Monday, 1 December 2008

Why Hunt The Wampyr?

The person who was at the epicentre of the Highgate Vampire investigation from start to finish was Seán Manchester. He was president of an occult investigation team within the British Occult Society who, probably as a consequence of the quickly unravelling Highgate case, founded the Vampire Research Society on 2 February 1970. The VRS has always maintained its integrity with high quality membership comprising clergy, scholars, academics, professional researchers and authors of the paranormal, which he purposely kept to a relatively small number, as with most specialist organisations, despite the incredible public fascination the topic still holds to this day. The VRS at no time sought to be a subscription club and membership over the last two decades has been only by invitation. Nobody, therefore, is better placed to comment on the wampyr believed to have once walked in Highgate. Seán Manchester was recently asked (on the internet) why he ever hunted vampires in the first place and continues to exorcise them when found to this day. His answer (edited for reasons of space) follows. In it he speculates about the supernature of the wampyr ...

"First, I am a Christian and therefore commanded to drive out demons (see Mark 16: 17) of which the vampire is a variant.

"Second, I am an exorcist who specialises in vampirology, a sub-branch of demonolatry, whose task is to cast out demons.

"Third, there is a dearth of exorcists willing to engage in this particular ministry. The only true exorcists I know are Christian. There are those I would not classify as true exorcists whose employment of the word 'exorcism' is unrecognisable to a Christian exorcist. This looser application can embrace activities such as banishment rituals using ceremonial magic which efficacy I cannot vouchsafe to have practical effect. For a Christian the authority to cast out demons requires at least baptism into the Christian faith. Catholics, and some other major denominations, require priests to perform major exorcisms and only then with the permission of the diocesan bishop.

"We are each limited within the constraints of our particular discipline. A Catholic priest, for example, must have permission from his bishop in order to carry out a major exorcism. Minor exorcisms in certain circumstances may be carried out by priests and laity alike without consent. Though the sacraments are not corrupted by a tainted priest, and are still valid despite the medium through which they are provided, the exorcism rite will probably not meet with much success when a corrupt person attempts the traditional formula. Indeed, it might prove extremely dangerous for someone thus tainted to attempt an exorcism. Though exorcism is not a sacrament itself, the use of the Blessed Sacrament (the Host) might be applied in certain situations. The efficacy of the Host will not be lessened by the priest's degree of corruption provided the intent of the exorcist is genuine. The bishop does not select priests for exorcism. Those who are called to the exorcism ministry already exist. If, however, they are under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church, permission must be sought by any priest who is an exorcist to execute the major rite, but not the minor or smaller exorcism ritual.

"The vampire of history is a contradiction in itself, an oxymoron, a non sequitur, or as the French would say je ne sais quoi, meaning the subject matter is indefinable; it cannot be described or conveyed in a manner readily understood. Today's secular mind finds no apparent reason for the vampire's existence. The exorcist, however, must remember that although the vampire is supernatural and originates from the ranks of fallen angels, it is simultaneously a physical entity which is capable of death and destruction. It is this unearthly combination of the corporeal and the demonic which instils such dread where the vampire is concerned. The term 'undead' is certainly applicable, but what does that mean? If the vampire is sentient then why use 'undead'? What a curious word to describe a revenant. Yet we know these vampires are not living people, but neither are they God's true dead. The Devil's undead is perhaps a term more apt than we might at first imagine. Certainly no other description can come as close to conveying the meaning of this phenomenon. Perhaps the vampire's ingestion of blood into the living cadaver is similar to the manner by which the vampire bat is able to ingest blood and obtain nourishment from it? No doubt there is some level of nourishment to be obtained from blood, but most people if they ingest more than a mouthful will vomit. There are proteins and iron to be found in blood and perhaps that is what nourishes the physical aspect and enables the wraith to remain as a corporeal manifestation? The biological aspects of vampirism notwithstanding, how does one explain the immediate and rapid deterioration of the corpse once exorcism has taken place? It will fall apart and decay as do other corpses, from a few days to many years according to its true age, once the stake has impaled the undead heart. It collapses into a pile of dusty bones where centuries have elapsed. As I attempted to explain in interviews with the American broadcasters Art Bell and George Noory a few years back, it would seem that time catches up with the vampiric wraith at the moment of its destruction. It returns into what it always was and ought to have been. Impaling the heart is sufficient in and of itself to end the pollutions of the vampire, more so if cremation follows, but the real danger with these undead is that they are totally evil and, of course, biocidal. They should not be compared with vampire bats who take a few drops and move on. Vampires are evil and a potential threat to human life. They are a form of Antichrist and should be dealt with accordingly."

