David Farrant – controversial psychic investigator famed for his involvement in the Highgate Vampire case – has died. PATSY SORENTI pays tribute to the legend of the London paranormal scene.
I first came to know David Farrant in 2003, when I came across an old story about an alleged vampire operating in Highgate Cemetery.
I had previously been aware of the sensational case when it first came to the public’s attention back in the early 1970s.
I was about 10 years old when it happened, and remember seeing something of a headline about it on the front cover of a magazine called ‘Titbits’.
At that time, I wasn’t interested in it and besides, my parents would never have purchased the paper anyway.
I had forgotten about the story until I was reminded of it, following my research into the Pre Raphaelite painters and poets, some of whom are buried in Highgate Cemetery.
Following my reawakened interest, I paid a visit to Swains Lane in late 2002, remembering what I had read about David Farrant’s escapades in and around the cemetery, and also of a ‘flamboyant, theatrical figure’ who was also implicated in the tale.
I peered through the old cemetery gates at the top of the lane, imagining how it must have been, back in 1970, with the story so current at the time.
Oddly enough, I did meet a man dressed in a frilly shirt and bow tie on that drizzly day in November 2002, and wondered if he might have been part of the ‘vampire circus’ of the period.
How I first met David Farrant
Prior to my second visit to Highgate, and by this time, familiar with how a visit to the cemetery could be possible, I contacted David Farrant.
He told me that another person was also going to the cemetery on the same day as I, and that we should meet with him after the tour.
I met the other person and during the walk around the cemetery, I had picked up a stone in my shoe’s sole that I couldn’t remove.
We walked all the way from Swains Lane to David’s residence, whereupon we were treated to tea and a pair of pliers to remove the lodged stone.
We stayed for hours, chatting about the vampire case, his involvement in it, the arrests, the prison sentence and much more besides.
David invited us to visit again, and I eventually became a regular visitor to his flat in Muswell Hill.
There were always visitors: either expected or already there, many of them film crews or journalists.
David showed everyone the same hospitality, no matter why they were there, and enjoyed telling the tale of how he became the central figure in what became known as ‘The Highgate Vampire Case’.
He never believed in blood-sucking vampires, but was an adherent of the notion that certain people could be ‘vampires’ – those who suck energy from others, leaving them tired and fatigued. It was always a good visit.
In the years since 2003, my acquaintance with David Farrant grew into a strong friendship, during which I would become one of the ‘inner sanctum’ of Mr. Farrant’s confidantes.
We did not agree on everything, and some things were completely dismissed, but we always met regularly, and discussed many things by telephone.
I came to know his wife Della and his son Jamie, from his first marriage, and he in turn, knew my husband.
We stayed friends at a time when friendships such as these, built on a crazy idea of ‘vampires’ easily crumble, but not this one.
I last met David when he had moved to a nursing home in Tottenham, and even though he was very poorly, he was always ready with the laughter and the sense of mischievous fun.
I believe he was laughing to the end.
David Farrant will never be forgotten
David Farrant will never be forgotten, either by me or by the occult world in general.
He became a sought-after speaker, extremely knowledgeable on matters of the paranormal, and indeed, was a highly regarded investigator.
Some of his antics were not always on the right side of the law, but in defying the rules is how we learn and grow, and knowledge of a great deal about ghosts and witchcraft has led to a general feeling that these things
should not be feared, thanks to some of David’s involvement in them.
David didn’t have an easy life: his parents died when he was young, and yet he carved out an extraordinary life without them.
He accepted life as it came, in all its forms, and used it to challenge the status quo.
He was always ready with an intelligent answer, and would get up to mischief whenever the opportunity arose.
He was utterly fearless, especially when it came to authority, and in later life, was a visitor to the now-reinvented Highgate Cemetery and he even struck up an acquaintance in the form of an ex-tour guide.
This is what made David Farrant Highgate’s raison d’etre: a colourful human being with a human touch – just as the title of his weblog says.
He epitomised Highgate, its environs, its people and its culture.
Goodbye, old friend and rest in peace.
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