The article was first published in January 1997.
David Farrant hit the headlines in the 1970s when he was arrested for ‘vampire hunting’ in London’s Highgate Cemetery. Officially charged with ‘interference’, Farrant spent two years in prison, and emerged embittered with the press over their treatment of the case and with the police for their treatment of him. Since then, he has battled to have his side of the story heard, resulting in the publication of his book, Beyond The Highgate Vampire.
Farrant’s interest in the occult stems from his teens, when his mother, a member of the Spiritualist Church, exposed her son to the possibilities of the paranormal. In 1967, after a trip around Europe, Farrant became a founder member of the British Psychic and Occult Society (BPOS), and began to investigate claims of the paranormal – including the Highgate Vampire.
In his home, just a mile from the cemetery that caused him such grief, the softly-spoken Farrant talks about the occult and the work of the BPOS.
It’s important for me to explain something at the beginning. During my investigations, I’ve come to realize that there are three different categories of unexplained phenomena. The first category applies to the majority of paranormal occurrences – phantom figures. The second category involves poltergeist activity, where objects move, and so on. And the third category – which I’m very dubious about discussing – involves actual entities which seem to possess some kind of intelligence.
LETS TAKE ONE AT A TIME. HOW DO YOU DEFINE ‘PHANTOM FIGURES’?
I don’t like the word ‘ghost’ because it conjures up in some people’s minds images in white sheets and clanking chains, but there are real figures – or animals, or even objects – whose images are very real. They don’t have intelligence, but are pictures from the past replayed at certain times under certain conditions, such as planetary alignments, lunar cycles and, most importantly of all, atmospheric conditions. Water appears to be important – these phenomena seem to take place under conditions where water is present.
CAN YOU GIVE AN EXAMPLE OF A CASE WHERE WATER IS AN IMPORTANT FACTOR?
We researched a case with a phantom black dog, which was seen on a number of occasions in Hereford. Two people were driving home one night when they saw a huge black dog in the road. The driver slammed on the brakes, but the dog disappeared, which is the case 99 per cent of the time. We went to the spot and discovered that there was a stream running alongside the road, right at the place where the black dog was seen.
WHY DO YOU THINK WATER IS IMPORTANT?
This is probably one of the most important questions that I’m trying to answer. There could be some energy not yet understood by science. This energy could be responsible for materialization of many psychic images and could connect with the element of water and also the element of stone.
WHAT ROLE DOES STONE PLAY?
Many of these things occur in old buildings made of stone – such as old abbeys – and along ley lines, which are often defined by stone markers. Its as if the stones are acting as a battery that, under certain conditions, can release psychic energy.
WHAT ABOUT POLTERGEISTS, THE SECOND CATEGORY?
A lot of occurrences are caused by subconscious levels of the human mind. These often occur when people are asleep or just beginning to sleep. When the conscious mind is at rest, strange activity can be triggered off. I once investigated a case in Brighton of a lady experiencing classic poltergeist activity – she’d go out at night and the gas would come on, she would wake up in the night and hear the crash of shelves and, on one occasion, she mentioned that her sister’s son had been pushed down the stairs by some force. I never told her this but I am sure that many of these occurrences were being caused by herself. You find that it happens in some people more than others – I suppose it depends on how sensitive they are.
THIS TAKES US TO YOUR THIRD CATEGORY, ENTITIES WITH INTELLIGENCE. WHY ARE YOU GUARDED ABOUT TALKING ABOUT SUCH CASES?
We’re going into a realm which is not fully understood. I’ve investigated cases where the actual entities are trying to communicate with a certain person, and sometimes they can be malign. I don’t like using the word evil, but they can have an effect on some people. And I have investigated too many cases where I haven’t found a satisfactory explanation.
CAN YOU GIVE AN EXAMPLE?
One that comes to mind was a woman who wrote to me in 1992 about some kind of horrendous psychic activity she was suffering. She’d wake up in the middle of the night absolutely paralysed – she couldn’t move a muscle, couldn’t scream – and she often felt a great pressure of her chest. Sometimes it rendered her absolutely immobile for up to a minute. On one occasion, she actually looked up and saw the shape of a man hovering above her. It became so petrifying that she refused to go to sleep. She was suicidal.
HOW DID YOU HELP HER?
