Sunday, 7 August 2016

Those Pesky Kids, more stories of the Schooolyard Vampire Hunters'

I'd always intended to follow up my previous Splank! post with some more information relating to the Gorbals Vampire Hunters, but thanks to Oscar Dowson, a fellow member of one of the Facebook comic Groups I've even more to report.  If you havn't read the previous post I'd suggest you start there before reading this.    Link to previous post.

I mentioned in my previous post that no specific comic story could be pointed to at the time that related to the story of the Gorbals Vampire.   A local councelor did make mention of Startling Terror Tales no 1, a British reprint of a fairly lurid title with sub-standard art from Star comics in the US.  However there seemed to be nothing in the comic that related directly to the incident.  Earlier this year The Scotsman newspaper, in an article published on the 16th March claimed that there was an American comic called "The Vampire with the Iron Teeth" available at the time.  While this is not quite accurate, I think we can assume that the Scotsman is referring to Dark Mysteries 15, published by Story Comics and cover dated December 1953.  It had been identifed as a possible direct link between comics and the hunt, but no evidence has ever been produced that the title was seen in Glasgow or indeed that it was available in the UK at all.  And nothing was said of it at the time.

The comic in question contains one of the silliest stories I have read in any comic book.  Entitled 'The Vampire with the Iron Teeth', it tells the tale of Duke Manfred and his wife, the beautiful Duchess Ailine.  In the midst of a series of vampire attacks in 1790 the Duchess begins to suffer from horrible toothache, the court sorcerer is summoned and  reveals that all of the Duchess's teeth must be removed. 

 In horror, the Duke asks how his wife can be saved from the shame of becoming toothless and losing her great beauty.  The sorcerer, in one of the most bizarre panels in comics history, reveals that his skills go beyond those of Doctor and a maker of magic and that he is he is also a dentist and can make a perfect set of false teeth for the Duchess. 

What is more he will make them out of Iron, to prevent the awful clacking noise that the wooden false teeth, more normal at the time, would make. 

Meanwhile the vampire attacks continue.   The vampire is tracked down to the nearby village of Halto and the Duke orders his men to kill every man woman and child in the village, thus destroying the monster.  Just a note here, no need for stakes or crosses to deal with this member of the undead, these vampires can just be shot.

That very evening, word comes to the Duke that an American minister is in town and that his wife has a remarkable set of false teeth and that everyone is admiring them.   Rushing to view them the Duchess discovers that they are made of Ivory and that everyone is now whispering and laughing at her shiny metal teeth, even if they don't clack.  The sorcerer is summoned and ordered, on pain of losing his job, to find a way of getting a set of Ivory teeth for the now distraught Duchess. 

His wife has an idea, and the pair exhume the body of Babette, a villager executed on the word of the Duke and steal her teeth.  But that night when screaming is heard from the Duke's bedchamber, his men rush in to find him dead from the bite of the vampire and a foul creature, that looks very like the Duchess, flying out the window.   In the final panel the sorcerer comes to the realisation that Babette must have been the real vampire and that he passed the affliction onto the Duchess via the false teeth he made for her.

Now there is a new vampire on the loose and the sorcerer's dilemma is summed up in the final panel of the story.

I have to ask, has anyone who has suggested that this story could have caused hundred's of school children to go to their local graveyard in search of a child-eating vampire ever actually read the story?  It seems such an unlikely trigger with the only link being the name of the story.   I'm afraid the Scotsman's story shows all the signs of the same lazy journalism that was such a feature of the original campaign.  In addition to misidentifying the name of a comic that was probably not involved int he first place there are other serious errors or ommissions.

The story implies that this incident kicked off a campaign to have "American-style" horror comics banned and started a full-scale moral panic.  At the time this event happened the campaign has been running for at least four years and in truth this particular story was little more than a seven-day wonder.  Indeed I would say that it was only in light of the ongoing campaign that any linkage to horror comics was made.

Alice Cullen, but not the MP
The article also claims that Alice Cullen, Labour MP for the area "championed" the 1955 Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act in its passage in 1955.   As far as I can tell,through an examination of Hansard (the record of the House Commons) and all the written sources I have,  Cullen's sole act in the debate was to make a rather lame joke in the form of a point of order and to later give her name to a pre-cog vampire in the Twilight Saga.

Fellow Glasgow MP, John Rankin, was the one who brought up the Gorbals incident during the debate and probably deserves to be mentioned in this context.   Its ironic that the lazy and sensational  journalism that led to the raids on the Southern Necropolis being linked to comics continues when the event is reported on today.

 One more post on the subject to come.  A look at a modern comic from Abacab Comics which takes the Gorbals Vampire Hunters as its starting point, maybe tomorrow.


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