Our Weird Weekender was a howling success

What better way to celebrate Friday the 13th and the Harvest Moon than with a tour of London’s iconic Highgate Cemetery, followed by a weekend in Wales exploring haunted locales, classic castles, and the real-life locations used in An American Werewolf in London.

On the morning of Friday 13 September, 20 of us joined Victoria Price and expert guide Peter Mills for a private tour of Highgate’s West Cemetery Highgate where we heard about the history of Victorian burials, the famous and infamous people resting there, and the classic horror movies filmed there — including, of course, The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

The two-hour tour was followed by a fun scavenger hunt devised by Victoria in which everyone paired up with someone they didn’t know and, armed with eight clues, searched the East Cemetery for the answers to Victoria’s cryptic quiz (which we’ve included at the bottom of this post).

Then it was off to lunch at the nearby 17th-century pub, The Flask , where the likes of Dick Turpin, and Keats and Shelley were regulars — and where the first public autopsy was performed! Luckily, the only incisions made today were on our veggies and roasts.

After lunch, Victoria and I loaded up the Mystery Machine (aka our rental van) with a small group of fans and headed out to Wales for our weird weekender adventure.

Our first stop on Saturday was Raglan Castle. Built and occupied between the 15th and 17th century, this impressive ruin is steeped in local legends and spooky apparitions, with visitors reporting sightings of a man in a Shakespearean garb, the ghost of the castle’s former librarian, and a ghostly figure of a man with hollowed out eyes. But for one our group, film location fan Andy Ellis, it was particularly special, as it was also used in Terry Gilliam’s 1981 fantasy Time Bandits (for the Napoleonic War sequence).

Next up, lunch at the Mountain Skirrid Inn, said to be the most haunted pub in Wales. Standing for over 900 years, the inn is built on a mountain that once ‘shivered’ and Shakespeare himself is said to have taken inspiration from this place. It also claims to be the home of several ghosts or spirits as well as the scene of numerous supernatural occurrences or paranormal activities. We didn’t find any spirits ourselves – except for the ones poured into our glasses of course!

Back on the road, we stopped off at the ruins of Llantillo Castle (aka the White Castle), which was established by the Normans in the wake of the invasion of England in 1066, and ended up playing a key role in defending the region for several centuries. Then we explored the magnificent Tintern Abbey, which was founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow, in 1131 and was the first Cistercian foundation in Wales. Unfortuntately it fell victim to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the England’s religious houses in the 16th century.

Newport came next, where Victoria gave everyone a big challenge – to find the grave of her maternal grand-parents at Saint Woolos cemetery. And thanks to an eagle-eyed Roni, Victoria was able to take some snaps of the grave where Marianne Grant (1825-1913), William John Grant (1850-1930) and Alice Diana Grant (1865-1958) are all buried together.

With the full moon on the horizon, we ended the day at the Riverfront performing arts theatre, where Victoria gave a heartfelt presentation about her dad, followed by a screening of The Abominable Dr. Phibes to a full house of local VP fans. Thanks to everyone who came along. You were a fantastic crowd, and hope you all enjoyed the books and records that we brought along.

Howl!

Sunday was all about An American Werewolf in London. First, we headed to the Black Mountains through the Brecon Beacons National Park for the tiny village of Crickadarn, which stood in for the Yorkshire hamlet of East Proctor in John Landis’ 1981 horror classic.

It was here that a small cottage was dressed up in the film to become The Slaughtered Lamb pub where David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) get a not-so warm reception from the locals.

No pints were ever pulled here (the interiors were actually shot in The Black Swan in Cobham, Surrey), but our gang did take the opportunity to recreate all the scenes shot that were shot around here. Check out the Vincent Price Legacy UK and The Abominable Crypt that Dripped Blood Facebook pages, for more now and then snaps.

Then it was a short drive to Hay Bluff, where the opening scenes were shot. This a truly stunning place, with some spectacular vistas, and it was packed with people out hiking and taking pony rides – (Now, I wonder how many of them knew of the area’s horror film heritage?).

Our weekend concluded with a super lunch at the 17th-century tavern, The Old Black Lion, in Hay-on-Wye, which is book heaven and famous for its annual literary festival. Safe to say, I came away with quite the haul – as well as some fantastic memories. Thanks everyone for making it such a fabulous time – and to Victoria and Sarah who took on the driving and navigation duties. And also thanks to Joni Rogan, Stu & Roni, Simon Flynn and Andy Ellis for letting me use some of your pics in the montages I’ve created here. And finally, a big thank you to Graham Humphreys for the fantastic poster you designed especially for our guests. Cheers!

If you are interested in joining one of our tours: register your interest now. Just click on the link: https://www.esctours.com/contact

TRY VICTORIA’S QUIZ – HOW MANY CAN YOU GET?
1) She said, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” She took that to heart — and became one of the greatest writers in England. . .though many thought he was a she. So don’t be fooled by her name!

2) He wrote, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please.” Mark my words: That certainly proved true for the way his philosophical manifesto manifested in the 20th century!

3) He hated being thought of as a Pop artist, but his gravestone certainly reflected the witty gimmicky ethos of Pop Art in pronouncing this artist deceased AKA DEAD.

4) Critics confounded this pop punk impresario his whole career. They continue to hound him after death, wondering whether his headstone is a spectacular failure or a benign success.

5) The daughter of a famous composer, this woman became a famous sculptor in her own right. But many of her most famous subjects were musicians like her father. Her grave sculpturally reflects her talent.

6) If you’re hitchhiking through the galaxy, be sure to donate a pen to the writer who helped you find your way there!

7) Vincent Price’s third wife gave this actor — himself the son of a famous actor and brother to two famous actresses — his start in acting. 

8) Though the Lumiere Brothers might believe otherwise, on his grave at least, this man was the father of movie technology!


7) Vincent Price’s third wife gave this actor — himself the son of a famous actor and brother to two famous actresses — his start in acting. 

8) Though the Lumiere Brothers might believe otherwise, on his grave at least, this man was the father of movie technology!

Love this pic that Joni Rogan took.

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