Through a Glass Darkly

In 1978, a student at Mabel Fletcher's College was passing the window of Olivier's Antiques shop, when something caught his eye. He stopped and peered through the window and saw a strange dark mirror next to an old violin. Matthew had read a lot of books on Occultism, and he immediately recognised the looking glass for what it was; a McGee's Mirror. He paid thirteen pounds for it, because it was genuine obsidian. Matthew took the weird mirror to the Penny Lane home of his friend Robin, and claimed the looking glass could summon forth any dead person. Robin was very nervous, and advised his friend to throw the obsidian mirror away. Matthew called his friend a coward and convinced Robin to hang the blankets of his bed over the drawn curtains of the room. The bedsit was soon in complete darkness. Matthew lit two candles and put them on each side of the mirror. He uttered several strange words that were incomprehensible to Robin, then kept saying the word "Hitler" over and over. Robin started to worry about his friend, because he kept chanting the name and staring at the jet-black mirror. Then suddenly, a face faintly appeared. It was a haggard looking face, and it resembled Hitler, but he looked older than the photographs of him most people are familiar with. Robin felt faint when he saw the ghostly face appear. The eyes of the face kept rolling upwards and the mouth opening, as if the apparition was trying to speak.

'Listen,' Matthew whispered.

The two young men could hear the faint sounds of someone speaking in German. Robin trembled, and rushed to the light-switch. He clicked on the light and the apparition vanished. Matthew was very angry. Robin could speak German and said he had panicked because he had heard the guttural-voiced apparition of Adolf Hitler ask: 'Why have you summoned me?'

Weeks later, Matthew told Robin that he had been scrying with the mirror, and that he had seen the faces of such notable historic celebrities as Marie Antoiniette, Henry VIII , Abraham Lincoln and Jack the Ripper. Matthew maintained that he had even conjured up his idol, Marc Bolan, who had perished in a car crash a year before.

Robin listened to his manic friend, then told him: 'You've gone too far Matthew, please get rid of that mirror.'

'No. Now I know why Adam chose forbidden knowledge,' Matthew replied.
A few days later, Matthew met up with Robin at the college canteen. Matthew looked white as a sheet. His friend asked him what was wrong, and Matthew told Robin that since he had started messing about with the mirror, he had seen the face of several living people, and each had died over the last few weeks from accidents, illness and suicide Each face had turned into a grotesque skull in the mirror, and what’s more Matthew had seen his own reflection turn gradually into a skull. Matthew had asked the mirror how he would die, and the smiling face of a white-haired man had appeared. Matthew had never seen this man before. The student became so scared he decided to return to Surrey to stay with his family. About a week later, Robin received a letter from his troubled friend. In the letter, Matthew said he had seen the man with the white hair walking down the street near his parent's home. Matthew had asked his parents who the man was, and they had told him he was a surgeon at the local hospital.
Robin wrote back to his friend and reassured him that he was just being over-anxious. After all how could a surgeon kill him?

No letter of reply ever came, so Robin telephoned Matthew's parents. They told him right away that Matthew had died. He had been admitted to hospital after collapsing from severe chest pains. He was treated for a suspected heart attack, and a surgeon later discovered that Matthew had a serious heart defect. He operated on him, but during the open-heart surgery, there had been complications, and Matthew had died during the operation without regaining consciousness. His mother said the surgeon who had treated him had only lived a few doors away. Robin attended the funeral down in Surrey, and during his stay down there, Matthew's parents introduced Robin to the surgeon who had operated unsuccessfully on their son. The surgeon had white hair, and Robin suspected it had been his face that Matthew had seen in the obsidian mirror.

©Tom Slemen 2005.

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Somewhere in the north west of England there is a terraced Victorian house which looks rather unremarkable, and some of you out there have probably passed it many times without giving it a second glance, but since the year 1900, this innocent-looking dwelling has been dubbed the 'Hell House' for reasons I will soon relate to you...

In 1900, the master of the house , A Dr Edward Meade, died and left the house to his wayward 18-year-old nephew named Oliver Milton, who was known far and wide as a bounder and a hell raiser. Although he was still a teenager, Oliver had four illegitimate children in Liverpool, Preston, Chester and Northwich. It is recorded that in 1898, when Oliver was just sixteen, he acted as referee to a duel between two farmers at a field outside Cuddington, and was accused of putting a blank in the pistol of the farmer who died. It transpired that Oliver had received a substantial payment to tamper with the pistol, but by then he had returned to his hometown. Then, in 1899, Oliver decided to make a pact with the devil with a group of like-minded friends on Bidston Hill on the Wirral. Upon a sandstone outcrop by Bidston Observatory, Oliver and his companions summoned up Lucifer with a chant they had learned from an old man in Wales who had professed to be a black magician. The sandstone rock on Bidston was said to have been a traditional place for magical rites for over a thousand years, and there are still strange carvings on the rock of a cat-headed Moon goddess and a horse.

