Interview with Rob Brautigam of International Vampire Magazine
This article first appeared in International Vampire Magazine Issue 18, August 1995.
In your book, you consider the possibility that the phenomena in Highgate Cemetery might have had something of a vampirical nature. Is there anything among the facts that you have found that seems to point in that direction?
DAVID FARRANT: Firstly, I think it is important to point out that my book BEYOND THE HIGHGATE VAMPIRE was initially written to clarify all the facts into an unexplained phenomenon at Highgate Cemetery (not necessarily a “vampire”); and perhaps equally important to stress at the onset, that this investigation at Highgate Cemetery was only one of many investigations by the British Psychic and Occult Society into cases of unexplained phenomena and such like all over the country; indeed, not only confined to this country.
Unfortunately it transpired that this particular investigation into an alleged “vampire” at Highgate Cemetery (which began in 1969, or at least was officially instigated in that year) got “slightly out of hand”. I was arrested during the course of this particular investigation and accused of being in the Cemetery with the intention of “hunting a vampire” – the latter label having already become well established by sensational Press speculation, provoked by the claims of other vampire enthusiasts who laid claim to the theory that the unexplained phenomenon – or “ghost” reported in and around the Cemetery at that time – was indeed … a vampire.
Why was I inclined to admit or suggest that this particular entity or phenomenon pointed towards being “vampirical”? … Well, during the course of the investigation it came to light that at least two independent people had been physically attacked by some unknown person or entity whilst they were passing the Cemetery late at night. They were thrown to the ground with considerable force by a figure that literally disappeared into nowhere: despite the fact that where these attacks occurred – in a small lane running alongside the Cemetery – the area was boarded by 12 foot high walls.
Now – I’m always asking that question – how would you define a “vampire”?
DAVID FARRANT: I do not believe in “vampires” in the commercially accepted sense of the word … i.e. physical figures or entities that go around draining victims of their blood in order to ensure “life everlasting”. This concept probably derived from a much older psychic concept (some would argue a “psychic reality”) of the incubus and succubus – male and female spirits or demons respectively, that have, since time immemorial, been reported as visiting sleeping people by night and “immobilising” their semi-conscious victims with erotic fantasies; even depleting them of mental energy and blood. Victims of these psychic attacks invariably report bouts of dizziness and anaemia – although no blood has been physically taken.
To you personally, which elements are the most essential parts of “vampirism”? I mean, the blood drinking, the parasitism, life beyond death, immortality etc., etc.)
DAVID FARRANT: Here we are dealing with two different elements … i.e. the difference between pseudo vampirism – such as that on behalf of newly formed cults who imitate what they see in commercial vampire films, such as the literal drinking of blood, etc. – and actual vampire occurrences as and when they are reported to occur. I have already dealt with the latter, (albeit briefly) and can only add in relation to the former, that unfortunately, it sees that many are attracted to “vampirism” as such, because this possibly provides some easy answer to the problems of “life and death” – immortality, etc. – and some thus find an “easy escape” from the very real, and often tragic, problems of existence.
That gives us your views on pseudo-vampirism and takes care of fictional vampires and such. Nevertheless I’m still curious to hear your defination of REAL vampirism. Let me rephrase my question: WHAT, in YOUR opinion, is the essence of REAL vampirism?
DAVID FARRANT: I think I have already made it clear that I do not believe in “vampires” in the commercial sense of the word, i.e. “undead” beings or entities that literally rise from the grave at night to feast upon the blood of the living, and that the symptoms claimed by some people who have encountered such “psychic attacks” or nightly visitations (i.e. being hypnotised or rendered immobile by some unseen force that supposedly causes anaemia or has some kind of sexual intention), could easily be mistaken or confused with age-old accounts of the incubus or succubus – earthbound entities that are supposed to “attack” selected people by night. So much is fact – in fact these psychic entities together with all their malign intentions, have been recorded since the dawn of recorded history – but to confuse or invent a connection of these relatively common-place phenomena with “blood-sucking” vampires (themselves perhaps a glorified deviation of a legend already in existence), is a fact I must refute or deny.
I am not attempting to evade your question. However, I felt this merited some clarification. I could have probably have put this far more precisely by simply saying that I do not believe in, or accept, any forms of “external evil”; the devil, “vampires” and such included. This is in no way a denial of my work into the existence of psychic phenomena. Perhaps I could put it this way … Whilst having come to accept that many ghostly phenomena exist within their own right ( I am referring here to reports of many ghostly apparitions that I am called in to investigate all over the country), does not necessarily mean I believe in ghosts that reputedly go around “carrying their heads” and “clanking chains”. The same is true of any reports I am asked to investigate that might involve so-called “vampiristic activity”.
In BTHV you mention that, before you did the Highgate Investigation, you had “previous experience with potentially malevolent psychic forces”. Now when, why and how did your first start investigating these psychic phenomena?
DAVID FARRANT: A loaded question ! The simple answer is that I have always had an interest in the paranormal – an interest probably influenced by or inherited from my mother who was deeply involved in spiritualism, etc. I feel in retrospect that I was greatly influenced by her “non-materialistic” approach to life and its so-called physical laws to this end naturally progressed from there. It would have been at the age of 14 or 15 that I really began to become drawn into matters which – can we say – lay beyond the normal realms of secular existence.
Over the years you must have done quite a lot of field work as an occult investigator. Apart from the manifestations in Highgate Cemetery, have you ever encountered any other phenomena that might be considered to be of a somewhat “vampirical” nature?
