Well, Blog time again, and as there has been so much interest in the Highgate ‘vampire’ case again recently, I thought I would post a couple of extracts where I deal with my thoughts on what might have been the causation of the phenomenon witnessed in and around Highgate Cemetery back in the late 1960s/early 1970s.
I was recently asked to talk about this strange case yet again recently which I did on Steve Genier’s “Nocturnal Frequency Radio” on April 1st) and also with Demian Allen for his show on Satellite TV.
But here is what I originally wrote about it, and please note, that as this is my book (available on Amazon), the copyright remains exclusively my own.
I have divided the extracts into two parts due to length, but hope you enjoy!
The Highgate Vampire, and Ley Lines?
GHOSTLY HAPPENINGS around Highgate are not only confined to Highgate Cemetery and The Flask. Ye Olde Gatehouse public house which stands proudly at the edge of Highgate Village, has long been associated with stories of a ‘ghost’, a tall black-cloaked figure with ghastly features that is supposed to wander the darkened corridors of the pub by night.
This spacious public house, in fact, is one of the earliest public houses – or inns – recorded in Highgate and almost overcrowds a narrow junction at the summit of Highgate Hill where several roads converge. Once the pub housed a tollgate that checked traffic approaching London from the Great North Road, although this was demolished before the turn of the century along with many others that fell into decline with the advancement of the railways. In its original form, however, (and records show that a licensed inn stood on the site as far back as 1337), Ye Olde Gatehouse was probably just a rural wayside inn that served the needs of a small community several miles from the Old City of London. What is known is that in medieval times this earlier inn stood at one of the entrances to a large hunting Park under the ecclesiastical ownership of the Bishop of London. This ‘Park’, in fact, then consisted of a large area of dense forest and probably had none of the landmarks that can now be identified with modern Highgate.
But aside from its historical heritage, Ye Olde Gatehouse has brought persistent rumours of a ‘sinister figure’, one of its favourite haunts being the Old Gallery – a large area overlooking a modern ballroom that has itself escaped much of the modernisation of the past two decades. Over the years, especially during the latter part of the sixties, (by coincidence, perhaps, the period that saw the emergence of the potent spate of psychic at Highgate Cemetery), the ‘Gatehouse ghost’ has been the subject of much controversy, much of which has also brought accusations of publicity-seeking against some previous landlords for using the ghost legend to attract clientele to the pub.
On the other hand, however, there is the possibility that the ghost itself is anxious to discourage this kind of activity for its appearances have been the cause for the resignation of several staff, including one former barmaid who swore that some overbearing ‘evil presence’ tried to strangle her when she was alone one night clearing up, and a previous landlord who was given hospital treatment for shock (his hair apparently turned white overnight) after he was confronted by something of ‘horrendous appearance’ in an upstairs room. He quickly gave up the tenancy but to this day mystery still surrounds the episode; speculation not exactly discouraged by Finch’s at the time (the then proprietors of the Gatehouse) who obstinately refused to discuss the incident.
One landlord, however, (who the author spoke personally to at the time) could certainly not be accused of promoting publicity for the pub. Ex-policeman Robert Melton took over the tenancy in 1968 – right at the peak of the ghostly manifestations – but he vehemently denied the existence of a ghost on the premises, although to some extent he lessened the validity of this statement by adamantly declaring that in his opinion ‘no such things existed’. Such a view, of course, must be respected (especially when dealing in the somewhat nebulous field of the unknown which, by its very nature, is likely to invite fantasy and exaggeration), but it should perhaps be remembered that blatant disbelief about ghosts might easily obscure otherwise relevant facts.
Certainly, it is the case that in attempting to uncover facts about ghostly phenomena a major difficulty often lies in locating reliable witnesses who have had first hand experiences, for it is often the case that much information turns out to be hearsay or personal opinions and beliefs not based on fact; either this, or mere repetition of facts that have already been well documented.
The Gatehouse phenomenon proved no exception to this rule, although in 1968 during the course of a BPOS investigation into the case, a unique account was forthcoming from a person claiming to have had a direct – if not what a somewhat unpleasant – with the ghost.
Mr. Tony Abbott of Highgate, had gone to the pub one evening in October 1966 with some friends to listen to the regular jazz band that played upstairs in the ballroom which contained a small bar. Around 10 p.m. he wandered into some adjacent rooms looking for the public telephone (which he was told was outside) systematically switching the lights on and off in each room.
All of a sudden, just along the passageway, Mr. Abbott saw a tall figure wearing a long cloak and a Guy Fawks-type hat. This seemed to appear from nowhere and was walking slowly forward with its back to him.
He followed, prompted mainly at this stage by curiosity and an intention to ask directions for the telephone, when the figure abruptly turned and disappeared noiselessly through a closed door. Believing this was due to some trick of the light, (the passageway was poorly lit and some doorways mingled into dark shadows), Mr. Abbott cautiously opened the door and switched on the light. Inside, was an unusual bell-tower-shaped room, but there was no sign of the figure or any exit through which it could have left.
Now, more than a little perturbed at having not noticed anybody dressed in this fashion in the pub, he decided to return to the bar but, at this moment, the light in the room suddenly went out and a low ‘rushing sound’ brought a surge of icy coldness that engulfed him at the door. For several seconds, he was unable to move, transfixed by some tremendous force that appeared to be trying to suffocate him.
Realising now that the ‘person’ he had seen was definitely not human, in a state of near-panic Mr. Abbott struggled desperately against his invisible ‘attacker’ when the malevolent force – or whatever it was – suddenly dispersed and he managed to return to the bar. He said nothing to his friends for fear of being disbelieved and it was not until some years later that he saw reports in the local Press about a ‘ghost’ at the Gatehouse, some of which described a figure which fitted the description of the figure he had seen.
Whatever the explanation for Mr. Abbott’s experience, it does at least go some way in confirming other reports about a ghost at Ye Olde Gatehouse. The exact origin of this phantom figure is, as yet, unclear but it is an interesting observation that Ye Olde Gatehouse is situated on a ‘ley line’. In fact, these lines run across many parts of the earth’s surface in direct alignment connecting many ancient sites and monuments, including stone circles and prehistoric burial mounds, as well as many churches that, it may be remembered, were invariably built upon earlier pagan sites of worship the intention probably being (concerning the latter) to convince the local populace that their beliefs were not being taken over, merely ‘updated’.
Lines were also marked by wells and ‘crossings’ over rivers and streams, but most frequently, stones were place along them at intervals to show the course or direction of a given line. . .
Extract from “Beyond the Highgate Vampire (4th Ed 2000) © David Farrant.
Part 2 to follow . .