It’s often said that fact is weirder than fiction. Here are a couple of examples.
In 1862 Lizzie Siddal, wife of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, died from an overdose of laudanum which may or may not have been accidental. Distraught with grief, Rossetti buried her in the Rossetti family tomb in Highgate Cemetery, putting the only copy of his poems in the coffin, under his wife’s beautiful coppery hair.
Seven years later, addicted to drugs and alcohol and in need of money, Rossetti determined to retrieve the only copy of his old poems, and poor Lizzie was exhumed in the dead of night. The poems were subsequently published, although to mixed reviews.
You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Here’s another good one.
On Friday 13 March 1970 a couple of hundred young people stormed Highgate Cemetery at night. Why?
Back on 27 February, the local newspaper, the Hampstead and Highgate Express led with a startling headline: Does a Vampyr walk in Highgate?
The accompanying article described how a so-called King Vampire of the Undead had been transported to England in a coffin in the early eighteenth century and buried in the place later to become Highgate Cemetery. Apparently the vampire had been roused from the dead by local Satanists and was now haunting the cemetery.
Then on the evening of Friday 13 March 1970, Thames Television broadcast an item on the early evening news in which the author of the article claimed that Highgate Cemetery was haunted by a vampire and that people should go and hunt it down. Vampire hunters came out in droves.
Talk about the power of the media. You really couldn’t make this stuff up. I enjoyed weaving these stories into my novel The Sleeping Angel. Where fact is weirder than fiction.