According to Oliver, the Devil materialised just after midnight as a man in black with a charming voice. He said that if the young men swore allegiance to him they would all have great careers, and he asked them to show allegiance by raising their arms to salute him with their open palms. This sounds like the black magic sign that Hitler adopted many years later as the Nazi salute.

The man in black then smiled and faded away.

Oliver said weird things then began to happen to him and his friends. They had tremendous runs of luck when gambling, and also became very popular with girls, but there were always reminders of their pact with Satan. One Welsh girl bore one of the boys an illegitimate girl, and when the midwife examined her, the baby had a birthmark on her back which looked exactly like a three-pronged fork. Another of the boys later left the gang and tried to settle down to marry a girl in Wrexham, but when he entered the church for the wedding ceremony, he became violently ill. The girl and the villagers became suspicious, and the priest pushed the teenager into the church and barred his way out, and the boy took a fit and rolled across the floor of the aisle, frothing at the mouth. He then got to his feet and pushed three strong men aside and fled from the church and left Wrexham and the broken-hearted girl who had been his bride-to-be.

Oliver had no intentions to marry, and finally settled in the house left to him by his Uncle Edward. The servants were kept on and Oliver begrudgingly paid them a meagre wage from the fortune his uncle had left him. The teenager gave specific instructions to the staff saying that no one must go into the cellar when he was down there or they would be instantly dismissed. Everyone agreed to this bizarre stipulation except a young maid named Polly, who was a renowned nosey parker. Her curiosity got the better of her one stormy night when Oliver took a lantern down to the cellar and locked himself in. Hearing a strange chant, Polly left her kitchen duties and sneaked down into the cellar and spied on Oliver through a slit in the cellar door. What she saw made her speechless with fear. Oliver was kneeling on the floor and chanting in a weird voice. Then suddenly a tall man in black with a pale childlike face appeared. The figure's eyes seemed to burn with a golden light. Oliver said to the apparition, "I've had it with you. I want no more from you. I reject you Lucifer! Your promises are always hollow and full of snags."

The man in black's face smiled and he said, "You swore allegiance and you're mine forever, mind body and soul."

"No!" shouted Oliver, and he got up off his knees and took a swipe at the man, but his arm went through him. This gave Polly the creeps, and she started to shake.

The stranger in the cellar suddenly said, "I've had enough of your turncoat ways. I'm taking you away tonight!" and the figure vanished, leaving a terrible stench behind. Polly stood on a creaking step as she tried to run up the stairs in the dark. Oliver heard her and unlocked the door. He chased after her and seized the frightened girl on the stairs.

He said, "Polly, did you see what went on down there?"

The girl nodded, and started to sob.

"Please help me Polly. He said he'll take me tonight." said Oliver.

"I can't." said Polly, and she ran upstairs and told the other servants. They were so afraid, they all resigned and left the house in a hurry. The local clergyman was told about Oliver's secret meetings with Satan, and he visited the house on the following morning with two other priests, intending to perform an exorcism. There was no answer at the house, so they got a policeman to gain entry by breaking the door open. Up in the bedroom, everyone could smell something burning. Then the policeman lifted the bedclothes, and there were the charred remains of Oliver Milton. The blackened remains were so small, they looked like a piece of burnt toast. The policeman noted that there was a black powder on the bed sheets and a single blackened foot at the bottom of the mattress, and yet the bedclothes or bed were not even singed. The pathologist surmised that Oliver Milton had been a victim of what is known as spontaneous human combustion, where the body heat of a person rises to such intensity, it is consumed by an intense fire. But Polly knew that wasn't the explanation; she told the police that Lucifer had paid a visit to one of his disciples and taken him from his bed, but the police just sneered at her story.

It is said that within the house where Oliver practised his black arts, terrible screams are still heard and sulphuric smells occasionally rise from the cellar. As recently as 1996, workmen at the house saw the word 'Mammon' being chalked on a wall in the house by an invisible hand. Mammon is mentioned in the Bible as the god of money and greed. One resident who lived in the house of horror with his family said that the foundations of the dwelling seemed to vibrate and give off a groaning sound whenever the bells of the local church rang out on Sundays. A couple from Manchester who lived at the Merseyside house in the late 1960s left the spooky dwelling because each morning when they awoke, they would find that their double bed had been rotated 180 degrees...

