Monday, 27 May 2013

Montague Summers' Holy Orders

Dear Bishop Manchester, you have always claimed that the Right Reverend Montague Summers has been a Bishop of the Old Catholic Church. I would like to know why in your opinion Wikipedia affirms that "He was never a member of any Catholic order or diocese. Whether he was ever actually ordained as a priest is a matter of dispute." I hope you will have the patience and the kindness to satisfy my curiosity. Thank you very much. Your friend — Alan (Italy).

That is an opinion expressed by someone called Robertson Davies nine years ago and repeated on Wikipedia, which I know from bitter experience gets an awful lot wrong; not least with its Highgate Vampire article which entry is written by Jacqueline Simpson, someone who relied entirely on flawed newspaper cuttings and an American colleague of hers by the name of Bill Ellis who is exceptionally biased and who, in turn, also relied on unsafe information. (See:

There is no dispute in my mind as to whether Montague Summers was ordained into the priesthood, none whatsoever, and, moreover, he was also consecrated as a bishop in the winter of his life.

Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers, in whose memory I dedicated the second edition of The Highgate Vampire, entered the Old Catholic priesthood (having been diaconated in 1908 in the Church of England, and joining the diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church which he entered a year later).

Summers grew up in a wealthy family living in Clifton, near Bristol. Religion always played a large part in his life. He was raised as an evangelical Anglican, but his love of ceremonial and sacraments drew him to Anglo-Catholicism. After graduating in Theology at Oxford he took the first steps towards holy orders at Lichfield Theological College and entered his apprenticeship as a curate in the diocese of Bitton near Bristol. A year or so later he converted to Roman Catholicism. He had been made a deacon within the Church of England in 1908, and was diaconated again within the Roman Catholic Church, but it was not until he embraced the Old Catholic Church that he was ordained into the priesthood in 1913. He celebrated Mass publicly when travelling abroad, but at home in England he only performed this sacrament in private. This was probably due to the fact that he was ordained into the priesthood outside the regular procedures of the Church. Old Catholic holy orders, albeit valid, are irregular in the eyes of Rome and Canterbury.

He was episcopally consecrated for the Order of Corporate Reunion on 21 June 1927 by Dominic Albert Godwin. He was later consecrated sub conditione on 21 March 1946 by Roger Stephen Matthews and appointed Nuncio for Great Britain. Like myself, he wrote books about demonology whilst placing significant emphasis on exorcism.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Quick Six Questions


You came into the spotlight with the Highgate Vampire case in the 1970s, but your interest and knowledge of vampires no doubt goes back further in time. When did you first start researching this unusual subject? — Mark Knight

Serious introduction to the subject came about in the 1960s (I cannot recall precisely when) with my reading The Vampire: His Kith & Kin (1928) and The Vampire in Europe (1929), both by Montague Summers, prior to which the supernatural had always held a fascination since early childhood. Summers led me to read more obscure vampirological works from earlier centuries. I have the good fortune to know quite well someone who themselves knew Montague Summers and received from Summers a "vampire protection medallion" (referred to and illustrated in The Vampire's Bedside Companion anthology published in 1975 where I also make a contribution). The medallion has been bequeathed to me by its owner.

How much of the current vampire lore is generated by Hollywood and how much of it is genuine? Or is any of it genuine? — Mark Knight

I am unfamilar with much of the current culture appertaining to vampires and vampirism, but I suspect it has little bearing on the lore of centuries past. My knowledge, albeit supplemented by experts from yestercenturies, is based more on experience than it is on speculative consideration and contemporary culture.

Among your fields of research are the areas of demonology and demonaltry. Please can you explain the meaning of these two terms? — Mark Knight

The word "demonology" refers to the study of demons whereas the word "demonolatry" covers the study of those who practice diabolism and the minutiae of their darkly occult ritualism. Since the late 1950s and early 1960s the word has also been adopted by diabolists themselves as a reference to describe their demon worship. When I use the word it is in its older meaning, ie pertaining to studying and researching about diabolists and their sinister practices.

