Friday, 13 November 2015

Occult Duel

Jacqueline Simpson was born in 1930 and is a resident of Worthing, Sussex. She was president of the Folklore Society from 1993 to 1996 and has also been its honorary secretary. She published exceptionally misleading and grossly inaccurate statements in a book she co-wrote called The Lore of the Land, having placed reliance on her American colleague Bill Ellis whose flawed material inRaising the Devil is equally, if not more, unreliable. Some of the press cuttings referred to in Ellis' book are wrongly attributed and his writing is exceptionally biased, as is Simpson's for the same reason, because the supernatural is summarily dismissed. Ellis wrote the following response when Seán Manchester brought to his attention irrefutable evidence - in the form of copies of original reports - of his many erroneous and false attributions: “... we agree that the contemporary press handling was often inaccurate, and that most subsequent discussions were even more distorted. ...”

Jacqueline Simpson’s terse response to Seán Manchester's concern over her damaging mistakes being repeated in a pending second edition of The Lore of the Land were to appear on the internet:

“Wording changed to 'young people' and 'young man'. Name of organisation dropped, Farrant referred to simply as a 'member' of 'a group of young people interested in the paranormal.' Words 'which the paper called' inserted. No reference now to who did the challenging. Instead, neutral phrasing in allusion to press reports: 'rumours spread that a magical duel ...' The other points are rejected, and no changes will be made there.”

Unlike Bill Ellis, she has always refused to engage in any correspondence with Seán Manchester who kindly sent her copies of newspaper articles and a complimentary CD relevant to the Highgate Vampire case. While she proved most unfriendly towards Seán Manchester, she gladly agreed to speak at Farrant's Symposium held over a Highgate pub in July 2015 in order to dismiss the Highgate case further whilst inserting unprofessional, untrue and snide comments about Seán Manchester.

This is how some supposed “scholars” apparently operate. Simpson's paperback edition contained an incorrect date for a crucial newspaper article about the mysterious death of foxes even though she had cleared that up to her own satisfaction in advance. All reference to Seán Manchester's episcopal standing, albeit not entirely accurate in the first edition, was completely expurgated. She seems to know next to nothing about the case apart from what other people have published or claimed on the internet. Yet Jacqueline Simpson is entirely responsible for the Wikipedia entry about the Highgate Vampire. What she has written is full of error and totally reliant on her colleague in the United States who opted to interview Farrant in July 1992. It had already been established that he would not be able to interview both David Farrant and Seán Manchester. He had to choose. Farrant obviously provided Bill Ellis with highly prejudiced material and selected press cuttings most favourable to himself.

Bill Ellis coverage of the so-called occult duel is based on whatever press cuttings he was given by David Farrant. Ellis, therefore, provides only Farrant’s perverse version of what was described in the sensational press as a “magical duel” in 1973. Ellis writes in his book Raising the Devil“Shortly before the event, a tabloid press article muddied the water by claiming that both Manchester and Farrant intended to slaughter a cat in front of an assembly of naked witches.” Ellis does not identify the newspaper in his text, but this is what the Sunday Mirror, 8 April 1973, actually reported alongside a photograph of Farrant with a naked girl: “The bizarre ceremony will involve naked witches, demon-raisings and the slaughter of a cat.” Seán Manchester is quoted, saying: “My opponent intends to raise a demon to destroy me by killing a cat - I will be relying solely on divine power.” Farrant insisted: “Blood must be spilled, but the cat will be anaesthetised.” The Sun newspaper, 23 November 1972, had earlier quoted Seán Manchester stating that Farrant’s boasts ought to be put to the test: “The quickest way to destroy the credibility of a witch trying to earn a reputation for himself is to challenge his magical ability before objective observers.” Yet unlike the print media, who did invite versions from both sides, no balancing comment was sought from Seán Manchester by Ellis, and certainly not by Simpson. Seán Manchester told what really happened in a work Ellis refers to in passing in his text - From Satan To Christ - which he nonetheless chose to completely ignore. The notorious posters advertising the “duel” were traced at the time to David Farrant who had engaged a small printing company used by him on earlier occasions. Ellis repeats Farrant’s falsehood to imply that Seán Manchester was responsible for these posters. Yet even Brian Netscher, editor of New Witchcraft, revealed in his magazine’s first issue: “As to the ‘test of powers’ challenge, it is a matter of public record that Mr Farrant not only accepted it but publicised it widely in the national press and by means of a rather crudely-made poster.” Seán Manchester wrote in From Satan To Christ“There was no sign of Farrant. He had been fearlessly called to account and, like so many others who use witchcraft to instil dread, could not fulfill the least of his claims when the day of reckoning arrived. … Farrant’s excuse was that he would have been lynched by the crowd of onlookers whose arrival was entirely due to the publicity he had created in the preceding weeks.”

