The Gorbals Vampire – event/urban myth

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The Gorbals Vampire is an all-encompassing term which refers to the events in a Glasgow graveyard in 1954. Reportedly stemming from a 1953 edition of ‘Dark Mysteries’ comic, featuring a story called ‘The Vampire with the Iron Teeth’, dozens, if not hundreds, of children descended on a local graveyard, determined to destroy a vampire which was rumoured to have abducted two local children.

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The sprawling Southern Necropolis resides in the South of Glasgow, in an area known as the Gorbals, an area sadly best-known for its overpopulation of poor, underprivileged families and crime. It was here, on the 23rd of September 1954, that hundreds of school-aged children, spanning the ages of 4-14 arrived armed with knives, stones and hand-crafted spears and stakes, with the sole intention of slaying a vampire which had taken two of their own.

The children had been taken, according to their own reports, by a 7 foot tall vampire, clad with iron teeth. So berserk had their stories become that alarmed parents sought assurances from the police that the undead weren’t prowling around their neighbourhood. Rumours spread first from playground to playground that a vampire was at large in the necropolis, a factless whisper that quickly turned to a local frenzy. Children swarmed upon the graveyard hailing anything and everything that moved was the spawn of the Devil, not that this focussed their attentions, few of them even knowing what a vampire was or how to deal with one. Returning for the next 3 nights, though in fewer and fewer numbers, the children were never able to catch the foe, though a sighting of a bonfire did lead to screams that the vampire was burning the corpse of one of his victims. A local headmaster eventually bringing things under control by telling everyone they were being ridiculous.

The story from the comic book upon which blame is attributed to the hysteria was created by Hy Fleishman, who drew strips for many publications in the 1950’s. Quite how a relatively obscure pre-code American comic came to be the cause for such uproar is unclear, though that rather supposes that this was indeed the cause. It was certainly enough for the authorities who, embarrassed and alarmed by the scale of the event, quickly sought to pin the blame on something tangible. As such, it became held aloft as the corrupter of young minds and led to the introduction the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955 which, for the first time, specifically banned the sale of magazines and comics portraying “incidents of a repulsive or horrible nature” to minors.

Daz Lawrence

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