It sounds absurd to suggest that tales of vampire-like entities have roamed some of London’s most derelict and overgrown places. Generally, we perceive such ‘monsters’ as fictitious, and certainly movie-based apparitions intent on sucking the blood of damsel’s in distress. Well, that’s maybe just my own erotic belief, but delve into the archives of London’s murky folklore and you will find a handful of bizarre cases pertaining to energy-sapping spectres.
The most famous of these is the ‘vampire’ of Highgate, at Swains Lane. A tall, red-eyed phantasm which was often seen lurking behind the main gate of the Western Cemetery during the late 1960s and early ‘70s. The spook was often described as a black, menacing mass which was reported by many witnesses at the time to the local Hampstead & Highgate Express newspaper.
During the time the cemetery was in an awful state: a Gothic jungle of sweeping vines, ivy-strewn pathways and desecrated graves. The confines of the burial ground, where plague victims were once horded, had its own satanic sect, were also prone to constant vandalism and as vampire fever escalated, thousands of people flocked to the foggy arena in the hope of catching a glimpse of the wraith.
Many witnesses suggested that the figure was simply a malevolent ghost, a spindly gent said to wear a tall, black hat and be adorned in dark garb. This spirit was also reported from the local pub The Flask and The Old Gatehouse suggesting the phantom walked a specific route in its haunting activity. However, the mysterious death of foxes were recorded at the time, and reporters drawn to the area spoke of being psychically drained by an unseen entity.
Although the ‘vampire’ attacks were investigated, the chaos caused by the media hocus pocus did nothing but damage to the case, but it is said that the spectre remains among the pallid catacombs. In 2005 a dark wraith was seen on two occasions floating across the lane from the western gate which hasn’t been used for decades. Guided tours are also provided, as now the cemetery remains in a state of manageable neglect, a true masterpiece in its architecture that looks like a set straight from a Hammer Horror movie. However, whether the blood-sucker in this case is real we’ll never know…
In 1922 at Coventry Street in the West End, three men were attacked on the same day by an unknown assailant who left puncture marks in their throats. All the men were admitted to Charing Cross Hospital and all claimed that they were attacked at exactly the same spot. Despite police investigations, no-one was caught, leaving the press to ask whether a real vampyric spirit was to blame. In fact, it may have been the same spectre said to have loitered in West Drayton Church, the creature was said to resemble a huge bat which shrieked through the tombstones and was blamed for an attack on a Harmondsworth woman.
Despite such vampire alerts, no real evidence has ever come to light…but then again, vampires have never been attracted to light!