A sprawling collection of crooked and cracked gravestones, tombs and crypts, hidden beneath lusciously overgrown greenery lies in the heart of London. The Highgate Cemetery looks like a surreal scene right out of a horror movie, so much so it has even featured in a couple such as 1972s ‘Tales From The Crypt.’
Built in 1839, the Highgate Cemetery was purposeful in easing the burden death had placed on small church yard cemeteries, which were overflowing and causing health concerns. The Highgate soon became a popular way for families to lay their loved ones in peace, whilst displaying their wealth and importance through creating opulent Victorian style grave markers.
Around the 1960s the Highgate Cemetery began to fall into disrepair. Coincidentally this is also the same time it gained back some popularity by becoming the home to the notorious Highgate Vampire. Naturally, other tales followed these claims that the Highgate Cemetery is haunted.
The Highgate Vampire
Highgate Cemetery is divided into two sections, the East and the West. These cemeteries are divided by Swain’s Lane, which was to become notorious for its reports of Vampire and ghoul sightings. These commenced in the early 1960s when a pair of teenage girls claimed to sight the dead rising from their graves as they strolled down Swain’s Lane late at night. Shortly after they reported this incident, another report of a horrid black figure lurking behind the gates of the cemetery was reported, again by people walking along Swain’s Lane.
Many more came forward claiming to sight a tall, dark shadow figure after these reports gained some traction with the public. Then, police began receiving notifications of animal carcasses turning up, in and around Highgate Cemetery, that were completely drained of blood.
The media soon picked up on this story and the legend of the Highgate Vampire was born. The story became further sensationalized in the press when two rival magicians began researching and investigating the legend. The story was to spiral out of control as these rivals began competing head to head to be the first to capture or kill the Highgate Vampire. The Vampire craze peaked on Friday the 13th of April, 1973. On this date a vampire hunt was organized, resulting in the desecration of the cemetery. Graves were vandalized, disturbed and some corpses even exhumed to be staked or beheaded.
Though this was the peak of the Vampire craziness surrounding Highgate, other strange occurrences continued for some time. Many believe that it became a place where dark occult rituals occurred. More corpses were disturbed, one even mysteriously ending up in a man’s parked, locked car.
Though likely a sensationalized story blown out of proportion, Vampire sightings continue today and the legend of the Highgate Vampire remains popular folklore within the city of London.
Check out this video for a tour of and Vampire hunt within the haunted Highgate Cemetery.
Haunted Highgate Cemetery
Whilst the Highgate Cemetery looks like a stereotypical spooky scene, many actually believe the cemetery to be haunted. Vampires aside, the cemetery has a few ghost stories to tell.
Many people have claimed to sight the ghostly figure of a crazed elderly woman within the Highgate Cemetery. She has long, knotted grey hair and is seen darting quickly amongst the tombstones. It is told that she is in search of her deceased children, which she murdered whilst still alive.
Other claim to have sighted a shrouded grey figure that remains still, staring into empty space until approached when it will simply vanish into thin air.
Further claims of ghost sightings in the Highgate Cemetery and nearby Swain’s Lane exist. Some have seen what is described as a Hat Man, a cyclist, faces peering through the barred off entrances to the cemetery and a woman in white. There have also been some who have heard disembodied voices and the eerie sound of bells chiming when no one is around.
Visiting Highgate Cemetery
These days visits to the Highgate Cemetery are still possible, but will set you back a couple of pounds.
To visit the West Cemetery you must take a guided tour. Make sure to check with the cemetery ahead of time to organize these and avoid disappointment. Tours last about an hour, are very informative and are necessary due to safety reasons.
The East Cemetery is accessible after paying a small fee and can be explored in a self-guided fashion. It is safer, less overgrown, yet not as architecturally stunning as the West side.
I highly recommend visiting both sides of the cemetery. I immensely enjoyed the tour and exploring the rest of the East Cemetery at my own pace.
Thanks for reading!