The Vampire Research Society


Vampire Research Society (aka International Society For The Advancement Of Irrefutable Vampirological And Lycanthropic Research) evolved out of the British Occult Society (1860-1988) on 2 February 1970. Both societies were presided over by Sean Manchester. The Ghost Club Society, British Occult Society and Vampire Research Society have kindred roots. There has been cross-fertilisation of membership and some executives, notably Peter Underwood FRSA and Dr Devendra P Varma, shared high office in all three societies. Sean Manchester is an Honorary Life Member of the Ghost Club Society and founding President of the Vampire Research Society, having been President of the British Occult Society from 21 June 1967 until dissolution of that society on 8 August 1988.

1851 The Ghost Club Society founded in Cambridge. Members include E. W. Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury and Arthur Balfour, later Prime Minister.

1862 The London Ghost Club. Members include the Hon. A.Gordon, Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick: a Canon of Westminster and the Registrar of Cambridge University.

1882-1936 First revival. Members include Sir William Crookes, Sir William Barratt, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Oliver Lodge, W. B. Yeats and Harry Price.

1938 -1947 Second revival. With Harry Price as Chairman. Members include Lord Amwell, Algernon Blackwood, Mrs K. M. (Mollie Goldney, Sir Ernest Jelf, K. E. Shelley QC, Sir Osbert Sitwell, Dr Paul Tabori and Peter Underwood.

1954 -1993 Third revival. With Peter Underwood as President. Members K. E. Shelley QC, Dr Christabel Nicholson,Dr Paul Tabori, Donald Campbell MBE, Peter Sellers,Dennis Wheatley, Dr George Owen, Lord Dowding, Ena Twigg and Sir Julian Huxley. Honorary Life Members include Dennis Bardens, Mrs Michael Bentine, Colonel John Blashord-Snell, Miss Sarah Miles, Miss Jilly Cooper, Dr A R G Owen, Miss Dulcie Gray, Sir Patrick Moore, Mr Uri Geller, and Bishop Seán Manchester. Peter Underwood is Life President and Colin Wilson is vice-President of the Ghost Club Society.

At various times from the mid-19th century there has been membership cross-fertilisation between the British Occult Society and the Ghost Club Society until 1988 when the British Occult Society was formally dissolved.

The Vampire Research Society originated in 1967 as a specialist unit within the much older British Occult Society ~ an organisation for paranormal and occult investigation that was eventually dissolved on 8 August 1988. Sean Manchester was responsible for the vampire research unit becoming a self-governing body on 2 February 1970 by which time he had initiated in 1969, as president of the British Occult Society, a full-time investigation into the Highgate Vampire case. It would last thirteen years. The first published account of the case (including the initial discovery of the suspect tomb and a spoken exorcism) was given in The Vampire’s Bedside Companion (Leslie Frewin, 1975; Coronet Books, 1976). The first complete account was published in the best-selling The Highgate Vampire (British Occult Society, 1985; Gothic Press, 1991). The current Gothic Press edition is completely revised and updated with hitherto unreleased illustrations. Final comment on the Highgate Vampire case in print appeared in The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook (Gothic Press, 1997) while Carmel ~ A Vampire Tale (Gothic Press, 2000) draws on real experience that is based on the mysterious happenings in and around Highgate Cemetery. These works contain photographs and graphics from the case files and photographic archive of the Vampire Research Society.

It should be stressed that the Vampire Research Society owes no connection to any other group with a similar name. Furthermore, the Vampire Research Society does not countenance the activities of lone, amateur "vampire hunters."


The Highgate Vampire : The Vampire Researcher's Findings

"I became convinced that, more than anyone else, the president of the Vampire Research Society knew the full story of the Highgate Vampire." ~ Peter Underwood, President of the Ghost Club Society

In 1990, Peter Underwood retold the events of the Highgate Vampire case (up to the first discovery of the suspect tomb in Highgate Cemetery) in his book Exorcism! He commented in chapter six:

"The Hon Ralph Shirley told me in the 1940s that he had studied the subject in some depth, sifted through the evidence and concluded that vampirism was by no means as dead as many people supposed; more likely, he thought, the facts were concealed. … My old friend Montague Summers has, to his own satisfaction, at least, traced back ‘the dark tradition of the vampire’ until it is ‘lost amid the ages of a dateless antiquity’."

In his anthology "The Vampire's Bedside Companion" (1975) which contains a chapter with photographic evidence from the Vampire Research Society, written and contributed by VRS founder and president Sean Manchester, Peter Underwood wrote:

"Alleged sightings of a vampire-like creature ~ a grey spectre ~ lurking among the graves and tombstones have resulted in many vampire hunts. … In 1968, I heard first-hand evidence of such a sighting and my informant maintained that he and his companion had secreted themselves in one of the vaults and watched a dark figure flit among the catacombs and disappear into a huge vault from which the vampire … did not reappear. Subsequent search revealed no trace inside the vault but I was told that a trail of drops of blood stopped at an area of massive coffins which could have hidden a dozen vampires."

In the previous year two schoolgirls had reported seeing the spectre rise from its tomb. One of these would be interviewed by Sean Manchester. The case of the Highgate Vampire was about to open.

Highgate Swains Lane, click for enlargement

Two seemingly unconnected incidents occurred within weeks of one another in early 1967. The first involved two 16-year-old convent girls who were walking home at night after having visited friends in Highgate Village. Their return journey took them down Swains Lane past the cemetery. They could not believe their eyes as they passed the graveyard’s north gate at the top of the lane, for in front of them bodies appeared to be emerging from their tombs. One of these schoolgirls later suffered nightly visitations and blood loss. The second incident, some weeks later, involved an engaged couple who were walking down the same lane. Suddenly the female shrieked as she glimpsed something hideous hovering behind the gate’s iron railings. Then her fiancé saw it. They both stood frozen to the ground as the spectre held them in thrall. Its face bore an expression of basilisk horror. Soon others sighted the same phenomenon as it hovered along the path behind the gate where gravestones are visible either side until consumed in darkness. Before long people were talking in hushed tones about the rumoured haunting in local pubs. Some who actually witnessed the spectral figure wrote to their local newspaper to share their experience. Discovery was made of animal carcasses drained of blood. They had been so exsanguinated that a forensic sample could not be found. It was only a matter of time before a person was found in the cemetery in a pool of blood. This victim died of wounds to the throat. The police made every attempt to cover-up the vampiristic nature of the death. Sean Manchester informed the public on 27 February 1970 that the cause was most probably a vampire. He appeared on television on 13 March 1970 and repeated his theory. The VRS, whose specialist unit within a larger investigatory organisation (now defunct) had opened the case twelve months earlier, established a history of similar hauntings that went back to before the graveyard existed. A suspected tomb was located and a spoken exorcism performed. This proved ineffective. The hauntings and animal deaths continued. Indeed, they multiplied. By now all sorts of people were jumping on the vampire bandwagon; including film-makers and rock musicians. Most were frightened off. Some who interloped became fascinated by the black arts with disastrous consequences. Meanwhile, serious researchers considered the possibility that a nest of vampires might be active in the area. Yet there seemed to be one principal source which the media had already dubbed a "King Vampire of the Undead."

Sean Manchester, assisted by a small team of specialist researchers, led the thirteen year investigation from beginning to end. There was indeed more than one vampire for him and the Vampire Research Society to confront. However, in early 1974 he tracked the principal source of the contamination, known as the Highgate Vampire, to a neo-Gothic mansion on the Highgate borders. Here he employed the ancient and approved remedy. No vampire has been sighted in or near Highgate Cemetery and its environs since that time.

The reason why Sean Manchester initially wrote his bestselling book The Highgate Vampire was due to so many people contacting him to ask what really happened. Letters ran into hundreds, and this accumulated following the commission from Peter Underwood and his publisher, Leslie Frewin Books, to give an account of events up to and including the spoken exorcism attempt of August 1970. Sean Manchester thought this might stem the flow, but the case itself was yet to be solved, and reports of unsavoury incidents continued to filter into the columns of local newspapers. Hence the complete and unexpurgated account first published in 1985. A more intimate account was given in a special edition published by Gothic Press in 1991 where the rear fly on the dust jacket states:

"[The author] recognises the immense public interest in the Highgate Vampire case which is why he has written the present volume as a final comment on what, in his own words, is ‘hopefully the last frenzied flutterings of a force so dight with fearful fascination that even legend could not contain it’."

It was never Sean Manchester's intention to try and convince anyone of the existence of the supernatural, yet still he receives correspondence asking him to do precisely that. Nor was it his wish to stimulate undue interest in these matters; though he accepts this has been an unintentional by-product. By writing a comprehensive recounting of those events surrounding the mystery, he merely sought to provide a record of his unearthly experience for those who wanted to read about it.

In the wake of his book, and personal appearances where he discussed its contents, some individuals were not slow to engage in shameless exploitation of his work. The majority of enthusiastic readers of Sean Manchester's work, however, have shown immense sympathy and encouragement.

The Vampire Research Society still has members living in the vicinity of Highgate Cemetery and they know of no recent sighting from any credible witness. No latter-day witnesses have been identified whose testimony can be checked. Not one person has independently come forward to verify the claim ~ a claim that still remains totally unsubstantiated. A lone, amateur "vampire hunter" is as much a danger to himself as he is to any investigation that might already be in progress. It is surely fundamental common sense that if the pursuit of supernatural evil is a dangerous occupation to embark upon, then the last thing anyone needs are meddlers drawing attention to themselves in the media as invariably always happens. The outcome is a breakdown in relations between officials, landowners and perhaps potential witnesses and the bona fide researchers. This certainly happened at Highgate Cemetery in London, and at Kirklees Hall Estate in West Yorkshire. One amateur "vampire hunter" is bad enough, but each of those investigations became plagued with all too many amateurs who only served to add to the mayhem. The curious thing is that some subsequent reporting of events at a very much later date by journalists who could not be bothered to do their homework only referred to the antics of meddlers and amateurs in the Highgate Vampire case and made absolutely no mention of the genuine VRS investigation that took place over a period of thirteen years. The Vampire Research Society, though informally a specialist unit within the British Occult Society (BOS) from 1967, became autonomous in February 1970. On 13 March 1970, Sean Manchester made a transmission for Thames Television as the head of that organisation, and its parent BOS, where he warned against lone "vampire hunting" by amateurs. Sean Manchester reiterated his disapproval on 15 October 1970 for a BBC television documentary that also included brief footage of one such amateur brandishing a home-made stake and cross.

The Vampire Research Society

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