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Highgate's Portal

Seán Manchester's early recollection of Highgate Cemetery:

It was a very long time ago that I first came across the sloping field of crumbling masonry. I took the right-hand path. It swept steeply upward - towards, from my perspective, uncharted territory.

What brought me to this eerie landscape still escapes me; other than to say I was drawn for some inexplicable reason. I was struck on that day by the odd fact that no birds sang and there were no other people in the vicinity. Indeed, I met not a solitary soul on that first visit. Continuing along the silent, tree-shrouded route, I slowly stopped, sensing something strange and sinister in my midst.

It was the sombre pathway to an iron door, the inner circle and beating heart of the steep hill sewn with corpses that had a mystery and atmosphere like no other. The path led darkly to the portal.

This is an artistic impression of my first encounter. It shows me facing away from the portal and yet eerily drawn back to it - as if something unnatural was pulling me into a metaphysical realm.

These are my last artistic impressions, showing the figure further along the path, but still facing away from the door; inwardly sensing the untold horrors that lay behind it; yet unable to resist.

The view in the opposite direction, ie down the leaf-strewn pathway from the portal's perspective.

Returning for the last time to the lane where the unearthly had been experienced many years prior, I cast a lingering glance through the bars of the now permanently closed cemetery's north gate.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Secret Exorcism at Highgate Tomb

In the summer of 1970, both vampiric and satanic outrages were occurring at London's Highgate Cemetery, culminating in the press learning of Seán Manchester's secret exorcism of a tomb:

Such exorcisms were not uncommon and a theory about Satanists summoning an erstwhile dormant vampire had already become established in some quarters. This exorcism was reconstructed two months later by the BBC for their television documentary programme 24 Hours, 15 October 1970.

"The best advice I can give is to avoid involvement in the dark occult, ie Left-hand Path occultism, and do not seek the malign supernatural. Leave well alone. The Devil can tempt us, but he cannot touch us directly unless we open the door and let him in. We should not fear Satan and his demonic horde, but neither should we look for him in the day to day happenings of our life. There are positive aspects of the supernatural such as healing, miracles and visions. Phenomena that once existed with regard to places on any proposed Highgate Vampire tour list no longer afflict those places today, and all one can do is visit areas where something is alleged to have once occurred in the past, and very well might have done so back then. But nothing vampiric or demonic remains today.

"This is certainly true of Highgate Cemetery where a demonic contamination was in evidence over forty years ago, but no longer is there evidence of that manifestation at any of the places associated with the case which was finally closed in 1982. The neo-Gothic mansion was demolished back in the 1970s, and Highgate Cemetery has been regularly maintained and patrolled by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery (FoHC) since the graveyard was relinquished by the private owners, the London Cemetery Company, during the time of the terrifying supernatural occurrences. These reached back many years. The eleven acre woodland graveyard that once comprised part of the Great Northern London Cemetery where a secondary contagion occurred, linked to Highgate, was built on by property developers soon after the unearthly incidents and exorcism of same took place. Little remains to visit and certainly nothing directly associated with the infestation itself."

(Seán Manchester, from his writings regarding the occult.)