DAVID FARRANT: My research over the years has certainly led me to experience certain “non-physical” experiences. I would be reluctant to say that I have witnessed “vampires” on countless occasions ! Nevertheless, I have experienced many instances of psychic occurrences which could not be explained by normal means to say the least. Most of these occurrences remain of a highly personal nature and are beyond the confines of a short question. But I have frequently witnessed (whilst keeping a nightly vigil at some potentially haunted site, for example) “fleeting figures” that apparently come from nowhere and just as abruptly disappear, drastic changes of temperature at some “haunted” sites for no apparent reason, and I have witnessed material objects being moved – but not of their own volition. Well, more besides; but I am only attempting to answer your question in as short a means as possible.
In BTHV you make reference to “malevolent forces” and “entities of a malignant disposition”. Do you think that psychic phenomena can be “malevolent” or “benevolent”?
DAVID FARRANT: Here we are approaching an extremely complex subject and without wishing to evade the question in any way, the answer must be “yes” and “no”. For your question is really based upon a premise that I can not initially accept( i.e. the universal belief in good and evil as external realities) and is therefore extremely difficult to answer either simply or correctly from this given standpoint. But I’ll try .. In my line of research, the possibility of “malevolent” or “benevolent” spirits does not really arise. I do not accept that good and evil are attributes that can be attributed to “spirits” so-called or other “non-worldly” forces. “Good” and “evil” are really only conceptions of the human mind (in fact, just opposite sides of the same coin) and exist only as mental concepts (albeit sometimes with seemingly horrendous reality); just that. To ascribe such attributes to those seemingly “dead” – in the form of spirits or whatever – is really to miss the point. Good and evil might well exist, but can only do so in the consciousness of the living. If this were not the case, we would not be able to be conscious of their so-called existence.
So when you mention “malevolent forces”, I take it that is just a figure of speech. Or do you really feel that psychic forces could have their own “consciousness” and “intent”?
DAVID FARRANT: I think I have already dealt with the point of common tendency to ascribe some sort of “intelligence” (whether beneficial or malign) to “spirits” or outside entities in my previous answer. We too often tend to project, or give, credence to such entities as having some sort of independent intelligence with the power to affect us lesser mortals. Personally, I cannot accept this. If anything, I think the reverse is true … i.e. that we are sometimes too quick to project our own ideals upon supposed entities that may have no real existence.
You state in your book that Satanists are capable of calling forth malign Deities from Hell. Do you believe in Heaven and Hell, in Gods and Devils?
DAVID FARRANT: No, I certainly do not believe in Heaven or Hell, or Gods or Devils. The only existence these have are as universal human beliefs that only have any form or reality in the human mind. “Hell”, as such, for example has no existence: or if it does, can be witnessed right now, upon this material earth.
I read that you were a Wiccan. What, in your opinion, are the most important things that make Wicca different from other religions?
DAVID FARRANT: I am in fact no longer a Wiccan as such – although it is true that not so long ago, I underwent initiations into the Wiccan belief and to this end, gave many years of devoted study and involvement. Wicca (or true Wicca) as I explain in my book, is a religion that predates most contemporary religions by many thousands of years and essentially taught – or teaches – the secrets of Nature or natural forces of which we are all part. Or let’s just say that – unrealised or not – such forces govern our everyday existence. But now I tend to work alone; grateful for the Knowledge acquired but no longer dependent on any man-made Creeds or inflicted doctrines however important such might be seen to be.
Do you consider “Good” and “Evil” to be absolute values instead of relative ones? Do you consider them to be actual forces?
DAVID FARRANT: The only possible relative significance “Good” can have to “Evil” , is that each exists only as a mental figment in the human mind. They may appear as “reality” – indeed do – but can or are only sustained by the power we invest in them. Of course, these may be termed “forces” as such; but they are really completely “natural” to our human mode of life … certainly not “supernatural” which is where much of the nonsense about vampires ,demons and suchlike seems to creep in. I suppose what I am attempting to express in relation to this point, is that the only way “good” and “evil” can really be comprehended or understood as independent forces is by first relating these to the level of our own known lives and existence.
In BTHV you have expressed concern about how easily young people can be caught in the web of Satanism. How do you feel about the current fascination with vampires? Do you think there are dangers in that?
DAVID FARRANT: I have always been very concerned about the way in which young people in particular can be so easily misguided and led astray by involvement with vampiric or satanic cults. To me these are really one and the same thing and I have frequently said in the past – not least in several articles I have written on the subject – that Satanism and Vampirism really border on the same thing.
Of course, it must be remembered that many young people (and the old if it comes to that) are searching for essential meanings to life; but unfortunately, when it comes to vampirism with all its commercialised sensationalism and so-called short cuts to immortality, vampirism has developed an almost Cult like status; and commercialised occultism – in whatever guise or form – only tends to attract the gullible and weak-minded. What makes Satanism and vampirism particularly lethal is that both involve fascination or adoration of evil forces; or “entities” and whilst not personally accepting that evil forces or “entities” have any independent intelligence as such, (including the existence of the so-called devil), there ARE certain negative levels in the human mind that can become activated by focusing on evil (whether in the guise of romanticised vampirism, or whatever); and bringing these to the surface – or “releasing” them from an otherwise dormant state – frequently results in paranoid obsession and can in some cases lead directly to insanity.
What are your plans for the future? Can we hope to expect further books about your occult investigations?
DAVID FARRANT: I really have no set plans for the future; other than expect this will be a continuation of my work in the immediate present i.e. investigating all aspects of unexplained phenomena, etc. Regarding further publications, a 3rd edition of BEYOND THE HIGHGATE VAMPIRE is presently under preparation (hopefully for release next year) and this will reveal many further facts about the Highgate Vampire investigation which I was prevented from including previously (mainly for legal reasons) in the current edition.
Any messages for the world?
DAVID FARRANT: No, I’m afraid I have become so disillusioned with what I see in this material world, that I am quite content in continuing my efforts to discover the invisible one.