+Seán Manchester reviews coverage of the

Highgate Cemetery vampire in both books




Bill Ellis – author of Raising the Devil and self-proclaimed folklorist.


Chief among those who disseminated misinformation in the new century are Bill Ellis of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research and Jacqueline Simpson of the Folklore Society. Ellis met Farrant. Simpson did not, but relied on Ellis as her source. Neither Ellis nor Simpson met me, but we did exchange correspondence. I offered recorded interviews from the 1970s which include Farrant discussing his early claims on television and in private. Ellis showed no interest in this material, but I did forward the interviews on CD to Simpson who acknowledged their receipt.


Chapter eight of Raising the Devil is titled “The Highgate Cemetery Vampire Hunt” and is based on what Ellis gleaned from Farrant when he met him in July 1992, interpolated by Ellis’ own scepticism. The chapter began its life as an article published in 1993 by the Folklore Society based at University College London in the UK. My response was offered to University College London in the form of an academic paper. The Folkore Society was uninterested in the rebuttal, some of which would later be absorbed within the pages of The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook.


Ellis describes himself as “a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” and, moreover, someone “who has taken leadership positions and on occasion taught adult Sunday school and led services.”[1] Notwithstanding this claim, when I contacted the ELCA they informed me that they had no knowledge of Bill Ellis and “cannot confirm whether he is a member of the ELCA or one of the other Lutheran bodies.” The “Evangelical Lutheran” Ellis defines exorcism as “a means of temporarily inducing an alternative personality … beneficial to some persons for whom conventional psychological or psychiatric therapy fails.”[2] For me, at whom he is more than willing to cast an aspersion, exorcism is the act of casting out demons (Mark 16: 17). It is not alternative therapy for failed psychology. Ellis is nonetheless an associate professor of Anglo-American Studies at Pennsylvania State University, USA. He received his PhD in English from Ohio State University in 1978. In that long-lost era, Ellis says students were told not to worry about the job market; so nor did he. He wrote his dissertation on the image of the mother in country music, drawing on Northrop Frye's theory of archetypes. It would take him six years to find a tenure-track job. Meanwhile, he taught English as an adjunct. He found work preparing the annotations to editions of Nathaniel Hawthorne's letters and notebooks, which gave him some credentials as a specialist in American literature. In 1984 he moved to Pennsylvania State's small branch campus in Hazleton, where, at the age of thirty-four, Ellis finally made the transition to a regular appointment. It was not a position designed for a scholar. Most of the 1,200 students are freshmen and sophomores.


Ellis usually teaches two or three composition courses each semester. That means grading roughly one thousand pages of student writing per course. It is rare that he gets to offer an upper-division class, and rarer still that the topic is folklore, his primary field of scholarly interest. As for conducting a graduate seminar, the possibility never comes up because the campus has no graduate programmes. “Bill has never been part of the mainstream of folklore scholarship,” says Gary Alan Fine, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University; adding: “His work has always been quirky.” 


Quirky or not, Ellis felt his folkloric background qualified him to comment at length on the Highgate Vampire case. His 1993 Folklore article prompted my following observation: “Reading like popular journalism of the most squalid kind, it loses no time in becoming a polemic wherein the personal prejudices and opinions held by Ellis dominate. A dry, impartial ‘academic report’ it is not. His cynicism underscores every line as he tries to debunk anything and everything to do with demonic molestation and satanic ritual abuse. … Ellis strives to correlate the vampire panics associated with the Highgate Vampire case with satanic child abuse panics in Britain and America, particularly ‘the appalling cases at Rochdale and the Orkney Islands.’ One might be forgiven for thinking that he is somewhat out on a limb. … Ellis is willing to employ a discredited publicity-seeker in his mission. … His only other resource was an array of press cuttings [selected and provided by Farrant], many of them flawed and some followed by retractions and amendments that he failed to take into account. Again, the source of much of the contentious reporting in the popular press at the time was Farrant himself. To this person Ellis gives ‘more emphasis than the others as his actions were demonstrably more central to events’.”[3] Having neither met nor consulted me prior to his article’s publication, Ellis conceded in correspondence on 22 February 1996: “Since my piece appeared in Folklore I have received several packets of material correcting my account.” Amazingly, he did not enlist my help at this point.


One of many misleading statements in the Folklore article (subsequently reproduced by Jacqueline Simpson in a book of her own) is that Farrant and I were once “rival members” of the British Occult Society. This false allegation was expurgated by Ellis from Raising the Devil. Likewise, Simpson was obliged to remove it when she came to publish the paperback edition of The Lore of the Land.


