Sign of the Beast

John Pope giving the “sign of the beast” in Farrant’s home, 1973.
In 1973, David Farrant joined forces with John Russell Pope who to this day gives the clear impression that he is as much a black magician and diabolist in his latter years as ever he was as a young man. On his London Horror Tours website, Pope is unambiguous in how he sees himself, ie “a master of the black arts, a third degree witch and Odinist.” Standing in masonic regalia, complete with apron, next to what is claimed by him to be the “Grand Master, Forsyth Lodge, American Freemasonry,” who, in actual fact, is a certain A H Marriott, Pope informs visitors to his website that he “is a blood relation to Jack the Ripper and Dracula.” No less disturbing, perhaps, is the inclusion in his self-professed profile that he “served his apprenticeship with the now deceased gangland boss Andraus Nickifaru from 1968 to 1988.”This unsavoury link to London’s criminal underworld, bearing in mind Pope’s boast of having killed the rock musician Graham Bond by means of a black magic curse, brings the story full circle when the life and death of Joe Meek is examined.
Duncan Campbell, a senior staff reporter for City Limits magazine, before he moved to The Guardian newspaper, took an unusual interest in Farrant during the 1980s. The journalist assisted the charlatan from time to time in gaining publicity, appearing strangely sympathetic to the disingenuous campaigns run by Farrant to curry favour with an increasingly hostile public. Campbell appeared ready to promote Farrant’s stunts, as if they were somehow worthy. But, of course, as revealed by Seán Manchester: “Campbell had an interest in the criminal underworld … [and] later published a book about criminals and the environment in which they operate.”[1]
Seán Manchester spoke to this liberal left-wing journalist just once, only to discover himself seriously misrepresented and indeed misquoted by Campbell. Farrant somehow managed to convince Campbell that Manchester belonged to the old guard of illiberal-minded reactionaries. Such folk were already by that time an endangered species, but it was enough to alienate Campbell against Manchester.
Joe Meek’s penchant for the occult has been revealed on the “Meeksville” website where his mysterious death is examined in great detail. This source provided the following information about David Farrant:
“There is some evidence that Joe was playing around with the ‘black arts,’ particularly from Margaret Blackmore, who saw a lot of Joe in his last few weeks. She claims that Joe told her that she was like Lady Harris who was, according to Joe, one of Aleister Crowley’s girlfriends who painted a set of tarot cards and was alleged to be very beautiful. Although a Lady Harris indeed worked with Crowley to create their famous Thoth Tarot deck, she was in fact a lady of mature years who was also the wife of an eminent British politician. Later on, Pamela Coleman Smith and A E Waite tried to repeat the experiment and created the equally famous Rider-Waite Tarot deck. Smith, as far as can be made out, was a rather attractive and somewhat dramatic-looking woman. Joe’s account sounds like an amalgam of the two; whether Joe got his facts wrong or whether Blackmore has her recollections muddled up isn’t clear, but certainly someone didn’t know very much about some historical facts which were very easy to check, and that may be true in general of Joe’s interests in that direction. More frightening is the fact that Joe supposedly knew David Farrant. Again, the source in the book is not named; I have been in contact with someone else who knows Farrant independently of any Joe connection, and has stated that Joe met Farrant a couple of times. Having said that, I can’t confirm it, as I have no way of proving whether my contact genuinely asked Farrant about it or not. Farrant was (and probably still is) a self-styled High Priest of Satan, and is still feared in some parts of North London, where he can still be seen wandering around the Archway area occasionally. He allegedly led the Highgate Cemetery desecrations in the early 70’s, and most people who have encountered him say that he is at first charming, but you quickly realise he’s not the kind of guy you really want to hang around too long.”
Yet before Farrant fully boarded what became a black magic bandwagon, he was yet to disembark from his vampire bandwagon. Curiously, his lieutenant John Pope would not set foot near Highgate Cemetery and, during the alleged vampire contagion, steered well clear of the infamous graveyard. His collaborations with Farrant took place in lonely woods and a derelict house notorious for its diabolical history. But Highgate Cemetery remained off limits for Pope. Not so Farrant who ventured into that Victorian graveyard to first hunt the vampire and then to summon it using black magic.

The above photograph of Farrant with wooden stake raised above his head and wearing a rosary plus a crucifix was published in the Evening News, 29 September 1970. On 19 August 1970, along with most other newspapers, the Daily Express reported the case of “Allan Farrow”:
“Armed with a wooden stake and a crucifix Allan Farrow prowled among the tombstones of a graveyard. He was hunting the vampire of Highgate Cemetery. And 24-year-old Farrow told a court yesterday: ‘My intention was to search out the supernatural being and destroy it by plunging the stake in its heart.’ Farrow pleaded guilty at Clerkenwell, London, to entering St Michael’s Churchyard, Highgate Cemetery, for unlawful purposes. Farrow told police he had just moved to London when he heard people talking about the vampire of 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 remanded 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 ghost-like figure of massive proportions near the north gate’.”