Why Do The Foxes Die?

Why Do The Foxes Die?

The above banner headline appeared across the front page of the Hampstead & Highgate Express, the areas most prestigious newspaper, on 6 March 1970. Their report follows:

"The mysterious death of foxes in Highgate Cemetery was this week linked with the theory that a ghost seen in the area might be a vampire. Tobacconist Mr David Farrant, 24, who reported seeing the ghost [as he had previously described the phenomenon] last month, returned to the spot last weekend and disovered a dead fox. 'Several other foxes have also been found dead in the cemetery,' he said at his home in Priestwood Mansions, Archway Road, Highgate. 'The odd thing is there was no outward sign of how they died. Much remains unexplained, but what I have recently learnt all points to the vampire theory being the most likely answer. Should this be so, I for one am prepared to pursue it, taking whatever means might be necessary so that we can all rest.' The vampire theory was suggested last week by Mr Seán Manchester, president of the British Occult Society, who believes that 'the King Vampire of the Undead' [a phrase, not used by Seán Manchester, which had been coined by the newspaper itself a week earlier] walks again. Mr Farrant and Mr Manchester met in the cemetery at the weekend. ... Mr Farrant pointed out the spot where he saw the spectre and Mr Manchester with prayer book in hand [compared the location with that of other sightings made in the graveyard]. Mr Manchester, when told of the dead foxes, said: 'These incidents are just more inexplicable events that seem to complement my theory about a vampire.' ... Would-be ghost hunters were warned this week to keep out of the cemetery. 'Anyone coming in here after closing time will cop it,' said a spokesman."

Five months later, David Farrant carried out his threat to "pursue it, taking whatever means might be necessary."

The Daily Express, 19 August 1970, reported that Farrant told the court: "My intention was to search out the supernatural being and destroy it by plunging the stake [found in his possession when arrested in Highgate Cemetery by police] in its heart."

The newspaper's report continued: "David Farrant pleaded guilty at Clerkenwell, London, to entering St Michael's churchyard, Highgate Cemetery, for an unlawful purpose. Farrant told police he had just moved to London when he heard people talking about the vampire in Highgate Cemetery. In a statement he said that he heard the vampire rises out of a grave and wanders about the cemetery on the look-out for human beings on whose blood it thrives. Police keeping watch for followers of a black magic cult arrested him. He was remaded in custody for reports. Last night, Mr Seán Manchester, leader of the British Occult Society, said: 'I am convinced that a vampire exists in Highgate Cemetery. Local residents and passers-by have reported seeing a ghostlike figure of massive proportions near the north gate'."

The British Occult Society, prior to its dissolution on O8.O8.88, was presided over by Seán Manchester. The BOS made its television debut on 13 March 1970 when its president featured on Today (Thames Television) to represent the Society’s investigation into reported happenings in and around Highgate Cemetery, London, that had been accumulating since early 1967. A number of witnesses to an alleged vampire spectre were also interviewed by Sandra Harris for Today. These consisted largely of children and a young man. When asked what he had seen by Sandra Harris, the young man, David Farrant, described what he alleged to have encountered a few weeks earlier as looking as though it had been dead for a long time, insisting that it was evil. Farrant's description would alter radically in later years. It eventually became mist with two red eyes when he described it a quarter of a century later. Throughout 1970, at least, David Farrant made no pretence of any association or membership within the British Occult Society. Needless to say, he was not then, or at any time, a member of the British Occult Society. Seán Manchester, then as now, held fast to traditional Christianity, having studied the occult. During the 1970s and 1980s he sometimes operated covertly within occult circles to gain first-hand intelligence. This much became apparent in 1988 with the publication of From Satan To Christ and again in 1997 would be confirmed in The Vampire Hunter's Handbook.