When I first encountered him in early 1970, Farrant was residing in a coal cellar. This was the setting where I interviewed him following his letter published in a local newspaper on 6 February 1970. The letter (reproduced in its entirety by Ellis on page 219) is revealing. Farrant claims that he had thrice witnessed “a ghost-like figure inside the gates” at Highgate Cemetery in the preceding weeks, ending with the admission that he had “no knowledge in this field” - the field in question being psychic investigation. Yet, incredibly, on page 217, Ellis introduces Farrant, circa 1970, as a “psychic investigator.”


In June 1974, Farrant was convicted of stealing from a hospital, illegal possession of a handgun and ammunition, malicious vandalism to tombs, breaking and entry into a mausoleum, offering (by means of black magic) indignities to remains of the dead, and threatening police witnesses with voodoo dolls transfixed with pins and accompanying menacing poems. Except for the verdicts on Farrant’s tomb vandalism and his sending of voodoo dolls, Ellis describes the remainder of the aforementioned convictions as “minor offences.”[4] What outrage needs to be committed by Farrant to qualify as a serious offence?  Judge Michael Argyle commented at the conclusion to Farrant’s trials: “Any interference with a corpse during black magic rituals could properly be regarded as a great scandal and a disgrace to religion, decency and morality.” Ellis relegates such interference to the “minor” category. He presents Farrant as a “psychic investigator” who “continues to receive and investigate accounts of supernatural phenomena” and then bleats on about Farrant’s rights being “infringed because he had not been able to practice Wicca in jail”[5] Farrant’s “right” to summon a satanic force during a depraved ritual in Highgate Cemetery, as described by the man himself in New Witchcraft, finds Ellis looking askance. Instead we read: “While the media were increasingly billing him as a black magician, Farrant was not deterred from continuing his occult investigations. By December he had agreed to help John Pope.”[6] Conveniently omitted is the fact that John Pope was at that time the head of the United Temples of Satan and in 1973 (when he formed an alliance with Farrant) was also under suspicion for occasioning ritual abuse. He was later convicted of indecent assault on the boy in question. We must not forget, of course, what Ellis wrote in his own book’s Acknowledgements: “Some of my close professional friends are in fact participants in the Neo-Pagan movement, and I respect both their beliefs and the actions they have taken based on them.”[7] Not much respect was shown, however, toward a fellow Christian.


Ellis goes along with pretty much everything he was told by Farrant. Consequently readers are given the impression that Farrant “returned to Highgate Cemetery in 1969” to continue his supposed investigations when he “decided to spend a night in Highgate [Cemetery], choosing December 21, 1969, the winter solstice … and he saw ‘two eyes meeting my gaze at the top of the shape … [which] were not human,’.”[8] Ellis’ source is Farrant’s latter-day 1991 pamphlet - Beyond the Highgate Vampire.


On the next page of Raising the Devil, he reproduces Farrant’s first published letter to the Hampstead & Highgate Express, 6 February 1970, where we discover that Farrant states he saw the “ghost-like figure” inside the cemetery gates for the very first time on 24 December 1969. Ellis ignores this anomaly. Moreover, Farrant’s letter makes it clear that, far from deciding to spend the night in the graveyard, all three occurrences, including his first alleged sighting, took place on nights when he “walk[ed] home past the gates of Highgate Cemetery.” Many had seen the phenomenon, of course, and this is how Farrant himself learned about it, as confirmed by what he told the police. In an official and signed statement, Farrant told police that he heard the vampire rises out of its grave and wanders about the cemetery on the look-out for human beings on whose blood it thrives. This was reported by the Evening Standard, 18 August 1970.


Having mentioned correspondence in the Hampstead & Highgate Express for 27 February 1970, he refers to the “next weekly issue [that] featured Manchester’s warnings under the wry headline ‘Does a wampyr walk in Highgate?’.”[9] The famous headline was published on 27 February 1970; the same day, not the following week. 