In August 1970, Farrant reverted back to calling himself “Allan Farrow” in the media, a name he was known by locally, but when he first sought publicity six months earlier he had employed his real name. By the time American vampire aficionado Donald F Glut came to have True Vampires of History published in the following year, he referred to “Allan Farrow who was arrested for trespassing in a London Graveyard.”[2]Seán Manchester received a signed note just prior to Farrant’s arrest on 17 August 1970, which, in the light of what would follow, goes some way to explain Farrant’s eventual denial of ever hunting a vampire with a crucifix and wooden stake. In the following decades the would-be interloper would protest that he did not believe in blood-sucking vampires. His extraordinary note, received at the north London office of the British Occult Society and marked for Seán Manchester’s attention, claimed:
“Certain people have approached me and offered a sum of money if I declare the Highgate Ghost or Vampire (which I really have seen) to be a fake and that I have been part of a hoax. These people, whom I fear will stop at nothing, have diabolical reasons for covering up the truth and I hope that I retain my sane judgement and do not fall prey to their debase demands.”
Despite the note being signed and written in Farrant’s familiar handwriting, when questioned about its authenticity more than a quarter of a century later by Gail-Nina Anderson before an audience at the Fortean Times UnConvention, 20 April 1996, Farrant denied ever writing the note. It is “a phoney,” he told the audience. He was, of course, lying.

The note (shown above in facsimile) is absolutely authentic, as any comparison with Farrant’s correspondence demonstrates. Below is another facsimile, this time of a letter on headed prison notepaper from Farrant (now returned to calling himself “A D Farrow”) to the president of the British Occult Society, Seán Manchester. Farrant’s prison correspondence contradicts and gives the lie to later claims, not least those about his relationship with Seán Manchester and the British Occult Society.Written three days before it was posted on 21 August 1970 from Brixton Prison where he was being held on remand for psychiatric reports, Farrant’s own statements leave no doubt where he stood in relation to what was happening. The psychiatric reports would prove inconclusive. It could not be agreed whether he was sane or not. He was nonetheless judged fit to appear in court. According to the scores of tracts and pamphlets self-published by Farrant from 1991 until the present-day, he claimed to have “founded” the British Occult Society in 1967, and by 1970 his “investigations” were supposedly three years old. This is clearly not the case when reading his prison correspondence of August 1970.Farrant’s letter explains that his arrest was the result of not listening to Seán Manchester’s public warning to him, and others engaged in similar behaviour, to not interfere with the ongoing investigation being carried out by the British Occult Society. Farrant then claims to have information about a cult meeting in Highgate Cemetery. This did not prevent him entering it with a cross and stake, however, which he overlooks mentioning. He apparently wanted “to find some further evidence of [the cult’s] existence.” He admits going against the wishes of the Society and Seán Manchester. Then he promises to forward all the facts about his lone escapade; something he apparently did not do. Farrant reveals that he has now changed his plea to the court from one of guilty to not guilty, and requests Seán Manchester’s appearance as a character witness to speak on his behalf. He expresses concern over how the court might react when they realise he sought publicity in connection with Highgate Cemetery over the six months prior, and now wants Seán Manchester in court “to say you have warned people” about the very behaviour he had engaged in. He claims to appreciate that Seán Manchester is “a busy man,” but nonetheless would like Manchester to visit him, or, at least, send somebody else. He then asks for Seán Manchester’s advice, concluding his letter with the following statement: “Well that’s all, please forgive me for being in this trouble and having to ask your help. I would be grateful if you could write immediately.” Seán Manchester did not write, nor did he allow himself to be exploited for Farrant’s court case with the inevitable media coverage to follow, but he did visit Farrant at Brixton Prison.


The visit left Seán Manchester in no doubt that Farrant was trying to rope him into some sort of dubious attention-seeking scheme, and wanted it to be made all the more plausible by what might be seen as Manchester’s seal of approval. He was told in no uncertain terms that it was not going to happen. The case against Farrant on this occasion was dismissed because Highgate Cemetery, in the strict sense of the wording of the charge, is not an enclosed area, and Farrant had been accused of being found in an enclosed area for an unlawful purpose. Thereafter the compulisve publicity-seeker continued to seek attention and make a general nuisance of himself.
In 1991, Farrant started to publish and circulate his home-produced pamphlets. The first of these devote seventeen pages to the Highgate affair, beginning:
“March 1969, and wide reports were coming in to the British Psychic and Occult Society [sic] concerning a tall black apparition that had been seen lurking among the tombs of London’s Highgate Cemetery.”[3]
But, as we know, Farrant was still with his wife in March 1969, albeit awaiting bankruptcy and eviction, and she would later state under oath that nothing of the kind occurred. The prison letter sent in 1970 is further evidence that Farrant’s self-serving claims are utterly fraudulent. His first pamphlet contains fifty stolen lines of text from Seán Manchester’s The Highgate Vampire, a trend Farrant would continue in his future tracts where further text and photographs stolen from Manchester’s books are unlawfully reproduced. This would expand to theft from glossy magazines and internet websites from which source images of Seán Manchester would be reproduced without permission and then given false attributions alongside poisonous fabrication which occasionally strayed into areas that can only be described as truly bizarre. Farrant invented a completely non-existent history; including anecdotes that often mutated and contradicted previous claims.
