WELCOME TO HIDDEN HIGHGATE – AN INTERACTIVE COMMUNITY RESOURCE, CELEBRATING HIGHGATE’S FORGOTTEN HISTORY & PARANORMAL PRESENT
My name is Della Farrant and I am the creator of this site. I’ve been researching sightings of ghosts in Highgate for years. That’s me to the right, in typical camera-shy fashion! But this site isn’t about me. I’m just a scribe.
In the summer of 2013 I was invited by publishing house History Press to write ‘Haunted Highgate’ for their Haunted series. During the course of researching my book, I have turned up many fresh accounts of haunted houses and pubs, and encounters with spooks on deserted roads late at night, which as an author is great. But as I dug deeper my enquiries also began bringing to light forgotten tales of secret tunnels and concealed chambers, underground rivers, alleged ley lines and even some gruesome murders. I had not come across this sort of material in the popular primers about Highgate’s history, and I was intrigued.
In my humble opinion, folklore, local history and the paranormal go hand in hand, and can sometimes help us gain a deeper understanding of each area of study when approached in conjunction. I quickly realised that I had too much material for one book, and decided to share my ‘cutting room floor’ online. Hidden Highgate, however, is only a starting point for you, the reader, to share your stories and memories of Highgate’s quirkier aspects …
BUT HIGHGATE’S ALL ABOUT VAMPIRES ISN’T IT?
No No No !!! I don’t even believe in them, and if YOU do, you are probably visiting the wrong website.
In the old days paranormal researchers usually started off with a letter to the local newspaper. Indeed it was a letter to the Ham and High in 1970 which accidentally sparked off the “Highgate vampire scare”. The media frenzy which ensued is what most paranormal websites associate with Highgate all these years later. I know from asking them that many locals still recall the night when hundreds of wannabe vampire hunters descended on Highgate Cemetery, hoping to stake ‘the king vampire of the undead’. Anyone in the Gatehouse will tell you about that on a Saturday night after a few jars. But as people who actually live here frustratedly protest, there is so much more to Highgate than that.
This new site also delves into many aspects of Highgate’s past which have never made it into more traditional history books. Did you know for example that in 1597 the hermit who collected tolls at Highgate on behalf of the Bishop of London was accused of sorcery? Or that two local lads were hung in 1831 for their role in a bodysnatching enterprise which once operated from Highgate’s West Hill? Highgate’s hidden past is also preserved in its listed buildings and unaltered streets; the recent discovery of two tombstones in the grounds of The Flask public house just shows how little we really know about what lies beneath our feet.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR THE READER?
I hope the new website will appeal to local people and those further afield, with an interest in the less documented aspects of Highgate’s past and the supernatural in general. You might be content with just browsing the interactive map, or wish to post comments or even contribute a blog entry. With the advent of the internet and the rise in popularity of social media, it is much easier for people to share their odd encounters and experiences with others online. If something unexplainable has ever scared you, and you were too embarrassed to talk about it, you should feel quite at home here – you are not alone, I assure you! Whether you grew up in a haunted flat, or bumped into Swains Lane’s man in black one lonely night, Hidden Highgate is the place to tell your story – and the scariest tales might even end up in print! (with your permission of course).
Hidden Highgate does not aim to be a definitive guide to any of the topics it covers. It is a work in progress, a patchwork quilt of original written sources and oral tradition, not a collection of cut and pasted Wikipedia entries. It’s not all about ghosts, and it’s not all about history, so if you like one or the other you can pick and choose. Gossip is politely referred to in well-to-do villages as ‘news’ – and you might even find or want to contribute a bit of that (if it’s not mean). Hidden Highgate is a bit different, serious sometimes and fun in other places – and above all FRIENDLY. Welcome to the site!
Della Farrant, Highgate, October 2013