The Dastardly Demant

Kev Demant during a pub outing with David Farrant.
The gangly spectre of Kev Demant, “an avowed Seán Manchester supporter,”[1] posted fan mail for three years before turning unpleasant. Much of his correspondence referred to his drab high-rise council block existence in East London’s Whitechapel area, his infrequent excursion to this or that morbid place, failure to catch transmissions of Seán Manchester on television and radio, and the inane ramblings one might expect from a self-proclaimed obsessive. Demant and his wife, Christine, met Seán Manchester just twice – each time at a public event where they chatted very briefly before the occasion itself demanded Manchester’s full attention. The couple also caught the back of Seán Manchester’s head at a third venue during an ecumenical gathering in Westminster Cathedral, but without tickets they could not sit close enough to make contact. Seán Manchester had no reason to question the Demants’ motives beyond their very obvious enthusiasm shown toward his books. In common with Jennie Gray, the managing editor of Udolpho, and others – including their pal Rob Brautigam – The Highgate Vampire was to become the Demants’ favourite book of all time:
“I am constantly reading books on horror and the supernatural and can quite honestly say that no book has ever had quite the same effect on me.”[2]
When the revised and updated edition was published in the summer of 1991, Demant immediately wrote:
“The definitive edition of The Highgate Vampire now holds pride of place in the Demants 1,200 plus ‘library.’ I hope you will excuse my lapsing into unashamed fandom for a moment to tell you I love the book – an intriguing, beautifully produced masterpiece of the supernatural. Nobody is producing anything like it in the present day – from the cover onward it looks and is unique … I hope I’ve not been too gushy, it is just that I truly admire and respect you and your work.”[3]
Demant at the time he was a fan of Seán Manchester.
When the Demants met the managing editor of Udolpho, Jennie Gray, in July 1991 at the first get together of Gray’s Gothic Society, the occasion was recorded and transmitted by BBC Radio Four’s Kaleidoscope on the last day of the month. Demant’s voice was picked up, out of those present, to be heard protesting:
“Actually, we’re not really in with this lot; we’re more into Seán Manchester.”
The following week, he described Gray’s society as belonging to an “older age group, very middle class etc. We looked, felt, indeed were totally alien in such surroundings.”[4]
The Demants nevertheless formed an association with Gray and Brautigam, who were already in contact with each other. Seán Manchester recognised the potential in Christine’s talent for line drawing, and offered to showcase some of her illustrations in a couple of his published works. One of these was his first novel for which Manchester provided photographs to direct and influence the outcome of her drawings; most of which proved to be almost facsimiles of the originals. Her line drawings also feature in the most recent edition of The Highgate Vampire. Most people agree that these two books portray the very best of her work.
The Demants would sometimes sign their correspondence “Kev and Chrissie (friends and fans)” – and their praise was not reserved for merely one topic. Demant proclaimed From Satan To Christ to be “a valuable exposé of present-day Satanism and the charlatans who lure the innocent onto the Left-hand Path.”[5]
This last statement is worth remembering in view of what came to transpire in the period ahead where a total about turn occurred, and these two works became targets for their vilification.
Not wanting to lose a unique opportunity for her specialist magazine, Gray commissioned Demant to conduct an interview with Seán Manchester who was gradually persuaded and hesitatingly consented. Manchester’s schedule, however, prevented a face to face interview, which obliged Demant to ask questions on Gray’s behalf via correspondence and Seán Manchester answering them through the same medium.
“This is certainly a strange way of conducting an interview,” he wrote. “Jennie sets the questions, you do all the hard work and I get my name to the results! … I hope I can do you justice.”[6] A week later, having received Seán Manchester’s answers, Demant replied: “You have not balked at the more ‘difficult’ questions.”[7]
When he saw Gray’s expurgated eventual outcome in print, Demant was quite obviously less enthusiastic:
“To be honest, I don’t know what to feel about the article, a somewhat sanitised version of the material submitted. Many of your responses have been truncated while my own contribution has been edited, certain sentences have been rewritten (badly in my opinion and without my consent) and ultimately censored. … I wonder what all these aesthetes, decadents, intellectuals and yuppies who constitute the readership are going to make of it all!”[8]
It did not take long to discover want they made of it all. Within a month all six hundred copies sold out. Gray ordered an unprecedented extra hundred copies. Her magazine had reached its peak. On December 14th, Demant wrote: “Somehow I think it is your prestigious interview which had much to do with the favourable response.”
Brautigam at the time he was a fan of Seán Manchester.