From 1971, David Farrant began to describe himself as a wiccan high priest and occultist, who was also involved in spiritism. In August 1995, however, he revealed in an amateur Dutch magazine home-produced by vampire enthusiast Rob Brautigam that he was "in fact no longer a wiccan as such" and was "no longer dependent on any man-made creeds or inflicted doctrines." That notwithstanding, prior to the autumn of 1970, he was neither wiccan nor occultist, and seemed closer to something more resembling Roman Catholicism; wearing, as he did, a Catholic rosary with crucifix around his neck for press and television interviews.

Seán Manchester and David Farrant have only appeared on the same television transmission twice, both times in 1970, when Seán Manchester represented the British Occult Society on the Today programme, 13 March 1970, and, some months later, on the BBC’s 24 Hours programme, 15 October 1970. Farrant’s appearance on Today was as one of a number of witnesses who claimed to have seen a vampire, and on 24 Hours as someone who had been arrested in Highgate Cemetery whilst attempting to stalk and impale the rumoured vampire. In the second of these television interviews, filmed by the BBC on location at Highgate Cemetery, Farrant demonstrated his stalking technique with a home-made cross and wooden stake, whilst adorned with a Roman Catholic rosary around his neck. This film report was reshown by the BBC in May 1999 and clips have subsequently been transmitted this century on various independent television channels. There was no mention of his being involved in wicca or the occult. He did, however, echo the fact that Satanists had used the cemetery for clandestine ceremonies. This view was also held by the British Occult Society, the police, the media, and many members of the public.
The turning point in the Highgate Vampire case was August 1970 when discovery was made of the tomb and its unearthly contents. A spoken exorcism was carried out by Seán Manchester with the consent of the private cemetery owners. It was to prove ineffective. This exorcism was later reconstructed in a film documentary for BBC television that was transmitted on 15 October 1970.

Something else happened in August of that year. Lone vampire hunter David Farrant was arrested by police in Highgate Cemetery and held on remand at Brixton Prison. He, too, was interviewed by the BBC and he faithfully reconstructed what he was doing on the night of his arrest. The BBC filmed him prowling around the graveyard, wearing a white rosary with a crucifix, and holding a wooden stake in one hand and a large cross in the other. Farrant claims to have returned in the following year to Highgate Cemetery to summon the vampire using a sinister necromantic formula which included sex magic with a naked girl smeared with fresh blood. He also claims to have been "temporarily possessed by the satanic entity" in an article he submitted to New Witchcraft magazine from his jail cell. Within three years of this diabolical evocation he was arrested and tried at London's Old Bailey for crimes relating to Highgate Cemetery and for threatening people with black magic. Farrant received a prison sentence of four years and eight months in June 1974.

When The Wampyr First Went Public

"On Friday, 27 February 1970, the front page headline of the Hampstead and Highgate Express asked does a vampire walk in Highgate? There would be no going back. The die had been cast." (Seán Manchester, The Highgate Vampire, page 70)

Does A Wampyr Walk In Highgate?

The above banner headline appeared across the front page of Hampstead and Highgate's most prestigious newspaper in February 1970. The editor himself had written the piece after meeting privately with the president of the British Occult Society and founder of the then fledgling Vampire Research Society. He allowed himself to get slightly carried away by introducing the journalistic embellishment "King Vampire of the Undead" - a term that Seán Manchester apparently did not employ, as stated by him on page 72 of The Vampire Hunter's Handbook. On page 48 of the same work, Seán Manchester states:

"I do not give newspaper interviews and have only released statements in the far distant past when these were in the public interest (ie balancing comment, disclaimers and warnings of malefic goings-on)."

The vampire revelations of 27 February 1970 clearly fell into the latter category.

The Hampstead & Highgate Express introduced their readers to "Seán Manchester, president of the British Occult Society ... [who] ... claims to have carried out 'extensive research and investigation into the matter.' Mr Manchester, a photographer, said: 'The phenomenon reported by Highgate people in letters to the Ham and High is not merely the apparition of an earth-bound spirit, which is relatively harmless, but much worse - that of a wampyr or, as it is more popularly known, a vampire'."

The newspaper continued to quote the BOS president:

"We would like to exorcise the vampire by the traditional and approved manner ..."