What would you say to someone who insists that vampires and demons do not exist in the real world? — Mark Knight

I think you will find that most people not only dismiss the existence of demons (vampires are predatory demons) in our largely atheistic, secular society, but all things supernatural. I would merely say that I hope they are never confronted by the demonic whilst I pray they encounter the angelic. To those who do not believe, no amount of words from me will convince them of anything supernatural, whereas no words or convincing are required from me to those who already believe.

Would you recommend anyone who is interested in vampirolgical research and demonology to get involved and if so, what advice would you give him/her? — Mark Knight

I would not advise anyone to "get involved" unless they absolutely know they have a definite calling to the ministry of exorcism. Then I would advise them to seek out a traditionalist branch of their Church. Otherwise, study the subject by all means, but do not dabble in it or otherwise become involved.

Lastly, what are your current interests and projects? Who is Seán Manchester in everyday terms, outside of all things clerical? — Mark Knight

I do not like to talk about projects where I am only a consultant or contributor (and there are several) or where I have been asked not to discuss the project until it is in post-production and closer to release. Where I am solely in control I would feel free to engage in that conversation and only then where it does not compromise the integrity of the project or any confidences placed in me by other people. Outside of all things clerical, I am a portraiturist (oil on canvas), a photographer, poet, musician and composer. I am a collector of antique objects ranging from sacred relics to Byronania, rare books, paintings, phonograph cylinders and 78rpm records, dageurreotypes, Victorian and Edwardian photographs, artefacts, curiosities and miscellany. I have a number of old cameras, my favourite being a 19th century Thornton & Pickard brass and mahogany plate camera (pictured below). The majority of my collectables are 19th century and earlier with just a few items of more recent vintage, ie early twentieth century. Artefacts most precious to me are the relics of saints and those awaiting canonisation, eg the venerated and the beatified. I have almost completed a memoir which I doubt shall ever be offered for publication. My current instruction is to have it consigned to the flames upon my demise.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Happy 90th Birthday Peter Underwood


Congratulations Peter!

Many Happy Returns to my dear friend and colleague Peter Underwood who is ninety today. I wish him every happiness in these vintage years and many, many blessings .

Until we meet again, +Seán Manchester

The very next day I received this thank you from Peter:


Monday, 6 May 2013

When Less is More

Greetings Bishop Manchester, I have heard you on Coast to Coast and was very impressed with your approach. I run a blog which promotes the paranormal. An idea that occurred to me was that an interview with a real exorcist would be extremely interesting for my readers, and potential new readers. I would love to do an interview with you and post it on my blog. It would surely generate interest for you and what you do, and you can provide me with any links that you wish, especially for any books you have written. If you are happy with this, please let me know. I hope to hear from you soon! — Mark Knight

By all means forward your questions, Mark, but I no longer discuss minutiae concerning the Highgate case which has dominated too many years of interviews. I wrote a book to quell the multitudinous questions arising out of that investigation, but to no avail. Thus, a little over two years ago I drew a line under the matter. After four and a half decades in the spotlight, I genuinely welcome less interest being generated, not more. I trust you will understand and spare me the monotony of repeating answers I have given many times before.


Sunday, 5 May 2013

Rhode Island — Superstition or Supernatural?

Dear Bishop Manchester, I would be honoured to know your opinion about the Rhode Island "documented" cases of vampirism. I'm talking about the stories of Mercy Brown, Abigail Staples and Sarah Tillinghast. It seems that the case of Mercy Brown, for example, has inspired even Bram Stoker for his "Dracula." Consumption, porphyria and a strong dose of superstition can explain what's happened in Rhode Island or do you believe that vampirism would represent a more credible theory? Thank you very much. — Alan (Italy)

It is all too easy to dismiss an obviously supernatural answer when so many seemingly natural ones are presented in its stead. I will not opt for quick and easy explanations in the absence of conclusive evidence, and I am often not convinced the evidence put forward by those seeking a rational answer is always as final and absolute as they would like to make out. However, sometimes the facts really do speak for themselves.

