Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Shadows of the Night



In his book The Highgate Vampire, Seán Manchester states that the vampiric source of the Highgate infestation first showed up shortly after the infamous vampire plague of the early 1700's, the same era as Arnold Paole and Peter Plogojowitz. He further states that an Eastern European nobleman occupied Ashurst House in the early 18th century. This all seems to make sense, and it suggests that Tamás Orszag of Hungary is the most likely candidate for the identity of the Highgate Vampire.


A composite of the Highgate Vampire's appearance can be gleaned from various statements in the Vampire Research Society's archive and, of course, on public record in Seán Manchester's The Highgate Vampire.*


Accounts provided by witnesses in the Hampstead & Highgate Express, 13 February 1970 & 20 February 1970, describe "a most unusual form [that] just seemed to glide across the path ... a pale figure ...""Many tales are told about a tall man who walks across Swains Lane and just disappears through a wall into the cemetery ..."" ... a 'form' moving behind some gravestones ... the thing made no sound and seemed to disappear into nowhere ..." *


Jacqueline Beckwith, a teenager living in North Hill, awoke one night with something icy cold clutching her hand which soon went numb. The next morning revealed "deep tears in the flesh where she had forced [her hand] free." *



A ghost hunter by the name of Thomas told of "a dark shape [which] moved across the path directly in front of us." On an earlier occasion he had started to walk home with his fiancee down the lane running alongside and eventually between Highgate Cemetery. "Something was standing behind the iron railings of the gate ... upon its face was an expression of basilisk horror." *



Once again, "the thing behind the gate appeared to dissolve into the shadows of the night." 


* (The Highgate Vampire, pages 49, 54, 65, 66, 67, 68, 85, 86 & 142, Gothic Press edition)

A Wampyr in Highgate





The banner headline "Does a wampyr walk in Highgate?" appeared across the front page of Hampstead and Highgate's most prestigious newspaper in February 1970. The editor himself had written the piece after meeting privately with the president of the British Occult Society and founder of the then fledgling Vampire Research Society. He allowed himself to get slightly carried away by introducing the journalistic embellishment "King Vampire of the Undead" - a term that Seán Manchester did not employ, as stated by him on page 72 of The Vampire Hunter's Handbook, but what else did the editor get wrong that day? Apparently more than you might imagine!

After warning that a vampire might be active in Highgate Cemetery, the article goes on to correctly describe Seán Manchester as a photographer (he had run his own photographic studio throughout the previous decade) and the president of the British Occult Society (a position he held from 21 June 1967 to 8 August 1988 when the BOS was dissolved). He is then quoted accurately enough before reference is made to a King Vampire of the Undead which is not attributed to him in actual quotes but attributed nonetheless.

A very important residence in Highgate somehow manages to transform into a different house in London's West End. For house "in the West End" one should actually substitute Ashurst House, which once stood at the western end of the site now occupied by Highgate Cemetery, as would have been explained by Seán Manchester who told the editor at the time that Ashurst House was sold and leased to a succession of tenants of whom one was a mysterious gentleman from the Continent who arrived in the wake of the vampire epidemic that had its origins in south-east Europe. This is not quite the same as what was reported and, of course, does not have anything like the same sensationalist impact as "King Vampire from Wallachia" which Draculesque adornment the newspaper clearly preferred.

There then follows reference to a group of Satanists attempting to"resurrect the King Vampire." This time the reference to a King Vampire is included in quotes even though the term was not uttered.

Next we are misinformed that the British Occult Society had "no formal membership" but instead corresponded with "50 to 100 interested people." Completely untrue. The BOS had a formal membership of over three hundred people with at least one hundred actively involved in ongoing research and investigation.

Then we learn that the British Occult Society "believes in countering magic by magic" when all that was said is that the supernatural will not submit to scientific methods to measure and prove its existence.

