In the 1970s a series of reports of supposed supernatural activity at Highgate Cemetery in London made national press. In episode six of 'The ParaPod: Conspiracies' Barry and Ian debated whether claims of the Highgate Vampire were true... but that's not all they debated, Ian also tries to get to the bottom of whether the story actually even constitutes a conspiracy.
This week's ParaPod started off being really funny, you could have never predicted that Barry would be talking about "wonky tits" and his favourite type of porn, but they went there!
Then Barry got down to business and introduced Ian to this week's conspiracy, only it wasn't really a conspiracy. Barry wanted to talk about the Highgate Vampire, which is more of a mystery than a conspiracy and would have been better places in series two of The ParaPod, which was all about mysteries.
But Barry insisted that there was a conspiracy at the end and reluctantly, Ian was forced to listen to Barry recounting the story of the strange goings on in the North London cemetery.
Barry started off by describing the cemetery and apparently it's a "posh cemetery, really nice place to be buried. Nice place to live." Ian forces Barry to clarify this last point, he meant Highgate is a nice area of London to live in (due to the trees) and not that the cemetery is a nice place to live in... although perhaps it would suit Barry.
Ian starts off by asking Barry an important question, "do vampires exist?"
Barry says "not in the way that we think they do, as in, Christopher Lee, fangs, haircut."
Ian clarifies, "but are there things that die that stay alive? A vampire is undead, it dies but carried on living and fuels itself with blood."
Barry reluctantly bows to Ian's logic and comes to the realisation that he doesn't "necessarily believe in that," forcing him to admit that his interpretation of a vampire is actually the same as a ghost, meaning vampires are spirits and don't have a physical form.
So, what about a vampire hunters core weapons, garlic and a wooden stake? While Barry insists that garlic would still work as defence against a vampire, he finds it tough to argue the fact that you could drive a wooden stake through a ghost's heart when it's not a physical entity.
The 1960s & David Farrant
"It was 1963," Barry started, "there was a couple walking down the street. They noticed floating behind the railings, a tallk, dark figure with its face contorted."
This was the first reported sighting of the Highgate Vampire and "there was another bloke walking his dog down Swain's Lane and he saw something sliding along like treacle."
The story continues in 1969 when "this bloke called David Farrant" developed an interest in the stories of supernatural goings on at the cemetery. Ian cynically adds "there's money in that," referring to Farrant's book on the subject but Barry doesn't agree.
According to Barry, Farrant camped over night in the cemetery in December 1969 and he saw the figure himself and claimed the air went icy cold. Barry and Ian agree that this is the behaviour of a ghost, not a vampire.
THE 1970S & SEÁN MANCHESTER
At the beginning of the 1970s another man got involved. Seán Manchester was a bishop and a vampire hunter, he claimed that what people were reporting in Highgate was a "king vampire, which was an undead 15th century nobleman who practiced the dark arts."
Seán believed that so many people had been going to the cemetery to practice black magic that they'd disturbed and awoken this king vampire, so Farrant and Manchester planned to join forces to "sort the job out," said Barry.
According to Barry they announced on ITV news in March 1970 that they would be going to the cemetery on Friday 13th... I check this, there was a Friday 13th in March 1970.
The duo planned to spend the night at the cemetery and sort out the vampire problem. Unfortunately this resulted in a huge number of people showing up at the cemetery without permission, the police were involved and the event was called off. It seems Farrant and Manchester didn't have the backing of Highgate Cemetery as the cemetery didn't perceive the "vampire" to be a problem.
Farrant was later arrested at the cemetery, again for being on the property without permission. He was found with everything needed to conduct a seance... candles, incense, a wooden cross adorned with protective magical symbols and a small tape recorder. He was caught while trying to escape from the police by climbing over a wall at the back of the cemetery. The police arrested him on the grounds of "being in an enclosed area for an unlawful purpose."
Barry finishes the tale of Seán Manchester by recounting the time he took a sleepwalking girl into the cemetery. Barry doesn't know how he got a sleeping girl to the cemetery or why, but says Manchester followed her as she made her way through the graves to the tomb of the vampire.
Manchester tried to get in to the tomb but couldn't, Ian is quick to point out that he shouldn't be able to get in or be allowed to get in without permission. Barry continues, telling us that Manchester threw some garlic through the roof of the tomb.
According to Barry, a few days later Manchester returned to the cemetery and this time managed to get into the tomb. Ian interrupts wanting to know, "why is he not in jail?" And of course, he should be in jail for breaking in to a tomb. Barry ignores this comment and instead says proudly, "ah, but the coffins were empty."
Barry tried to tie it all together by stating that the reason the coffin was empty was because of the garlic that Manchester had previously thrown in to the tomb. He said that the vampire must have been like "f**k this, I'm off." Manchester eventually tracked the vampire down to an abandoned house in Crouch End, he put a stake through its heart and burnt it.
That's a little bit conflicting as earlier Barry agreed that vampires don't have a physical form and therefore a stake can't be driven through their heart, as they are ghosts or spirits. This also means they'd be impervious to fire.
So, Where's The Conspiracy?
Ian, now getting impatient asked Barry, "I'm still struggling to find the conspiracy in this."
Barry shamelessly came straight out with it, "Keanu Reeves is a vampire apparently." This shocking information has all come from the website 'Keanu Is Immortal.' The site gives details of the actor's life dating back to the 7th century.
Ian isn't convinced and spots a hole in Barry's logic, "Keanu Reeves is tangible though isn't he? I've seen him pick stuff up in 'Bill & Ted'."
Barry agreed but Ian continues, "we established earlier on that vampires aren't tangible."
Barry is determined to get his point across and clutching at straws spewed out a quote from Keanu which seems to be the source of this claim...
"Money is the last thing I need, I could live on what I've made for centuries."
Ian then has to break the news to Barry, "you've not fulfilled your remit. That has nothing to do with Highgate Cemetery. If you'd have come here today with 'Keanu Reeves is a vampire' and we'd had a long discussion about that, you'd have done what you're meant to do, but what you've done there is you've tried to sneak in a ghost story with a tenuous link at the end."
Barry defends himself by saying he was on a conspiracies website when he "got distracted" by the vampire, "I started researching that. I got halfway through it, I was in too deep by the point, turned out it wasn't a conspiracy and then someone on Twitter said 'have you heard about Keanu Reeves?'"
Ian sums it up by saying, "basically, there's no conspiracy today because Barry hasn't brought one."
Well, it goes without saying that Barry lost this week's episode as he failed to even deliver a valid topic, but the story of the Highgate Vampire was interesting none the less.
The story has been told in many books including those written by David Farrant and Seán Manchester. It's well documented as being a great example of modern legend-building.
As Ian said he should have been, Farrant was jailed in 1974 for vandalism, desecration, and for damaging memorials and interfering with dead remains in Highgate Cemetery.
Manchester's reputation wasn't much better, many accounts describe him as being "unhinged," he eventually backed down on some of his claims, stating that a newspaper embellished his statement claiming Highgate was home to a "king vampire."
Manchester's story is full of exaggeration and claims that appear to be lifted straight off the pages of 'Dracula.'
It's clear that this story is a fantasy that got out of hand, seemingly fuelled by Farrant and Manchester's rivalry, each trying to prove to the British press that they were most competent vampire hunter.
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