Highgate Cemetery - London’s Most Haunted
Highgate Cemetery is steeped in supernatural lore. Constructed out of need with six others in the early 1800s, with London’s population nearing a million and the death toll rising, there was no more room to bury the dead. This cemetery is one of the most famous in the world, with many notable historic figures, such as Karl Marx, buried there.
The architecture of the cemetery is truly unique. In the heart of the grounds is an eccentric structure called the Egyptian Avenue which consists of sixteen vaults, entered via a great arch. Each vault fits twelve coffins, purchased and used by individual families. This avenue leads to the Circle of Lebanon which was built in the same style consisting of thirty six vaults. A separate gothic-styled catacomb, named the Terrace Catacombs, has an additional fifty five vaults.
But what lures most people to the cemetery are the legends and myths that include ghosts, a vampire and other unexplained phenomena. Spirits coming out of the mausoleums, a glowing woman who roams the paths in between the graves, a man in a top hat, and misty floating beings that hang around the tombs are just some of the the spirits that inhabit the cemetery. Its the account of the “Highgate Vampire” that makes the site legendary.
The first report was in 1970, when a young man reported that he had seen a dark figure resembling a vampire in the cemetery. Since then, hundreds of claims of suspected vampires continued to be reported. Helping the belief along was the fact that dead foxes, with their throats torn open, kept turning up on the grounds. Aside from ghosts and a resident vampire, Highgate Cemetery is a hauntingly beautiful place to spend eternity.
Worth knowing: Highgate is a cemetery in two halves:
• Highgate (West) Cemetery: The older (1839), wooded, most atmospheric and Gothic section of the cemetery west of Swain’s Lane. Contains the Egyptian Avenue and Circle of Lebanon, plus the likes of Christina Rosetti and Radclyffe Hall. However, you can only gain admission by paying the (strange, control-freaky) Friends of Highgate Cemetery for a guided tour; by proving you’re a grave-owner (then, potentially, paying even more if, like me, your ancestors were buried off-piste or in paupers’ graves); or by schmoozing the owner of a certain house on Swain’s Lane – reportedly built for Terry Gilliam – that has private access.
• Highgate (East) Cemetery: East of Swain’s Lane, next to Waterlow Park and the Royal Free. Newer (1854) and not quite so atmospheric, but contains Karl Marx, Carl Meyer (screenwriter of Murnau’s The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari and Sunrise), Max Wall, and Douglas Adams – and, importantly, free to visit.