Ellis then attributes the infamous “King Vampire from Wallachia” remark to me and muddles this with a “castle,” despite having been informed by my 1996 report, 1997 book, and correspondence that this was a journalistic embellishment which did not originate with me. I had already addressed his article: “The source this time is a press cutting where a statement was slightly misquoted, plus a travesty of what is written in The Highgate Vampire. For ‘fine house in London’s West End’ read Ashurst House which once stood at the western end of the site now occupied by Highgate Cemetery. I did not suggest that Ashurst House became, or previously had been, a castle. The castle Ellis is referring to existed many centuries earlier and had nothing to do with the contagion. ... What I actually state, and have always stated, is 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 does not have quite the same sensationalist impact as ‘King Vampire from Wallachia,’ which is the Draculesque adornment preferred both by Ellis and the journalist responsible for the front page press report.”[10]


“To be sure,” Ellis reports using old newspapers as his source, “his theory was at first not taken seriously. … Even [the Reverend Neil-Smith] called Manchester’s vampire theory ‘a novelistic embellishment’.”[11] Three years earlier I had published: “Then we come to the Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith, the late vicar of St Saviour’s Church, Hampstead. … In fact, Neil-Smith was originally quoted as saying: ‘I believe the whole idea of vampires is probably a novelistic embellishment.’ However, within a very short space of time the same priest claimed to have confronted and exorcised several vampires. Interviewed by Daniel Farsons, Reverend Neil-Smith accepted ‘that there is such a thing as vampirism,’ as recorded in the book Mysterious Monsters (1978) and elsewhere. Ellis makes no mention of these quotes which far outnumber the single occasion when the priest appeared to entertain some doubt on the issue; assuming, that is, he was not misquoted by the newspaper reporter in 1970.”[12] This is the same priest who sought to exorcise people of Farrant’s evil.


The claim on page 222 that the early weeks in 1970 “were dominated by an escalating rivalry between Farrant and Manchester” is also untrue. I barely knew Farrant at the time and he played no part in the investigation at Highgate. On the same page the following error is found: “The programme also aired a series of ghost stories from a group of young neighbourhood children, one of whom asserted, ‘I actually saw its face and it looked like it had been dead for a long time’.” This is not the case. The Today programme on Thames Television, 13 March 1970, reveals it to be Farrant, not any of the children, who uttered the words “I actually saw its face and it looked like it had been dead for a long time.”


When Ellis refers to me it is someone “who claimed to have been present … etc.”[13] Farrant, however, is taken at his word by Ellis who invariably presents the charlatan absent of the aspersion that he was “claiming” to be somewhere, or “claiming” to be how he might describe himself. I suffer the misfortune of “claiming ordination”[14] while Farrant is “the head of the reorganized British Psychic and Occult Society.”[15] Ellis claims an awful lot. If he were writing for a sensationalist tabloid newspaper it would be regrettable, but when publishing what he terms a “scholarly book” it is untenable. He states what he does without any balancing comment whatsoever. Ellis, who was not present, presumes that “many of the vampire-hunters in Highgate took the event as a lark.”[16] In fact, the mass vampire hunt on the night of 13 March 1970, involving more than a hundred people, manifested precisely because so many people had heard about the reports and taken them extremely seriously indeed. Ellis presumes that Farrant’s version of events is somehow reliable. Thus virtually everything we learn about Highgate and Farrant is from Farrant himself.


When Farrant was arrested in August 1970 by police searching for diabolists and was made to appear at a magistrate’s court, Ellis claims he was “exonerated” when he got off on a technicality. Charged with being in an enclosed area for an unlawful purpose, his defence solicitor successfully argued that, in the strict sense of the wording, Highgate Cemetery is not an enclosed area. What Ellis does not tell his readers is that Farrant, when first charged by the police, pleaded guilty before later changing his plea to one of not guilty. It was after his release that Farrant admitted he had been in contact with Satanists. He soon afterwards started to evince a form of theatrical Satanism himself as we find in the article in New Witchcraft and also confirmed by Dr J Gordon Melton in his coverage of the Highgate Vampire. Farrant in recorded interviews admits to worshipping Lucifer, engaging in animal sacrifices, raising demons and putting curses on people. None of this will be discovered within the pages of Raising the Devil.


