Sunday, 6 February 2011

False Witness


David Farrant vampire hunting in August 1970.
David Farrant recently gave an interview to Pat Bussard for a publication called The Loafer, 14 September 2010, where he offered the following about his alleged experience at Highgate Cemetery more than forty years ago: "I saw this entity myself one night in late December, 1969, as I was passing the top gate of Highgate Cemetery. I wrote about this to the local paper, and several other people wrote in with their own experiences, but then rumour went around that it was really a blood-sucking vampire, and serious vandalism and desecration increased in the cemetery, apparently from would-be Van Helsings."

In fact, there was no increase in vandalism following the media's preoccupation with the vampire theory which, incidentally, had been around since the mid-1960s. Due to all the attention the graveyard received from 1970 it was no longer possible for vandals and diabolists to enter and leave the graveyard with the ease they had hithertofore, and vandalism actually sharply decreased as a consequence. That notwithstanding, Mr Farrant was convicted of vandalism and desecration at Highgate Cemetery less than a handful of years after his supposed ghostly encounter for which a stiff prison sentence was meted out. At least two names and addresses (belonging to Audrey Connely and Kenny Frewin) and one further address (belonging to Nava Grunberg) with a false name and not the occupier's name (in Hampstead Lane) were used by Mr Farrant to send fraudulent letters to the editor of the Hampstead & Highgate Express in the wake of his own published correspondence. Ironically, Mr Farrant refers to himself as becoming "reduced to some modern-day Van Helsing-type vampire hunter" at the end of his account (on page 21) more than two decades after the event itself in a self-published exploitation pamphlet titled Beyond the Highgate Vampire.

But to unravel David Farrant's part at the periphery of the already established goings-on at Highgate Cemetery we need to thoroughly examine his overture in the Hampstead & Highgate Express, when the editor of that newspaper, Gerald Isaaman, published Mr Farrant's unexpurgated letter on 6 February 1970:  

"Some nights I walk home past the gates of Highgate Cemetery.

"On three occasions I have seen what appeared to be a ghost-like figure inside the gates at the top of Swains Lane. The first occasion was on Christmas Eve. I saw a grey figure for a few seconds before it disappeared into the darkness. The second sighting, a week later, was also brief.

"Last week the figure appeared, only a few yards inside the gates. This time it was there long enough for me to see it much more clearly, and now I can think of no other explanation than this apparition being supernatural.

"I have no knowledge in this field and I would be interested to hear if any other readers have seen anything of this nature."

This is the very first time the public heard from David Farrant in connection with any phenomena at Highgate Cemetery. Later he attempted to wriggle off the hook he had impaled himself on forty years earlier by unconvincingly claiming:

"For a start, my letter to the Ham and High in 1970 badly misquoted myself (not deliberately I concede). I did not say that I had seen the figure (ghost) ‘on three occassions’: I was describing a figure that I said ‘had been seen on at least three occasions’. This is true – it had. But on these occasions, the witnesses were other people whom I had witnessed by this time." - David Farrant (Arcadia, 12 December 2009)

But Mr Farrant was not being "quoted" in the Hampstead & Highgate Express newspaper. His letter to the editor had been published in full, completely unaltered, as Gerald Isaaman will attest to this day. In any case, is it really plausible that Mr Farrant's letter would be manipulated by the editor of a highly respectable newspaper to mean something quite different to that he had actually written? Is it not likely that Mr Farrant would insist on having such a tampered version corrected in the following week's issue if this had really happened? There is no record of him having asked for any such correction. There is no record of an amendment appearing even though his contact with that newspaper remained ongoing for the next few weeks. There are records of Mr Farrant sticking with his personal "three sightings" account until October of that year when it suddenly reduced to "two sightings." All these years later it has become "one sighting." Is it only a matter of time before it is "no sighting"?

What certainly exists from four decades ago is what David Farrant actually wrote to the editor of the Hampstead & Highgate Express on 6 February 1970:

"On three occasions I have seen what appeared to be a ghost-like figure inside the gates at the top of Swains Lane. The first occasion was on Christmas Eve. The second sighting, a week later, was also brief. Last week, the figure appeared, only a few yards inside the gate. This time it was there long enough for me to see it much more clearly."

There is, of course, straight away a problem with David Farrant's first uttered sentence in the public domain:

"Some nights I walk home past the gates of Highgate Cemetery."

At that time, Mr Farrant was residing at 294 Archway Road, London. Anyone who knows the general area will be aware that to walk home to that address from any of the pubs in Highgate Village (Mr Farrant drank most nights in the Prince of Wales) could not possibly take you "past the gates of Highgate Cemetery" because the graveyard is in the opposite direction. So David Farrant, after drinking all night, apparently walked home by taking the longest possible route that would create a detour miles out of his way, instead of just nipping down in the opposite direction to where he was residing in nearby Archway Road just ten or fifteen minutes' away? He obviously had not thought his story through before sending it in for publication.

