Nice surprise on Sunday. My old friend Kenny Frewin paid us a visit. It is maybe significant because it was 45 years ago to the day that I first witnessed for myself the tall dark spectre that had been reported in and around London’s Highgate Cemetery.
I had gone there late one night on the Winter Solstice in 1969 to try to see if I could find any explanation that lay behind the numerous sightings. I had no idea just what I was looking for intently aware that in the late 1960s Hammer Horror Films had used Highgate Cemetery for many of their Dracula movies and maybe, just maybe, this had influenced published perception of its resident ghost. But there was a little more to it than that. Earlier in that year I had spoken to two witnesses who both claimed to have witnessed this figure in person, and they seemed to be both sincere and logical people who were merely recalling their individual experiences without any view to exaggeration, and who were just recounting what they saw.
It strikes me as phenomenal however that one particular witness’s sighting out of the myriad of others managed to put Highgate Cemetery on the paranormal ‘map’ as it were, forever more. Maybe because after I had witnessed this spectre myself, I concluded this was no figment of imagination, but some apparition that was definitely of supernatural origin, and decided to launch a full scale investigation by the British Psychic and Occult Society into its origin, was the main reason but it was this investigation that eventually caught the attention of the media; and indeed put Highgate Cemetery on the paranormal map. Books began to be written about it, films made about it; international magazines and newspapers besieged the cemetery all after a ‘piece of the action’. The main slant of this ‘action’ (at least on behalf of the media) seemed to be that maybe this ghost case was somewhat different and that the genuine ghostly figure sighted in the cemetery might in reality be a ‘genuine vampire’ as portrayed in Hammer’s vampire films. Anyway, this was really coincidental to Kenny as was not aware of this anniversary date, although he certainly remembers the Highgate ghost, as being a regular of the Prince of Wales pub in Highgate Village he was in discussion with many people who claimed to know all the (then) on-going gossip.
There was an occasion on Friday 13th in March 1970 when this ghost (or ‘vampire’ as one local individual vehemently claimed) was the subject of an ITV programme who were interviewing myself about this sighting. Another person being thus interviewed claimed (on the television) that ‘David Farrant’ would be returning to Highgate Cemetery that same evening and intended to ‘stake the ‘vampire’ so that the Highgate community could ‘rest in peace’. Although I had never made this statement and it was made on air only to attract maximum sensationalism, hundreds of people from the surrounding area descended on Highgate Cemetery all intent on a ‘mass vampire hunting spree’. The police were there in force with dogs evicting people who had managed to scale the cemetery walls and were ‘looking for a vampire’.
Kenny remembered the incident fondly as he was just one of the many sight-seers who walked down to the cemetery from the pub approaching midnight to see what was going on. By this time the crowd had swelled into hundreds – indeed, the police had trouble containing the numbers. He went down there with a couple of people I knew locally, including one individual nicknamed the ‘Eggmanne’ who was a personal accomplice of the man talking on the television about my own intention to ‘hunt down’ and ‘stake’ this ‘vampire. Of course he (Kenny) was well aware this was all just nonsense but he was bemused by all the people and police cars surrounding the cemetery. Talking to one police officer standing beside his Panda car, Kenny said . . . “You know there’s a vampire in there, don’t you? “Yes”, replied the officer, “And we’ll arrest him as well if we find him!
As it transpired, they didn’t, but Kenny was highly amused and didn’t need much reminding of the situation.
He stayed for the best part of the afternoon and we were glad to hear that he was in good health, apart from feeling groggy from a slight touch of flu that is going around at the moment. But he invited Della and myself around for a drink at his new place ‘sometime soon’.
In the meantime he said he might just tale a trip to the coast to get some sea air, but after that we’d be welcome any time. Hope he gets better soon anyway. A sea trip might do him good!
Good to see you again Kenny, and Della says hopes you will enjoy her Highgate book.
Your old friend