Ellis speaks of Farrant’s “supporters,” but Farrant had no support. He was a lone publicity-seeker who duped gullible individuals into posing for photographs that invariably ended up in the Sunday tabloids or magazines such as New Witchcraft. This much can be deduced from the press coverage at the time. Ellis is biased towards Farrant’s whitewash without any critical regard for the facts. Consequently, when Ellis refers to Farrant’s collaboration with “an Evening News reporter … in October 1970”[17] it bears no similarity to the actual report, much less does it mention that this ludicrous outing was headlined as a “midnight date with Highgate’s Vampire.” Barrie Simmons was the journalist in question and his five column feature, complete with a half-page of photographs, was nothing more than a publicity-seeking, albeit amateur, vampire hunting enterprise. “Clutched under his arm, in a Sainsbury’s carrier bag,” wrote Simmons, “[Farrant] held the tools of his trade. There was the cross made out of two bits of wood tied together with a shoelace and a stake to plunge through the heart of the beast.”[18] No mention of this is made by Ellis, needless to say. For him Farrant’s revisionism takes precedence. Thus we read that “they surveyed the damage done: graves opened, skulls stolen, vaults defaced with strange scrawls.”[19] What was actually important to Simmons was Farrant’s theatrical stalking of the vampire. Not so in Ellis’ version. There are no stakes, no cross made out of two bits of wood and a shoelace. Indeed, no vampire hunting! In his previous paragraph, dealing with the August arrest and court appearance, Ellis reproduces Farrant’s latter-day falsehood that he never went vampire hunting with a cross and a stake. This had all “been fabricated by the police” we are required to believe, and he then reproduces Farrant’s disingenuous claim that he was “using the ‘stake’ with string attached to cast a magic circle for the ritual.”[20] Despite the BBC, 15 October 1970, television transmission clearly showing Farrant in Highgate Cemetery with a sharpened stake in his hand, wearing a large cross around his neck, and stalking the Highgate Vampire; despite having seen photographs of Farrant wielding a wooden stake and crucifix, Ellis avoids any mention of Barrie Simmons’ midnight stalking of the vampire with Farrant which is what the article is really about. Instead readers of Raising the Devil are given a misleading impression in which Farrant and the Evening News reporter are merely “surveying” damage in Highgate Cemetery.


It would be almost amusing, were it not so serious, to see how easily someone as uneducated as Farrant can pull the wool over a professor’s eyes, over and over again. Ellis describes the “evidence that black witches had broken into a mausoleum”[21] as being the result of Farrant’s “investigating.” Yet this same evidence was used at the Old Bailey to convict Farrant of tomb vandalism. Detail of this kind Ellis overlooks. He quotes Farrant’s unsubstantiated claim: “I know who was responsible for the desecration.”[22] If Farrant knows who is responsible for the tomb vandalism for which he was found guilty, why on earth has he not identified them? The answer is obvious, but readers of Ellis’ book will not find this question so much as raised. Only Farrant’s counterfeit version is told, not the court reports that led to guilty verdicts. Ellis is selective. He hears only what he wants to hear; only what fits his biased agenda.


“After [June 1974], the Highgate affair disappeared from public comment for some time,”[23] Ellis erroneously claims. He seems to believe that the “Highgate affair” revolved around Farrant's shenanigans and proceeds to proffer Farrant’s perverse version of what was described in the sensational press as a “magical duel” in 1973. Ellis writes: “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.”[24] Ellis does not identify the newspaper in his text, but this is what the Sunday Mirror, 8 April 1973, reported alongside a photograph of Farrant and a nude girl: “The bizarre ceremony will involve naked witches, demon-raisings and the slaughter of a cat.” I am 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 me 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 me by Ellis. I told what actually happened in a work he refers to in his text - a book he also chose to completely ignore. The notorious posters advertising the “duel” were traced at the time to Farrant who had engaged a small printing company used by him on earlier occasions. Ellis repeats Farrant’s falsehood to imply that I 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.” I wrote in From Satan To Christ (1988): “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.”


Bill Ellis’ “scholarly book” contains a long extract which he reproduced from the News of the World, 23 September 1973. In the article Martine de Sacy offers a graphic description of a supposed graveyard orgy and cat sacrifice with Farrant - immediately followed by this from Ellis: “Farrant, who successfully sued the News of the World for libel in 1980, explained that the truth was considerably more mundane.”[25] We are given the clear impression that Farrant sued the newspaper over this article. He did not. We then proceed to learn about the alleged abduction of a pop singer’s cat as though this was the same incident. It was not. The pop singer’s cat was at first believed to be the cat sacrificed in Highgate Wood, but Farrant insisted it was a “stray” he sacrificed and not the celebrity’s cat. But this occurred in Highgate Wood, not in Highgate Cemetery - “Cat’s throat slit during witchcraft ritual in woods: Roger Simpson interviews ‘High Priest’ David Farrant.”[26] The cemetery cat sacrifice incident was something else, somewhere else - “White magic rites in Highgate Cemetery” in the Hornsey Journal, 15 October 1971; also “Ritual sex act and cat sacrifice: Farrant’s claims in High Court” in the Hornsey Journal, 16 November 1979. It gets even worse because the article identified by Ellis is not the one Farrant sued the News of the World over. Curiously, no mention is made in Raising the Devil of the actual article in question.


