Farrant’s Phoney Witchcraft

Farrant found guilty of black magic offences in 1974.
The subject of this blog is a man called David Farrant. Few will have heard anything about him unless they have a particular interest in the dark side of human existence where vampires and demons dwell, and can remember a time when his scandals hit the headlines in England. Beyond brief moments of infamy in newspapers, and latterly other people’s books, he will probably not be recollected. However, nobody is more willing to publicise his notoriety than himself. An example is the following which he posted on his own internet message board on 6 April 2007:“Rev Christopher Neil-Smith was called into Wormwood Scrubs Prison in November 1974 after a man sharing a cell with me and one other became convinced that he had become possessed after we had conducted a séance in the cell one night. He would wake up screaming in the cell and swore that some ‘evil spirit’ had entered him. Naturally, as I was in there for allegedly conducting ‘witchcraft ceremonies’ in Highgate Cemetery, I was held to blame for his condition. He was moved out of the cell, but the next thing I heard was that the Rev Neil-Smith had been called in to ‘exorcise’ him in the prison chapel. A ‘trustee’ was present and I got the full story. The prison governor was present, the prison chaplain and a couple of other people. During this ‘exorcism’, Neil-Smith violently shook this man’s head and repeated several times ‘Drive out the evil powers of David Farrant!’ … This took place at the end of 1974 which was after the publication of Neil-Smith’s book. I’m sure it would have been included otherwise as I doubt the Rev Neil-Smith would have forgotten it!”Immediately one is struck by the use of “allegedly” by him in reference to witchcraft at Highgate Cemetery; something he widely publicised and wrote articles about at the time; indeed, something for which he was sentenced to a not insignificant jail term. In prison he wrote further articles about his witchcraft ceremonies in the graveyard, one such article being published in a magazine. Yet in 2007 these incidents were relegated to having been “alleged” by others to have occurred. This modus operandi of creating scandals, boasting about them for a period and then later denying their intrinsic elements, would permeate his life. First he was a vampire hunter. Then he denied ever hunting vampires. Next he was a necromancer and black magician. Then he denied engaging in necromancy and black magic. And so on. All this in the face of recorded interviews at the time where he can be heard confirming doing what he later denied. There is also television footage which gives the lie to much later revisionism.“I was born in a large Victorian house in Highgate,” Farrant reveals, but not where or when. Such detail he obviously regards superfluous. Self-styled “pagan scholar” and Farrant collaborator, Gareth Medway, is able to shed some light on perhaps why: “David Farrant will not disclose his age, going so far as to state that ‘We don’t believe in linear time,’ but he has told me that he was initiated into Wicca by a High Priestess named Helen, in Barnet, north London, in 1964.” Medway’s comment appeared in 2002 in the sixth issue of a series of malicious tracts bearing Seán Manchester’s surname in their title. Seán Manchester is someone who exposed Farrant’s fraudulent behaviour as far back as 1970.In Seán Manchester’s first complete account of the Highgate case, he tendered the following opinion: “I have found not a single shred of evidence to suggest that the least of these things are true.”[1] The things about which he spoke were Farrant’s self-proclaimed animal sacrifices in bizarre pseudo-occult rituals which were frequently being reported in the press in the early 1970s. Seán Manchester nevertheless became less confident in that view, and accordingly expurgated it from the 1991 edition of The Highgate Vampire. The simple fact of the matter is that he did not know how far Farrant is capable of going, or has gone. Farrant had broken the law before Seán Manchester ever met him, using two British passports – the phoney one being in the name of “Allan Aden Ellson.” To own this passport meant that he had acquired Crown property through deception by falsifying information on the application form. Had it been known at the time by the authorities, he would have been arrested and charged with the offence. Farrant was causing a lot of personal inconvenience and was clearly a sick and depraved individual. But how genuinely into the occult was he?

Two people who have known him longer than anyone else, Anthony Hill and Farrant’s first wife, Mary, are convinced that his witchcraft and occult stunts were utterly bogus, and that he is a complete fraud. Most would concur with that sentiment, but who can opine exactly how far or not he is willing to go in the pursuit of publicity?

The Sun, 21 June 1974, recorded: “The wife of self-styled occult priest David Farrant told yesterday of giggles in the graveyard when the pubs had closed. ‘We would go in, frighten ourselves to death and come out again,’ she told an Old Bailey jury. Attractive Mary Farrant – she is separated from her husband and lives in Southampton – said they had often gone to London’s Highgate Cemetery with friends ‘for a bit of a laugh.’ But they never caused any damage. ‘It was just a silly sort of thing that you do after the pubs shut,’ she said. Mrs Farrant added that her husband’s friends who joined in the late night jaunts were not involved in witchcraft or the occult. She had been called as a defence witness by her 28-year-old husband.”

Shortly before and following Farrant’s imprisonment in 1974, Seán Manchester attempted to gain his confidence in order to discover the truth about his alleged “occult” activities. The conclusions he arrived at are published in The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook, a work that covers this area comprehensively:

“My personal view is that he has become possessed by demonic influences. His behaviour, by any standard, is extremely obsessive.” Farrant’s self-styled organisation, rarely consisting of more than one or two members, Seán Manchester deduced, “did not have the same appeal [as other witchcraft groups], owing to the ‘high priest’s’ total lack of occult knowledge and contradictory statements.”[2]

From the very beginning – when most of his acquaintances knew him only as “Allan” – to the final moment Seán Manchester spoke to him,[3] Farrant, in the absence of any corroborating witness, would ridicule witches, occultists and also members of any mainstream religious faith. For him witchcraft and the occult was only a means to an end. The impression Seán Manchester gained was that Farrant actually believed none of it. Farrant saw those who took the occult and certainly the paranormal seriously as being worthy of his contempt. His raison d’être was and remains an agenda where his manufactured publicity masks insecurities that probably stem from childhood. Yet, in Seán Manchester’s view, Farrant dabbling in these dangerous areas opened himself to the very thing he scorns.

“I don’t believe in the existence of the Devil,”[4] he would protest in later years when interviewed. But the Devil, of course, was more than aware of Farrant’s existence.

Farrant in a television studio audience for BBC’s “Kilroy” programme.
 Barring those journalists who will always take advantage of a free meal ticket when a compulsive publicity-seeker offers one on a plate, many who provided Farrant with succour turned out to be apologists for the infamous Satanist Aleister Crowley and were themselves looking for someone to use as ammunition against the Christian exorcist Seán Manchester.

_______________________________________________

[1] The Highgate Vampire by Seán Manchester (British Occult Society, 1985, p80).
[2] The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook by Seán Manchester (Gothic Press, 1997, p55 & 87).
[3] The last brief meeting, after a gap of five years, took place at London’s Highgate Wood at dusk on 24 January 1987, as recorded in From Satan To Christ by Seán Manchester (Holy Grail, 1988, p73-74).
[4] Farrant quoted when interviewed on the Michael Cole Show (UK Living, 20 December 1998).
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