Photography Guide to Highgate Cemetery, London England

“London’s Creepiest Cemetery”

Photo by mendhak CC by-sa

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Ivy Covered Graves Highgate Cemetery - Photo by TuendeBede
Ivy Covered Graves Highgate Cemetery - Photo by TuendeBede

Highgate Cemetery

Perhaps no other cemetery in the world conjures up images of ghosts and goblins like the amazing Highgate Cemetery in London, England. If you’re the type of photographer who has a passion for the paranormal and downright creepy, then this amazing photo location needs to be on your bucket list. Home to approximately 170,000 dearly departed souls, Highgate Cemetery features stunningly photographic sculptures, rows of overgrown headstones, and beautiful Victorian-era architecture.

Highgate Cemetery - Photo by HeritageDaily CC by-sa
Highgate Cemetery - Photo by HeritageDaily CC by-sa

The Magnificent Seven

Highgate Cemetery is but one of 7 cemeteries in an around the London Area known as the Magnificent Seven. These cemeteries were established in the 1800s on the outskirts of London to relieve the overcrowding at inner-city cemeteries attached to churches. On 20 May 1839, the Western portion of the cemetery was opened and it quickly became a popular resting place among London’s elite. Victorian-era styling quickly became the dominant style and the result is a stunning collection of gothic tombs, sculptures and gravestones. The Eastern portion opened in 1954 and is home to a number of notable figures including Karl Marx, Douglas Adams and Patrick Caulfield to name a few.

Highgate Cemetery Angel Sculpture Detail - Photo by Carlos Ramos Alar
Highgate Cemetery Angel Sculpture Detail - Photo by Carlos Ramos Alar

Highgate Vampire Sensation

Following WWII upkeep of the cemetery tapered off, the grounds gradually became overgrown and fell into disrepair. This neglect resulted in the graveyard becoming a seriously creepy location. By the 1970s the site was downright spooky and became the shooting location for several horror movies. As is often the case, reality began to imitate art and the vampiric stories told in the films became the focus of self-proclaimed Vampire Hunters who began to patrol the hallowed grounds in the evenings.

Naturally, they took it too far, and reports began to surface of tombs being broken open and the corpses mangled with wooden stakes driven through the chests of the dead. These so-called vampire hunters even went so far as to remove bodies from the cemetery, and residents complained about finding human remains in odd places. One resident awoke to find a headless corpse sitting in his car early one morning.

These unusual activities became known as the Vampire Sensation and culminated in a vampire hunting event on Friday the 13th of May, 1974 when a mob of hunters swarmed the gates and overwhelmed police attempting to stop them. A “magician” named Farrant was arrested with a stake and crucifix for “damaging memorials and interfering with dead remains in Highgate Cemetery.” To this day Highgate cemetery remains the focus of paranormal activities where those obsessed with the occult, paranormal and other fans of the frightening.

Egyptian Avenue Entrance Highgate Cemetery - Photo by John Armagh
Egyptian Avenue Entrance Highgate Cemetery - Photo by John Armagh

Photographing Highgate Cemetery

To preserve the beauty of Highgate Cemetery, the burial grounds now have limited access, and you must buy a ticket to visit. Prices are reasonable, at about £4 a person. For those interested they also offer tours. This will get you in, and you can photograph for personal use. If, however, you wish to shoot commercially, you will need to get a permit to do so. You can request a photography permit by calling their photography contact number: 020 8347 2472.

It should be noted as well that still photography of graves is allowed for personal use only, and you cannot use the cemetery as a backdrop for fashion shoots. Also, they have a strict ban on the use of the cemetery for videos, which might have something to do with the Vampire Sensation, which may have been caused by horror films. The good news is that they will allow you to use a tripod, but not on tours. We recommend skipping the tours anyway and spending a day visiting and shooting the East Cemetery.

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Ivy Covered Graves Highgate Cemetery - Photo by Duncan Harris
Ivy Covered Graves Highgate Cemetery - Photo by Duncan Harris

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