Books & CDs About The Wampyr

The revised and updated edition of Seán Manchester's The Highgate Vampire (Gothic Press, 1991) is the definitive account in hardcover of the investigation, illustrated generously throughout. It is the only edition that remains in print. Many illustrations and case file photographs can be found in The Highgate Vampire, most controversial of which perhaps are the images of the corporeal shell soon after exorcism.

"The Highgate Vampire" chapter that formed a major part of Peter Underwood's The Vampire's Bedside Companion (1975 & 1976) is out of print and unavailable. The Highgate Vampire first edition published by British Occult Society in 1985 is out of print.

The Highgate Vampire is a quality hardcover edition, illustrated with photographs and line drawings, revised and updated, published in 1991 by Gothic Press, and still in print.

The Highgate Vampire: The World of the Undead Unearthed at London’s Highgate Cemetery (Published 1985, British Occult Society - Revised & Updated edition 1991, Gothic Press)

Carmel though presented as a novel is nevertheless based on some real incidents. A generously illustrated large format paperback, this book offers the wider picture as actual experience mingles with a familiar history. Much can be revealed in the guise of a novel, of course, that could not otherwise be told. Published by Gothic Press in 2000, and still in print.

Carmel: A Vampire Tale (Published 2000, Gothic Press)

The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook also revisits Highgate in some of its chapters; while exposing many of the false attributions made by certain journalists, authors and even academics; some of whom were too young to remember the events at the time. Illustrated with photographs, published by Gothic Press in 1997, this popular work remains very much still in print and available.

The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook: A Concise Vampirological Guide(Published 1997, Gothic Press)

Archive recordings that include the voices of very early witnesses, interviews at Highgate Cemetery and other interviews with those at the periphery can be heard on "The Highgate Vampire CD" (comprising two discs).

The Highgate Vampire CD: Double CD of archive recordings.

The Black Witch Project is another CD of archive material from the period. This time in the voice of one whose "occult obsessions following an alleged encounter with the Highgate phenomenon led to his slow descent into darkness thereafter." (The Highgate Vampire, page 43)

The Black Witch Project: CD of someone at the very periphery of events discussing his pseudo-occult beliefs and activities. These are complimented by his colleague who can also be heard discussing some of the same incidents.

The Devil's Fool: CD of the principal bandwagoneer contradicting himself in a series of interview extracts that span over three decades and concentrate on the Highgate Vampire.

Wampyr Story On French Television

Links to extracts from a film made for French television.

Click on each link to view videos:

Le vampire de Highgate - Londres 1970 - 001

Le vampire de Highgate - Londres 1970 - 002

Le vampire de Highgate - Londres 1970 - 003

Le vampire de Highgate - Londres 1970 - 004

Encountering The Wampyr

“Ever since I became aware that Highgate Cemetery was the reputed haunt of a vampire, the investigations and activities of Seán Manchester commanded my attention. I became convinced that, more than anyone else, the president of the Vampire Research Society knew the full story of the Highgate Vampire which is probably the most remarkable contemporary account of vampiric activity and infestation ~ and cure. Can such things as vampires really exist? The evidence seems to be overwhelming and the author [of The Highgate Vampire] is to be congratulated on his knowledgeable and lucid account of the case which is likely to become one of the classic works on this interesting and mystifying subject.” (Peter Underwood, President of the Ghost Club Society; Life-Member of the Vampire Research Society; author of over fifty books on the paranormal)

In 1990, Peter Underwood retold the events of the Highgate Vampire case (up to the discovery of the suspect tomb at Highgate Cemetery in August 1970) in his book Exorcism! (1990). He commented in chapter six:

“The Hon Ralph Shirley told me in the 1940s that he had studied the subject in some depth, sifted through the evidence and concluded that vampirism was by no means as dead as many people supposed; more likely, he thought, the facts were concealed. … My old friend Montague Summers has, to his own satisfaction, at least, traced back ‘the dark tradition of the vampire’ until it is ‘lost amid the ages of a dateless antiquity’.”

