Symposium Updates


A Ghost (?) By Any Other Name

Greetings all. Della Farrant here, the organiser of the Highgate Vampire Symposium 2015. I was contacted earlier this week by a Canadian lady who is considering coming over to the UK to attend the Symposium. She asked me why only one session of the day was dedicated to the “Highgate Vampire”, in view of the title of the event.

This question is very valid, and I hope that other potential attendees and interested parties find the following explanation helpful.

The term ‘Highgate vampire’ is synonymous in public perception with a specific paranormal case, which is geographically focussed in and around Highgate Cemetery, North London. This moniker can be fairly said to be suggestive not only of the claims made by author Sean Manchester that at least two vampires once walked in Highgate, and were staked by himself (one of which also had the misfortune to transmogrify into a giant spider prior to its demise!).

It is also a point of reference within Fortean circles for a debate which has raged for 45 years. Books, websites, magazines and documentaries regularly question whether the Highgate apparition (which has been allegedly sighted in the area since at least the early 1800s, and continues to make appearances today) has an alternative explanation. For example, after considering descriptions of the apparition a supernatural researcher might well wish to examine the potential relevance of the alleged leyline which runs through Highgate, compare the entity to ‘shadow people’, to other roadside hauntings, or even to Djinn if one was to go down the Rosemary Ellen Guiley route. There are a lot of ideas out there, but they don’t often get a chance to be heard.

Therefore Symposium attendees can rightfully expect to be presented with various interpretations and theories regarding the nature of this well-documented entity. Among these the vampire theory will be given the same level and calibre of objective consideration as other suggestions for its purpose and existence. But please do not be misled by the V word!

To present a comparative example: a conference dedicated to unravelling the mysteries of the creature which supposedly dwells in Loch Ness, would be absurdly named if it were presented as ‘The As Yet Unidentified Amphibian Which May Or May Not Exist In Loch Ness Symposium’. Similarly, devoting one session to discussing the alleged creature’s ‘monstrous’ attributes, and several others to witness accounts, evidence and opinion as to possible scientific or even folkloric explanations for its existence, would presumably be considered balanced.

The aim of the Highgate Vampire Symposium 2015 is to give equal balance to any potentially applicable ideas which could help us mere mortals understand what exactly happens or happened in Highgate, and why. It is not to debate the vampire theory predominately (which originates solely from the Sean Manchester narratives), nor to marginalise this – hence one session devoted to it. Neither is it to convince attendees of the existence of a supernatural entity of an entirely different pedigree.

I do hope this clarifies any potential confusion regarding the purpose of the day – linguistics have inhibited debate about the Highgate phenomenon for many years, and hopefully by breaking down these barriers some interesting concepts (which usually get subsumed and halted by the ‘is it a vampire or is it a ghost?’ printed and online tedium) will have the benefit of a long overdue airing.

By coincidence – or design – the nomenclature ‘Highgate Vampire’, which was first coined by The Evening News in 1970, has ironically diverted serious researchers from attempting to glean the real nature – and name – of the entity itself. To date, despite his alleged powers of speech, we are still left confounded at the prospect of ascertaining just who he was in life, if indeed he ever was human like you and I. Perhaps, by unpeeling the layers of misinformation and speculation that have surrounded this case over the decades, we may finally be able to give something of a voice to this spectre, who has had his story told (or mistold) in the words of others, for so many years.

The entity appears to have been around for centuries before his present nickname became popular. And he did not choose it.  To summarise succinctly, it is he who is finally the star of his own show, regardless of whatever name he is popularly referred to by. Maybe he will even stop by to say thanks! But would you really want him to??

Thanks to all for your interest in the event,

Della Farrant

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