Sleep well tonight.
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The Akashic Records

British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) - did he access Akashic Records?

Throughout the history of human civilisation there have been individuals who have claimed to be the possessors of arcane knowledge that had allegedly been accessed from unknown sources. The masons, Mystery schools and various other esoteric groups have professed to possess secrets of the occult; but where did these secret societies get their clandestine information from in the first place?

Some of the occult knowledge was probably carefully passed from generation to generation by initiates of the fabled Ancient Wisdom; this being a vast collection of books about cosmic law, the hidden powers of mankind and other mystical matters, supposedly written by the scientists of a super-civilisation in antediluvian times.

But for centuries, occultists have claimed that there is another source of hidden knowledge called the Akashic Records. These records are said to contain data on everything in the universe; every thought and deed of every lifeform from the beginning of the cosmos to the present.

The word 'akashic' derives from the Sanskrit akasha, meaning the fundamental etheric substance of the universe and of which the records consist. The substance is said to fill all space and to link every atom of animate and inanimate matter.

The Akashic Records are therefore like some colossal databank (similar to the Net but unimaginably more extensive) that contains information about every person and event from the dawn of time to the present day. The Western counterpart of these records would be the Book of Life, where all details about a person's conduct are recorded by their attendant angel.

If you think the notion of vast amounts of information existing in the ether is a bit far-fetched, consider this: gigabytes of data are passing through you and surround you at this very moment as you read these words. TV, satellite and radio signals carrying pictures, music, chat, classified and encoded military information, messages from mobile phones etc, are radiating through your body at the speed of light. This modernday continuous chatter of the elctromagnetic spectrum is a good analogy when referring to the Akashic Records. The same thing happens in both cases; unless you know how to tune in and decode the signals around you, they are undetectable and of no use.

How then, do you tune in to access the records? Mystics use meditation or visualisation techniques where you simply picture a blank chalkboard and wait for the information you need to appear on it.

Sometimes it would seem that the records are unconsciously accessed at random by people who believe that they have been inspired. For instance, Mozart claimed that he often heard new symphonies playing in his head which didn't seem to be of his making, while Sir Paul McCartney has always maintained that his most popular song, Yesterday, came to him from the depths of his sleep. Many writers and poets, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Charles Dickens, have made the same curious assertions about novels and poems that seemed to have been dictated to them from some invisible author in their unconscious minds. In fact, Coleridge dreamed the whole of his poem Kubla Khan and simply wrote it down in the morning.

Scientists have also made many discoveries in the time-honoured tradition of 'sleeping on the idea'. In 1863, a young German scientists named August Kekule experienced such a dream of discovery while dozing on a bus. The scientist dreamt that he was watching chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms slithering about like snakes. Suddenly, one chain formed a type of loop which instantly revealed to the dreamer what the molecular structure of benzene was. Kekule awoke excited; he had been wracking his brain trying to work out the structure of benzene for months and now all had been revealed to him in a dream.

Of course, all the previous cases could be rationalised as the products of a fertile subconscious. However, if the Akashic Records do exist on some higher plane of existence, then the information they contain could often be accessed by more than one person simultaneously. It is often said that when the time is ripe, ideas, inventions and discoveries usually appear in different parts of the world at the same time. For example, in 1900, three scientists in Holland, Germany and Austria Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns, and Erich von Tschermak respectively independently discovered the laws of genetics on the same day.

In 1876 the same thing happened when Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. Another inventor named Elisha Gray sent a detailed description of his telephone to the US Patent Office a few hours after Bell's invention had been patented. More and more patents for a telephone poured into the office and, within few years, there were some 600 lawsuits over the Bell telephone patents.

But how would something new as the telephone be a part of the Akashic Records? Some occultists maintain that because the records are universal, they therefore contain the history of other planets in the cosmos that are more technologicallly advanced than Earth. The scientists of these older worlds will have progressed further in physics than Earth's scientists and will doubtless have long accomplished telephonic communication and other technological advancements. Thus all such achievements would be recorded in the Akashic repository.

