RICK HALE examines how famed ghost hunter Peter Underwood came face-to-face with the evils of a real-life vampire in England
Whenever I’m asked who my greatest influence is in the paranormal, without hesitation I answer the late great Peter Underwood.
Not only did he influence me as a writer but as an investigator of ghostly phenomena.
In his career as a psychical researcher, Mr Underwood was president of The Ghost Club for an impressive 33 years and authored dozens of books on his investigations into some of the most haunted places across the United Kingdom.
Although his resume in dealing with the dead is impressive to say the least, Underwood had a keen interest in an altogether different form of supernatural prey.
Underwood spent a great deal of time researching stories of a loathsome creature that feeds upon the blood of humans. Of course, I speak of the vampire.
And that obsession only became greater when he investigated an alleged vampire attack on a young boy.
Poltergeist, or Other
In the mid 1970s, Peter Underwood, well-known parapsychologist, wrote about a time when he was requested by a young widow to investigate a frightening string of events that affected her son.
When he arrived, he was informed that for several days strange noises were heard in the boy’s room at night.
According to the mother and the boy, the activity began as a tapping at the window. Almost as if someone was trying to get in.
Religious articles such as a crucifix that hung on his wall would start spinning .
Pictures of saints would fall on the floor and his Bible would be found in odd places around his room.
Peter Underwood, being the consummate researcher of the supernatural, believed the family was experiencing recurrent spontaneous psycho-kinesis, commonly known as a poltergeist.
He explained the phenomena was more related to people and not a ghost.
And then the situation took a much more macabre tone. Something dark and truly dangerous appeared to be plaguing the boy.
Tragedy and Terror
While listening to the boy’s claims, it was revealed that not long ago his father had died by his own hand.He committed the unspeakable act of suicide in the house. And the activity seemed to occur not long after that.
With each passing moment the boy’s story only got darker.
One night, he was awakened by a loud crash in his room.
When he looked out the window he expected to see the moon and stars shining in the night. But what he saw was something that should only be found in nightmares.
A great black form hovered outside his window that blotted out the moon and stars.
The boy watched in horror as the figure turned and a pair of eyes glowing an unnatural red burned with malevolence glared at him.
When he let out a blood-curdling shriek, his mother rushed in and stayed with him, comforting her son until the sun peeked over the horizon.
A couple of nights later, the terror returned.
Once again, the boy was awakened by a tapping at the window. And an overwhelming compulsion to remove the crucifix from his wall.
As he returned to his bed a cloudy black mass poured in through the window and filled the room.
He helplessly watched as the swirling mass began to take the shape of a sinister black figure.
The boy was about to scream when he suddenly found himself surrounded by an inky cloud of pure black.
According to his mother, when she found him the next morning he was listless and could barely lift his head to speak.
Underwood heard of this strange illness that afflicted the boy and it was anything but natural.
Enter The Vampire Hunter
Upon learning of the child’s nighttime visitation by the vile creature, Peter Underwood suspected the family wasn’t dealing with a poltergeist at all.
He believed the boy was being victimised by a vampire. And that vampire might possibly be none other than his deceased father.
Armed with his suspicions, Peter Underwood contacted his colleague, Montague Summers, priest, exorcist and vampire hunter.
Summers suggested Underwood use the boy as bait to lure the vampire in and then dispatch it to the dark underworld from whence it came.
When he explained his plan to the boy’s mother, she shot the plan down without a second thought.
The idea of using her son like some kind of work on a hook horrified her.
She then decided to take a more traditional approach. She contacted a priest to come and bless her son’s room. And as you might expect, it only made matters worse.
A couple days after the blessing, Underwood received a panicked call from the mother.
She explained how she had his room blessed but it didn’t relieve her son of the creature’s attention.
When Underwood arrived at the house, he found the boy in another room laying on a bed.
His condition had grown worse and the boy appeared to be on the verge of death.
Underwood also noted a foul odour that hung thick in the air. An odour that reeked of the grave.
The parapsychologist knew that something had to be done and only Montague Summers could help.
When Underwood visited his friend, he reported that the situation was becoming dire and the vampire was becoming more deadly.
Peter Underwood feared the boy would soon die and his soul would be lost.
As Summers carefully considered his words, he disappeared into a back room and returned with a simple box.
When he opened the box it revealed a curious artifact.
The object forged from brass was decorated with a man holding a sword and stake on one side.
On the other, a sinister figure with an unusually long nose and piercing eyes.
And a circled cross with two birds was mounted in it.
Underwood studied the medallion as Summers explained it was a specially blessed medallion with the power to vanquish the undead.
According to Summers, the medallion had been in existence since the 15th century and was instrumental in banishing numerous vampires.
Summers handed his friend the medallion and told him he could keep it. He believed this wouldn’t be Underwood’s one and only time dealing with vampires.
Armed with the medallion and prepared to do battle with true evil, Underwood returned to the house to rescue the boy.
Underwood never got the chance to do battle with the undead creature.
The mother followed her doctor’s orders in taking the boy to a different climate.
She decided to take her son and flee to South Africa and live with family.
According to Underwood, the woman and her spiritually tortured son never returned to England. And he never heard from them again.
Upon reading this account, you would be forgiven if you thought it sounded like the tale of a late night creature feature.
This account of Peter Underwood’s most terrifying investigation can be found in his book, “Deeper Into The Occult“, a book I have read dozens of times.
However, every time I read this account, I am torn by what to believe.
Was this supposed creature of the night a thoughtform created by the recurrent spontaneous psycho-kinesis?
Was it the angry ghost of the father returning from the grave to take his son back with him?
Or, was it what Peter Underwood suspected, an undead creature of the night that returned nightly to feed on the boy?
One can only speculate.
Montague Summers died in 1948. When did this case occur?
I remember the subject of the medallion mentioned in this article causing a lot of laughter at a Ghost Club meetings a few years back. Apparently Peter Underwood (who like Summers rarely let the truth get in the way of a good story) was contacted by an equally amused Hampstead coin dealer after an image of the object appeared in ‘The Vampire’s Bedside Companion’ of 1975. With some measure of unintentional irony the book is dedicated to the memory of Summers, ‘In the hope that he will forgive me for revealing some of the secrets of the Vampire Medallion – and that I shall not regret it’ (!). Exclamation mark my own. The reveal was not actually to occur for another 8 years.
According to Underwood’s 1983 autobiography, the coin dealer informed Underwood that the ‘medallion’ was nothing more than a ‘Billy and Charlie’ aka a ‘Shadwell Dock Forgery’ – part of a Victorian attempt to convince the gullible public that a haul of ancient treasures had been found. That, it seems, is the only secret this mass-produced tin trinket holds. You can see another example cast from the same mould here (third item down): http://www.mernick.org.uk/B&C/years/1011.htm