London has been the site of many creepy historical events, ranging from Jack the Ripper's serial murders to the Great Plague of London. So perhaps it's not surprising that tales swirl of things stalking its winding streets – things that aren't quite human. One beautiful, yet macabre London cemetery, Highgate, is rumored to house a very special resident: the Highgate Vampire. Stories about this creature go way beyond the typical urban legend. In fact, many residents became so wrapped up in the tale that they joined the mass vampire hunt of 1970.
Yes, that's right: this bizarre tale isn't from the distant, superstitious past, but rather the supposedly enlightened 20th century. The London vampire hunt shows that, no matter how much science and technology advance, people are still frightened by the things that go bump in the night. Did the Highgate Vampire truly haunt the cemetery, and could it still be there?
An occultist named David Farrant supposedly first encountered the Highgate Vampire on December 21, 1969. Farrant claims he spotted a "grey figure" that evening and knew instantly it was supernatural.
The next year, Farrant asked other Londoners to report any similar experiences. A local paper collected multiple stories, which related sightings of a tall man wearing a hat and a gliding spectral form. Perhaps the most interesting report came from a couple who said they came face-to-face with the vampire in 1963.
There were very few similarities between the eyewitness accounts. This didn't dissuade Farrant, though, whose belief in the supernatural entity at Highgate continued.
On February 27, 1970, the Hampstead and Highgate Express published an attention-grabbing article about the Highgate Vampire. In it, a priest named Seán Manchester from an obscure religious sect said there was a mysterious presence in Highgate Cemetery, "a King Vampire of the Undead." He claimed that the body of a medieval Romanian nobleman and practitioner of the black arts was brought to London in the 18th century. The body was eventually buried in the area that became Highgate Cemetery.
Manchester alleged the vampire was once again stalking London because modern day Satanists had revived him. To halt its nighttime hunts, the priest suggested digging up the body, driving a stake through its heart, and removing and burning its head.
According to Seán Manchester, numerous London residents reached out to him with stories of vampire visitations. Elizabeth Vordewa allowed Manchester to make an audio recording of her, in which she claimed she had two red lumps on her neck.
Vordewa's boyfriend at that time, Keith McLain, swore she had what he's dubbed "an Exorcist moment." McLain alleged that a deep, male voice came out of Vordewa one night, and said, "I'm going to bring both of you down."
McLain and Manchester performed a series of rituals to save Vordewa's soul. These rituals apparently worked, because she made a full recovery and didn't report any further nighttime visitations. As for what was responsible, McLain thinks he has the answer: "I believe it was a vampire, yes. I don't have any doubt about that."
On Friday, March 13, 1970, vampire hunters David Farrant and Seán Manchester set out to expose and destroy the Highgate Vampire once and for all. But they weren't exactly comrades in arms. Farrant and Manchester were at least partly fueled by a growing rivalry to see who could save London from the undead bloodsucker.
A local television channel interviewed the two men live, along with several people who claimed to have had supernatural encounters. Between all of the media attention and the superstitions attached to Friday the 13th, Highgate Cemetery was soon swarming with around a hundred local residents who wanted to join the hunt.