How could the Akashic Records store such a phenomenal amount of universal data? No one seems to have an answer to that question but that doesn't mean that there isn't an explanation, simply that it is not known, or perhaps not recognised for what it is, at the present moment. After all, a laser hologram is a not dissimilar concept, yet this would have baffled scientists of the 1950s completely. We now know that if a photographic plate containing the interference patterns of an object that has been recorded as a 3-dimensional hologram is shattered, the whole 3-D image can be recreated by shining a laser through one small sliver of the smashed plate. All the information about the total image of the object has been recorded somehow onto every point of the plate. This discovery was not made until 1965 and was totally unexpected, so who are we to dismiss the possibility of something similar on a far grander scale?

The Akashic Records are reputed to exist as a network of 'etheric space' which science has yet to discover. All the same, most scientists would no doubt scoff at the concept of this mysterious ethereal archive. Yet Einstein himself once expressed how science is unable to work out just what empty space actually is with a very profound remark. He said, 'What does a fish know about the water in which he swims all his life?'

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The Ghost of William Huskisson

Tom Slemen at the mausoleum of William Huskisson, St James's Cemetery, Liverpool

British MP William Huskisson was the world's first railway casualty. He was killed by George Stephenson's new-fangled Rocket locomotive in September 1830.

The myth still persists that ghosts are unholy and cannot enter a place of worship, despite the many well-documented cases of hauntings that have taken place in churches and temples of every creed, and occasionally, ghosts walk in the aisles and precincts of our great cathedrals. Locally, both of Liverpool's cathedrals are haunted. 'Bernie with the broken neck' is said to haunt the Brownlow Hill side of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, whilst a few shades of bygone times are alleged to haunt the cemetery adjoining Britain's largest cathedral - at the other end of Hope Street. Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral took 74 years to build on a site that was revered - St James Mount - once the home of a powerful witch who has only survived in Lancashire nursery rhymes for children as 'Jenny Greenteeth'. Part of the nursery rhyme goes: 'On the Mount there is a lady, who she is I do not know.' The Great Witch's statue was unearthed in the early years of the last century as excavations were taking place for the Anglican Cathedral on St James's Mount. The life-size figuring was situated in the centre of an ancient village, as if Jenny was revered by some Celtic community long lost in the mists of time.

So much for the witch; what about the ghosts? There are many, but one ghost in particular is particularly chilling, and that is the sinister limping spectre…

One warm August evening in 1973, a vagrant named Bob woke up in the grounds of St James's Cemetery after consuming two bottles of cheap but potent wine. He got to his feet and ran up a path that led to the main gate in the northern end of the cemetery. Bob discovered to his horror that this gate was padlocked. The tramp shouted to several passers-by, and some of them stopped, but nervously walked on again after surveying the scruffily dressed man peering through the railings after dark. Bob stumbled through the eerie twilit landscape of the dead until he reached the other gate -only to find that it was locked too. Bob shook that gate and shouted, but no one came. The vagrant recalled a missing railing at the eastern terrace of the cemetery and hurried off in desperation to find a means to escape the terrifying predicament.

Bob passed a huge domed monument in the centre of the cemetery. The vagrant momentarily paused here to regain his breath, when he heard a strange noise echo around him. Bob listened carefully, and realised it was the sound of - footsteps. Footsteps that were heading his way. Then he saw the source of those footsteps. It was the shadowy figure of a tall man who wore a long flowing cape and a top hat. The oddly dressed man was limping towards him, dragging its leg, less than thirty feet away. It muttered something unintelligible and reached out with its right hand.

The white collar and cuffs of the backdated stranger were phosphorescent, yet the face seemed undefined and grey. Bob ran off, and felt his legs going weak as a wave of fear coursed through his nervous system. The top-hatted man, who was obviously a ghost, followed the terror-stricken vagrant up a grassy incline towards the railing. Bob found the gap after searching for what seemed like an eternity in blind panic, but by then the limping ghost was closing in on him. As the caped apparition reached out to Bob, the vagrant screamed and managed to squeeze through the gap in the railings, scraping his back and chest in the process. He fell onto the pavement of Hope Street, then got to his feet and ran off to rejoin the company of the living.

The domes building where Bob encountered the ghost is the mausoleum of the Victorian MP William Huskisson, who died from horrific injuries he received when he fell under the cast iron wheels of George Stephenson's Rocket locomotive in the September of 1830. One of Huskisson's legs was badly crushed in the first ever train accident, so perhaps his ghost was the limping spectre that Bob encountered on that August night in 1973.

