In the spirit of Halloween, I always have a handful of things planned to do for the occasion. And London does not disappoint when it comes to my favorite holiday. Our first Halloween-spirit outing we did was a visit to Highgate Cemetery. The cemetery is thought to be haunted, with stories as far back to Victorian times. And although we did tour the cemetery, it was not about ghost stories; however, I will share some documented ghostly encounters. This tour was more of a history tour led by a funny British man, filled with interesting facts about Highgate West Cemetery. Located in North London, the cemetery has two parts, East and West, and has more than 170,000 people buried and 53,000 graves. It’s not only a cemetery, but also a nature reserve.
The cemetery opened in 1839 when church cemeteries were unable to cope with the number of dead people needing burial. Highgate Cemetery became a fashionable place to get buried. During Victorian times, Gothic tombs were made with wealth and pageantry. The oldest part of the cemetery has an impressive collection of mausoleums and gravestones from that period. Tombs were carved elaborately, made of expensive marble or granite. Some famous people buried in the cemetery are Karl Marx, Feliks Topolski, Jane Arden, William Michael Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal, and Ellen Wood.
There were rumors about cults meeting in the cemetery back then, holding ceremonies in the ruins of the cemetery. With this, the local newspaper started receiving letters from frightened individuals who had ghostly encounters. One of the letters was from a man who saw an apparition with red eyes glaring at him through the gates of the cemetery. Another man walking nearby at a different time was knocked down by a ‘creature’ that glided from the walls of the cemetery and then dissolved into thin air. Another story is of a woman who witnessed a ghostly cyclist who startled and frightened her as it passed her up a steep incline.
During those days when vampires were thought to be real, rumors of a vampire prowled Highgate Cemetery. This prompted journalists and television crews to come out, but a vampire was never found. Nevertheless with its myriad of ghost stories, Highgate Cemetery now has a reputation for its paranormal, attracting many to investigate.
We toured East Cemetery on our own, but to tour the West Cemetery requires a guided tour. The guided tour was much more interesting, and we really enjoyed it. I’d highly recommend this tour over the self-guided tour. With the guided tour ticket, you also get to visit the East Cemetery as well.
Visiting Highgate Cemetery was very interesting. We loved hearing the stories of the deceased, about what they did when they were once living. We also learned about the significance of the tombs, designs and about the Victorians. Walking through the grounds of both cemetery did not give me the same peaceful feeling I usually get when visiting other cemeteries. The East Cemetery did not provoke as much feeling from me as West Cemetery did, where it felt mysterious and creepy at times. This was the first time I felt this way about a (haunted) cemetery, so that really intrigued me. Aside from the stories, I admired the beautiful and elaborate mausoleums and gravestones. Visiting the catacomb was also cool, where it was dark and dank as we visited the coffins of the dead and learned about who lies inside.
This was a fun Halloween outing for us, but Halloween or not, Highgate Cemetery is well worth a visit with a guided tour.