Welcome to the Generally Spooky Podcast! Each week Eilidh tells her husband Kieran a mysterious story from Scottish history.
In this week's episode, Eilidh tells Kieran about the Gorbals Vampire - a strange rumour that captivated the minds of kids across the Gorbals area of Glasgow in 1954. If you want to support the podcast, please subscribe and leave a review. We'd really appreciate it!
The Gorbals Vampire - Here's What Happened
This is essentially the abridged story from the podcast:
Picture the scene.
It's September 23rd, 1954. You're a young boy meeting up with your friends and they tell you about a rumour they've heard.
There’s a vampire. In Glasgow's Southern Necropolis Cemetery.
He’s 7ft tall. He has long fangs made of iron. He has glowing red eyes. And he’s already killed two boys from the Gorbals… Who he’s also eaten.
You look around at all your friends and they’re all wearing the same horrified expression as you. Everyone plays in the Necropolis, that’s one of the only places you all have to hang out. One of you could be next. A couple of your mates in your group have younger brothers and sisters, too. What if the vampire gets one of them?
Something has to be done. You all know it. It comes about that all the boys from school are heading to the Necropolis after the school’s out to get the vampire. All of you agree to do the same, and then your friends run off to tell more people. You’re going to need as big a group as possible if you’re going to take on a vampire.
This is pretty much exactly what happened in the schools in the Gorbals in 1954. The vampire story and the prospect of murdered children captured children's imaginations and the hunt was on.
School emptied, and for two nights, starting September 23rd, police received calls that anywhere between 200 and 400 children descended on the Southern Necropolis, wielding stakes, crosses, knives, crucifixes and axes. Some of them even brought dogs with them! A fearsome group of young vampire hunters.
Mass hysteria ensued as the local children decided the vampire hunt was on. Young minds all became obsessed with this iron toothed monster that was devouring children. It wasn't until the rain started and a local head teacher came to the graveyard that the children dispersed and went home.
But the Gorbals vampire story persisted. Many local children wondered if there would be another hunt for the vampire with iron teeth and it became a local legend and ghost story told for years to come.
It even mixed with another local story, Jenny wi’ the Iron Teeth, who is a ghoul that is thought to haunt Glasgow Green. A lot of stories refer to her as a hideous witch and the general belief is that she steals and eats children. A lot of parents told badly behaved children that Jenny wi’ the Iron Teeth would get them if they misbehaved or didn’t come home when they were supposed to.
But strangely enough, American comics recieved the blame for the Gorbals Vampire hunt, with local Labour MP Alice Cullen leading the charge. We go into more detail on him in the episode if you'd like to listen above.
Why American Horror Comics Were Blamed
In 1953, an issue of the Dark Mysteries comic book was released and it was called “The Vampire with the Iron Teeth”. It was thought that somehow the young boys of the gorbals had gotten hold of a copy and it had started the hysteria.
A quote from John Rankin, the MP for Tradeston during the Gorbals Vampire mania. He says:
“Every type of depravity is created in these American comics - kicking an individual in the stomach, kicking him in the face, gouging out his eyes. That sort of thing is bound to create a fear complex in children which, in my opinion, sends their minds galloping into all sorts of strange fields.”
So it seems that the MP's were blaming the material available to school children as the reason. But it seems more likely they were using the Gorbals vampire incident as a way to push through their "Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act" which again we go into detail about in the episode.
Frequently Asked Questions
When did the Gorbals vampire happen?
On September 23, 1954 about 400 school children stormed Glasgow South Necropolis on their way to find a vampire.
What was the result of the Gorbals vampire?
The outrage at the hunt for the Gorbals Vampire actually led to the creation of the 1955 Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act. This Act still exists, and it banned the sale of “repulsive and horrible” reading material to young children.
Where are Gorbals vampires?
The rumour centres around the Gorbals, an area of Glasgow. Local school children heard the rumours of an evil seven-foot tall vampire armed with Iron teeth. According to legend the vampire had kidnapped two teenagers and eaten their corpses.
Kids at the Necropolis looking for the Gorbals Vampire - Citizens theatre
Could this have inspired the Scottish vampire? Source: The Horrors of It All
The foreboding Entrance to the Southern Necropolis. Source: Lost Glasgow
Mural in the Gorbals source: Glasgow Discovered
Citizens Theatres play of the Gorbals Vampire. Source: Citizens Theatre
JENNY WI’ THE IRON TEETH POEM
What a plague is this o’ mine,
Winna steek his e’e,
Though I hap him ow’r the head
As cosie as can be.
Sleep! an’ let me to my wark,
A’ thae claes to airn;
Jenny wi’ the airn teeth,
Come an’ tak’ the bairn:
Tak’ him to your ain den,
Where the bowgie bides,
But first put baith your big teeth
In his wee plump sides;
Gie your auld grey pow a shake,
Rive him frae my grup—
Tak’ him where nae kiss is gaun
When he waukens up.
Whatna noise is that I hear
Comin’ doon the street?
Weel I ken the dump-dump
O’ her beetle feet.
Mercy me, she’s at the door,
Hear her lift the sneck;
Whisht! an’ cuddle mammy noo
Closer roun’ the neck.
Jenny wi’ the airn teeth,
The bairn has aff his claes,
Sleepin’ safe an’ soun’, I think—
Dinna touch his taes;
Sleepin’ weans are no for you;
Ye may turn about
An’ tak’ awa’ wee Tam next door—
I hear him screichin’ oot.
Dump, dump, awa’ she gangs
Back the road she cam’;
I hear her at the ither door,
Speirin’ after Tam.
He’ a crabbit, greetin’ thing,
The warst in a’ the toon;
Little like my ain wee wean—
Losh, he’s sleepin’ soun’.
Mithers hae an awfu’ wark
Wi’ their bairns at nicht—
Chappin’ on the chair wi’ tangs
To gi’e the rogues a fricht.
Aulder weans are fley’d wi’ less,
Weel aneuch, we ken—
Bigger bowgies, bigger Jennies,
Frichten muckle men.