vampire. Some were quickly arrested by police patrolling the area. The public were advised that a full-scale investigation was taking place. Individual efforts by those merely seeking thrills, however, served only to endanger all concerned and frustrate the official hunt.

The image above shows a member of the official vampire hunt that was led by Seán Manchester.

Folk feared encountering the vampire, but nothing dissuaded them on Friday 13 March 1970.

Many myths and misleading assumptions have clouded the true events surrounding the largest vampire hunt to have taken place in the twentieth century which would later be recorded in The Highgate Vampire book written by Seán Manchester. Such speculation has inevitably been the opinion of those too young to have been properly aware of the event, and those not born at the time.

It has been erroneously claimed, for example, that the mass vampire hunt on that night caused damage and led to a spate of wanton vandalism. Nothing could be further from the truth. There had certainly been acts of vandalism in the previous decade which were evident to anyone visiting, but no damage occurred on the night of 13 March 1970. With the world's spotlight now focused on Highgate Cemetery in the period following the famous hunt, vandalism significantly decreased. Such rare acts that did occur were invariably carried out by black magicians, as happened in August 1970 when three schoolgirls discovered a hundred-year-old corpse strewn across a cemetery path with evidence of a satanic ceremony having taken place in the immediate vicinity. No investigating vampire hunters were accused, much less found guilty, of causing any damage. The worst that happened to any subsequent visiting would-be amateur vampire hunters was that they were arrested for being in the cemetery during the dark hours with a caution for potential unlawful intent.

For example, Simon Wiles and John White armed themselves with a crucifix and a sharpened stake, and set off to see if they could locate the vampire’s tomb. Like others who followed in their wake, they were arrested by police who inspected their rucksack and its contents. Inside was an eight inch long wooden stake, sharpened to a point. John White later explained at Clerkenwell Court: “Legend has it that if one meets a vampire, one drives a stake through its heart.” He was wearing a crucifix round his neck and Simon Wiles had one in his pocket. They were eventually discharged.

Who remembers these amateur thrill-seekers now? Yet the mass vampire hunt, involving hundreds, that took place on the night of 13 March 1970, became quickly etched onto the pages of history.