The next month Mr Farrant stated to Today interviewer Sandra Harris on British television: "The last time I actually saw its face." Does this not suggest there was a time previous to the one he is referring to in that interview? The description by Mr Farrant in this interview bears no resemblance to his description decades later where the corpse-like figure had transformed into an ectoplasmic mist with red eyes. No mention of "red eyes" was made by Mr Farrant when he was interviewed in 1970. And certainly no mist. However, in the interim Bishop Seán Manchester's bestselling book The Highgate Vampire had been published where a shape-shifting mist with red eyes is described. Draw your own conclusions. Mr Farrant also revised his account of a walking corpse (which he described to Sandra Harris as being "evil") to ley line activity coupled with a mist with two red eyes when pressed to explain his experiences of 1969/1970 in much later years.

On 20 April 1996, David Farrant told a Fortean Times UnConvention audience that he did not believe in the existence of evil. On the Michael Cole Show, 20 December 1998, he stated that he did not believe in vampires or the existence of the Devil. In his many self-published pamphlets he claims that he has never believed in traditional vampires and, moreover, certainly did not engage in hunting a vampire in 1970.

The BBC's 24 Hours interview broadcast on 15 October 1970 conradicts David Farrant's latter-day revisionism. Laurence Picethly’s interview with Mr Farrant for BBC television was sandwiched between footage of the President of the British Occult Society that had been filmed at the society’s north London headquarters and on location at Highgate Cemetery. The man representing the British Occult Society was obviously not David Farrant even though the latter would fraudulently adopt that title two years later. In fact, the British Occult Society had distanced itself from what Mr Farrant was doing as far back as March 1970. The interview David Farrant gave in late 1970 is important, however, because there are no editors for him to blame for altering what he had written in published correspondence to a newspaper. In the BBC programme he is seen speaking to the interviewer and the viewing public. The words can be heard from his own mouth and there is no escaping them. Here is the 24 Hours television interview David Farrant gave on 15 October 1970:

Laurence Picethly: “On August the seventeenth, Allan [known locally as ‘Allan’ - his correct name being ‘David’] Farrant decided to pay a midnight visit to the cemetery to combat the vampire once and for all. At the cemetery, Farrant was forced to enter by the back wall [footage shows Farrant entering via the rear of the cemetery], as he still does today. He armed himself with a cross and stake, and crouched between the tombstones, waiting. But that night police, on the prowl for vandals, discovered him. He was charged with being in an enclosed space for an unlawful purpose, but later the Clerkenwell magistrate acquitted him. Now, in spite of attempts by the cemetery owners to bar him, Farrant and his friends [no friends were discovered by the police or subsequently identified by Farrant] still maintain a regular vigil around the catacombs in hope of sighting either the vampire or a meeting of Satanists.”

David Farrant: “We have been keeping watch in the cemetery for … [pauses] … since my court case ended, and we still found signs of their ceremonies.”

Laurence Picethly: “Have you ever seen this vampire?”

David Farrant: “I have seen it, yes. I saw it last February, and saw it on two occasions.”

Laurence Picethly: “What was it like?”

David Farrant: “It took the form of a tall, grey figure, and it … [pauses] … seemed to glide off the path without making any noise.”

Mr Farrant's interview ends at this point.

David Farrant was acquitted of the charge that had led to his arrest, it being that he was found in an enclosed area for an unlawful purpose. Highgate Cemetery is obviously not “an enclosed area” and that is all he was charged with in August 1970.

Three things are of significance in that BBC television interview from 1970.

David Farrant reconstructing his vampire hunt for the BBC.
The first is that the reconstructed footage of what David Farrant was doing on the night of 17 August 1970 clearly reveals him to be hunting a vampire with a rosary around his neck, a large cross in one hand and a sharpened wooden stake in the other hand. There is no ambiguity about what led to his arrest in this report where he is featured reconstructing what he was doing at the time of his arrest at midnight in Highgate Cemetery. The image above is taken from the 24 Hours programme as Mr Farrant reconstructs the actions which led to his arrest.

The second thing of significance is that when Laurence Picethly asked whether Mr Farrant had ever seen the vampire, he dis not attempt to correct the person interviewing him by saying it was something other than a vampire. Nor did Mr Farrant make clear that he did not believe in vampires, or that what he witnessed was not a vampire. Indeed, this section of 24 Hours was titled Vampires.

The third thing of significance is that when asked if he had seen the vampire, Mr Farrant responded: “I have seen it, yes. I saw it last February, and saw it on two occasions.” He can be heard saying that he had two sightings of the vampire in early 1970, but in the interview he gave Andrew Gough for Arcadia he states that he had only one sighting and this was in December 1969, not February 1970 as claimed by him in his BBC television appearance some four decades earlier. He makes the same claim in other latter-day interviews he gives, ie it was only one sighting he had back in December 1969, and that he had no other sightings.

So was it one, two, three or no sightings this false witness had back in 1969/1970 (you choose which year, as he seems confused) of the infamous Highgate Vampire? David Farrant nowadays tries to disingenuously convince everyone that he never claimed any belief in vampires and did not attempt to hunt one in Highgate Cemetery with a cross and stake. Images of him from newspaper articles at the time tell an entirely different story. A small sample appear below: