I actually popped down to Swains Lane last night (Hallowe’en) against all my own advice to others. Yes, I am very ashamed of myself and have chastised myself appropriately ever since. But my reason for going there was that I wanted to see for myself exactly what if any disturbance was going on, just on the offchance that this website might have inadvertently encouraged any. My reasoning was that if this was reported elsewhere I would know for myself if was an exaggeration or was accurate. And yes I was carrying a rape alarm. I can happily report that there did not seem to be much more disturbance than any other average suburb at pub chucking out time on Hallowe’en – a few groups of people in fancy dress standing around in the high street and the dregs of a Hallowe’en charity bike ride was as bad as it got.
As I walked down Muswell Hill Road there was the usual strong smell of incense from Queens Wood, but no satanic chanting 😉
At the cemetery’s top gate however I did have an interesting conversation – with the boys in blue! Two rather pale boys in blue, as it happens. About 7 patrol cars and a van (it was the van which loomed up to me!) were doing a kind of relay up Swains Lane and round the village – there were actually more police about than partygoers. We had a little chat – turns out they thought I was a ghost as I was standing so still. I was a bit freaked out when they said they recognised me from the Ham and High, but at least this stopped me from getting in trouble. When I said I was writing a book and had just come down for research they were fine – I think they were just relieved that I was mortal!
What had spooked them was an encounter a few minutes previously. As they were driving up Swains Lane they slowed by the main gate, and saw a man standing there absolutely motionless. When they asked him what he was doing outside Highgate Cemetery at midnight, he didn’t reply. Well you can imagine that I was more than a little excited about this! The police were a bit embarrassed that the man had given them a fright, but were quite sure he was human. Or at least, that’s what they said. ‘Well, he swears a lot when asked to move along, so he’s probably not a ghost!’ was their interpretation of what they had seen. They were a bit wooly as to whether they had succeeded in moving him on, and didn’t seem to want to confirm one way or the other. This struck me as a bit strange; one would think that if they had managed to move him on they would have confirmed this to a lone female to reassure her. I asked them if he was wearing a top hat, risking all credibility of my own, and they remarked laughingly, the tension broken ‘We’d have had him in the back if he was!’ as they drove off.
Shades of the classic ‘We’ll arrest him too if we catch him!’ police remarks about the ‘Highgate vampire’ on the night of the infamous ‘vampire hunt’ of March 13th 1970 … How history repeats itself! In this case, in quite a harmless fashion, fortunately.