Although he perhaps needs no introduction, George Harrison was a great English musician and singer songwriter who was and perhaps always will be most well known as the lead guitarist for the world famous rock band The Beatles, to which he contributed much success in their heyday, before going on in later years to launch a successful solo career and to create the mega group the Traveling Wilburys. Although he would eventually succumb to lung cancer in 2001, one of the most frightening chapters in rock history happened to Harrison just two years before, when a violent attempt was made on his life. It is a story permeated with insanity, obsessive fan behavior, and talk of witchcraft and the supernatural.
On December 30, 1999, at around 3:30 AM, a 33-year-old unassuming man by the name of Michael Abram approached Harrison’s Friar Park home, near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, and stood there partially obscured by bushes looking for an opening in the razor wire topped fence that surrounded the sprawling estate. He found what he was looking for in a stretch of wall that was relatively unprotected, and proceeded to scale the wall without alerting security. He then seemingly casually walked nearly half a mile right up the driveway unnoticed, the security lights that should have bathed the area in light failing to turn on and allowing Abram to approach the house unchallenged. It seems like more than luck than anything else that he was able to get this far, and his method for finally gaining entry to the house itself was to simply lob a stone statue through the window, which also failed to activate the alarm that should have gone off, yet it was not particularly stealthy.
It was to the sound of shattering glass that Harrison was awoken from his slumber. When he rubbed the sleepiness from his eyes and called a housekeeping staff before stumbling out of his room to investigate, with his wife Olivia calling the police just in case. Harrison then ventured out into the darkened house and he would soon find Abram wandering around the premises with a knife. Whereas many people might run and cower at this startling sight, the then 56-year-old Harrison was quick to engage the intruder, tackling him and sparking a full on struggle and brawl that would last for over 10 minutes and send them careening about the house crashing into furniture, all while Harrison allegedly shouted “Hare Krishna!” over and over again to try and disorient the attacker. During this fight, Harrison was slashed and stabbed repeatedly, yet still somehow managing to cling to his assailant as he screamed for help. His wife would later say of the horrific scene:
There was blood on the walls and blood on the carpet and this was the moment I realised that we were going to be murdered and that this man was succeeding in murdering us and there was nobody else there to help.
Harrison would later relate that he had simply lacked the strength to fight this trespasser, and that he could feel the energy drain from him as he fought on and felt the cold steel of the knife come down again and agin. He would explain that he truly felt he was dying, and said:
There were times during the violent struggle I truly believed I was dying. He was on top of me and stabbing down towards the top part of my body with the knife. I couldn’t get the better of him and he was on top of me at this point. I felt exhausted and felt the strength drain from me. I vividly remember a deliberate thrust of the knife into my chest and immediately felt my chest deflate and felt blood enter my mouth. I believed I had been fatally stabbed.
Far from being a helpless witness to the violent events unfolding, it was Olivia who would save their lives, when she grabbed a table lamp and proceeded to beat Abram senseless with it. This forced him to drop the knife, but he was still very much a threat as he stumbled about chasing the woman and trying to strangle her with the lamp’s cord. It would not truly end until the police arrived around 15 minutes after the initial attack, to find Abram clumsily wandering about in a daze after having been smashed over the head with the lamp and bleeding everywhere. He was promptly arrested as medical personnel tended to Harrison’s grievous wounds, which included a punctured lung. He was brought to a nearby hospital to be treated, and miraculously survived because amazingly none of the estimated more than 40 knife strikes had managed to hit a major artery and they had all narrowly missed his heart.
In the meantime Abram was taken into custody to be questioned, and this is where it would all get pretty weird. It turned out that Abram was a former drug addict known for his eccentric behavior, and had in recent years become quite obsessed with the Beatles, beyond just the usual fan reactions. In this case, Abram seemed to truly believe that the members of the band were all witches and en thrall to demonic forces, and that he himself was ordained to put a stop to their black magic. Apparently he also believed that McCartney was the most evil and powerful of the lot, and had been his original target before he had settled on Harrison. Not only that, but he also claimed that Harrison had tried to possess him, and that he was on a mission from God to destroy their evil. One investigator would say of Abram and these wild beliefs:
He believed that The Beatles were witches who flew around on broomsticks. Subsequently, George Harrison possessed him and that he had been sent on a mission by God to kill him. He saw George as a sorcerer and a devil.
It is perhaps no surprise that the court would find Abram to be quite insane, although he had no history at all of violence, and was therefore found not guilty by reason of insanity. He would be moved to psychiatric care and subsequently and very controversially released less than 2 years later, sparking much debate on the legal system and its way of dealing with these perpetrators. Harrison would go on to succumb to lung cancer shortly after, making this an incident that would leave an indelible mark upon his life and legacy. There is no way of knowing how much Abram really believed all of this, or how far his mind was truly gone, but it is a very odd little chapter of history that continues to reverberate through the lore of the musical world to this day.