In Exeter, Rhode Island, the family of George and Mary Brown suffered a sequence of tuberculosis infections in the final two decades of the nineteenth century. Tuberculosis was called "consumption" at the time and was a devastating and much-feared disease.

The mother, Mary, was the first to die of the disease, followed in 1888 by their eldest daughter, Mary Olive. Two years later, in 1890, their son, Edwin, also became sick.

In 1891, another daughter, Mercy, contracted the disease and died in January 1892. She was buried in the cemetery of the Baptist Church in Exeter.

Friends and neighbours of the family were convinced that one of the dead family members was a vampire (although they did not use that term) and was causing Edwin's illness. This was in accordance with threads of contemporary folklore linking multiple deaths in one family to undead activity. Consumption was a poorly understood condition at the time.

George Brown was persuaded to exhume the bodies, which he did with the help of several villagers on 17 March 1892. While the bodies of both Mary and Mary Olive had undergone significant decomposition over the intervening years, the more recently buried body of Mercy was still relatively unchanged and had blood in the heart. This was taken as a sign that the teenager was undead and the agent of young Edwin's condition.

Mercy's heart was removed from her body, burnt, and the remnants mixed with water and given to the sick Edwin to drink. Unfortunately, despite all his efforts, George was unsuccessful in protecting his son, who died two months later.

Dr Michael Bell is a folklorist and author of Food for the Dead (a book that explores the folklore and history behind Mercy Brown as well as several other cases of New England vampires). Dr Bell feels there is a direct connection between some vampire cases and consumption. He said: "The way you look personally is the way vampires have always been portrayed in folklore - like walking corpses, which is what you are, at least in the later stages of consumption. Skin and bones, fingernails are long and curved, you look like the vampire from Nosferatu."

Consumption took its first victim within the Brown family in December of 1883 when Mercy's mother, Mary Brown, died of the disease. Seven months later, the Browns' eldest daughter, Mary Olive, also died of consumption. The Browns' only son, Edwin, came down with consumption a few years after Mary Olive's death and was sent to live in the arid climate of Colorado to try and stop the disease. Late in 1891, Edwin returned home to Exeter because the disease was progressing - he essentially came home to die. Mercy's battle with consumption was considerably shorter than her brother's. Mercy had the "galloping" variety of consumption - her battle with the disease lasted only a few months. Mercy was laid to rest in Chestnut Hill Cemetery behind the Baptist church on Victory Highway.

After Mercy's funeral, her brother Edwin's condition worsened rapidly, and their father, George Brown, grew more frantic. Mr Brown had lost his wife and two of his daughters, and now he was about to lose his only son. Science and medicine had no answers for George Brown, but folklore did. For centuries prior to Mercy Brown there have been vampires. The practice of exorcising these undead began in Europe. Various ways people dealt with vampires was to exhume the body of the suspect, drive a stake through the heart, rearrange the skeletal remains, remove vital organs, or cremate the entire corpse.

So much death had plagued the Brown family that George Brown probably felt he was cursed in some way. It did not take a massive leap of faith for someone to come up with a radical idea to halt the death. Maybe the Brown family was under vampire attacks from beyond the grave? Was Mercy Brown the vampire, or was it Mercy's mother or sister? George Brown was willing to dig up the body of his recently deceased daughter, remove her heart, burn it, and feed the ashes to his son because he felt he had no other choice.

In Dr Bell's book Food for the Dead he recounts an extensive interview he conducted with Everett Peck, a descendent of Mercy Brown and life-long resident of Exeter, Rhode Island.

"Everett heard the story from people who had been there [at the exhumation of Mercy Brown] - who were alive at the time," Dr Bell said. "The newspaper [Providence Journal] says they exhumed all three bodies, that is, Mercy's mother, her sister who had died before her, and Mercy. Everett said they only dug up Mercy. He implied that there was some sign that Mercy was the one - that's the supernatural creeping into his story. Everett said that after they had dug her up, [they saw that] she had turned over in the grave - but there's no mention of that in the newspaper or the eyewitness accounts."

