Meek but not so Mild Charlatan

Farrant with holy water in one hand and a stake in the other.

David Farrant married his pregnant girlfriend, Mary Olden, in a Roman Catholic Church on Highgate Hill in August 1967. She gave birth to a son three months later. The Roman Catholic Church might appear to be a strange choice for a self-professed wiccan. However, when Mary appeared as a defence witness during Farrant’s Old Bailey trials in June 1974 she affirmed that she had no knowledge of him having any interest in witchcraft or the occult. His Highgate Cemetery antics were described by Farrant’s wife under oath as being nothing more than “a bit of a laugh and a joke.” In the early months of 1970, when he began his attention-seeking shenanigans, Farrant was often photographed for newspapers in attitudes of prayer before Christian crosses. He posed wearing crucifixes, rosaries and holding holy water. He was still doing so in August 1970, six years after he was supposed to have been initiated according to the latest date offered by him for this dubious and almost certainly manufactured ceremony. A photograph taken in 1970 shows Farrant holding a wooden stake in one hand, a bottle of holy water in the other and wearing a cross around his neck. It can be found on page 54 of Seán Manchester’s The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook. These are strange accoutrements indeed for a pagan and a witch. From the autumn of that year, according to Dr J Gordon Melton, Farrant turned to something more diabolical to hold the media’s interest.Melton records: “In the summer of 1970, David Farrant, another amateur vampire hunter, entered the field. He claimed to have seen the vampire and went hunting for it with a stake and crucifix – but was arrested. He later became a convert to a form of Satanism.”[1]

Farrant in “vampire hunting” mode in 1970.

Graham Bond was an orphan, adopted from the Dr Barnardo’s home, who came to prominence in 1962 at the Marquee Club in London as a featured musician with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. In 1963 Bond formed a trio, then a quartet, before founding in 1964 the Graham Bond Organisation. It was during the following period that he took an unusual interest in the occult and the works of Crowley. He was not alone in that respect. David Bowie and Mick Jagger each became fascinated with the diabolist’s writings, and the singer Sting apparently used to read Crowley’s books when touring. Yet Bond went much further and became a practicing Thelemite. From that moment his fate appears to have been sealed. He renamed his band the Graham Bond Initiation; its final appellation being Holy Magick (adopting Crowley’s perverse spelling of the word “magic”). In the early days, Bond was noted as being a silent, humble figure with a plastic alto saxophone; always on the outskirts of what was going on, never part of it. The thing about him was that he was not noticed. This would change. The versatile keyboard player and saxophonist, who also did some vocals, steadily developed an obsession with the occult, especially the brand of Satanism, devised by Crowley and known as Thelema, imitated by Pope and Farrant. Like his mentor, he also became seriously addicted to drugs and alcohol. According to the posthumous biography The Mighty Shadow, written by Harry Shapiro, Graham Bond sexually abused his stepdaughter. Pope would claim to be Crowley’s “spiritual successor” – employing the title “Son of the Beast” – but Graham Bond went one better. He claimed to be an illegitimate son of Aleister Crowley.On 8 May 1974, Graham Bond fell, or perhaps jumped, in front of the wheels of a London Underground train at Finsbury Park station, and died. In the previous year, he had been called upon by another rock star, “Long” John Baldry of Muswell Hill, London, to help in an “exorcism,” as the media insisted on describing it. Baldry had been receiving threats and curses from Farrant, who confirmed this to be the case in repeated boasts published in his local newspapers at the time, eg the front page headline story of the Hornsey Journal, 28 September 1973. Baldry believed that his missing cat Stupzi had been sacrificed by Farrant in a witchcraft ritual. Whilst not denying the ritual sacrifice of cats during this period, Farrant maintained that the one he killed in Highgate Wood was not Stupzi, but a stray. On one occasion, Baldry and Bond arrived at Farrant’s bed-sitting room to confront the sender of voodoo threats, but only found Pope whom Farrant had been using to deliver the clay effigies with accompanying menacing poems (as confirmed by Pope in later interviews). Farrant himself was out at the time, or possibly in hiding. When the rock star met with his unfortunate death, Pope immediately claimed that he had killed Graham Bond with a black magic curse; something he reiterated in a recorded interview with Seán Manchester.Mystery has always surrounded the untimely demise of Graham Bond and many commentators in the media have looked for simple answers, sometimes erroneously describing Bond as a “white magician.” There is nothing “white” about the magic that springs from Aleister Crowley. Seán Manchester spoke to Baldry in person, following a live television programme they both appeared on concerning the dangers of the occult, to assure him that Farrant was bogus and Pope was deranged. Baldry nevertheless grew ever more terrified of the curses he had received and quit England for Canada, never to return. Farrant issued witchcraft threats to all manner of people throughout 1973 culminating in him being investigated by Scotland Yard detectives. They discovered an altar with black candles beneath an image of the Devil in his bed-sitting room. He was arrested in early 1974 and held on remand until his trials in June, resulting in a four years and eight months prison sentence. Pope remained free to pursue his undisguised brand of evil. Bond died a month before Farrant faced his own fate in front of a judge and jury.