The article Farrant sued over was published on 30 June 1974 (not 23 September 1973) under the headline “Casanova Witch A Failure As Lover.” The article was less about witchcraft than allegations of Farrant selling nude photographs of Martine de Sacy in his local pub and her suggesting that his constant attention-seeking was to compensate for his failed libido. Under libel law the onus is on the publisher to prove what has been printed and de Sacy could not be found anywhere. She had, in fact, disappeared to France under instruction. Farrant won the libel case on this technicality and was awarded derisory damages of just £50 with costs against him as a consequence. Ellis avoids any reference to another libel case (against the Daily Express) which Farrant lost and where costs of £20,000 were awarded against him. Yet this is a much more revealing and interesting case where Farrant’s occult claims are examined by experts. 

Ellis tries to reduce the impact of Farrant’s diabolical conversion from late 1970 onward by quoting me from my work: “Even Manchester says that his rival [sic] only ‘claimed responsibility for blood sacrifices.’ It seems clear that the affair was a media legend drawn from local rumour and Wheatleyesque models.”[27] What I actually say in my book is: “Farrant claimed responsibility for blood sacrifices, demon raisings and voodoo doll threats.”[28] Farrant did not deny at the time that he carried out these acts. He boasted about them in court and to innumerable journalists. He has been recorded stating as much in interviews. In one interview Farrant accepts that he would be perceived by most people as a Satanist. If I use the words “claimed responsibility” it is only to show that he does not disclaim responsibility. Ellis tries to make it look as though I am doubtful whether he did these things by saying “claimed responsibility.”

 “By December he had agreed to help John Pope, a Barnet labourer who had fallen afoul of the law and been roughly handled during questioning. Farrant agreed to send out two more dolls to the detectives in charge.”[29] Ellis does not identify the charge against Pope. It was ritual abuse. The very thing Ellis is seeking to debunk in Raising the Devil. So his readers do not learn that Pope was found guilty of indecent sexual assault via the black arts on a young boy. Pope subscribes to Crowley’s brand of “sex magick” as found in the Edwardian diabolist’s “magickal” workings. By his own admission, Pope is bisexual and has stated in a recorded interview that being so is an indispensable precondition for advancement within his brand of occult practice. Farrant has no problem with that opinion, and was quick to jump to Pope’s defence.


My work, which was in Ellis’ possession, records: “Few groups will openly describe themselves as being black magic practitioners or Satan worshippers [Pope being an exception]. They will hide themselves behind something less ominous sounding like Wicca, paganism and nature worship. It all appears so harmless on the surface, but underneath the ugly traditions can be discovered. Traditions which would frighten off  the sincere enquirer immediately. … One of the best known names in an ever-increasing gallery of infamy is Aleister Crowley who founded the so-called religion of Thelema. … I make mention of Crowley and his pathetic life because so many of today’s magical orders fashion themselves upon him and adopt ‘Thelema’ as a gateway to pure devil worship and classical Satanism. … The black arts, needless to say, attract a massive number of rogues and charlatans who impose upon the credulity of misguided seekers. Power over others is always the motive behind the devious jargon and rigmarole of their magic.”[30] The diabolist Crowley, whom Farrant and Pope clearly admire and imitate, wrote: “With the cross of Jesus trampled on the floor … Christians necks our footstool, Heaven itself our throne”[31] and stated in his posthumously released ramblings: “I swear to work my Work abhorred, Careless of all but one reward, The pleasure of the Devil our Lord.”[32] These are the sentiments of the man who announced in 1904 that he was the avatar of the New Age of Horus which would supplant Christianity, and who founded in 1920 his depraved cult of Thelema until expelled from Mussolini’s Italy in 1923 amid accusations, among other scandals, of blood drinking, drug taking and child sacrifice. This is the man Farrant and Pope sought to mimic. The latter, of course, claims to be the spiritual son and successor of Aleister Crowley. Neither have a problem with the concept of human sacrifice. The Hornsey Journal, 28 September 1973, on its front page asked: “Would [Farrant’s] ultimate experiment involve human sacrifice?” Journalist Roger Simpson revealed: “Farrant admitted slitting a ‘stray’ cat’s throat at the height of a bizarre witchcraft ritual” - adding later in his article that he had taken receipt of a doll with pins through its head and an accompanying menacing poem from Farrant. “Under the brown paper was a black box which contained a bombshell with a difference,” explained the journalist. The package had been intended for a doctor’s wife, Mrs Annette Wilson, who had been critical in the press of Farrant’s much publicised animal sacrifices, but the Hornsey Journal staff  opened it in view of  the “bomb scares prominent in the news.” These references are not found in Ellis’ book.