Monday, 13 July 2015

Highgate 71 Revisited

A small sample of what is being exhibited. Monochrome images displayed below were first published in their original form in either one or both editions of The Highgate Vampire (1985 & 1991) by †Seán Manchester.

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Largest Vampire Hunt of the 20th Century

It began like most days when the cold winter won't go away. The bitterness of former weeks not only intensified as the unseasonal snow refused to melt away, but somehow seemed to be growing worse.

Today is the forty-fifth anniversary of a Friday the 13th that would go down in the annals of history as the largest vampire hunt of the twentieth century. How did it arise? What led up to it happening?

Gerald Isaaman, editor of the Hampstead & Highgate Express in those far off distant days, recently recounted his meeting with Seán Manchester in February 1970: "Manchester arrived at the office wearing a black cloak lined with scarlet silk and carrying a cane." Isaaman forgot to mention the top hat and tails that were included with the opera cloak and cane. There was also an accompanying young lady, also not mentioned, who was equally formally-attired. It was late in the afternoon and Seán Manchester had no idea how long the interview that had been requested of him would take. 

He and his lady friend were dressed ready to go on to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, from the Hampstead offices of the Hampstead & Highgate Express. He frequently attended the opera in those days and continued to do so whilst in London, always preferring the correct dress code. 

The elderly and now ex-editor reminisced in Jauary 2009:

"The story of the Highgate Vampire [in a recently published book about London's folklore] is attributed to 1970 reports in the Ham & High, where I was then the editor. It recalled the fantastic events of a few months that year and the following one, which culminated in a TV programme inviting people to decide for themselves what was going on. That resulted in three hundred people, allegedly armed with home-made stakes and Christian crosses, storming the cemetery that night to kill the demon vampire lurking among the decaying tombs."

In fact, there was considerably more than three hundred people on the hunt that night for Highgate's vampire. They were there because of a broadcast earlier that evening which brought the case to a much wider audience. There was no announcement by the team officially investigating the mysterious happenings at the cemetery that they would be embarking upon a vampire hunt that night even though that was the case. The official hunt had been planned in private for some time.

Two weeks earlier, on Friday the 27th of February, the Hampstead & Highgate Express had posed the question "Does a wampyr walk in Highgate?" to its readers in the form of a front-page headline. The results of Seán Manchester's conversation with Gerald Isaaman were contained, albeit with considerable journalistic embellishment and misquoting by the newspaper, beneath the headline. This led to wider media interest to the dismay of Seán Manchester who felt pressured to reveal what he and his team of researchers knew about the supernatural and satanic elements present in Highgate.

Thus the mass vampire hunt at Highgate Cemetery on the night of Friday the 13th of March 1970, followed reports in local and national newspapers, but was mostly triggered by a television interview with various witnesses earlier that evening on British television. It also led to a spate of amateur vampire hunters inflicting themselves on the cemetery with home-made stakes, crosses, garlic, holy water, but very little knowledge about how to deal with any suspected undead if they encountered it. 

The president of the British Occult Society had made an appeal on the Today programme at 6.00pm to request the public not to get involved, nor put into jeopardy the investigation already in progress. Not everyone heeded his words. Over the following months a wide variety of independent vampire hunters descended on the graveyard — only to be frightened off by its eerie atmosphere and what they believed might have been the vampire. Some were quickly arrested by police patrolling the area. The public were advised that a full-scale investigation was taking place. Individual efforts by those merely seeking thrills, however, served only to endanger all concerned and frustrate the official hunt.

The image above shows a member of the official vampire hunt that was led by Seán Manchester.

Folk feared encountering the vampire, but nothing dissuaded them on Friday 13 March 1970.

Many myths and misleading assumptions have clouded the true events surrounding the largest vampire hunt to have taken place in the twentieth century which would later be recorded in The Highgate Vampire book written by Seán Manchester. Such speculation has inevitably been the opinion of those too young to have been properly aware of the event, and those not born at the time.