©Tom Slemen 1997. From Haunted Liverpool 1
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The Warning Mirror

One rainy afternoon in February 1896, Margaret Hodges, a 35-year-old widowed woman who originally hailed from Liverpool's Pomona Street, moved into a house on Devonshire Road, High Park. Margaret had no children, but her 13-year-old niece Marie Ann was currently proving to be excellent company for the widow, who had been mourning the death of her husband for almost two years. John Hodges had died from tubercular complications in 1894, and had left a substantial legacy to Margaret, who now wanted to start anew in the suburbs of Southport, where she could attempt to forget Liverpool and the life that had been.

Upon this February afternoon, Margaret stood before a small square mirror she'd placed on her dresser, and she was complaining that the looking glass was too small to see anything in. She had to stand quite a distance away from it to see the new bonnet on her head, and Marie Ann kept nudging her out of the way to look at her own new hat. Later that afternoon Margaret and her niece were pleased to find a full-length mirror under a dusty sheet in the garret of the house. Three days later, Margaret Hodges was standing before this mirror, with Marie Ann brushing her hair for her, when the girl yelped, and said she had seen something flit out of the corner of her eye - in the mirror.

Margaret could see nothing, but several minutes later, the two females got the shock of their lives when they saw a woman appear in the mirror. She wore a fine white wedding gown, a coronet of orange blossoms on her pearl-blonde hair and a fine veil of diaphanous silk covered her face. In her white-gloved hands she clutched a bouquet, and she stood staring out of the mirror, seemingly oblivious to Margaret and Marie Ann, who were staring at the looking glass apparition in shock. The bridal spectre suddenly turned and walked away from the mirror, dragging the train of her gown with her.

After the initial scare of seeing the ghost, Margaret and Marie Ann became curious to know just whose spectre they had seen in that mirror, and would frequently go to the room to stare at the mirror to see if the apparition would return. They didn't have to wait long. Two days after the ghost made her debut, on 12 February, Margaret and her niece saw not one, but two phantasms in the long mirror. They saw the silvery blonde lady from behind on this occasion, and a man with black, centre-parted hair and a curled up moustache was embracing her, and looking over her shoulder - directly at Margaret and Marie Ann. He was saying something to the woman, who was perhaps his wife, but no sound came forth from his lips. Marie Ann held on to her aunt, and although she was a little frightened by the ghostly image, she was riveted by the supernatural spectacle. The images faded, and the same gentleman appeared - but now he was further away in the depths of the mirror, and he was kissing a dark-haired woman. Margaret touched her forehead, chest and then each shoulder as she made the sign of the cross. Then the images faded, and the room reflected in the glass reverted to the normal mirror-image of Margaret's room.

'Are you scared Auntie? I wasn't afraid this time,' Marie Ann told Margaret, and the woman reassuringly hugged her niece, and pondered on the meaning of the images the mirror had shown. Had the man in the looking glass been the ghost of a man who had committed adultery with the dark haired lady? It was as if the mirror had recorded all of the scenes from the lives of the previous occupants of the house, and was now replaying key events in the lives of these people. As Margaret and Marie Ann were about to walk out the room, they heard the cry of a child. They both turned, and slowly walked to the source of the unseen infant's cries - the mirror. There in the reflected room, they saw a bed, and the woman with pearl-coloured hair was giving birth, with a midwife in attendance.

Margaret covered her niece's eyes at the shocking sight. As the midwife presented the mother with her babe, the images faded, and all of a sudden, the black-haired man reappeared close to the mirror, and he had tears in his eyes. He moved away from the mirror - to reveal an open coffin on a stand. In that coffin rested the silvery blonde who had given birth moments before in the strange mirror vision. The gentleman walked back into view, near to the coffin, shaking his fist at the deceased lady, and then the scene quickly faded away. Margaret and her niece hurried from the room on this occasion, unnerved by the sight of the lady in the coffin.

Two days later, on Friday, 14 February, a paper-lace Valentine card, was sent to Margaret's home on Devonshire Road. The card said that Margaret had an admirer, and the widow was flattered at the Valentine, and wondered who had sent it. Several days later, the admirer turned up on the doorstep of Margaret Hodges, and when she saw who it was she almost fainted. It was unmistakably the raven-haired man she'd seen in the mirror. She refused to allow him over the threshold, despite his bold attempts to walk into the house. She told the man to go, and he finally left in a huff. Almost a year passed until Mrs Hodges discovered from a neighbour that the man had lodgings in the street, and had once lived at the house where the Liverpool widow now lived. He was a renowned womaniser, and there were rumours that the man had once pushed his wife down a flight of stairs. He claimed she had fallen. Her neck was broken by the fall, and not long afterwards, the cad had an affair with the wife of a policeman, and the constable almost left him for dead when he found out about the affair. The adulterer also abandoned his daughter, and she was put in the care of a relative. Margaret Hodges shuddered when she heard about the scandalous reputation of the man, and realised that only for that extraordinary mirror, she could well have fallen for the charms of a murderous adulterer.