An encounter is alleged by Brian as early as July 1965. Brian claims the following:

"At the time I was residing in Islington, and I'd been invited along to a student party. I was dubious as to whether to attend or not as I was worried how the hosts' several cats would react to my dog, an aged Lurcher, but assured that this presented no problem - if needs be the cats could be locked away - and lured by the promise that a girl I was set on would be putting in an appearance, I decided to give it a try. I parked my car at The Flask public house at around 8 o'clock and set off along Swains Lane with my dog. It was a beautiful, warm summer's evening, but as we proceeded along the cemetery's outer wall, I became uncomfortably aware of a curious silence. All the birds had suddenly stopped singing. The silence ... the only way I could describe it is that it was rather like being enveloped in a large woolly blanket. This should have given me some apprehension, but my mind was on the girl at the party and I just disregarded it. I was ten yards from the North Gate when I happened to look across at it. What I saw was what appeared to be black treacle flowing down and running over the wall. It touched ground and actually flowed like a big black pool of liquid into the centre of the path about six feet before me. There was an icy coldness which grew more intense with the passing seconds, literally an Arctic cold. The hairs on my neck, for the first time in my life, actually stood on end. With dusk falling full on the perimeter wall, the path was in shadow, but there was a shadow discernible within that shadow. I thought 'What am I watching ? What the f**k is this ?'. The most horrible part was - and I still have nightmares about it, still wake up in a cold sweat - it reared up. I'd estimate its height at between seven or eight feet. I'm five feet eight inches tall and it towered over me. It was enormous! It was neither solid nor transparent. My overall impression was that it was a black figure wearing dark garments which flowed and stirred in the wind - but there was no wind. The edges of what it was wearing were moving. No face. Where eyes would have been if it were human, there were just two red pits, red glows, and I was very conscious that it was looking at me. At that point I realised that I was up against an entity that was both powerful and malignant. It was radiating evil, that's the only way I could describe it. This wasn't a ghost, this was an entity. There was nothing remotely human about it. It simply was not human. As an ex-Army Officer I'd come up against life threatening situations, but faced with that thing the fear was worse than anything you could imagine. I tried to do a banishing pentagram, tried to pronounce a Latin incantation to repel evil. I could do neither. I couldn't move. My limbs were like lead. My dog was a placid old thing. It never growled as a rule, but it did on that occasion and it was ... indescribable. The growl of a wolf. But it had no effect on the entity whatsoever. The next thing I can recall, I found myself up against the wall at the top of Swains Lane. The dog had beaten me there. Its fur was actually standing on end. I've no recollection of running, but I must've done. I made my way to The Flask. The first thing the landlord said as I entered was 'No dogs'. I really needed that. I tied the poor dog up, had a couple of brandies, but I was still shaking. Eventually, I called my friend on the pub phone and asked him to pick me up. I wasn't in much of a party mood by then. I think what should be emphasised is the incredible speed with which events took place. The appearance of the entity was very swift and from the time I first saw 'the treacle' to the time it was in front of me could only have been seconds ... although it seemed longer at the time. I am unable to canvass my dogs views on the subject as it returned to 'The great kennel in the sky' a few weeks after the incident. Whether this was coincidence or not I feel is conjectural. But it did become ill a couple of days after the incident, and died not much later. From old age, according to the vet. The dog was eight years old! And the girl ? She called around to ask why I hadn't attended. Not wishing to ruin my street-cred with her I told her I 'wasn't well'."

In the anthology, The Vampire's Bedside Companion (1975) which contains a chapter with photographic evidence from the Vampire Research Society, written and contributed by Seán Manchester, Peter Underwood wrote:

“Alleged sightings of a vampire-like creature ~ a grey spectre ~ lurking among the graves and tombstones have resulted in many vampire hunts. … In 1968, I heard first-hand evidence of such a sighting and my informant maintained that he and his companion had secreted themselves in one of the vaults and watched a dark figure flit among the catacombs and disappear into a huge vault from which the vampire … did not reappear. Subsequent search revealed no trace inside the vault but I was told that a trail of drops of blood stopped at an area of massive coffins which could have hidden a dozen vampires.”

And probably did! In the previous year, two schoolgirls had reported seeing the spectre rise from its tomb.

