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Haunted Highgate Cemetery: The Highgate Vampire and Ghosts in London

Haunted Highgate Cemetery: The Highgate Vampire and Ghosts in London

Highgate Cemetery

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.’

Haunted Highgate Cemetery in London.
Exploring the creepy and supposedly haunted Highgate Cemetery in London.

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.

London's Highgate Cemetery is haunted by a vampire.
Overgrown tombstones in the Highgate Cemetery, London.

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.

Looking for the Highgate Vampire.
Exploring London’s most famous cemetery looking for the Highgate Vampire.

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.

Black cat in the Highgate Cemetery.
A Black cat crossing my path whilst walking through the haunted Highgate Cemetery in London.

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.

Vampire hunting in Highgate Cemetery.
Looking for vampires in London’s Highgate Cemetery.

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.

London's most haunted cemetery, Highgate,
Tombstones scattered throughout the overgrown Highgate Cemetery.

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.

Highgate Cemetery horror.
Highgate Cemetery looking like something right out of a horror movie.

Check out this video for a tour of and Vampire hunt within the haunted Highgate Cemetery.

tombstones in Highgate, London.
Pathways lined with thick vegetation and tombstones.

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.

Highgate graveyard, London.
Weathered grave markers inside of London’s most famous graveyard.

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.

London Highgate mausoleums
Rows of mausoleums in London.

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.

Grand architecture in the Highgate Cemetery.
Grand architecture.

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.

Graves in Highgate Cemetery.
There are many graves to explore within the cemetery.

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.

Famous graves in Highgate Cemetery.
Make sure to take a guided tour of the cemetery for in depth information about many of its most famous graves.

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.

Highgate Vampire searching.
Still not sure if the Highgate Vampire exists.

If you enjoyed this read and want to check out another nearby haunted place in London, take a look at the haunted Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

Thanks for reading!

xoxo

Amy's Crypt Signature

Amy

About Amy

Amy is a world traveller and explorer of creepy locations. She has visited some of the most famously haunted places around the world in search of evidence of the paranormal. Follow Amy's Journey:

Comments (6)

  • Terry Kennedy

    Posted by Terry Kennedy on November 18, 2019

    “Legend Tripping”: Just a bunch of teens out late instead of doing their homework. They do graffiti, vandalize graves, do mock or real rituals…..then the press and other people see it all and freak out and go around telling everybody that there’s a demon or something running around in the cemetery.
    Personally, I DO NOT believe in ghosts but I do believe in evil spirits that can take on the form of the deceased. I live in Savannah, Georgia here in the United States and my hobbies include what you’re doing. history, architect, exploring, assembling model kits, reading, writing and research, driving, swimmimg and enjoying my most favorite time of the year, Autumn.
    Oh yes, cats are also cool. Especially those black ones 😉

      Amy

      Posted by Amy on November 19, 2019

      Hi Terry! Thank you so much for sharing your views (and also your love of cats). I tend to agree with you when it comes to vandals. Cheers for the comment.

  • Tony Gardens

    Posted by Tony Gardens on September 7, 2020

    Write with an open mind on this…
    Many years ago, mid 70s..My Gran had a newsagents not far from the cemetery at the end of Balmore Street…Well,there was said to have been a sighting in the cemetery of a vampire, and outside her shop was an A-board with a picture of the so called vampire and the words of the sighting..My mum in her wisdom took the poster from the A-board,rolled it up and packed in her bag…She then brought it back with her to Andover in Hampshire..
    My dad at that time was a milkman and would always get up early,so the next morning he got up as normal,but as he walked into the dining room he see something walk through..He then went to work.. But when he get home he told my mother about it,( he had not known of the poster) and what he told mum was the same as what was on the poster.(dad always said,like zoro,or the sandyman port man)..
    My dad being an old Londoner and working class did not believe in that kind of thing & it is not something that he would make up…I have asked dad about this many times,& still today he says it’s true..I was also told that we had to get a prest in to do what ever they do…

      Amy

      Posted by Amy on September 10, 2020

      Thanks so much for reading and sharing this with me, Tony! I find it very interesting and kind of creepy!

  • Wendy Osben

    Posted by Wendy Osben on June 9, 2021

    Hi Amy, This is interesting. Our father and uncle Godfrey and Stanley Offord were a stone mason and carved many of the tombs for the City of London and as stone mason and Records Clerk (Stanley). We are a church family with a Reverend and Crusader in the families.

      Amy

      Posted by Amy on June 13, 2021

      Wow! That is so cool. Thank you for sharing, Wendy.

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