One of the absolute best places that we visited on this trip was Highgate Cemetery. I talked about Highgate a little bit in my Falling Angels blogpost, so I’ll try not to sound repetitive. I love places that have presences of ghosts. I think ghost stories are incredibly fascinating and being in a place where a lot of ghosts definitely hang around was incredible. I Googled “ghost stories of Highgate Cemetery” and came up with a couple good ones. By the 1960s when the beautiful cemetery became abandoned, it was rumored that satanic cults were holding strange ceremonies in the dark. The local newspaper, the Hampstead and Highgate Express, began receiving letters of ghostly encounters around the cemetery: one was of a “hideous apparition with glowing red eyes”, another was of a “fearsome creature that “seemed to glide” from the wall of the cemetery”, yet another was of a ghostly cyclist, and yet another is of a “mad old woman, whose long grey hair streams behind her as she races amongst the graves, searching for her children, whom she is supposed to have murdered in a fit of insane rage.” (x) Finally, the most famous ghost story is that of a Highgate Vampire. This vampire, according to an article on a ghost story website, is a tall figure that vanishes into thin air. This vampire is also sometimes mentioned wearing a top hat and walking slowly through the wall of the cemetery, with the toll of an abandoned church bell ringing after his disappearance. Some stories say it was a man who was alive in medieval Romania and whose coffin was brought to England. Some people stay they still see him from time to time and other accounts claim to have staked and burned his body. I found a video on the Highgate Vampire and how one bishop got rid of him once and for all… (There are also a lot of other great Highgate ghost story videos on YouTube and found myself watching quite a few.)
As I previously mentioned, I talked about the importance of Highgate before when I talked about Falling Angels, but in that post, I mention its relation and meaning to the text. In terms of Englishness, I think this is a huge defining place for that term. Highgate is the beautiful, overgrown, haunted place that was a visible display of how much money people had and wanted to give their dead the best of the best. Just look at the mausoleum of Julius Beer and the entire Egyptian Avenue! This is where some of the greatest English minds and athletes have come to rest and is something that needs to be seen by all who visit London for its sheer beauty and existence of the ghostly rumors. This is something that “maps Englishness” because of its heterotopic nature. This is a place where both the living and the dead worlds exist with one another and, like I’ve mentioned before, I believe London is one huge heterotopic space because of the layering of different spatialities. It’s a beautiful, haunting space that is the burial place of great writers and wealthy people.