Many who follow in Crowley’s footsteps invariably become embroiled in the kind of diabolical scenario that fails to accommodate Ellis’ overview of what he deftly dismisses as ostensive behaviour where the link to Satanism is supposedly tenuous if it exists at all. Self-proclaimed “Son of the Beast” John Pope somewhat less tenuously claimed in the Hendon Times, 2 June 1977: “There’s a lot of hypocrisy where animal sacrifices are concerned … ceremonies are far more important than eating beef or having leather shoes. … I’m fed up with all these middle-class witches prancing about and getting their names in the Sunday newspapers. They’re usually conservative and very boring. They’d be more at home at a vicar’s tea party. One look at a genuine Black Mass and they’d run a mile.” Pope knew all about the real thing. Pop singer John Baldry received black magic threats from Farrant in 1973. Baldry’s occultist friend, rock musician Graham Bond, attempted an exorcism using magical formulae. Soon afterwards Bond fell under the wheels of a train whereupon Pope immediately sought credit for “killing” the musician by the use of a black magic curse. Baldry, half-frightened to death by these events, soon quit England and did not return.


Ellis continues: “Farrant explained that he and other Society members [sic] were conducting a Wiccan ceremony to try and contact the spirit haunting the house.”[33] This is the derelict house where demon raisings were attempted by Pope, Farrant and a duped Californian by the name of Deborah Davis. These were the only people involved in that episode. Quite where the “Society members” fit in is difficult to understand. The female, a cocaine addict, had absolutely no idea what was going on. She nevertheless obliged by posing for photographs. Both Farrant and Pope, when interviewed in the 1970s, clearly describe the ceremony they performed three times at the house as a “demon raising.” The interviews they gave at the time to newspapers and magazines refer only to demon raisings and not attempts to “contact the spirit of the house.” They were drawn to the house only because they had heard rumours of its malevolent atmosphere and because evidence of prior satanic ceremonies had been discovered where they had remained undisturbed on the top floor for some time.


Ellis concludes “The Highgate Cemetery Vampire Hunt” chapter of Raising the Devil with the claim: “Farrant and Manchester remain active in the British occult scene.”[34] Farrant has ostensibly used the occult for publicity in the past, but nowadays says he believes in nothing. I remain an exorcist. Neither of us are “active” in the “British occult scene” beyond Farrant having used occult mumbo-jumbo to attract publicity and me warning against the dangers of the occult. Journalist Mike Hallowell, an ex-policeman, wrote: “The VRS has a strong Christian ethic which warns against dabbling in aspects of the occult which bring nothing but distress and fear.” Hallowell correctly observes in this feature article: “Seán Manchester is actually the Old Catholic Bishop of Glastonbury and writer of the aforementioned book [The Highgate Vampire] which has been reviewed positively by experts. One commented that Bishop Manchester’s work was ‘probably the most remarkable contemporary account of vampiric activity and infestation — and cure.’ … The same expert, after reviewing Bishop Manchester’s findings, added, ‘The evidence seems to be overwhelming and the author is to be congratulated on his lucid account of the case which is likely to become one of the classic works on this interesting and mystifying subject’.”[35]


One of the most vital pieces of evidence - a note in Farrant’s own handwriting that is published on page 110 of The Highgate Vampire - a copy of which was in Ellis’ possession as early as 1992 - is curiously overlooked. Its authenticity and importance should not be underestimated. It offers an explanation where Farrant is concerned, and begins: “Certain people have approached me and offered a sum of money if I declare the Highgate Ghost or Vampire (which I really have seen) to be a hoax.” Crying “hoax” is precisely what Farrant did following his satanic conversion.



Bill Ellis would much rather stick his head in the sand than confront fact or acknowledge evidence of the kind already mentioned. Raising the Devil, therefore, is a work so flawed, so biased, and so reliant on someone with an agenda where chapter eight is concerned that, as an academic venture, it can only provoke sighs of dismay and serve to raise more questions that it answers. Ellis did request a meeting with me back in 1992, but the tone and dismissive manner of his overture led to the invitation being politely declined. He nevertheless ordered a copy of my published work on the subject, which contents, in the event, he at best failed to adequately absorb, or at worst chose to ignore and instead relied on an impression of what he had skimmed through.


Anyone reading Ellis’ book to the exclusion of original source material from those individuals who were actually involved in the case will end up being muddled, misled and having all the known facts misrepresented; a practice his British colleague in the Folklore Society continued to do five years later in The Lore of the Land - a thick guide to England’s legends co-written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson. 