The newspaper correctly states that some BOS members had "spent nights in Highgate Cemetery" which was obviously for the purpose of observing the strange nocturnal goings-on in the place as had been reported by people in the previous decade and was still being reported up to the time of the article.

Readers are then offered in quotes "the traditional and approved manner" by which folk must rid themselves of this hideous pestilence without it being properly clarified that this is how clergy dealt with the problem in centuries past and was not on the agenda as far as the British Occult Society/Vampire Research Society was concerned with regard to Highgate Cemetery.

That Montague Summers' books bore some influence on Seán Manchester's understanding of vampirism is mentioned in tandem with the suggestion that Bram Stoker's novel is based on fact. That Stoker was influenced by genuine cases and read about real vampires before writing Dracula is not in doubt, but the clumsy journalism of the Hampstead and Highgate Express clouds what is trying to be conveyed by the man they are interviewing in the pursuit (presumably) of economising on words for the sake of space.

Finally, we come to a quote attributed to "one of Britain's busiest exorcists, the Rev John Neil-Smith" (they couldn't even get his name right - it was actually Christopher Neil-Smith) by attributing to him the following: "I believe the whole idea of vampires is probably a novelistic embellishment." He said nothing of the sort.

The Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith (1920-1995) was an Anglican priest, originally from Hampstead, most celebrated for his practice of exorcism and his paranormal interests.[1] Like Seán Manchester, whom he knew, Reverend Neil-Smith believed that evil is an external reality and should be treated as such rather than as an abstract concept.

A vicar at St Saviour's Anglican Church at Eton Road in Hampstead, London, he performed more than three thousand exorcisms in Britain since 1949. In 1972, the Bishop of London authorised him to exorcise demons according to his own judgement.[2] Two years earlier, he was misquoted in the Hampstead and Highgate Express, 27 February 1970, saying that vampires are "probably a novelistic embellishment," but, as Seán Manchester subsequently pointed out, Reverend Neil-Smith claimed to have actually exorcised vampires, as confirmed in a book written by Daniel Farson and Angus Hall which records:

"Yet not far from Highgate Cemetery lives a man who takes reports of vampirism seriously. The Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith is a leading British exorcist and writer on exorcism. He can cite several examples of people who have come to him for help in connection with vampirism. 'The one that particularly strikes me is that of a woman who showed me the marks on her wrists which appeared at night, where blood had definitely been taken. And there was no apparent reason why this should have occurred. They were marks like those of an animal. Something like scratching.' He denies this might have been done by the woman herself. She came to him when she felt her blood was being sucked away, and after he performed an exorcism the marks disappeared. Another person who came from South America 'had a similar phenomenon, as if an animal had sucked away his blood and attacked him at night.' Again, the Reverend Neil-Smith could find no obvious explanation. There is a third case of a man who, after his brother died, had the strange feeling that his lifeblood was being slowly sucked away from him. 'There seems to be evidence this was so,' says Neil-Smith. 'He was a perfectly normal person before, but after the brother's death he felt his life was being sucked away from him as if the spirit of his brother was feeding on him. When the exorcism was performed he felt a release and new life, as if new blood ran in his veins.' Neil-Smith rules out the possibility of a simple psychological explanation for this, such as a feeling of guilt by the survivor toward his brother. 'There was no disharmony between them. In fact he wasn't clear for some time that it (the vampire) was his brother.' The clergyman describes a vampire as 'half animal, half human,' and firmly refutes the suggestion that such things are all in the mind. 'I think that's a very naive interpretation,' he says. 'All the evidence points to the contrary'." [6]

The Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith, contrary to editor Gerald Isaaman's false attribution of 27 February 1970 in a local Hampstead newspaper, concluded that there really are such a things as vampires.

References:

1. a b Beeson, Trevor (2006). "The Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith". Priests And Prelates: The Daily Telegraph Clerical Obituaries. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0826481000.