It has been erroneously claimed, for example, that the mass vampire hunt on that night caused damage and led to a spate of wanton vandalism. Nothing could be further from the truth. There had certainly been acts of vandalism in the previous decade which were evident to anyone visiting, but no damage occurred on the night of 13 March 1970. With the world's spotlight now focused on Highgate Cemetery in the period following the famous hunt, vandalism significantly decreased. Such rare acts that did occur were invariably carried out by black magicians, as happened in August 1970 when three schoolgirls discovered a hundred-year-old corpse strewn across a cemetery path with evidence of a satanic ceremony having taken place in the immediate vicinity. No investigating vampire hunters were accused, much less found guilty, of causing any damage. The worst that happened to any subsequent visiting would-be amateur vampire hunters was that they were arrested for being in the cemetery during the dark hours with a caution for potential unlawful intent.

For example, 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 in their wake, they were arrested by police who inspected their rucksack and its contents. Inside was an eight inch long wooden stake, sharpened to a point. John 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 Simon Wiles had one in his pocket. They were eventually discharged.

Who remembers these amateur thrill-seekers now? Yet the mass vampire hunt, involving hundreds, that took place on the night of 13 March 1970, became quickly etched onto the pages of history.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Does A Wampyr Walk In Highgate?

"On Friday, 27 February 1970, the front page headline of the Hampstead and Highgate Express asked does a vampire walk in Highgate? There would be no going back. The die had been cast." - Seán Manchester (The Highgate Vampire, Gothic Press, page 70)

The banner headline "Does a wampyr walk in Highgate?" appeared across the front page of Hampstead and Highgate's most prestigious newspaper in February 1970. The editor himself had written the piece after meeting privately with the president of the British Occult Society and founder of the then fledgling Vampire Research Society. He allowed himself to get slightly carried away by introducing the journalistic embellishment "King Vampire of the Undead" - a term that Seán Manchester did not employ, as stated by him on page 72 of The Vampire Hunter's Handbook, but what else did the editor get wrong that day? Apparently more than you might imagine!

After warning that a vampire might be active in Highgate Cemetery, the article goes on to correctly describe Seán Manchester as a photographer (he had run his own photographic studio throughout the previous decade) and the president of the British Occult Society (a position he held from 21 June 1967 to 8 August 1988 when the B.O.S. was dissolved). He is then quoted accurately enough before reference is made to a King Vampire of the Undead which is not attributed to him in actual quotes but attributed nonetheless.

A very important residence in Highgate somehow manages to transform into a different house in London's West End. For house "in the West End" one should actually substitute Ashurst House, which once stood at the western end of the site now occupied by Highgate Cemetery, as would have been explained by Seán Manchester who told the editor at the time that Ashurst House was sold and leased to a succession of tenants of whom one was a mysterious gentleman from the Continent who arrived in the wake of the vampire epidemic that had its origins in south-east Europe. This is not quite the same as what was reported and, of course, does not have anything like the same sensationalist impact as "King Vampire from Wallachia" which Draculesque adornment the newspaper clearly preferred.

There then follows reference to a group of Satanists attempting to"resurrect the King Vampire." This time the reference to a King Vampire is included in quotes even though the term was not uttered.

Next we are misinformed that the British Occult Society had "no formal membership" but instead corresponded with "50 to 100 interested people. "Completely untrue. The B.O.S. had a formal membership of over three hundred people with at least one hundred actively involved in ongoing research and investigation.

Then we learn that the British Occult Society "believes in countering magic by magic" when all that was said is that the supernatural will not submit to scientific methods to measure and prove its existence.

The newspaper correctly states that some B.O.S. members had "spent nights in Highgate Cemetery" which was obviously for the purpose of observing the strange nocturnal goings-on in the place as had been reported by people in the previous decade and was still being reported up to the time of the article.

Readers are then offered in quotes "the traditional and approved manner" by which folk must rid themselves of this hideous pestilence without it being properly clarified that this is how clergy dealt with the problem in centuries past and was not on the agenda as far as the British Occult Society/Vampire Research Society was concerned with regard to Highgate Cemetery.