©Tom Slemen 2005.
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Believe it or not, vampires have often been seen in London

The myth of the vampire is a very old one, dating back to ancient Egypt and Greece. Today, in our well-lit sprawling cities, there is no place for such a legend, except in horror films and the books of the American fantasy novelist Anne Rice. Vampires are just figments of the imagination, the bogey-men of gullible rural peasants who lived in a bygone superstitious age. That's what common sense leads us to believe; but even in modern times Dracula-like beings prowling the world continue to be reported. Shortly before midnight on 8 June 1993, over a thousand people turned up at a cemetery in Pisco, Peru, in the hope of witnessing the resurrection of an alleged vampire named Sarah Ellen Roberts. Local historians and officials from the British Embassy had recently been shocked to learn that the corpse of Mrs Roberts had been brought to Pisco from Blackburn, England, by her husband John Roberts in 1913, because British authorities refused to let him bury his wife in England, as they believed her to be a vampire. Mr Roberts dismissed the refusal as an absurdity, but subsequently bought a lead-lined coffin for his deceased wife, and allegedly roamed the world for four years, seeking out a country that would allow him to bury her. Finally, Mrs Roberts came to Peru, where he was allowed to inter his wife at Pisco for the sum of five pounds. Shortly after the ad hoc burial service, Mr Roberts boarded a ship for England and was never heard of again. Then the news from England reached Pisco; Sarah Ellen Roberts had been bound in chains and shut up in the lead-lined coffin after being found guilty of witchcraft, murder and vampirism. Just before the lid of the coffin was screwed down, the Lancashire witch had screamed she would return from the grave to seek vengeance.

The Peruvian peasants in the town trembled at the news. Eighty years later in June 1993, people visiting a grave in the Pisco cemetery were terrified when they witnessed a large crack appearing in the headstone of the Blackburn woman's grave. That night, over a thousand excitement seekers and occultists descended on the graveyard when the word went round that the vampire would rise from her grave at midnight. Hundreds of local women left the town 'to prevent the vampire being reincarnated in their new-born children', and cloves of garlic and crucifixes festooned the front doors of almost every house in the region. When midnight arrived, the vampire mania reached a peak, and police had to be called in to controll the hysterical crowds. Shots were fired in the air, and slowly the crowds dispersed. A small group of local witch doctors were apparently allowed to stay at the controversial grave, where they splashed the cracked headstone with holy water and sprinkled white rose petals around. The English vampire did not rise, and the witch doctors later celebrated their 'success' at laying the undead woman to rest.

Such superstitious mumbo jumbo is excusable in a remote Peruvian town, but there have also been a number of vampire alerts in the bustling metropolis of London. The first scare occurred in the spring of 1922, when an enormous black bat-like creature with a wing span of six feet was seen flying around West Drayton Church during the night of a full moon. Several terrified witnesses watched the creature dive into the churchyard, where it roamed the tombs. When it was chased by two policemen, the creature let out a loud blood-curdling screech, flapped its wings, and soared skywards. An old man who claimed he had seen the giant bat twenty-five years previously, maintained that it was the spirit of a vampire who had murdered a woman to drink her blood in Harmondsworth in the 1890s. No one took the oldster's tale seriously. Later that month, on the morning of 16 April at around 6 am, an office clerk on his way to work was walking down Coventry Street in London's West End. As he strolled into a turning off the street, something invisible to his eyes seized him and pierced his neck. The man felt blood being drawn, then fell to the pavement unconscious. He woke up in Charing Cross Hospital and told his unusual tale. The surgeons who quizzed him said someone must have stabbed him with a thin tube, but the victim disagreed; he was absolutely certain that no one had been close enough to deliver such a thrust. Two and a half hours later something incredible happened which still defies explanation; a second man was brought to the same hospital. he too was bleeding profusely from the lower neck, and when he regained consciousness, he also told how he had been walking down Coventry Street when something intangible attacked him - on the very same corner where the office worker had been struck down by an unseen attacker. Later that evening a third victim of the invisible assailant was admitted to the hospital. The doctors at Charing Cross were absolutely dumbfounded when the police told them that the latest victim had been stabbed at precisely the same spot as the two other casualties - at a turning off Coventry Street. An investigation into the bizarre crimes was launched as rumours of a vampire at large in London swept the capital. The newshounds of Fleet Street pricked their ears up at the rumours. The Daily Express reported the sinister Coventry Street assaults and asked the police if they had any theories on the strange crimes. A police spokesman reluctantly admitted that the injuries sustained by the three men at Coventry Street defied rational explanation, and there had been no headway in finding the bloodthirsty attacker. With his tongue placed firmly in his cheek, a reporter asked the spokesman if the police had considered the theory of the Coventry Street attacker being a vampire. The spokesman just chortled nervously and said 'That's all'.