John Pope intended to “form a new coven that will rule the world” and “abolish the system whereby children are forced to learn Christian worship,” according to an interview he gave Reveille magazine, 21 November 1975. When this failed to happen, he became increasingly unstable, declaring direct blood descent from Jesus Christ, Dracula, Robin Hood and Jack the Ripper. Farrant would frequently refer to Pope behind his back as a “silly little imbecile.” Today Pope provides “horror tours” to paying voyeurs who want to see the haunts Jack the Ripper in London’s East End where Pope now resides, and the house of the sexual pervert and serial murderer Dennis Nielson, which is located just around the corner from the Muswell Hill attic bed-sitting room occupied by Farrant since his release from prison on parole in 1976.

Pope during a demon raising ritual in which Farrant participated.
By no means did everyone end up dead, deranged, or demonically possessed. Anthony Hill grew out of his youthful admiration for Crowley, becoming sceptical in retrospect about his past experiences and regard for things occult. His first marriage ended in divorce, and his next wife, a non-practicing Jewess, did not receive from him a hakenkreuz silver necklace as had the first. In the new millennium he quit England to live abroad with his second wife, only occasionally returning for visits.Everything worth recording about the real investigation of the Highgate Vampire has already been written by Seán Manchester, and we have no intention of trawling through this well documented case. Seán Manchester has recounted his thirteen year investigation many times in interviews, written books about it and made numerous television film documentaries. The interviews he has given on this case alone must run into literally hundreds. Even so, the amount of false and misleading commentary in print over the last decade or so from those totally unconnected to the case is truly astonishing and the ultimate source is invariably always Farrant.A massive vampire hunt at Highgate Cemetery on the night of 13 March 1970, following reports in local and national newspapers, plus Seán Manchester’s television appearance at 6.00pm, led to a huge crowd of concerned people gathering outside the cemetery gates. Seán Manchester had made an appeal on the Today programme requesting the public not to get involved, lest they put in jeopardy the investigation already in progress. Not everyone heeded his words. Over the following months a variety of freelance vampire hunters descended on the graveyard only to be frightened off by its eerie atmosphere and what they believed might have been the vampire. Those seeking thrills served only to endanger all concerned and frustrate the investigation. Simon Wiles and John White armed themselves with a crucifix and a sharpened stake, and set off to see if they could locate the vampire’s tomb. Like others who followed their example, Wiles and White were soon arrested by police patrolling the cemetery who found a rucksack containing an eight inch long wooden stake sharpened to a fine point. White later explained at Clerkenwell Court: “Legend has it that if one meets a vampire, one drives a stake through its heart.” He was wearing a crucifix round his neck and Wiles had one in his pocket. They were eventually discharged. Thus began an unwelcome trend.

Alan Blood on the night of Friday 13 March 1970.
One man, fortuitously named Alan Blood, was a 25-year-old history teacher from Billericay. He descended on Highgate after seeing the Today report on television, but at least had the good sense not to enter the graveyard. Though described by the Evening News, 14 March 1970, as a “vampire expert,” Blood, in a later interview given to the Hampstead & Highgate Express, 20 March 1970, stated that he was no such thing. “I have taken an interest in the black arts since boyhood, but I’m by no means an expert on vampires,” he admitted. Following a drink in the Prince of Wales where he spoke briefly to Farrant, Blood joined the crowd outside the cemetery’s north gate. But he did not enter. Farrant remained behind in the pub with his drink.By 8.00pm on the night of 13 March 1970 scenes of utter pandemonium were taking place as people gathered in large numbers along the steep lane running alongside Highgate Cemetery. Police leave was cancelled to control those arriving, but it was an almost impossible task. By 10.00pm an assortment of independent amateur vampire hunters had joined the onlookers. Alan Blood was among the crowd. Matthew Bunson, as recorded in his The Vampire Encyclopedia (1993), felt Blood was a significant player in this publicised case. Bunson, an American who had no contact with Blood, or indeed anyone else contemporaneous to events at Highgate, relied on another American – Jeanne Keyes Youngson of the New York Count Dracula Fan Club which is nowadays known as simply as Vampire Empire – who, in turn, relied on Farrant for her stream of misinformation.An authentic account of Alan Blood’s part in the affair is given in Seán Manchester’s The Highgate Vampire (pages 77-79) from which the following is revealed:

