By Kathy Murray
Highgate Cemetery, in London, England, was constructed in the 1800s. Historical figure Karl Marx and Douglas Adams, author of THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, are just some of the famous people buried here. Once a beautiful and peaceful resting place, it became a vandals’ paradise by the middle of the twentieth century. Some blame the destruction caused by bored teenagers and occult believers for what happened next. Was it possible that these random displays of disrespect could literally raise the dead?
FACT OR FICTION?
As with any legend, it's hard to determine just what is fact and what is fiction, especially when it comes to the stories surrounding Highgate Cemetery. For the sake of the story, we will treat the following examples as if they really happened. Only the “witnesses” and the dead really know what transpired. We'll begin in 1963, when two teenage girls were walking home late at night. Their route included a stroll beside the cemetery, which they ran away from upon witnessing spirits coming out of their mausoleums. A few weeks later, the faces would appear.
An engaged couple were also walking past the graveyard at night, when they suddenly saw a grotesque being staring at them from behind the cemetery gates. It seemed to be floating several inches from the ground, and its face was twisted in agony. Since then, and to this day, there have been numerous reports of people seeing ghostly faces behind the iron gate. But it was the Highgate Vampire that made the site legendary.
It was February 1970 when a young man reported that he had seen a dark figure in the cemetery only two months earlier. Other claims of a suspected vampire came pouring in. Helping the theory was the fact that dead foxes with their throats torn open kept turning up on the grounds. One witness decided to organize a “vampire hunt” in March – on Friday the 13th. Police were helpless to protect the cemetery as hundreds of Londoners flooded the property, bypassing the locked gates by climbing over walls and through cracks in the exterior.
Nothing came of the hunt, no vampire found and destroyed. That didn't keep people from saying that they saw the creature at one time or another. Such reports persist even up to this very day. In 1971, one girl said that she was attacked by the beast and saved only when the headlights of a passing car caused the creature to dematerialize. She described it as a “tall black figure with a deathly white face”.
THE LOCKED CAR
Perhaps the most disturbing report of all took place in 1974, when a man returned to his vehicle after walking his dog to find a dead body in his still locked car. The body had clearly just been dug up. How could someone have had the time to somehow unlock the doors of the car and put the body in? And how is it possible that the doors were locked from the inside after the fact? Could the car have been unlocked and then locked again by a supernatural force – perhaps one like the “vampire” of Highgate Cemetery?
Aside from the faces behind the gates and the reports of a vampire, there are other ghosts at Highgate. A glowing woman who roams the paths in between the graves, a man in a top hat, and a misty blob that hangs around the tombs are just some of the other spirits who hang around this cemetery.