Vampires can distort your thinking. For example, whenever I hear of Highgate Cemetery in London, my mind immediately goes to the Highgate Vampire. (There was somewhat of a comment kerfuffle on that topic right here on this blog some years back that resulted in several comments being removed.) Highgate is the amazing final resting place of a remarkable number of famous people. Still, when I visited a few years back I couldn’t get the vampire out of my mind. (A friend of mine lives a short walk from the cemetery and that made the visit possible.) This all came rushing back when I saw a book on Highgate Cemetery up for review on Reading Religion. (And hey, Nightmares with the Bible has been available there for free, for any interested takers!)
Given my current vocation, writing actual book reviews is considered conflict of interest. More’s the pity, since that’s how I often managed to get ahold of expensive books back in the day. I’m pretty sure the book advertised (edited by Marie-Therese Mader, Alberto Saviello, and Baldassare Scolari) has nothing to do with the vampire, but I can think of it no other way. Highgate is an architectural marvel for a necropolis. It is spooky, inspiring, and impressive. When something happens in a place, even if the facts are in dispute, it takes on an atmosphere that reflects such happenings. At least that’s the way it feels for Highgate. I’d heard about the vampire incident before visiting, but didn’t have the details. Besides, you’re only permitted in on guided tours and the docents don’t point out such things.
Nevertheless, having been there I still have an interest in the cemetery itself. It’s odd in a way. Nobody I know personally is buried there. No ancestors, as far as I know. It’s the sense of place. I’ve written about this many times before—there are numinous spaces in the world. Science may deny it, but even scientists feel it. Some places transport you somewhere beyond just the physical dimensions of where your body happens to be at the moment. Cemeteries are filled with the memories of lives past. They remind us that our time is limited, and that we too will cross that numinous threshold some day. We all contribute. Well, I can’t review the Highgate book and I can’t afford to buy it. I nevertheless suspect that there’s nothing about the vampire in it. I’m sure it’s my thinking that has been distorted by vampires.