Two seemingly unconnected incidents occurred within weeks of one another in early 1967. The first involved two 16-year-old convent girls who were walking home at night after having visited friends in Highgate Village. Their return journey took them down Swains Lane past the cemetery. They could not believe their eyes as they passed the graveyard’s north gate at the top of the lane, for in front of them bodies appeared to be emerging from their tombs. One of these schoolgirls later suffered nightly visitations and blood loss. The second incident, some weeks later, involved an engaged couple who were walking down the same lane. Suddenly the female shrieked as she glimpsed something hideous hovering behind the gate’s iron railings. Then her fiancé saw it. They both stood frozen to the ground as the spectre held them in thrall. Its face bore an expression of basilisk horror. Soon others sighted the same phenomenon as it hovered along the path behind the gate where gravestones are visible either side until consumed in darkness. Before long people were talking in hushed tones about the rumoured haunting in local pubs. Some who actually witnessed the spectral figure wrote to their local newspaper to share their experience. Discovery was made of animal carcasses drained of blood. They had been so exsanguinated that a forensic sample could not be found. It was only a matter of time before a person was found in the cemetery in a pool of blood. This victim died of wounds to the throat. The police made every attempt to cover-up the vampiristic nature of the death. Seán Manchester informed the public on 27 February 1970 that the cause was most probably a vampire. He appeared on television on 13 March 1970 and repeated his theory.

The Vampire Research Society, whose specialist unit within a larger investigatory organisation (the British Occult Society, formally dissolved in August 1988) had opened the case twelve months earlier, established a history of similar hauntings that went back to before the graveyard existed. A suspected tomb was located and a spoken exorcism performed. This proved to be ineffective. The hauntings and animal deaths continued. Indeed, they multiplied. By now all sorts of people were jumping on the vampire bandwagon; including film-makers and rock musicians. Most were frightened off. Some who interloped became fascinated by the black arts with disastrous consequences. Meanwhile, serious researchers considered the possibility that a nest of vampires might be active in the area. Yet there seemed to be one principal source which the media had already dubbed a “King Vampire of the Undead.”

Seán Manchester led the thirteen year investigation from beginning to end. There was seemingly more than one vampire for him and the Vampire Research Society to confront. However, in early 1974 he tracked the principal source of the contamination, known as the Highgate Vampire, to a neo-Gothic mansion on the Highgate borders. Here he employed the ancient and approved remedy. No vampire has been sighted in or near Highgate Cemetery and its environs since that time. The exorcised remains of the Highgate Vampire appear on page 144 of his bestselling book The Highgate Vampire.

What Did The Wampyr Look Like?

A composite of the Highgate Vampire's appearance can be gleaned from various statements in the Vampire Research Society's archive and, of course, on public record in Seán Manchester's The Highgate Vampire (published by Gothic Press).*

Accounts provided by witnesses in the Hampstead & Highgate Express, 13 February 1970 & 20 February 1970, describe "a most unusual form [that] just seemed to glide across the path ... a pale figure ..."; "Many tales are told about a tall man who walks across Swains Lane and just disappears through a wall into the cemetery ..."; " ... a 'form' moving behind some gravestones ... the thing made no sound and seemed to disappear into nowhere ..."*

Jacqueline Beckwith, a teenager living in North Hill, awoke one night with something icy cold clutching her hand which soon went numb. The next morning revealed "deep tears in the flesh where she had forced [her hand] free."*

A ghost hunter by the name of Thomas told of "a dark shape [which] moved across the path directly in front of us." On an earlier occasion he had started to walk home with his fiancee down the lane running alongside and eventually between Highgate Cemetery. "Something was standing behind the iron railings of the gate ... upon its face was an expression of basilisk horror."*

Once again, "the thing behind the gate appeared to dissolve into the shadows of the night."*

