The Gorbals Vampire and monster hunt that shook Glasgow

The entrance to the Southern Necropolis cemetery. Picture: Donald MacLeod
The entrance to the Southern Necropolis cemetery. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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VAMPIRES may have been romanticised in recent years by swooning teenage girls - but in the 1950’s one elusive creature turned hundreds of brave Scottish children into fearless monster hunters - in a case which made headlines around the world.

In 1954 - more than half a century before Twilight or the Vampire Diaries became popular - hundreds of primary schoolchildren from Glasgow swamped the city’s Southern Necropolis cemetery, searching out a ‘Vampire with iron teeth’ which they blamed for killing and eating two young boys.

Vampires have been romanticised in recent years by teenage girls

Vampires have been romanticised in recent years by teenage girls

Armed with stakes, knives - and even dogs - gangs of hysterical youngsters were lured to the Victorian graveyard after local school rumours circulated of the seven-foot tall ‘Gorbals Vampire’.

Smoke and flames from the steelworks to the back of the cemetery only added to its haunting atmosphere.

Tam Smith, one of the boys present on the day, September 23 1954, recounted to the BBC: “The red light and the smoke would flare up and make all the gravestones leap. You could see figures walking about at the back all lined in red light.”

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The entrance to the Southern Necropolis, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod

The entrance to the Southern Necropolis, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod

Another Vampire Hunter, Ronnie Sanderson, added: “I was there. I was in the graveyard when I was eight years old. I’ve been telling my wife about the vampire for years and she’s never believed me.”

Glasgow Policeman, PC Alex Deeprose, was called to respond to reports that the cemetery was overflowing with children. He could hardly believe his eyes when he discovered the incredible scene.

The cemetery was overflowing with youngsters, some armed with knives and stakes, who were milling in and out of the gravestones.

The policeman’s attempts to move the children on failed and the group hunted out the Vampire for hours. The crowd only went home when it started to rain.

Gangs of children continued to turn up at the cemetery for the next two nights.

So far so strange, but what happened next was even more extraordinary.

After the story appeared in the local press, it gained worldwide coverage. An unlikely alliance of Christians, communists and the National Union of Teachers blamed imported American horror comic books for the mass hysteria

Before long the country was in the grip of a full blown panic.

The campaign even reached parliament, where it was championed by Alice Cullen, Labour MP for the Gorbals, and resulted in the 1955 Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act being passed - an act which still stands today.

So what did start the hysteria?

Well, many theories have been offered. There was an American comic book at that time entitled: “The Vampire with the Iron Teeth”. There is also a passage in the Bible, Daniel 7:7, that reads: “Behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth”

The children may also have been inspired by ‘Jenny wi’ the Iron Teeth, an old woman said to haunt Glasgow Green in the early 19th century.

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