We do not know exactly what position Mercy Brown's body was in on that day in March when George Brown, and some of his friends and family, came to examine Mercy's body. We do know that she looked "too well preserved."

"There's a suggestion in the newspaper that she wasn't actually interred in the ground," Dr Bell said. "She was actually put in an above-ground crypt, because bodies were stored in the wintertime when the ground was frozen and they couldn't really dig. When the thaw came, they would bury them. So it's possible that she wasn't even really interred."

Her visual condition prompted the group to cut open her chest cavity and examine her innards. Dr Bell said: "They examined her organs. The newspaper said her heart and liver had blood in it. It was liquid blood, which they interpreted as fresh blood."

The liquid blood was taken as evidence that Mercy was indeed a vampire and the one draining the life from Edwin and possibly other consumption victims in the community.

Dr Bell said: "They cut her heart out, and as Everett said, they burned it on a nearby rock. Then according to the newspaper, they fed them [the ashes of the heart] to Edwin."

Folklore claims that destroying the heart of a vampire would kill it, and by consuming the remains of the vampire's heart - the spell would be broken and the victim would get well.

The community's vampire slaying had failed to save Edwin - he died two months later, but maybe it helped others in the community?

Mercy Lena Brown is arguably North America's most famous vampire because she is also the most recent.

The event caused such a stir in 1892 because newspapers like the Providence Journal editorialised that the idea of exhuming a body to burn the heart is completely barbaric in those modern times.

Dr Bell commented: "Folklore always has an answer - it may not be the scientifically valid answer, but sometimes it's better to have any answer than none at all."


Bell, Michael E. (2001). Food for the Dead - On the Trail of New England's Vampires. New York: Carrol & Graf Publishers. p. 338 pages. ISBN 0-7867-089909.

Connecticut Public Television. Vampires in New England [TV Documentary].

Vampire Societies

Dear Bishop, since reading your books I have also begun exploring the different "Vampire Societies" and groups which exist in order to get a better overview of the whole phenomena of vampirism. However, unfortunately, most of these groups deal only with what you refer to as "Vampiroidism" without posing the question if "real" vampires in the traditional sense exist.  Yesterday, however, I did come across one group which I wanted to ask your opinion of. This group - which calls itself the "Vampire Society" - claims to be a secret gathering not of vampiroids but of real vampires claiming to possess immortality etc. Are you familiar with this and if not, would you be so kind as to take a look at it? It's the only group I found which seriously claims to count "real" vampires amongst its member. What its exact purpose is however and if the group is to be regarded as malevolent or not is not quite clear to me yet. Also, as an additional question, I was wondering if there are any study groups or societies which engage in speculative vampirology which you could perhaps recommend? I would be interested in joining such a (discussion) group to share information because I don't yet feel the calling to enagage in any type of operative vampirology. Thanks again for taking the time to addess my questions. I have now read your book on the Grail Church by the way and found it very informative indeed. I was not familiar in detail with the fascinating history of Glastonbury which you recount. — Patrick

The Vampire Society claims to be "a private and exclusive Society of real Vampires and their disciples. We are seeking others like us and those few who desire to become like us. Vampirism is not a cult of death but one of life and overcoming death. 'To live forever and to never die'." Elsewhere it declares: "We are not psychic vampires, sanguinary vampires (blood-drinkers), 'lifestyle vampires,' or those who use the persona of the vampire as a spiritual tradition, or as a mask or path to personal power. We are Vampires." And: "Although immortal, Vampires are still human and have a respect for life. They are not murderers or the criminally insane who prey upon the living. No one loves life and shuns death more than Vampires." They frequently quote from works of fiction, fantasy and, not surprisingly, the Edwardian Satanist Aleister Crowley, but these people are not any of the things they claim to be. They are not immortal. They are not vampires. They are, in essence, vampiroids.

