Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Seán Manchester's comment on David Farrant

The first meeting with David Farrant at Highgate Cemetery took place in early March 1970.

Seán Manchester's comment on David Farrant from his Memoir:

David Farrant (born 23 January 1946) posted on his blog, 2 July 2009: "I first met [Seán Manchester] in late 1967 in a pub called the Woodman in Highgate." However, on the same blog one week later, 9 July 2009, he claimed: "You asked how I first actually spoke to [Seán Manchester] ... I believe it was in early 1969." The year would fluctuate according to whatever fantasy Farrant was in the process of dreaming up. He managed in later decades to conveniently slips all manner of unsubstantiated allegations into this three years discrepancy. Some of these are truly bizarre, but I digress. What first brought this man to my attention was his letter published in the Hampstead & Highgate Express, 6 February 1970: 

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

Pages 62-63 of my concise vampirological guide, The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook, reveal:

“His alleged sightings of the vampire were to coincide with the time when he was ensconced in [Tony Hill’s] coal cellar. His wife was gone and so were the people who had helped him squander his money [a small inheritance of slightly more than £6,000]. His interest was not the occult at this time, but pub-crawling and the collecting of exotic birds; mostly cockatoos, parrots and macaws. This earned him the nickname ‘Birdman.’ Ironically, Hill had the nickname ‘Eggman.’ Relishing the attention he was now receiving, following his alleged sightings of a vampire, he took foolish risks and ended up being arrested in August 1970 for being in an enclosed area for an unlawful purpose. His ‘vampire hunting’ days were over.”

The Hampstead & Highgate Express, 6 March 1970, records the first meeting between us on its front page, under the banner headline “Why Do The Foxes Die?” The newspaper recounts:

“David Farrant … returned to the spot last weekend and disovered a dead fox. 'Several other foxes have also been found dead in the cemetery,' he said at his home in Priestwood MansionsArchway RoadHighgate. 'The odd thing is there was no outward sign of how they died. Much remains unexplained, but what I have recently learnt all points to the vampire theory being the most likely answer. Should this be so, I for one am prepared to pursue it, taking whatever means might be necessary so that we can all rest.' The vampire theory was suggested last week by Mr Seán Manchester, president of the British Occult Society. … Mr Farrant and Mr Manchester met in the cemetery at the weekend.”

The British Occult Society (1860-1988) was an investigation bureau which existed solely for the purpose of examining occult claims and alleged paranormal activity. It gave birth on 2 February 1970 to the Vampire Research Society, which still survives, as does a remnant of ex-members of the British Occult Society. Farrant carried out his threat to "pursue [the vampire], taking whatever means might be necessary" and was arrested on the night of 17 August 1970. The Daily Express, 19 August 1970, reveals his stated explanation:

"‘My intention was to search out the supernatural being and destroy it by plunging the stake [found on him when arrested in the graveyard, along with a wooden cross] in its heart.’" 

The report continues: 

"David Farrant pleaded guilty at ClerkenwellLondon, to entering St Michael's churchyard, Highgate Cemetery, for an unlawful purpose. Farrant told police he had just moved to London when he heard people talking about the vampire in 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.’"

The eminent paranormal researcher Peter Underwood would comment in a book published five years after Farrant had launched his attention-seeking career: “Publicity of a dubious kind has surrounded the activities of a person or persons named Farrant and his — or their — association with Highgate Cemetery. … a Mr Allan Farrant was caught climbing over the wall of Highgate Cemetery carrying a wooden cross and a sharpened piece of wood. … According to the Daily Mail Allan Farrant saw ‘an apparition’ eight feet tall in the cemetery that ‘just floated along the ground’ when he was on watch one morning waiting ‘for the vampire to rise.’ He believed that there had been a vampire in Highgate Cemetery for about ten years. … Less than a month later a Mr David Farrant was guiding Barry Simmons of the London Evening News on a night-tour of Highgate Cemetery armed with a cross and wooden stake which he carried under his arm in a paper carrier bag. In fact the whole project seems to have been a somewhat dismal and depressing effect — even the cross, created from two pieces of wood, was tied together with a shoelace.” [The Vampire’s Bedside Companion by Peter Underwood, Leslie Frewin Books, 1975, pages 77-79.]

Readers letters to the Hampstead & Highgate Express in early 1970 included reports of a ghost wearing a top hat that had been seen in Swains Lane, just inside the north gate at Highgate Cemetery. With the benefit of hindsight we now know that some of these letters bore the names and addresses of close acquaintances of Farrant. Fraudulent letters were sent to the Hampstead & Highgate Express, 13 February 1970, using the names and addresses of Farrant's friends Audrey Connely and Kenneth Frewin. He used these names and addresses with their consent. He used his close friend Nava Grunberg's address in Hampstead Lane, but her name was changed to a pseudonym. He also used Nava Grunberg, now adopting the nom de plume "Nava Arieli." She used an address in Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, belonging to a friend of hers. Others might have witnessed Farrant in his familiar black mackintosh pretending to be a ghost. He wore an old grey topper and ghostly make-up to convince local people that the cemetery was haunted by a “ghost.” The vampire sightings and experiences by others were probably genuine enough. He was not. Farrant's part in the saga was fraudulent. He pretended to be a "vampire hunter" for the next few months before turning his attention to malefic pseudo-occultism which guaranteed a far bigger return in the publicity stakes. This led to criminal convictions which included indecency in Monken Hadley churchyard under the Ecclesiastic Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860. Victoria Jervis was also found guilty. Her revelations under oath when called as a witness during Farrant's Old Bailey trials two years later are damning, to say the least. This is what she stated under oath: 

"I have tried to put most of what happened out of my mind. The false letters I wrote to a local paper were to stimulate publicity for the accused. I saw him almost every weekend in the second half of 1972 and I went to Spain with him for a fortnight at the end of June that same year. I was arrested with him in Monken Hadley Churchyard. That incident upset me very much. Afterwards, my doctor prescribed tranquilisers for me." 

