Haigh, John George

Haigh, John George (1910–1949)

(pop culture)

John George Haigh, the so-called Vampire of London and one of several persons frequently cited as an actual modern vampire, was born into a strict Plymouth Brethren family in England. The Plymouth Brethren were a fundamentalist Protestant group, and Haigh’s parents passed on to him a strong image of the suffering of Christ on the cross and his bleeding—the saving power of his blood being an important part of that image. It was also reported that his mother had a strong belief in prophetic dreams.

As a young man, Haigh left the Plymouth Brethren and joined the Church of England, but his heritage stayed with him. He had a revelation that he should begin to drink his own urine, a practice based upon his unique interpretation of two biblical passages, Proverbs 5:15 and John 7:38. He also had a recurring dream of a forest of crosses that transformed into trees dripping with blood. At one tree, a man collected a bowl of blood. Haigh would feel drained of energy and the man would offer him the bowl of blood to drink. But before he could drink, Haigh would awaken. He concluded from this dream that he needed to drink blood to restore his vitality. Haigh established a laboratory in his own home, where he lured his designated victims. There he would kill them, drain their blood, and dispose of their bodies in a vat of sulfuric acid. He was finally arrested when he tried to pawn the fur coat of one elderly female victim. Haigh was confident that he could not be tried and convicted without a corpse to confirm death. However, upon investigating his laboratory, the police found several body parts the acid failed to dissolve, including a victim’s teeth, which were identified by their unusual dental work. At his trial, Haigh confessed to the nine murders, claiming that they had been religious acts and that the consumption of blood was necessary to his attaining eternal life. He was convicted and hanged on August 10, 1949. Haigh left his clothing to the London Wax Museum and, for some years, a wax model of Haigh stood in Madame Tussaud’s House of Horrors.

As with most of the modern cases of vampirism, Haigh was not a vampire in either the traditional folkloric sense or the modern literary variety. He was a disturbed man whose problems were expressed in a religious format, which included an obsession with blood. His history of crime fits more properly with accounts of serial killers than that of vampires.

Sources:

Dunboyne, Lord. The Trial of John George Haigh. Notable Trial Series 78. London: William Hodge, 1953.
Glut, Donald F. True Vampires of History. New York: H C Publishers, 1971. 191 pp.
La Bern, A. Haigh: the Mind of a Murderer. London: W. H. Allen, 1974.
Volta, Ornella. The Vampire. New York: Award Books, 1962. 153 pp.