The task befell Jacqueline Simpson to provide an entry on London’s famous Highgate Cemetery which, in the event, included more than just a passing reference to its vampire. Simpson, according to Oxford University’s Library Journal, is “an esteemed British folklore expert.” This makes her coverage of the case of even greater concern.


“When the apparition was first discussed in the local press in 1970, it was merely called a ghost,”[36] she began. It was called all manner of things when first discussed, but was already being described as a vampire locally; even from as early as 1965. What Simpson is alluding to is the plethora of readers' letters in the Hamsptead & Highgate Express where various correspondents spoke of a figure, spectre, ghost and vampire. The British Occult Society, too, often use the term “spectre” as do I in my published account, but this does not contradict the term “vampire.” What she blurs is the fact that vampires (predatory demonic entities) exhibit a certain spectral aspect. Simpson continues: “The publicity was initiated by a group of adolescents calling themselves the British Occult Society.”[37] An adolescent is surely someone between childhood and adulthood. I was past my mid-twenties at the time of the early media curiosity and television interviews. Many of those involved or showing interest in the Highgate Vampire case within the British Occult Society were considerably older.  “David Farrant, their [the British Occult Society’s] leader, spent the night there,”[38] she claims, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Farrant did not “lead” the Society. In fact, he owed no connection to the British Occult Society which was originally formed as an umbrella organisation circa 1860. Fellow members and close colleagues included Peter Underwood, Professor Devendra Prasad Varma and similar luminaries. Prior to its dissolution on 8 August 1988, it was presided over by me. I featured in a programme on 13 March 1970 (Today, Thames Television) to represent the Society’s investigation into happenings in and around Highgate Cemetery that had been accumulating since the mid-1960s. A number of witnesses to a vampire spectre were also interviewed by Sandra Harris. These consisted largely of children and a young man who was captioned “David Farrant.” I was captioned “President, British Occult Society.” No confusion existed as to who “led” the British Occult Society.


Simpson then wrongly insists: “Hardly two informants gave the same story.”[39] What was notable, apart from a couple of rather dubious entries subsequently found to be disingenuous, was the similarity in the accounts recorded by the media, not least the local press. They all spoke of a tall, floating figure with burning eyes and an evil aura. She continues to describe me as “another local youth, Seán Manchester”[40] (the Oxford Dictionary defines “youth” as “adolescence” and “inexperienced” etc) and attributes the quote “a 'King Vampire from Wallachia'”[41] to me. That precise phrase did not appear in print but a similar sentiment was expressed. However, I did not say anything of the kind and have explained at length in a book which Simpson read several years prior, and in correspondence concerning errors contained in Bill Ellis’ Folklore article, that the term “King Vampire” was a journalistic embellishment. Referring to Highgate Cemetery, Simpson erroneously states: “both conducted rituals of exorcism.”[42] Farrant did not. I carried out a spoken exorcism at Highgate Cemetery during August 1970 with consent. This was reconstructed for BBC television and transmitted on 15 October 1970.
Though completely unrelated to either Highgate Cemetery or the Highgate Vampire, Simpson includes: “Manchester challenged Farrant to a 'magical duel' on Parliament Hill.”[43] I did not challenge Farrant to a “magical duel,” as confirmed by statements made by me at the time and coverage of this occasion in the Hampstead & Highgate Express (articles in April and May 1973) and in From Satan To Christ (1988) where the invitation to exorcise Farrant was incidental to the event itself. Farrant cried off and failed to appear. The Parliament Hill “Ring of Prayer” had nothing to do with a “magical duel” though some exploited it as such due to misinformation fed them by the other party. Retractions were published. 
Curiously, Simpson refers to only one criminal conviction: “Farrant ... was jailed in 1974 for damage to memorials.”[44] Farrant, in fact, was sentenced to four years and eight months imprisonment in June 1974 for malicious damage, ie tomb vandalism, at Highgate Cemetery by inscribing black magic symbols on the floor of a mausoleum; offering indignities to remains of the dead, ie desecration via black magic rites where photographs were taken of a naked accomplice in a tomb where occult symbols were marked out on the floor; threatening police witnesses in a separate case where his black magic associate was subsequently found guilty of indecent sexual assault on a minor; theft of items from Barnet Hospital where Farrant worked briefly as a porter in 1970; possession of a handgun and ammunition kept at his address where discovery was made of a black magic altar beneath a mural of the Devil that had featured in the press, not least full front page coverage of the Hornsey Journal, 28 September 1973. Simpson obviously felt she needed to downplay the seriousness of Farrant’s part in the Highgate Cemetery matter in view of her determination to lump him in with me.