That Montague Summers' books bore some influence on Seán Manchester's understanding of vampirism is mentioned in tandem with  the suggestion that Bram Stoker's novel is based on fact. That Stoker was influenced by genuine cases and read about real vampires before writing Dracula is not in doubt, but the clumsy journalism of the Hampstead and Highgate Express clouds what is trying to be conveyed by the man they are interviewing in the pursuit (presumably) of economising on words for the sake of space.

Finally we come to a quote attributed to "one of Britain's busiest exorcists, the Rev John Neil-Smith" (they couldn't even get his name right - it was actually Christopher Neil-Smith) by attributing to him the following: "I believe the whole idea of vampires is probably a novelistic embellishment." He said nothing of the sort.

The Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith (1920-1995) was an Anglican priest, originally from Hampstead, most celebrated for his practice of exorcism and his paranormal interests.[1] Like Seán Manchester, whom he knew, Reverend Neil-Smith believed that evil is an external reality and should be treated as such rather than as an abstract concept.

A vicar at St Saviour's Anglican Church at Eton Road in Hampstead, London, he performed more than three thousand exorcisms in Britain since 1949. In 1972, the Bishop of London authorised him to exorcise demons according to his own judgement.[2] Two years earlier, he was misquoted in the Hampstead and Highgate Express, 27 February 1970, saying that vampires are "probably a novelistic embellishment," but, as Seán Manchester subsequently pointed out, Reverend Neil-Smith claimed to have actually exorcised vampires, as confirmed in a book written by Daniel Farson and Angus Hall which records:

"Yet not far from Highgate Cemetery lives a man who takes reports of vampirism seriously. The Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith is a leading British exorcist and writer on exorcism. He can cite several examples of people who have come to him for help in connection with vampirism. 'The one that particularly strikes me is that of a woman who showed me the marks on her wrists which appeared at night, where blood had definitely been taken. And there was no apparent reason why this should have occurred. They were marks like those of an animal. Something like scratching.' He denies this might have been done by the woman herself. She came to him when she felt her blood was being sucked away, and after he performed an exorcism the marks disappeared. Another person who came from South America 'had a similar phenomenon, as if an animal had sucked away his blood and attacked him at night.' Again, the Reverend Neil-Smith could find no obvious explanation. There is a third case of a man who, after his brother died, had the strange feeling that his lifeblood was being slowly sucked away from him. 'There seems to be evidence this was so,' says Neil-Smith. 'He was a perfectly normal person before, but after the brother's death he felt his life was being sucked away from him as if the spirit of his brother was feeding on him. When the exorcism was performed he felt a release and new life, as if new blood ran in his veins.' Neil-Smith rules out the possibility of a simple psychological explanation for this, such as a feeling of guilt by the survivor toward his brother. 'There was no disharmony between them. In fact he wasn't clear for some time that it (the vampire) was his brother.' The clergyman describes a vampire as 'half animal, half human,' and firmly refutes the suggestion that such things are all in the mind. 'I think that's a very naive interpretation,' he says. 'All the evidence points to the contrary'." [6]

The Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith, contrary to editor Gerald Isaaman's false attribution of 27 February 1970 in a local Hampstead newspaper, concluded that there really are such a things as vampires.


1. a b Beeson, Trevor (2006). "The Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith". Priests And Prelates: The Daily Telegraph Clerical Obituaries. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0826481000.

2. Sands, Kathleen R. Demon possession in Elizabethan England. Praeger Publishers. "At around the same time, Father Christopher Neil-Smith, an Anglican priest, received a standing license from the Bishop of London authorizing him to exorcise freely according to his own judgment." 

3. Neil-Smith, Christopher. Praying for daylight: God through modern eyes. P. Smith.

4. Cramer, Marc. The devil within. W.H. Allen. "with the noted exorcist, the Rev. Christopher Neil-Smith, author of an anecdotal book entitled The Exorcist and the Possessed."

5. Spence, Lewis. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology.Kessinger Publishing.

6. Mysterious Monsters (Aldus Books, 1978) by Daniel Farson and Angus Hall.