Infamous Highgate ghosts: Paranormal investigator's book explores village's haunted history
PUBLISHED: 12:52 07 November 2014 | UPDATED: 13:54 07 November 2014
Have you ever spotted a tall figure in a top hat roaming the streets of Swain's Lane late at night, or seen the silhouette of a Spanish barmaid skulking in the corner of a pub in Highgate Village?
If so, you may have caught sight of two of Highgate’s most famous ghosts – so frequently spotted that the supernatural spectres cannot be easily dismissed, says paranormal researcher Della Farrant.
“There are just too many witness reports to write them off as pure invention,” said Mrs Farrant, 36, who has collected almost 70 tales of ghosts, spooks and spectres from across north London for her new book, Haunted Highgate.
“One of the strangest stories dates back to around 1970 when six witnesses simultaneously observed a seven foot tall figure, dressed rather like a monk, float through a top floor window towards them and straight through the kitchen sink.”
With its world-famous cemetery and many historical dwellings, there is something particularly haunting about Highgate.
Mrs Farrant, who describes her job as comparing the memories of unconnected witnesses and researching the backgrounds of their reports, is regularly called to assist with supernatural investigations in the area.
Her haunted hotspots include Archway Bridge, the Hillcrest Estate, Cromwell Avenue and Cholmeley Park, with Swain’s Lane at the epicentre.
Records of local ghost sightings stretch back over 300 years.
In the Georgian era the house that once occupied St Michael’s Church in Highgate Village was famous for its ghosts. In 1808 a wave of mass hysteria broke out after reports of a man with a forked tail ambushing villagers.
Then the frenzy surrounding the ‘Highgate Vampire’ sightings of the 1970s confirmed Highgate’s place on the paranormal map.
“The ‘vampire’ was featured as a BBC and ITV prime-time news item, inspiring the ‘vampire hunt’ of March 1970 in which hundreds of people descended upon the cemetery, causing incredible damage,” said Mrs Farrant.
The book explains the true story of the vampire panic, which began when the Ham&High published an article by occultist David Farrant, now Mrs Farrant’s husband, about an encounter with a menacing dark figure by the North Gate of Highgate Cemetery.
“David never said in seriousness that the Swain’s Lane entity was a vampire, but some local eccentrics began encouraging this rumour,” said his wife. “They were helped along by Ham&High headlines such as ‘Does a Wampyr Walk in Highate?’
The great Gerry Isaaman, editor at the time, freely admits that he ‘played the story for laughs’.”
The couple now live in a “haunted” house in Muswell Hill Road.
The ghost of a man who died 12 years ago, who was known to have practiced African magic, used to “trouble” the Farrants by opening combination locks on suitcases and throwing around crucifixes. Fortunately he has now “moved on”. But Mrs Farrant is certain ghosts are out there.
“Cynicism cannot undo three centuries of sightings, and Highgate’s ghosts will probably still be lurking long after we are all gone!”
Haunted Highgate by Della Farrant is published by The History Press and out now. For more visit hidden-highgate.org