Another rumour swept the City; the Coventry Street vampire had been cornered by the police and killed by a professional vampire hunter who had been drafted in for the job! Furthermore, the bloodsucker had been secretly interred with a wooden stake through its heart in a deep vault up in Highgate Cemetery. The rumour was traced to a pub in Covent Garden where an off-duty policeman told a landlord of his part in the vampire hunt that had stretched across London. It is of course, easy to dismiss the policeman's yarn as bunkum, but by a strange coincidence, London's second vampire scare took place at Highgate Cemetery forty-eight years after the Coventry Street vampire episode.

Highgate Cemetery was founded in 1836 when the London Cemetery Company purchased 17 acres of land in the north of the city. The company's gardener was something of a horticultural genius who transfigured the purchased acreage into a breathtaking peaceful oasis of greenery with tree-lined avenues, shrubs and meandering pathways. But there were problems ahead. The outbreak of the First World War deprived the cemetery of labour, and the number of plots for sale were dropping to double figures. Furthermore, cremation was also emerging as a popular alternative to burial. With insufficient funds for its upkeep, the cemetery was neglected, and the shrubbery and wildflowers were overtaken with weeds which enshrouded tombs and gravestones by the score. Then the vandals invaded the wilderness of the abandoned cemetery, daubing their names and profanities on the tombs. In December 1969, a group of occultists prowled the forsaken dormitory of the dead painting Voodoo symbols on a number of gravestones and chanting incantations in the hope of resurrecting a corpse. Urban legend has it that the occultists broke into a tomb and disturbed something that sent them running for their lives; an eight-foot wiry figure clad entirely in black which emerged from a hole in the tomb that led to catacombs. The fleeing necromancers scaled the railings of the cemetery and leaped to safety; one of them looked back as he raced down Swains Lane and saw the man in black reaching through the railings at him with a long boney arm.

The next alleged sighting of the Highgate Vampire occurred in January 1970, when a motorist from Milton Park was driving down Swains Lane near the entrance of the cemetery, when the engine of his car started to sputter. The man pulled into a parking space and got out the vehicle to lift the bonnet open, when he noticed an abnormally tall shadowy figure peering at him through the entrance gates of the cemetery. The motorist was so terrified at the apparition, he ran off without closing the bonnet of his car.

The vampire rumours gained substance over the following months with several more macabre encounters which attracted the attention of the media. An Essex schoolteacher, appropriately named Alan Blood organized a mass vampire hunt that would take place on Friday 13 March, 1970. Mr Blood was interviewed on television, and the London Evening News ran a front page story on him. Blood said he thought the Highgate Vampire had been driven from his lair in the cemetery by the crowds of sensationalists who had kept an all-night vigil near the tomb where the vampire was frequently seen. The schoolteacher's plan was to wait until dawn, when the first rays of the rising sun would force the vampire to return to his subterranean den in the catacombs, then he would kill the Satanic creature in the time-honoured tradition; by driving a wooden stake through its heart.

On the night of Friday 13th, hundreds of people stormed Highgate Cemetery carrying lit and electric torches, crucifixes, garlic cloves and sharp wooden stakes. At dawn on the following morning, there was no sign of the vampire. Some thought that the irresponsible rowdy mobs had scared the creature off. By the morning light, £9,000 worth of damage had been caused by the rampaging crowds. In an orgy of desecration they had exhumed the remains of a woman from a tomb, stolen lead from coffins, and defaced sepulchres with mindless graffiti.

In September of that year, police apprehended a Mr David Farrant - a self-appointed vampire hunter - as he scaled the wall of Highgate Cemetery, armed with a cross and a wooden stake. The police took him to court, but Mr Farrant was released on a technicality. The vampire hunter evidently sent shivers up the magistrate's spine with his final remark to the court: "The Highgate Vampire has to be destroyed. He is evil."