Kevin Demant had also peaked. Having made innumerable scathing criticisms (some in print – often his correspondence containing the addendum “you can quote me on that”), he launched an astonishing attack out of the blue, and lauded David Farrant whose illicit pamphlet Beyond the Highgate Vampire he suddenly approved and advertised, albeit confessing that he had turned into one of the “quislings” who were “beating a path … to [Farrant’s] door.”[9]
In the same article, Demant now described and promoted himself as “Britain’s premier vampirologist.” This last claim was the most bizarre because it had been apparent throughout his correspondence with Seán Manchester that neither of the Demants knew anything much about vampirology.
Demant had provided an account of his only “practical” experience to Seán Manchester:
“I visited St Mary’s churchyard, Harrow-on-the-Hill, last Thursday for the first time in over a decade. The cemetery is still magnificently gloomy and atmospheric, indeed it hasn’t changed at all. When I was a kid my friends and I used to think it was haunted – it certainly looks as though it ought to be. There was a lot of vandalism and spray-painting on the tombstones – and I can’t recall whether it was satanic or not. My friend and I decided to have a look around there after dark, but were unfortunately dissuaded from doing so by the arrival of a bunch of rather ugly looking bikers. So ended my ghost-hunting days. Not exactly Montague Summers, I’m afraid.”
In the same letter, Demant also mentioned Farrant’s Beyond the Highgate Vampire:
“The pamphlet hardly seems to have made a ripple, not surprising really … Having quoted [without consent] those two extraordinary sequences from your book in their entirety I thought he might have given you a few new customers.”[10]
But for the efforts of Demant, Gray and Brautigam in the years to follow, the home-produced pamphlet would have sunk without trace.
Brautigam’s first meeting with Seán Manchester in 1991.
Rob Brautigam had also now started to blow his own trumpet without any real justification, describing himself as “the only vampire expert in the Netherlands.” This preposterous claim, something of a revelation to Seán Manchester at the time, appeared in the Dutch Sunday tabloid Zondagsnieuws in 1992. Reggie Naus, a Dutch correspondent whom Seán Manchester knew, wrote:
“About a year ago he appeared on a Dutch talk show alongside Chorondzon Vanian, a vampiroid in a black tuxedo, wearing sunglasses inside a studio, with long sharp fangs in his mouth. After Vanian told the audience he would live forever, Rob Brautigam told them a vampire would go out at night and ‘drink fresh blood from young virgins.’ I find it rather curious that a ‘vampire expert’ would believe a vampire can only drink the blood of virgins.”[11]
Naus would reveal a disturbing development: “Brautigam’s website seems to have become a meeting place for vampiroids, with contact advertisements of people claiming to be 450 years old and similar nonsense.”[12]
A visit on the internet to Brautigam’s website at the turn of the century revealed links to other sites that were overtly satanic, promoting Aleister Crowley and such like. Farrant’s squalid pamphlets were now on offer courtesy of Brautigam’s advertising.
Demant and his two associates in “fandom” probably became treacherous and disloyal because they desperately wanted the quick fix of immediate gratification – not unlike the gutter press – whereas Seán Manchester has always been an extremely private person, a lesson learned early in life when he awoke and found himself plastered across newspapers. He would always be willing to answer technical queries in response to correspondents; otherwise general fan mail was dealt with by one of Manchester’s secretaries. Demant and Brautigam managed to pass through the net. Farrant, meanwhile, courted attention and colluded with absolutely anybody willing to play his game. Perhaps frustrated by Seán Manchester’s aloofness and need for privacy, Demant and Brautigam slowly turned to Farrant for their fix.
Close friend of Seán Manchester – French actress Sylvaine Charlet.
Just a few of months earlier, Demant had declared: “I’m just somebody who admires you and your work which I think is important and never less than interesting.”[13] He assured Seán Manchester in private correspondence: “To my mind the best work has been done by Montague Summers and yourself – two Englishmen!”[14]
Demant’s correspondence ended abruptly in December 1993. He and Brautigam were now gaining succour for their Highgate Cemetery obsession from Farrant. In the meantime, some observers were becoming aware of anomalies in Jennie Gray’s treatment of Seán Manchester and his published work in her magazine. Writing under the pseudonym of Lyndall Mack (Peter Mack was her father), Gray described Manchester in 1994 as an “arrogant Sherlock Holmes of the spirit world … [who] recounts [Farrant’s] ludicrous incompetence with fierce disdain,” adding, “all the rest are fumbling amateurs, mere sightseers, gawping at what they cannot possibly understand.”[15]
The text contained misrepresentation of the facts and potential defamation. Gray’s replies in private were nothing less than polite, but she ignored the falsehoods drawn to her attention: “I think you have entirely missed the point. … The Highgate Vampire as a book [is] an A1 classic which will be read for hundreds of years to come. I think if you had taken better note of the general content of Udolpho you would not have fallen into the error which you have of interpreting the article as a vitriolic attack.”[16]
Three years later, Gray wrote an article that tells of her childhood in the late 1950s in Highgate, London, before she was relocated in the early 1960s by her parents: “A great deal of the charm of Highgate Cemetery was precisely that it was forbidden territory. I understand entirely why the vampire hunters kept going back there a decade later. … I am only sorry that my family left Highgate too early – and that, as a consequence, I missed the party.”[17]
Missing the party seems to be the bone of contention, source of sour grapes and latent resentment turned malignant evinced by Gray, Brautigam and the Demants. Seán Manchester felt they should be grateful they missed the “party”: “That truly nightmare scenario is something they cannot possibly begin to comprehend.”
