LONDON 1969, AND WIDE REPORTS WERE COMING INTO the British Psychic and Occult Society concerning a tall black apparition that had been seen lurking among the tombs of London's Highgate Cemetery. Most of these reports were from people who claimed to have been confronted by this apparition which invariably took the form of a tall dark figure and petrified people both in, or passing, the cemetery. Where possible, most of these reports were followed up but unfortunately (as is frequently the case in psychic investigations) many turned out to be vague repetition of local gossip or the result of unqualified rumour. Eventually a man was traced, however, who claimed to have had a first-hand encounter with this phenomenon, although he requested that his name be withheld to avoid his account from being subjected to ridicule. According to this person (referred to here as 'Thornton'), he had been 'hypnotized' by 'something' in the cemetery after he had gone there late one afternoon to look around.
As the light began to fail he decided to leave, but somehow, he became hopelessly lost. Not being a superstitious person or even believing in the existence of ghosts, he walked calmly around looking for the gate when he suddenly became aware of the presence of something behind him. Swinging around, less than six feet away, he saw a tall dark spectre hovering just above the ground. He found himself transfixed to the spot completely unable to move; drained of energy by some powerful 'hypnotic force' that in a matter of seconds rendered him unconscious to any sense of time or his surroundings. So great was the intensity of this force, that he remained like this for several minutes (or what seemed like several minutes) before the spectre abruptly vanished and he slowly regained his normal faculties.
Recalling the incident afterwards, Thornton said that it was almost as if some force of terribly evil proportions had actually sought him out with the intention of doing serious harm.
This account was intriguing. Thornton was a sincere and logical person and not the type liable to fantasy or exaggeration. (His profession as an accountant by itself suggested that his interests lay in things of a logical nature.) That he had seen 'something', there seemed little doubt, but what was especially interesting was that he had described the entity as 'seeking him out' and actually trying to cause physical harm; an uncommon occurrence with reports of ghostly confrontations when ghosts themselves are rarely reported as exercising any physical control over their human counterparts. It was a fair conclusion that the phenomenon was definitely malevolent by nature.
Several more people were interviewed in the following weeks, but again, most of these accounts turned out to be second-hand reports or exaggeration of what by now had become an already established rumour.
An exception to this, however, was one old lady who claimed she had been frightened by a 'tall dark man' who floated at her from within the cemetery gates. She had been walking her dog late one night but as she approached the gates of the cemetery, it started to howl and tried to retreat. She looked up and saw a figure with 'glaring eyes' staring at her. In a matter of seconds, it promptly vanished.
This account was also entered on the Society's files, but it seemed the next step to obtaining more precise information was to visit Highgate Cemetery in daylight to check the sites of the phenomenon's reputed appearances and perhaps discover some clues that could have otherwise accounted for its presence.
This visit was made by the author who had taken a personal interest in the case, although it turned out to be disappointing as nothing significant was found that offered any explanation - by way of a hoax or otherwise - for the two sightings.
I arrived at the cemetery in the morning and spent several hours there. It was the first time I had been there for over two years and the increase in vandalism was immediately apparent. Vaults had been broken open and coffins quite literally smashed apart. One vault near the top gate (although not visible from outside it) was wide open and one could see the remains of a skeleton where it had been wrenched from a coffin. Another vault on the main pathway had been thus entered and one of the coffins inside, set alight. Although this vault had been padlocked and chained, the door was made up of an iron grill and the vandalised coffin was available for all to see. Furthermore, it appeared that virtually no attempt had been made to repair any of the damage.
A strange thing that was discovered was a freshly dead fox lying in the middle of a main pathway. This was puzzling because there were no outward signs betraying the cause of death, and besides, a wounded animal would usually have crawled away and hidden itself if it sensed impending death.
All this, however, came no nearer to solving the mystery of the black apparition. Indeed, apart from rumour and other unsubstantiated local stories, the only real 'evidence' were the testimonies of just two people, and it seemed the only way to credit their accounts (or discredit them as the case may be) and thereby justify a full investigation, was to spend a night in the cemetery to see if the phenomenon - or whatever it was - could be witnessed. The place where Thornton had been confronted inside the cemetery seemed an appropriate place as it was secluded and there was no risk of being seen by anybody happening by the top gate - the place where the old lady had seen the entity. The date chosen was December 21st - the eve of the winter Solstice and a traditional time (due to the maximum hours of darkness) when potent psychic forces have easy access to the 'earthly plane'. That the entity may be dangerous from a psychic point of view, was a fact not overlooked. But I was confident that previous experiences with potentially malevolent psychic forces would enable me to deal with any such possibility.
Around 11 PM on the proposed night, I set off for the cemetery. It was a bitterly cold night and the surrounding area was deserted. Walking down the narrow lane that ran alongside the cemetery, there was a sudden awareness of some 'alien presence'. This was difficult to define, except in so far as there was a distinct impression of no longer being alone.
Reaching the top gate and preparing to scale this, I decided to wait a couple of minutes with the intention of perhaps noticing some material object through the gate (such as a shadow cast by a tomb-stone or from a tree moving in the wind), that could have otherwise accounted for the old lady's phantom.
Peering through the rusty bars of the gate scrutinizing the pervading darkness, objects near the gate itself lining the pathway, were fairly easy to discern. But after 20 yards or so the path disappeared into impenetrable blackness. Staring into this, perhaps due to some trick of the light, there was a distinct impression of 'something moving'. What appeared one minute to be a definite black shape or shadow, would suddenly alter its form or change in density. The wind moving through the undergrowth was probably the cause of this, but it was equally feasible that this could have been the cause of the 'black apparition' seen by the old woman.
To the right of the path, some large animal was scurrying through the undergrowth. Then suddenly, something caught my eye and looking up, just inside not 5 yards from the gate and clearly visible, was a tall dark shape.
Instinctively, my conscious mind rejected this figure as being supernatural. It was more consoling to assume that it was somebody wandering through the cemetery; notwithstanding that the figure appeared to be over seven feet tall. Any immediate doubts were soon dispelled when I saw two reddish eyes meeting my gaze from a 'black mass' at the top of the shape, which I took to be its 'head'. But these eyes were not human, rather reflected some 'alive presence'; they were dull and penetrating like some hungry wolf, although the rest of 'it' had no discernable features, apart from a vague 'human' shape.
The whole situation seemed unreal - like some unwanted dream - but with determined effort, I tore my gaze away realising that the entity was malevolent and that I had come under psychic attack. Without warning, the figure then suddenly vanished, and it appeared that for the moment, at least, the entity had retreated . . .
TO BE CONTINUED…