“By 10.00pm the hundreds of onlookers were to include several freelance vampire hunters, including a history teacher, Alan Blood, who had journeyed from Billericay to seek out the undead being.”

He had seen the report on television some hours earlier and immediately set off for Highgate. On his arrival in Highgate Village, he entered the Prince of Wales pub on the High Street for a drink, whereupon he recognised an unkempt individual who had been one of several alleged witnesses interviewed by Sandra Harris. By this time Seán Manchester was already inside the cemetery with his research team. Blood thereby was obliged to settle for Farrant quaffing pints of ale in the Prince of Wales. He listened to bizarre claims of “a seven foot tall vampire that hovered by the cemetery gate,” and wanted to be shown exactly where this occurred. Oddly enough, Farrant declined and continued to drink his ale. Blood left the pub to join the steadily growing crowd of several hundred people in Swains Lane. When the pub eventually closed, Farrant also joined the throng outside the cemetery’s north gate, but, like Blood, made no attempt to enter.

It was while in Swains Lane, wearing a Russian-style hat, that Blood was noticed by an Evening News photographer and a reporter. They spoke to him, and also to 27-year-old Hampstead resident Anthony Robinson who had ventured to the north gate “after hearing of the torchlight hunt.” Robinson is alleged to have told the reporter: “I walked past the place and heard a high-pitched noise, then I saw something grey moving slowly across the road. It terrified me. First time I couldn’t make it out, it looked eerie. I’ve never believed in anything like this, but now I’m sure there is something evil lurking in Highgate.” Yet it was Blood, who saw and did nothing, whose photograph was to appear on the front page of next day’s Evening News. Farrant must have been livid. Blood is described at the head of the report as “a vampire expert named Mr Blood who journeyed forty miles to investigate the legend of an ‘undead Satan-like being’ said to lurk in the area.” Alan Blood, of course, claimed nothing of the sort, and would confirm in a more soberly conducted interview that he was “by no means an expert.”

Farrant taking his “investigating” seriously as a “ghost” at Highgate Cemetery.
None of which prevented American Matthew Bunson publishing some twenty-three years later:“The focus of the media attention turned to David Farrant and Allan [sic] Blood, vampire experts who led the search. Both were convinced that a vampire was sleeping in one of the vaults and were determined to find it and kill it. While blamed for the desecration of tombs and arrested for trespass, Farrant was acquitted on the grounds that the cemetery was open to the public. As is typical of such incidents, stories based on rumour and on unconfirmed sightings soon spread, and the tabloids and newspapers ran exploitative reports. No vampire was ever publicly discovered.”[2]Apart from the reference to press exploitation, not one single statement in Bunson’s entry for “The Highgate Vampire” is accurate. The focus of the media did not turn to David Farrant and Alan Blood. The latter, after the night of 13 March 1970, completely disappeared off the scene, having indicated that he was not expert enough to deal with it. Farrant was to become infamous for publicity-seeking by the end of the vampire panics, by which time he had repudiated the “vampire theory,” as he would come to describe it. Yet, save for his letter to a newspaper editor in February 1970, he was not a “focus” with regard to the investigation, which promptly dismissed his allegations of sightings as unsafe and his behaviour unwise. Blood never stated that he was “determined to find and kill” the vampire. Farrant, of course, did, but later revoked this ambition. Nor was Farrant arrested for “trespass.” He was, in fact, arrested for being in an enclosed area for an unlawful purpose. And Farrant was not merely “blamed for the desecration of tombs” in Highgate Cemetery. He was actually charged, tried in a criminal court and found guilty of malicious damage to tombs. Farrant received a substantial prison sentence. Sightings of the alleged vampire were confirmed, documented, and recorded by Seán Manchester and members of his research team. Sightings were also confirmed by countless independent witnesses.