Demant, prior to his radical shift in loyalty, published that Manchester had a “reluctance to suffer fools gladly,” adding, “that he is genuine in his beliefs is, I think, beyond question.”[18]
As the flame of the old century flickered, and first-hand memories of the case dimmed, the hunger to re-invent those times attracted fools like moths to a candle that had almost spluttered its last. Supposed “fans” who later transformed into mean-spirited malcontents have been relatively small in number. The experience of Seán Manchester nevertheless serves to underline the necessity for a moral agenda. The Demants were not involved in the occult, certainly not at the time of their correspondence with Manchester. They were anarchic members of Class War with an almighty chip on their shoulder against anyone they deemed to be grand. Gray and Brautigam were fascinated by decadence and subversive behaviour. They failed to recognise their spite – so immersed were they in it – all of which conspired to some small extent to make Seán Manchester even further remote and inaccessible.
The more they consorted and colluded with Farrant, the more their material became sick and twisted. Christine Demant turned to producing semi-pornographic and profane illustrations designed to be as unpleasant and defamatory as possible. The only persons interested in her efforts were similarly dysfunctional individuals with an axe to grind. One of her drawings, produced in 1995, depicts Seán Manchester grotesquely bloated in episcopal attire. In the top right-hand corner is an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus making a two-fingered gesture. Blasphemy would become her stock-in-trade; her husband resorted to parodying all that Manchester represents, and, in a transparent piece of sour grapes in the second issue of a smutty newsletter he was now editing for Farrant, referred to Sylvaine Charlet as having been included in Seán Manchester’s Highgate account “for the opportunity of regaling us with photographs of himself in the company of a beautiful French superstar” when, in fact, there are no pictures of Sylvaine in the Gothic Press edition.
People slowly become the sum of their choices, and are influenced by what they allow themselves to absorb. Many Seán Manchester encountered along life’s journey were not aware, or, at least, refused to acknowledge, that they had chosen the Left-hand Path. The illusion is that theirs is a more exciting and rewarding journey because imaginary evil sometimes is romantic and varied. But evil in reality is gloomy and monotonous, barren and boring.
Sylvaine has remained a valued colleague and friend of Seán Manchester with whom exists an affinity which transcends time. Back in the 1970s they played lead rôles opposite each other – as a couple who were madly in love – for a French film dramatisation which attracted a cult following with art-house audiences[19]. Sylvaine Charlet and Seán Manchester have always remained close friends as well as colleagues; each to the other providing inspiration and encouragement in an increasingly uglier world.
_______________________________________
[1] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Kevin Demant, 8 October 1991).
[2] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Kevin Demant, 20 May 1990).
[3] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Kevin Demant, 13 August 1991).
[4] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Kevin Demant, 5 August 1991).
[5] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Kevin Demant, 17 February 1991).
[6] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Kevin Demant, 20 February 1992).
[7] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Kevin Demant, 27 February 1992).
[8] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Kevin Demant, 7 September 1992).
[9] “Suspended in Dusk” by Kevin & Christine Demant (Udolpho, Summer 1997, p32).
[10] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Kevin Demant, 23 March 1992).
[11] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Reggie Naus, 21 March 1996).
[12] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Reggie Naus, 15 May 1999).
[13] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Kevin Demant, 19 August 1993).
[14] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Kevin Demant, 14 August 1992).
[15] “The Highgate Vampire Revisited” by Lyndall Mack (Udolpho, September 1994, p30).
[16] Correspondence to Seán Manchester (Jennie Gray, 9 November 1994).
[17] “Growing up by the Boneyard” by Jennie Gray (Udolpho, Summer 1997, p6).
[18] The Ghost Story Society Newsletter (issue 7, 1990).
[19] Beren directed by Guy Godefroy (Lancelot Productions, France).
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