Mr Farrant later told press reporters that he had seen the vampire on several occasions, and described it as a gangly figure about eight feet in height. He believed the vampire slept by day in the catacombs beneath Highgate.

Today, Highgate Cemetery is open to the public. In its Eastern Cemetery you will find the tomb of Karl Marx near to the grave of Sid Vicious of the notorious Sex Pistols punk rock band. The Western Cemetery is only open for guided tours.

Some students of the occult believe the whole vampire story is just a fictitious yarn that snowballed out of hysteria, but many of the people who allegedly saw the Highgate fiend say it was real and not the result of some mass hallucination.

Another vampire was said to be at large in England's picturesque Lake District in 1900. In January of that year, a Captain Edward Fisher left Croglin Grange - a bleak glorified granite-brick farmhouse in Cumbria - and headed south to Guildford, where he had purchased a new residence for business purposes. The new residents of Croglin Grange were Fisher's godsons, Edward and William Cranswell, and their young sister, Amelia, who had jumped at the opportunity of taking up the seven-year lease on the secluded but beautifully located property. The trio were popular with the neighbours, and seemed to be settling in well at their new home. Amelia enjoyed cooking and was a student of oriental languages. In the first summer at Croglin Grange, which was infernal, Amelia found it difficult to sleep at night. She would lie in her stifling bedroom, gazing out at the moonlit nightscape beyond the windows. One night she opened her bedroom window and stared out into the darkness when she suddenly noticed the silhouette of a lanky, bony figure darting across the moonlit lawn. Within seconds the agile, sinister-looking stranger was scaling the wall below her, so she slammed the window shut and fastened its catch. Almost paralysed with fear, Amelia retreated from the window as she listened to the figure scrambling up the wall. She sat on the end of the bed, trying to shout out to her brothers, but found she could hardly raise her voice. Then the figure was at the window. At this closer range she could see he was grotesque. The face was yellowed and shrivelled, and the eyes were almost black circular sockets. The nose was long and pointed, and the mouth, which was unusually large, showed a set of pointed, gruesome-looking teeth. The creature's bony finger scratched at the window as it picked away the lead lining of a pane. The pane rattled, then fell out, and the ghoul reached in through the hole and undid the window catch. It opened the window and bolted across the room towards its terrified prey. Amelia collapsed onto the bed in a state of sheer terror. The skeletal freak seized the trembling teenager by her hair and held her still as he bit into her neck. In the life-threatening situation, Amelia somehow summoned up enough courage to let out a scream which sent her brothers running into her room. They caught a glimpse of the nimble intruder leaping out of the bedroom through the window. They ran downstairs, unbolted the door and pursued the wiry assailant across the lawn and over the neighbouring churchyard wall, where they lost sight of him. William and Edward stood staring into the darkness for a while, then returned to their traumatized sister. When they saw the crimson fang-marks on her neck they knew that no ordinary intruder had been in her bedroom, but they could not believe the assailant had been a vampire.

One night in the following March, the creature returned to Croglin Grange during a severe gale. As the winds howled across the barren landscape outside, the bony finger was once again at work removing a pane from the Amelia's bedroom window, but this time the moan of the gales swamped the sound of scratching finger. The teenager awoke and found the vampire leaning over her. His cold and clammy hands grabbed her neck, and the woman screamed. The two brothers burst into the room armed with pistols. The vampire left his prey and attacked the brothers, but Edward opened fire, blasting a hole in the bloodthirsty stalker's thigh. Apparently unaffected by the gunshot, the Cumbrian vampire turned and literally dived through the open window. The chase was on again, but this time the brothers saw where the creature went to ground; in an old family vault in the churchyard.

The brothers alerted the local villagers, and on the following morning over seventy people gathered around the family vault that was said to be the vampire's lair. William, Edward and three brave villagers lifted the large sandstone slab of the vault and peered into the darkness. A torch was lit, and the crowd beheld the disturbing scene within the vault. Four broken coffins and their mutilated corpses. A fifth coffin in the corner was intact. The crowd drew back in fear as the brothers lifted the lid on this coffin - to reveal the same hideous creature that had attacked their sister twice at Croglin Grange. The corpse even bore the recent mark of the pistol shot in its thigh. One of the villagers stepped forward and told the brothers he too had seen this same creature of the night attacking and killing livestock, and he said the only way to destroy a vampire was with fire, so he and the brothers took the creature out into the churchyard, and after the villagers had gathered enough wood, the vampire was burned on a bonfire.

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