Welcome to the third session of The Highgate Vampire Symposium 2015. Titled “The Vampire Theory”, this session addresses the much popularised claim that the entity which haunts Highgate Cemetery was a bona fide vampire, which was supposedly staked circa 1974.
There is no way of ignoring the fact that, to the detriment of what many consider to be a paranormal case of great merit, the last 40 years have seen the term ‘Highgate vampire’ become almost inextricable with an entity which may be something entirely different – and remains unexplained.
It was the Evening News which first coined that infamous phrase, in October 1970, and the media frenzy of the time, along with the continuing interest of the popular press (especially around Hallowe’en!) has helped cement this nomenclature.
Subsequently, in the interests of fairness, and in order to not disappoint attendees attracted by the title of the event, it was felt by the symposium organisers that a full session should be devoted to this bizarre claim.
It was not the intention of the symposium organisers to promote this myth – quite the opposite. Our aim was to promote sensible debate and record subsequent speculation and conclusions. And in that regard we certainly succeeded!
In this session we hear from paranormal author Paul Adams, who also compered the symposium. Paul has been entrusted with the cataloguing of much of the estate of the late Peter Underwood. Mourned and accoladed by his many fans to this day, Underwood, who passed away in November 2014, was one of the first writers of a supernatural persuasion to be afforded a break in the 1970s world of British publishing houses. Paul offers viewers a rare insight into the chronology of Underwood’s research into Haunted London, which culminated in his book of the same name. Paul also shares his research into Underwood’s preparation of his 1975 work The Vampire’s Bedside Companion, which was the first mainstream publication to exhort the validity of an undead, blood-sucking creature roaming Highgate Cemetery and environs.
Next we hear from historian and London tour guide Jon Kaneko-James, who proffers some fascinating comparisons between alleged sightings of the Highgate ‘vampire’ and recorded encounters of English ‘revenants’ over the centuries. Jon focusses particularly upon the shape-shifting elements of revenants as presented in the Byland Manuscripts (circa 1177 – 1390 AD), and contrasts these with the nebulous descriptions (and consistent characteristics) of the entity which allegedly haunts Swains Lane.
Be sure to watch part two, when David Farrant and Paul Adams (author of ‘Written in Blood : A Cultural History of the British Vampire’) continue to discuss the origins of the vampire theory – and critically debate the validity of the evidence presented in its favour.