The cemetery's grounds are full of trees, shrubbery and wildflowers, most of which have been planted and grown without human influence. The grounds are a haven for birds and small animals such as foxes. The Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon feature tombs, vaults and winding paths dug into hillsides. For its protection, the oldest section, which holds an impressive collection of Victorian mausoleums and gravestones, plus elaborately carved tombs, allows admission only in tour groups. The eastern section, which contains a mix of Victorian and modern statuary, can be toured unescorted. The tomb of Karl Marx, the Egyptian Avenue and the Columbarium are Grade I listed buildings.
By the dawn of the 20th century, Highgate was overfull with bodies. When Germany bombed London during World War II, several vaults were destroyed left cracked open. By the 1960s, the cemetery had fallen into disrepair and was viewed as an eyesore. The surrounding neighborhoods also took a downswing, compounding the cemetery's decline. Soon the sprawling, secluded sanctuary became a haven for drug abusers, runaways, vandals, and outcasts.
The British Occult Society received two specific claims from eyewitnesses both described an eerie encounter a tall dark spectre that temporarily paralyzed them. In December 1969, David Farrant decided to spend the night in Highgate. David Farrant wanted to confirm or debunk the concerns of this ghoulish figure. But when he approached the cemetery gates at midnight, he saw a tall person wandering around inside the cemetery. Inching closer, he estimated the figure to be over seven feet tall. He later recalled seeing two eyes at the top of an inhuman shape. David was overwhelmed with fear and he turned away; when he turned back, the figure was gone.
Due to newspaper reports the public started sending in letters about their ghostly encounters. One man wrote that his car was broken down near the cemetery and he was terrified to have seen an apparition with red eyes glaring at him through the gates of the cemetery.
Another man who was walking down Swains Lane was knocked on the ground by a creature which seemed to glide from the walls of the cemetery. The gruesome creature just dissolved into thin air when an approaching car shone its headlights on the man. There is also the story of a ghostly cyclist who was working his way up a steep incline and frightened young mother almost out of her wits.
It was also once suggested that a vampire was on the prowl in the cemetery . The hunt for the un-dead was underway but unfortunately, they did not find any. Highgate Cemetery was featured in the popular media from the 1960s to the late 1980s for its so-called occult past, particularly as being the alleged site of the "Highgate Vampire".