Friday, 13 April 2018

Meek But Not So Mild

"In 1965, Holloway-based Joe Meek approached David Farrant with some tape recordings he had made during what had become regular nocturnal visits to Highgate Cemetery West. Meek believed these tapes had captured the voices of spirits active in the cemetery, and indeed the tapes do seem to contain the sound of a female voice, speaking in distant and distorted sentences. Subsequently, Farrant and Meek visited the cemetery together one afternoon where Meek indicated that he had made the recordings on a path just above the Circle of Lebanon. ... [and] ... in February 1967 he fatally shot his landlady, before turning his single-barrelled shotgun on himself." — "Della Farrant" (Haunted Highgate, pages 34-35)

Between 1961 and 1967, 304 Holloway Road was occupied by Joe Meek who rented the floors above a shop. Born in Newent in Gloucestershire’s Forest of Dean in 1929, Meek’s early upbringing was rather bizarre — for the first four years of his life he was raised as a girl thanks to his mother’s intense desire to have a daughter. He first arrived in London in 1954, later moving into 304 Holloway Road where he set about creating a makeshift but innovative studio. From the stairway to the bathroom, all rooms were made available for recording sessions. Meek was homosexual — illegal in Great Britain at the time, and something which led to him being blackmailed on numerous occasions.

Meek had developed a short, volatile temper and, more worryingly, had become intensely paranoid, convinced that his Holloway Road flat had been bugged by rival companies in order to steal his ideas. So paranoid was he that he refused to leave anyone alone in the studio for fear that they’d snoop on his work. He was also becoming deeply obsessed with the occult and took to setting up recording equipment in graveyards, hoping that spirits from the other side would offer him guidance. One evening, the tape recorder picked up the sound of a cat mewing. Meek was convinced that a human spirit was trapped in the feline body and that the cat-like noises were in fact desperate calls for help.

On the morning of 3rd February 1967, Patrick Pink who was a friend and studio assistant, called in to see Meek who refused to speak and promptly stormed off upstairs. Pink mentioned the fact that Meek was in a bad mood toward Violet Shenton, the long suffering landlady of 304 Holloway Road who often took to knocking the ceiling with a broom handle when the sound levels became too much. In her typically blunt, but motherly and well-meaning manner, Mrs Shenton stubbed out a cigarette and told Patrick that she wouldd go and sort her tenant out. When she arrived upstairs, the last words Violet was heard to say were “calm down Joe”… which was suddenly followed by two loud gunshots.

Using a hunting gun which had been left in the flat by singer, Heinz Burt, Joe Meek had committed both murder and suicide within seconds, shooting his landlady before turning the weapon on himself.

He was 37-years-old.

Joe Meek’s penchant for the dark occult was revealed on the “Meeksville” website where his death is examined in great detail. This source provided the following information about David Farrant:

“There is some evidence that Joe was playing around with the 'black arts,' particularly from Margaret Blackmore, who saw a lot of Joe in his last few weeks. She claims that Joe told her that she was like Lady Harris who was, according to Joe, one of Aleister Crowley's girlfriends who painted a set of tarot cards and was alleged to be very beautiful. Although a Lady Harris indeed worked with Crowley to create their famous Thoth Tarot deck, she was in fact a lady of mature years who was also the wife of an eminent British politician. Later on, Pamela Coleman Smith and A E Waite tried to repeat the experiment and created the equally famous Rider-Waite Tarot deck. Smith, as far as can be made out, was a rather attractive and somewhat dramatic-looking woman. Joe's account sounds like an amalgam of the two; whether Joe got his facts wrong or whether Blackmore has her recollections muddled up isn't clear, but certainly someone didn't know very much about some historical facts which were very easy to check, and that may be true in general of Joe's interests in that direction. More frightening is the fact that Joe supposedly knew David Farrant. Again, the source in the book is not named; I have been in contact with someone else who knows Farrant independently of any Joe connection, and has stated that Joe met Farrant a couple of times. Having said that, I can't confirm it, as I have no way of proving whether my contact genuinely asked Farrant about it or not. Farrant was (and probably still is) a self-styled High Priest of Satan, and is still feared in some parts of North London, where he can still be seen wandering around the Archway area occasionally. He allegedly led the Highgate Cemetery desecration in the early 70's, and most people who have encountered him say that he is at first charming, but you quickly realise he's not the kind of guy you really want to hang around too long.”

In another book, Great British Eccentrics (Amberley Publishing Limited, 2015) written by someone called S D Tucker, we are yet again regaled with the apocryphal tale of Meek approaching Farrant.

The book gets so much wrong, not least what happened on the night of 13 March 1970, that the author absurdly claiming "Meek ... inadvertently started off a mass panic about vampires" leaves the reader wondering about the alleged "approach" Meek is supposed to have made toward Farrant.

The fact is that Joe Meek died in February 1967 at a time when there was no public knowledge of vampires in the vicinity of Highgate Cemetery. During 1966 and some of 1967, David Farrant was living in France and Spain where he met his wife-to-be, Mary Olden. The couple came back to England and were married at St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in the late summer of 1967. Under oath, Mary Farrant later attested that her husband and their mutual acquaintances entered Highgate Cemetery "for a bit of a laugh and to muck about after the pubs had closed." She was unaware of any occult interest Farrant much later claimed to have. As for Joe Meek, there was no mention of him by Farrant or anyone else. Like so much else, the entire story was probably dreamt up by David Farrant.

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David Farrant Death