Sunday, 30 December 2018


Camberwell Old Cemetery
Photo by Andrew McGrath, 2019
Camberwell Old Cemetery is located on Forest Hill Road, Honor Oak, London. It has been in use since 1856 and covers approximately 30 acres of land, much of whose plants and trees have merged with the older tombstones, to create an eerie ‘forest of the dead’ like feeling. The site was in frequent use from its inception and by 1984, 300,000 bodies had been buried there.

Cemeteries are creepy enough places to be, during the day, but at night, that inexplicable fear of the unknown that we all possess becomes a living force. I was originally drawn to investigate this location due to two extraordinary witness accounts. The first related by a man who had decided to cut through the old cemetery one night on route to visit a friend, in 1996 and the second, which occurred many years later in 2004/5, related by a woman who was travelling past the graveyard with a friend, when she experienced something she still cannot explain to this day.

The images I captured whilst there do not quite convey the unhealthy atmosphere, which was palpable, all around me. Although, admittedly, visiting the site of such extraordinary sightings does imbue one with a sense of expectation, which in itself can become a causative of feeling ‘ghostly vibes’!

The Werewolf of Camberwell
On October 9th, 1996, a man on route to see a friend, had decided to take a shortcut through Camberwell Old Cemetery to save time, when something prodigiously strong grabbed him by the arm and smashed him into the ground. He saw a large creature, with dark fur and a head like a German shepherd, looking at directly at him intently, slobbering and growling and sniffing his body up and down, just as a dog would. Just as quickly as the attack started, it was over and the beast sprinted off on its hind legs. The witness believed that he was spared because he suffers from a disease that dogs can smell and that probably because of this, the creature left him alone.

The Camberwell Tree Shaker
“It was in 2004 or 2005 on a summer's night around 11.30pm and a friend and I were walking up Underhill road on the cemetery side of the road. I lived on Barry Road on the corner of Underhill road for many years and I was in my mid-20s at this point.

On the corner of the cemetery side of the road, we heard a really loud weird noise and both turned to look. A large tree in the corner of the cemetery was shaking incredibly hard as if something really powerful was shaking it with all its might. I don't think I have ever seen such a strange sight. It was definitely not made by a person or an animal or pet. The tree looked as if the roots were ready to be ripped out. There was another noise too like a low growl.

Needless to say, my friend and I took to our heels and fled as fast as we possibly could although in different directions. I sprinted up Harcourt road as hard as I could. When my friend caught up with me, we were both terrified and could not rationalise what had happened or account for the sheer terror we both felt. Instinctively, we knew we had to get as far away from the flimsy fence of the cemetery as fast as we possibly could.

There is something very sinister there. I don't think I ever walked past the road in the dark ever again or ever ventured inside the cemetery. I have moved away from the area now, but still not far enough away from that place!!!”

Camberwell Old Cemetery
Photo by Andrew McGrath, 2019
Werewolves? Dogmen? Bipedal Canines roaming throughout London and attacking people in graveyards? Frankly, It sounds like something for the High Moon fans and I wholly reconcile my own feeling of disbelief at such encounters, with those other practically minded souls who find it hard to accept that such a being exists at all! 

However, our folklore and history are replete with tales of such creatures stalking the darkness, not only in these resplendent isles, which we inhabit but also amongst the legends of our soon to be estranged, continental cousins. 

I also feel the need to further compound this problem with my staunch belief, that such creatures are not immaterial and belong firmly in the flesh and blood world. Perhaps, patiently awaiting the taxonomic net of the brave, intrepid (and perhaps foolhardy) explorer to fall upon and fit them neatly, into the section marked 'New', in one of our delightfully leather-bound books, of the known Animalia that inhabit this wild and wondrous creation!

Written by Andrew McGrath

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  1. I heard a supposedly true account of a sighting in Highgate Cemetary too.