In the end, I sent her a protective talisman, which I told her to wear around her neck at all times, and we did some protective work for her in the Society. After about a year it stopped and to my knowledge it hasn’t happened since. That was one case where coming into contact with psychic phenomena can be terrifying.
WHAT’S A PROTECTIVE TALISMAN?
I am not really allowed to go into that. It was just a talisman containing certain symbols of protection, used to counteract or rather reverse psychic energy. some people would argue that the only meaning it has is symbolic, rather like the Christian cross is used to ward off vampires, but it does work in some cased and if it does it has fulfilled its purpose.
AND WHAT KIND OF ‘PROTECTIVE WORK’ DID THE SOCIETY CARRY OUT?
At the initial stages, I asked the woman to send me an object that was closely linked to herself – a necklace or a ring – as this helps us form a psychic link with her. Once this was established, I was in a better position to try and reverse the energy of whatever it was that was attacking her.
HOW DID YOU DO THIS?
There are certain methods I can’t really talk about. But the Society get together to form a psychic chain and direct the psychic energy towards the person in question., a bit like an exorcism. We very rarely do this unless its a very serious case, and this was a very serious case.
WHY CAN’T YOU TALK ABOUT IT?
There are certain things we’re not supposed to discuss and, even if we did, people wouldn’t really understand them. But there are certain talismans, symbols and words that contain power if they are utilized in the right manner. Its nothing sensational, but its kept secret because some of them have been known for centuries and have been handed down. One of the reasons for secrecy is that if they become known, they’d be abused.
LIKE THE OUIJA BOARD?
Exactly. These things act as a psychic gateway, and if people just open the gate without knowing what they’re doing … well, you get all these cases of so-called possession and its very real to the people who experience it. Its like dabbling with electricity – you’ve go to know what you’re doing or you’ll get a powerful shock.
In fact, belief doesn’t come into my investigations – its a dangerous thing. If you understand something, you don’t need to believe in it …
YOU NAMED YOUR GROUP THE BRITISH PSYCHIC AND OCCULT SOCIETY. HOW DO YOU DEFINE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ‘PSYCHIC’ AND ‘OCCULT’?
They are very closely linked – ‘psychic’ literally being forces that are not understood, ‘occult’ meaning hidden, unknown. As far as the BPOS is concerned, you are going to get people that don’t understand it and who think the occult is to do with black magic and all that nonsense. Black magic implies black candles, nude women, midnight orgies but, to us, magic is just a force in nature that can be tapped. If those forces are used in a beneficial way, to help and to heal, its classed as white magic. But the force itself is neither white nor black, its neutral – it depends on the intentions of the person using it.
DO YOU GET CRITICISED FOR INVESTIGATING THE PARANORMAL BY USING MAGIC?
I rarely get criticised. The only time I brought criticism upon myself was in the case of The Highgate Vampire – and its only because the story got out of hand.
SO WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT HIGHGATE?
In the 1970’s the Society was investigating claims of an entity in the cemetery and we tried to make contact with it. When we were in the cemetery, the police turned up, and I was arrested and accused of vampire hunting. Fortunately, I was acquitted, but events got out of hand. The case caused worldwide publicity and attracted hoards of sightseers to the cemetery.
As a result, the vandalism and damage increased. In 1974, things got so bad that an architect returning to his car after visiting the cemetery, found a 150yr old skeleton in the driver’s seat. the police decided that I would make a good scapegoat for that and raided my flat. They found photos to do with [the religion] Wicca, showing naked ladies and things like that, and claimed I confessed: ‘Look, you wouldn’t understand – I was taking the body for black magic. Putting it in the car was unintended but someone came along and I had to make a quick exit.’ In court, I proved hat the evidence wasn’t true. I was acquitted of this main charge, but was found guilty on two other charges of damage to graves. In the end, I was sentenced to two years imprisonment.
WHAT BECAME OF THE HIGHGATE ENTITY?
I decided I was never going back to Highgate, so its possible that the energy is still there. Its never been properly exorcised and you find that once psychic energy becomes earthbound it tends to remain earthbound until it can be diffused.
ARE YOU STILL INVESTIGATING SIMILAR CASES?
Yes. There’s much to be learned – its like finding the tip of a huge iceberg. Most people aren’t even aware the iceberg exists. But at least I’ve started.