There are very few graveyards around the world that could compete with the level of paranormal activity happening behind the gothic walls of London’s Highgate Cemetery. The 177 year old resting place has been at the center of some of the world’s most spine-tingling legends, but some of them are even stranger than tales of ghosts. Some of them involve real vampires..
During Victorian-era London, if you were of high-society, there was a no more sought-after final resting place than Highgate Cemetery. The graveyard became so popular that by the 20th century, tens of thousands of London’s richest and most well-to-do had been buried behind the ornate walls of the graveyard, each family attempting to out-do the other with their beautiful headstones. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t always be that way.
By WWII, the 20-acre cemetery had fallen into a period of neglect. Ruin and decay had started taking its toll on the once-beautiful mausoleums, headstones, and crypts, leaving them in a state of disrepair. In fact, by the early 1960s, the entire cemetery had become completely abandoned, and stories of the strange goings-on happening behind Highgate’s vine-covered walls began to spread.
Tales of a strange group of men in dark robes were whispered by locals. Eye-witnesses claimed that these mysterious men would frequent the isolated burial ground in order to conduct their dark rituals in secret.
But robed visitors weren’t the only thing people started experiencing in the strange cemetery. Those brave enough to explore the alleyways at night reported run-ins with otherworldly ghouls. In fact, the local newspapers were bombarded with first-hand accounts of red-eyed demons, terrifying ghosts, and most famously, blood-thirsty vampires.
Though Highgate Cemetery had long been a paranormal hotspot, it wasn’t until the mid 60s that the much-publicized stories surrounding the Highgate Vampire created a panic within the local community. Often described as a very tall, dark figure who glides as if his feet never touch the ground, the vampire’s face was reported as a terrifying, twisted nightmare straight out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Many visitors became obsessed with the legends, even going so far as to spend the night alone inside the cemetery. During that time eyewitnesses spotted the vampire for themselves, describing the undead creature as having a hypnotic stare and a bone-chilling effect on anyone who had the misfortune of crossing paths with the monster.
It didn’t take long for this fantastical story to hit the newspapers, where it proceeded to whip the general public into a mass-panic. The result? Hundreds of concerned locals flooded the cemetery to help “hunt” for the legendary vampire. As you might have expected, nothing was found.
While tales of vampire hunting might be a bit hard to swallow, not all of the stories that surround the cemetery are quite so hard to believe. There have been numerous credible witnesses to the spirits said to haunt Highgate Cemetery.
Many people have seen the “Mad Old Woman”, the spirit of an old lady often spotted running wildly among the graves as if she is searching for the children she’s said to have murdered. There’s also the “Shrouded Figure”, a morose phantom commonly seen quietly staring up into the sky. If you approach her too quickly she will vanish, only to reappear a few yards away in the same eerie position.
The “Devil Ghoul” is one of the rarer sights in Highgate Cemetery, but those who’ve run into the ghost describe it as having a set of piercing red eyes, and a habit of disappearing completely when in direct light.
Add to these encounters the countless reports of spectral faces that manifest out of nowhere, the mad wailing of a banshee, and a number of individuals who claim they’ve been personally assaulted by the dark forces in the graveyard, and it’s easy to see why Highgate Cemetery has earned its haunting reputation.
By the early 1980s, an organization called Friends Of Highgate Cemetery was formed, with the aim of “…promoting the conservation of the cemetery, its monuments and buildings, flora and fauna, for the benefit of the public as an environmental amenity.” Since that time, a massive restoration has been underway to return the beautiful, gothic graveyard back to the glory days of elaborate funerals and burial sites.
Europe is home to many of the world’s most fantastic haunted locations, but Highgate Cemetery is one of the most legendary. Where else are you going to find spooky tales of ghosts, devils, ghouls, and vampires, all in one place? Thanks to the ongoing renovations, we’ll be able to enjoy this beautiful old cemetery, and her wonderful legends, for many years to come. If you visit, just keep an eye out for vampires..