2. Sands, Kathleen R. Demon possession in Elizabethan England. Praeger Publishers. "At around the same time, Father Christopher Neil-Smith, an Anglican priest, received a standing license from the Bishop of London authorizing him to exorcise freely according to his own judgment." 

3. Neil-Smith, Christopher. Praying for daylight: God through modern eyes. P. Smith.

4. Cramer, Marc. The devil within. W.H. Allen. "with the noted exorcist, the Rev. Christopher Neil-Smith, author of an anecdotal book entitled The Exorcist and the Possessed."

5. Spence, Lewis. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology.Kessinger Publishing.

6. Mysterious Monsters (Aldus Books, 1978) by Daniel Farson and Angus Hall. 


Sunday, 25 February 2018

About †Seán Manchester




Seán Manchester was born at a time when the world was at war and the obscure figure who preceded him in the field of operative vampirology, Montague Summers, was still alive and soon to hand a vampire protection medallion to the author and paranormal researcher Peter Underwood. He, in turn, would later bequeath the medallion to Seán Manchester who treats it as a curiosity worthy of display, but nothing more than that. His own armoury of accoutrements is rather more sophisticated and certainly rooted in known and proven objects intended to repel demons of the predatory kind.


He nevertheless studied the works of Montague Summers while still a teenager, and has always shown his appreciation to the Edwardian vampirologist for this introduction to the subject matter. He would later dedicate the expanded and revised hardback edition of his bestselling book The Highgate Vampire (1985 & 1991) to Montague Summers whose ecclesiastical career was not so very dissimilar to the man who would become the last authentic vampire hunter. He was not baptised until he chose to become so himself, and, while still at school, joined an Anglican choir, eventually being made head choirboy. During this time he was increasingly disillusioned with the vagaries of the Church of England whom, he felt, seemed uncertain about almost everything. He studied Catholicism and was received into the Roman Catholic Church, but it was at a time when Liberalism and Modernism were being ushered in by Vatican II. Everything was changing. He became a borderline Sedevacantist, and would eventually take Holy Orders in the traditional wing of an independent Old Catholic jurisdiction. This enabled him to lead an autocephalous jurisdiction that is known within the United Kingdom as Ecclesia Vetusta Catholica. As a Bishop (he was consecrated on 4 October 1991) he is able to carry out exorcisms unfettered, and also appoint others to do so. During his life, as his faith grew stronger, many people were becoming less inclined to believe in anything, much less the supernatural. He sees himself, therefore, as an antidote to this non-belief, and has remained steadfast in that resolve.  


Seán Manchester founded the Vampire Research Society on 2 February 1970. He is its president and was also president of an occult investigation bureau from 21 June 1967 to 8 August 1988 (when the B.O.S. was formally dissolved). For most of his life he resided in London where he met and married a performing arts graduate, who is also an accomplished sculptress, on 8 August 1987. He has no children. They now reside on the English south coast at a private retreat. He does not give interviews.


(Click on the image above to order a copy of The Highgate Vampire)


Seán Manchester's spiritual odyssey and the history of his church can be found in The Grail Church.


(Click on the image above to order a copy of The Grail Church)



Friday, 23 February 2018

Frontispiece


Self-Portrait (oil on canvas) The Sunday Times magazine cover (March 1991)  Sunset (photo: †Seán Manchester)





Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Introduction



"My purpose is to inform, educate and assist in the field of operative vampirology; as distinct from speculative vampirology where the student or researcher intends to remain within the relatively safe confines of hearth and home. I was born within the sombre avenues of forest trees that comprise Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, where, in the fading twilight, the substance of tradition and legend entwines. Tales of supernatural spectres flitting thereabouts were never in short supply, but when one of these phantoms assaulted my grandmother I came to realise that the nether region spewed forth untold danger." Seán Manchester (paraphrased from The Vampire Hunter's Handbook, 1997) 


Vampire Hunt at Highgate Cemetery

It began like most days when the cold winter won't go away. The bitterness of former weeks not only intensified as the unseasonal...