Only recipients who require absolutely no evidence were at risk of being influenced by Farrant’s endless stream of malice, and it is perhaps surprising to learn that these include some members of the James Randi Educational Foundation Forum, academics attached to universities, and journalists.
That notwithstanding, Peter Hounam, a respected journalist and editor of the Hornsey Journal, reported in his newspaper on 19 July 1974:
“As a lad, David Farrant was ‘a little devil’ some of the time. As a teenager, he was ‘a bit of a terror.’ But as a man he caused the most trouble – because of his wicked witchcraft activities.”
In the previous edition, Hounam wrote:
“Farrant was a fool. Fascinated by witchcraft, which he learnt from his mother, he couldn’t keep his interest to himself. He was a blatant publicist.”
This appraisal was reached after the journalist met Farrant to interview him on a couple of occasions plus Hounam’s own newspaper’s coverage of Farrant’s trials at the Old Bailey.
Seán Manchester came to know Farrant in the 1970s better than any journalist and, albeit fully aware he was an arch-deceiver, learned enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. It is for that reason his writings on Farrant are an excellent resource.
Others who met Farrant in person were equally unconvinced. Robert Irving, reporting on the Fortean Times’ Unconvention, 20 April 1996 – where Farrant spoke to a small audience interested in the Highgate Vampire case – observed how “Ian Simmons barely recovered from the ordeal of coaxing the Highgate Vampire story from a foetally-hunched David Farrant.”
Trying to coax anything out of Farrant is nothing less than an ordeal. Andy Pryce of Birmingham met Farrant last century and recorded the following in a communication to Seán Manchester dated 19 February 2001:
“I have spent most of my life studying accounts of vampirism, and have indeed visited Highgate Cemetery on numerous occasions. How it has changed over the years! I am interested in research into any accounts of actual vampirism, from the writings of Dom Augustine Calmet through to modern day accounts. I have a copy of The Highgate Vampire which I found very interesting. I remember the events at the time they happened and the various newspaper reports. It was then that I first came across the name ‘David Farrant.’ I met him once in a pub near Highgate and found him to be a compulsive liar and there was something shifty about his mannerism. I have since warned many people to stay clear of him.”
Most who have actually met Farrant have similar comments, which makes it all the more baffling when some people take him at his word without doing any proper research. When tackled on this they merely shrug their shoulders and say that they did not have access to the relevant documents.Questions nonetheless remain as to whether Farrant is just “a little devil” or the Devil Incarnate (the term means evil personified and not the Antichrist; though, in Seán Manchester’s view, Farrant definitely fits the description of “an antichrist” in the sense that he is against Christ), although he prefers in Farrant’s case the description Devil’s Fool rather than Devil Incarnate because Farrant always strikes people as being too pathetic to be a real threat. He is still an inveterate liar who does not believe in his own rectitude and his negative influence is quite obviously harmful.
Seán Manchester has opined on innumerable occasions that Farrant became demonically oppressed in 1971, developing two years later into possession where he betrayed a wasting of the frame, aggravated and irritable moods, a peculiar complexion and features which evince hatred, anger, insult and mockery combined with associated facial contortions and grimaces. His nervous stammer existed prior and is not directly attributable to his demoniacal state. He has a weak bladder, requiring a rubber sheet for his mattress. This, too, existed well in advance of his dabbling in the occult and has no relevance.
So what does Farrant himself claim about his early life and that infamous period when he invited a satanic force to enter him while conducting a necromantic ceremony with Martine de Sacy in the dead of night at Highgate Cemetery and undertook to raise demons with black magician John Pope in a house reputed to be possessed of evil?He self-published in 2001 an autobiographical booklet titled Dark Secrets which can be used to draw upon for Farrant’s version. Even so, the paucity of detail on pivotal events leaves us knowing less about him after reading his autobiography than before, requiring researchers to look elsewhere to discover Farrant’s comments on crucial matters. Some key figures do not get mentioned at all while Seán Manchester, inevitably, attracts the mandatory catalogue of misrepresentation, defamation and fabrication.
_______________________________________________
[1] The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook by Seán Manchester (Gothic Press, 1997, p89).
[2] The Highgate Vampire by Seán Manchester (Gothic Press, 1991, p105) quotes Donald F Glut’s use of the Reuters report.
[3] Beyond the Highgate Vampire by David Farrant (British Psychic and Occult Society, 1991, p5).
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