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Highgate Cemetery was the setting for Britain’s creepiest feud, as a new show reveals

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Satanism, sex rituals, a vampire, a bizarre feud and the bodies of some of the most famous people in the world – this story has it all. The Highgate Vampire is a relatively recent legend in vampire lore, and while it may exist, it is more likely the figment of two very vivid imaginations.

Now a new TV show, The Curse Of The Highgate Vampire, tells the story and asks you to make a decision.

It all started with a letter in the local newspaper The Hampstead & Highgate Express in February 1970 about Highgate Cemetery in north London, the beautiful Gothic final resting place of the likes of Karl Marx, artist Henry Moore and George Michael.

The letter was from a man named David Farrant, who owned a local tobacconist’s shop, and had written that he had seen something strange there.

Three YouTube paranormal investigators set out to explore the legends of North London’s Highgate Cemetery. Pictured: David Farrant claiming to have seen something strange in the cemetery in 1970

“On three occasions I have seen within the gates of Highgate Cemetery what resembles a ghostly figure,” he wrote, certainly not realizing that this letter would turn his life completely upside down.

As the show reveals, Farrant himself was the person most cursed by this story.

The following week, the same paper featured letters from several other people who also claimed to have witnessed ghostly events at the cemetery, and Farrant became obsessed with finding out more.

He was convinced that satanic rituals had taken place in the graveyard and that people practicing dark magic had somehow conjured up an evil entity that was now trapped in our realm. The more he examined it, the more it consumed him.

His son Jamie was a toddler at the time, while his wife was pregnant with their second child. “My mom said that’s when the madness started,” Jamie recalls on the show.

“Daddy saw something that terrified him and it took over his life.” Jamie’s mother left the family home with her son, and Jamie did not see his father for the next 40 years.

Meanwhile, Farrant was attracting more and more attention with his stories of strange things going on in Highgate – headless foxes, apparitions, black magic.

Sean Manchester (pictured), who claimed to be president of the British Occult Society, said he spoke to people visited by a vampire

Sean Manchester (pictured), who claimed to be president of the British Occult Society, said he spoke to people visited by a vampire

Then a man named Sean Manchester, who claimed to be president of the British Occult Society, announced that he had spoken to two local witnesses who had been awakened by a strange man in their bedrooms, a man with ‘the expression of an animal’, he said.

And he claimed that a third woman woke up with two red spots on her neck. This wasn’t just any creep, he announced, but a vampire. And not just any vampire either, but a “king” vampire like Dracula.

His revelations spread, but Farrant never believed there was a vampire, he was convinced it was another terrifying entity instead.

There was an iron stake stuck in the coffin

Things came to a head on Friday 13th March 1970 at midnight, when ITV announced it would be at ‘witch hour’ in the cemetery to interview both Farrant and Manchester, who had promised with growing animosity between them to to the truth.

When crowds of vampire hunters began to gather, 40 police officers were called in to keep order. They failed as desperate crowds climbed the railings armed with crucifixes, stakes, knives and beer bottles.

Strange happenings in the cemetery inspired the Hammer horror film Dracula AD1972, which starred Christopher Lee as the vampire who preys on young Londoners (file image)

Strange happenings in the cemetery inspired the Hammer horror film Dracula AD1972, which starred Christopher Lee as the vampire who preys on young Londoners (file image)

There were screams in the darkness as vampire hunters tripped over each other. The cemetery was desecrated, several graves were uncovered, and one was even found with an iron stake inserted into the coffin.

No ghoul was found, but police began patrolling the cemetery to make sure neither Farrant nor Manchester were lurking. However, strange things continued to happen, graves were driven out and there was evidence of Satanism.

In August 1970, the charred and decapitated body of a woman, recovered from a grave, was found on the road outside the cemetery. Later that month, Farrant was arrested in a nearby graveyard with a crucifix and stake.

FORBIDDEN RITUALS

Determined to solve the mystery, David Farrant began participating in rituals of black magic in cemeteries and crypts.

David Farrant began participating in black magic rituals in hopes of learning more about the strange happenings

David Farrant began participating in black magic rituals in hopes of learning more about the strange happenings

In recently unearthed footage revealed in the new show, he admits: “I experimented with forbidden rituals, some of which involved sex. I felt that was a key to reaching other levels of consciousness.

“It is said that anyone who tries this could become possessed or insane. I don’t regret it, no one was ever hurt, but it did give me a bad reputation.”

The story inspired the Hammer horror film Dracula AD1972, starring Christopher Lee as the vampire who preys on young Londoners. Meanwhile, the war of words between Farrant and Manchester escalated.

Manchester published a book called The Highgate Vampire, and Farrant followed it up with a book called Beyond The Highgate Vampire. At some point in 1973 they were supposed to have a series of “swords and sorcery” duels and rumors circulated that the two were planning to sacrifice a cat in front of naked virgins.

When a local man’s cat failed to return home that day, Farrant immediately became a suspect.

The duels never took place and in 1974 Farrant was arrested again near the cemetery and convicted of damaging memorials and disturbing the remains. He spent three years in prison.

Meanwhile, Manchester claimed to have tracked the vampire down to a house nearby, where he stuck a stake into his body and set it on fire. The feud didn’t end until Farrant died in 2019.

So what’s the truth? The new show sent three YouTube paranormal investigators to the graveyard this summer where – amid much shouting – they encountered ghostly events, including, they claim, an entity that said his name was David.

There are intriguing images of what appears to be a ghost. While these investigations have been blocked in the cemetery since the 1970s, don’t be surprised if this show brings them back to life.

The Curse Of The Highgate Vampire streams on Discovery+ on Friday, October 29.

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