Vampiroids are not vampires despite some actually believing themselves to be vampires. A real vampire is an undead form with a demonic counterpart which issues forth from its tomb in the dead of night to quaff the blood of the living whereby it is nourished and preserved. Vampiroids are living people. They are not seemingly re-animated corpses with an awful supernatural existence beyond the grave. People who either believe themselves to be vampires, or want to become vampires and affect what they construe to be aspects of vampirism, even when this is taken to extremes, are not vampires. They are vampiroids and range from relatively harmless poseurs to dangerous psychopaths. The former may be benign, but the latter are capable of murder. Thus the vampiroid is not a supernatural being, but a human who embraces what he or she assumes to be a lifestyle commensurate with vampirism as largely depicted in fictional films and literature. Whereas the true vampire partakes of the dark natures and possesses the terrible qualities of both apparition and demon, assuming the form of a dead body to suck the blood of the living. Vampiroids identify with the imagery of the vampire and become totally seduced by its mythology, having no discernable regard for what is fact and what is fantasy. The more extreme examples of vampiroidism, known as ultra-vampiroids, are exceptionally dangerous. Within the supra-individual level of the psyche they respond utterly to the vampire archetype. Despite the high percentage of poseurs in most vampiroid clubs, there can nevertheless occasionally be found a small number of extreme types. These can vary in levels of psychotic behaviour from proto-vampiroids to ultra-vampiroids. By no means are all vampiroids enmeshed in diabolism and murder. In fact, the majority are definitely not. However, the clubs produce literature that feeds certain beliefs and obsessions. These undoubtedly compromise the dynamics of any benign vampiroid philosophy, such as it can be deduced from those within these groups. The crude and splenetic expression of their views points to an irrational pathological prejudice rather than a coherent philosophy. Some of this prejudice is similar to malefic occultism. Personality disorders play a part in the opinions expressed by many, but vampiroidism per se is no freak display of Gothic Romanticism at its most decadent. It is, in fact, anti-Gothic and anti-Romantic. At its cutting edge its raw materials are concepts usually allied to destructive beliefs and an acute ethnocentric identification with the archetype in forms that are mostly allegorical.  

There are no open study groups or societies for speculative vampirology about which I am aware that I could happily recommend. Outside the traditional wing of the Christian Church where these topics might be discussed, organisations such as I know will accept members by invitation only for reasons all too obvious.

Where the Ghosts Walk


Peter Underwood's publisher recently forwarded to me a copy of my colleague's forthcoming book Where the Ghosts Walk: The Gazetteer of Haunted Britain (Souvenir Press Ltd, 2013) which is due for release on June 6th. This will be Peter Underwod's fiftieth book.

The book is Peter's definitive guide to the haunted places of Great Britain based on his seventy years of paranormal investigation experience. He provides a comprehensive guide to a multitude of ghosts grouped by the type of location.

There are ghosts that haunt railway lines to those that are seen in gardens and graveyards, battlefields and woods. An entire spectrum to prompt folk to remark that Great Britain is the most haunted country in the world can be found in Where the Ghosts Walk. There is no mention of vampires and vampirism, however, because that is not th book's remit nor (notwithstanding The Vampire's Bedside Companion and Exorcism!) the author's specialist area of expertise.

Where the Ghosts Walk does, however, include the "ghost of King Arthur" and many more interesting hauntings. I thoroughly recommend my colleague's book to those with an interest in the realm of shades and such things which go bump in the night.


The Bishop — 3D Interactive Game

Your Excellency, I am a huge fan of your writings, and have great admiration for the tireless work you have done to exorcise evil - wherever you find it. I was absolutely thrilled to be told by a friend of mine recently that a high quality Bishop Manchester video game is in development! My friend told me that the game will be available on all platforms, including PC and PS3. I think this is an amazing concept for a game. I was wonder if you could you please confirm to us all whether the video game is an official, confirmed project, or just a rumour? I am sure your followers, like me, would love some more information! Many thanks. — Peter Michaels

It is not a rumour. However, I can tell you very little about the project save it is a 3D interactive game which is apparently based on my perceived public persona. More than that I really do not know.