Seán Manchester would add in The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook (pages 66-67):

“Interestingly, Jeanne Youngson’s name crops up in Bunson’s acknowledgements as having assisted with this book [The Vampire Encyclopedia]. Why does that come as no surprise? Peter Hough follows in Bunson’s errant footsteps in Supernatural Britain (1995) and repeats the misinformation that David Farrant ‘teamed up’ with Alan Blood (something neither ever claimed) whilst ignoring the actual investigation. When contacted through their respective publishers, neither deigned to reply. Their publishers also refused to answer any correspondence on the matter.”

Bunson and Hough were followed by Liverpool disc jockey and freelance journalist Tom Slemen whose paperback Strange But True (1998) erroneously claimed that “Alan Blood organized a mass vampire hunt that would take place on Friday 13 March, 1970. Mr Blood was interviewed on television. … The schoolteacher’s plan was to wait until dawn, when the first rays of the rising sun would force the vampire to return to his subterranean den in the catacombs, then he would kill the Satanic creature in the time-honoured tradition; by driving a wooden stake through its heart. … In an orgy of desecration [the crowd] had exhumed the remains of a woman from a tomb, stolen lead from coffins, and defaced sepulchres with mindless graffiti.”[3]

None of which is true. Blood did not “organize a mass vampire hunt.” Blood organised nothing at all. He was just an interested onlooker. It was not the “schoolteacher’s plan to wait until dawn.” This was the supposed plan of Farrant. There was no “orgy of desecration” etc. No damage whatsoever occurred on the night of 13 March 1970. What Slemen is referring to is an entirely different incident that took place five months later, as recorded on the front page of the Hampstead and Highgate Express, 7 August 1970, where the discovery of the headless body together with signs of a satanic ceremony were made by two fifteen-year-old schoolgirls as they walked through the graveyard on a sunny August afternoon. Police viewed this desecration to be the work of diabolists and investigated it as such. Weeks later, Farrant was arrested prowling around the graveyard at night.

These misleading reports by Bunson, Hough and Slemen contaminated some other accounts, needless to say, but few would be as inaccurate as Leonard R N Ashley’s in The Complete Book of Vampires (1998). This self-styled occultist and colleague of Jeanne Youngson stated: “A typical, if overblown, time was around 1970, when David Farrant got in trouble charged with disturbing the neighbours if not the corpses and trespassing.” Referring to Seán Manchester as “the now late Seán Manchester,” Ashley falsely describes his presence in the cemetery as being “attended by as many press and television reporters as he could muster for the event.” He added: “I never met Seán Manchester.”[4]

For the record, neither did Bunson, Hough, Youngson, or Slemen. None of these people communicated with Seán Manchester in any form, not even through a medium, which, if Leonard R N Ashley is to be believed, is the only way possible. No newspaper or television reporter attended anything Seán Manchester conducted in Highgate Cemetery on that or any other night. Moreover, Manchester’s reluctance to deal with the media is precisely what led to the more unscrupulous among them resorting to Farrant and his publicity stunts. Ashley unsurprisingly sings the praises of his collaborator and source Youngson on the same page.

The tomb of the vampire was located in August 1970, as revealed in the 24 Hours programme – a BBC television film documentary transmitted on 15 October 1970 – and later confirmed in Peter Underwood’s anthology The Vampire’s Bedside Companion (1975) and Exorcism! (1990), plus J Gordon Melton’s The Vampire Book: Encyclopedia of the Undead (1994), and Seán Manchester’s The Highgate Vampire (1975, 1976, 1985, 1991). Three years and three months following the BBC documentary, the primary source was effectively exorcised with the help of Manchester’s research team. Several 35mm photographs, some of which are reproduced in The Highgate Vampire book, were taken of the corporeal form in its final moments of dissolution. These images were later transmitted and discussed on various television programmes in the UK.

_______________________________________

[1] The Vampire Book: Encyclopedia of the Undead by J Gordon Melton (Gail Research, 1994, p298).
[2] The Vampire Encyclopedia by Matthew Bunson (Thames and Hudson, 1993, p121).
[3] Strange But True by Tom Slemen (Paragon Books, 1998).
[4] The Complete Book of Vampires by Leonard R N Ashley (Souvenir Press, 1998, p80-81).

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