Jacqueline Simpson, born in 1930 and a resident of Worthing, Sussex, was president of the Folklore Society from 1993 to 1996 and is currently its honorary secretary. She published exceptionally misleading and grossly inaccurate statements in The Lore of the Land, having placed reliance on her American colleague Bill Ellis whose flawed material in Raising the Devil is even more defamatory and damaging. Some of the press cuttings referred to in his book are wrongly attributed and what he has to say is incredibly biased. Ellis wrote the following response when I brought to his attention irrefutable evidence - in the form of copies of original reports - of his many errors: “... we agree that the contemporary press handling was often inaccurate, and that most subsequent discussions were even more distorted. ... Mr Farrant, since he brought the matter into the papers and was repeatedly arrested for his activities in and around Highgate, clearly was 'central to events' in this sense. Credible, I don't say: I give his explanations for what they're worth and expect that most readers would also recognize that a judge and jury found them unconvincing.[45]


Jacqueline Simpson’s terse response to my concern over her damaging errors being repeated in a pending second edition of The Lore of the Land appeared 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.”


This is how some “scholars” apparently operate. The paperback edition contained an incorrect date for a crucial newspaper article about the mysterious death of foxes even though we had cleared that up well in advance. All reference to my episcopal standing, albeit not entirely accurate in the first edition, was completely expurgated. Factual accuracy suffers when a version like the one Ellis put into circulation is then adopted by other scholars who, despite evidence thrust at them, stick to their agenda. Jacqueline Simpson is entirely responsible for the Wikipedia entry about the Highgate Vampire case. What she has written online reflects the catalogue of error already identified above. Those with an interest in the case often innocently provide a link to her Wikipedia article without realising just how misleading and factually inaccurate it really is.



+Seán Manchester - author and exorcist - at Highgate Cemetery.




 [1] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, pxii).

 [2] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p282).

 [3] The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook (Gothic Press, 1997, p68).

 [4] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p235).

 [5] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p237).

 [6] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p233).

 [7] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, pxii).

 [8] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p218).

 [9] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p221).

 [10] The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook (Gothic Press, 1997, p72).

 [11] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p222).

 [12] The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook (Gothic Press, 1997, p72).

 [13] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p223).

 [14] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p238).

 [15] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p237).

 [16] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p223).

 [17] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p224).

 [18] “Midnight Date With Highgate’s Vampire” by Barrie Simmons (Evening News, 16 October 1970).

 [19] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p224).

 [20] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p224).

 [21] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p227).

 [22] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p227).

 [23] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p228).

 [24] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p231).

 [25] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p232).

 [26] “Cat’s Throat Slit During Witchcraft Ritual In Woods” (Hornsey Journal, 31 August 1973).

 [27] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p233).

 [28] The Highgate Vampire (Gothic Press, 1991, p111).

 [29] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p233).

 [30] From Satan To Christ (Holy Grail, 1988, p13-14).

 [31] Collected Works of Aleister Crowley (1906).

 [32] Satanic Extracts (Black Lodge Publishing, 1991).

 [33] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p234).

 [34] Raising the Devil by Bill Ellis (University Press of Kentucky, 2000, p237).

 [35] Shields Gazette (7 December 2000).

 [36] The Lore of the Land by Jennifer Westwood & Jacqueline Simpson (Penguin Books, 2005, p472).

 [37] The Lore of the Land by Jennifer Westwood & Jacqueline Simpson (Penguin Books, 2005, p472).

 [38] The Lore of the Land by Jennifer Westwood & Jacqueline Simpson (Penguin Books, 2005, p472).

 [39] The Lore of the Land by Jennifer Westwood & Jacqueline Simpson (Penguin Books, 2005, p473).

 [40] The Lore of the Land by Jennifer Westwood & Jacqueline Simpson (Penguin Books, 2005, p473).

 [41] The Lore of the Land by Jennifer Westwood & Jacqueline Simpson (Penguin Books, 2005, p473).

 [42] The Lore of the Land by Jennifer Westwood & Jacqueline Simpson (Penguin Books, 2005, p473).

 [43] The Lore of the Land by Jennifer Westwood & Jacqueline Simpson (Penguin Books, 2005, p473).

 [44] The Lore of the Land by Jennifer Westwood & Jacqueline Simpson (Penguin Books, 2005, p473).

 [45] Correspondence, Bill Ellis, 22 February 1996.