Only when discovered in the putrid chamber of its tomb at Highgate Cemetery in August 1970 do we start to gain an idea of the full extent of the Highgate Vampire's horrific countenance. At its extirpation in the grounds of the neo-gothic derelict mansion in early 1974 the appearance is one of a heavy form, gorged and stinking with blood with eyes glazed and staring horribly, glinting with the red fire of perdition. This great leech possessed sallow, parchment-like skin beneath which a faint bluish tinge could be discerned; the colour of a three-day old corpse. It had black hair and eyebrows that were especially heavy and joined across the bridge of an aquiline nose. The mouth betrayed thin, cruel lips which drew back, almost in a snarl, to reveal sharp teeth where lodged congealed gouts of discolouring blood, the offal of the previous night's feast. Some witnesses describe a tall figure with a hideous countenance. All remark upon the eyes which burned like hot coals in a face so frightening it paralysed them in their tracks. There was also the unbearably fetid stench that accompanied this presence, rank with corruption and the stench of the charnel, which indicated an undead rather than an apparition. The last moments, some of which were captured by a 35mm camera, reveal the same "burning, fierce eyes beneath black furrowed brows staring with hellish reflection. Yellow at the edges with blood-red centres, unlike anything imaginable. Flared nostrils connected to a thin, high-bridged nose. The mouth still set in its cruel expression with lips drawn far back as if unable to contain the sharp, white teeth."*

*(The Highgate Vampire, pages 49, 54, 65, 66, 67, 68, 85, 86 & 142, Gothic Press edition)

Who Was The Wampyr?

In his book The Highgate Vampire, Seán Manchester states that the vampiric source of the Highgate infestation first showed up shortly after the infamous vampire plague of the early 1700's, the same era as Arnold Paole and Peter Plogojowitz. He further states that an Eastern European nobleman rented Ashurst House in the early 18th century. This all seems to make sense, and it suggests that Tamás Orszag of Hungary is the most likely candidate for the identity of the Highgate Vampire.

But this is by no means certain.

What Became Of The Wampyr?

“A pyre was built in the centre of the large garden … We looked, but saw none of its awful contents before everything was consumed. At last it was hidden from our view ― its dark pestilence swallowed in the bright flames which leaped skyward while all beneath crackled and hissed. Several hours later all that remained was a great scorch-mark on the ground … We stood staring at the charred spot, not daring to believe it was finally over. I took a handful of grey dust from the blackened earth and scattered it to the four winds.” (The Highgate Vampire, Gothic Press, 1991, pages 144-145)

Scenes captured on panchromatic film by a 35mm camera at the time, alas, would not see the light of day in a definitive depiction of the same events for a film dramatisation by the production company whose directorate included the talented Aimee Stephenson. Seán Manchester's episcopal duties, plus Aimee’s tragic death, dampened any desire to resurrect this ambitious project, despite overtures being made by others. Eventually Seán Manchester came to the decision not to be interviewed about the Highgate case. The nightmare wherein the door between us and another world was almost ripped off its hinges is now a distant memory that, for him at least, must be laid to rest. "Next to the hunger to confront such a thing, there is no stronger hunger than to forget," he once wrote.

Seán Manchester initially wrote his book due to so many people contacting him to ask what really happened. Letters ran into hundreds, and this accumulated following the commission from Peter Underwood and his publisher, Leslie Frewin Books, to give an account of events up to and including the failed exorcism of August 1970. Seán Manchester thought this might stem the flow, but the case itself was not yet solved, and reports of unsavoury incidents continued to filter into the columns of local newspapers. Hence the complete and unexpurgated account first published in 1985. A more intimate account was given in a special edition published by Gothic Press in 1991 where the rear fly on the dust jacket states: “[The author] recognises the immense public interest in the Highgate Vampire case which is why he has written the present volume as a final comment on what, in his own words, is ‘hopefully the last frenzied flutterings of a force so dight with fearful fascination that even legend could not contain it’.” It was not Seán Manchester's intention to try and convince anyone of the existence of the supernatural; yet still he receives messages asking him to do precisely that. Nor was it his wish to stimulate undue interest in these matters; though he accepts this has been an unintentional by-product. By writing a comprehensive recounting of those events surrounding the mystery, Seán Manchester merely sought to provide a record of his unearthly experience for those who wanted to read about it.

In the wake of his book, and personal appearances where he discussed its contents, parasitical elements were not slow to engage in shameless exploitation of his work, while others decided to become what can only be described as fans. Sometimes self-styled fans became almost vampiric themselves. When denied their demands, they would behave badly, turning bitter and resentful. Thankfully such incidents have been few and far between. The majority of enthusiastic readers of Seán Manchester's work have shown immense sympathy and encouragement as reflected by the popularity of any forum where it is discussed.