Facing Farrant in court to address him, Victoria Jervis added: 

"You have photographed me a number of times in your flat with no clothes on. One photograph was published in 1972 with a false caption claiming I was a member of your Society, which I never was." 

On another occasion, she recalled, how she had written psuedonymously to a local newspaper at Farrant's request "to stimulate publicity for the accused."

During their case where Jervis and Farrant were both found guilty of indecency in Monken Hadley churchyard, "Mr P J Bucknell, prosecuting, said Mr Farrant had painted circles on the ground, lit with candles, and had told reporters and possibly the police of what he was doing. 'This appears to be a sordid attempt to obtain publicity,' he said." (Hampstead & Highgate Express, 24 November 1972).

Things began to spiral downwards at an alarming rate as he turned to what ostensibly appeared to be diabolism, but in truth was just further attention-seeking for the sake of the media. He nonetheless engaged in theatrical stunts of an occult nature in churchyards, cemeteries, woods and derelict houses which took on an increasingly satanic appearance. This led to him being charged, tried and convicted for offences which included malicious vandalism to tombs, interfering with and offering indignity to remains of the dead through the use of black magic, and attempting to pervert the course of justice by threatening police witnesses with death dolls impaled with pins. By which time I decided to get to know him properly for the purpose of discovering exactly what was going on and try to and resolve whatever lay behind the enmity evinced toward me by this man. This was some time after Farrant had invited what he describes as a "satanic force" to enter him in a nocturnal necromantic ritual he claims to have staged with a naked female at Highgate Cemetery in 1971. The ritual is described at length by Farrant in an article he wrote while serving a four years’ eight months’ prison sentence. It was published in the fourth issue of New Witchcraft magazine. 

In another article called "Witch Report," (Penthouse magazine [UK], Vol. 8, No. 8, 1973, page 19), he mentions helping a man of diminutive stature — "a midget" — who was being evicted from a controlled tenancy and allegedly suffered harassment as a consequence. Furthermore, the man's wife was apparently pregnant and not coping with the stress of the situation. Farrant "wrote to the landlady saying politely but bluntly that if she didn't stop we would deal with her our own way." She was sent an amulet "consecrated"by Farrant along with a rhyme intended to convey that "once she'd touched it we'd have power over her, and we performed a ceremony in which we cast forces on her wishing her all she wished on the midgets."  Two days later, according to Farrant"she went into the hospital and lost her baby." 

In that Penthouse article, Farrant states: "Satanists worship Lucifer, the supreme power of evil, whereas witchcraft is a neutral thing — it's only evil if practised for an evil purpose." Like several of his Luciferian acquaintances, Jean-Paul Bourre amongst them, David Farrant, who publicly stated that he abandoned witchcraft in 1982, describes himself as someone who “accepts Lucifer as an important deity” and that he “worships Lucifer.” His words are heard on The Devil’s Fool CD (Gothic Press) which comprises thirty-two interview extracts of this individual from as many years of his infamous career as a publicity-seeker.

The person I came to know believed only in his own self-aggrandisement and the amount of newsprint his manufactured stunts might attract; a man, moreover, who did not believe in his own rectitude. So, rather than resolve anything, my acquainting myself with Farrant only served to make matters worse because he understood that I was someone who had become all too aware of his insincerity and deceitfulness. That notwithstanding, I have not ruled out the possibility that his engaging in theatrical Satanism and phoney witchcraft to stimulate media interest might have helped him become possessed by something demonic in the process.

My final contact with David Robert Donovan Farrant is recorded in From Satan To Christ (1988), which publication discusses the occult explosion in London in the preceding decades. My first mention of him is found in the British Occult Society edition of The Highgate Vampire (1985) where, on page 81, I observe that, albeit "something of a nuisance to people," Farrant's woes are entirely "self-inflicted." Others went further, of course, describing him as "crazy" (Canon John Pearce Higgins, Daily Express, 26 June 1974) and "truly evil" (Dennis Wheatley, Daily Express, 26 June 1974), but I shall leave the last view of Farrant, based on personal acquaintance, with paranormal researcher Andy Pryce of Birmingham who, on 19 February 2001, wrote the following statement:

“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.”

My own experience echoes that of Andy Pryce. There is something unpleasantly toxic about this mild-mannered, nervous, stammering creature whose stoop, combined with what appears to be an advanced stage of anorexia, immediately puts one in mind of either Rod Hull or Dickens' Uriah Heep.

The sad spectre of David Farrant in a pub at the turn of the century.

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