The Press: I Was a Vampire (TIME: Monday, August 1, 1949) [M]

For five months Britain's press had been prevented, not by squeamishness but by law, from printing all the details of "Vampire" John George Haigh's nine murders. One editor had even gone to jail for hinting too broadly at the truth. But when Haigh's counsel, in an effort to prove him insane, finally read his astonishing confession in court last week - Haigh said that he drank a glass of his victim's blood after each murder - the press was finally free to let the blood and acid run.

The Sydney Telegraph rushed Australian Crown Prosecutor Charles Rooney 12,000 miles to London by air to cover the trial with a lawyer's eye. The London Daily Mail hired long-haired Author Peter Quennell, who was obligingly overwhelmed: "By comparison, Crippen was a sentimentalist and Landru* a boastful playboy." Even the dignified London Times gave the story three full columns.

As the trial ended in the tiny courtroom at Lewes, Sussex, the press gallery was packed. When the white-wigged old justice pronounced the dread words, "hanged by the neck until dead," frozen-faced Haigh listened with all the emotion of a man being fined for a traffic offense.

Five minutes later, on his way to the death cell, the killer paused to chide his pretty, 21-year-old sweetheart, Barbara Stephens. What business did she have selling a story of their friendship to the Sunday newspaper, The People? Didn't she know that he had already sold exclusive rights to his own story ("I Was a Vampire") to News of the World? Killer Haigh, who had signed the £5,000 ($20,000) contract months ago to get the money for his defense, felt honor-bound to fulfill it.

The People spread Barbara's breathlessly ghostwritten story all over Page One. Said she: "I feel bitter about what he [Haigh] has done but I cannot lose my love for him. If he could walk out a free man, I would walk beside him . . . Never once did he do anything of which my mother would be ashamed." But News of the World's 8,000,000 readers would have to wait for Haigh's own story. Until his appeal had been heard, English law, safeguarding his rights to the end, would not permit Haigh to prejudice his case by telling all in public.

 

* Hawley Harvey Crippen, a London dentist, was hanged (1910) for poisoning his wife, chopping up her remains and burying them in his cellar. Henri Desire (Bluebeard) Landru was guillotined (1922) in Versailles, France, for butchering ten women and a boy.

Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?

Vol. 1 No. 18
Vampire by Night
Vol. 1 No. 18