MJ STEEL COLLINS discusses The Gorbals Vampire and whether it was inspired by a children’s comic of the 1950s
Nestled snugly amidst the urban blight that is the modern day Gorbals is one of Glasgow’s largest and oldest municipal graveyards, the Southern Necropolis.
Deceptively large, the cemetery can be found on Caledonia Road, just next to the latest attempt to revamp the Gorbals.
The Southern Necropolis was opened in 1840 to provide a burial place for the Southside of Glasgow as the available cemeteries were stuffed to the gills.
Principally, the new graveyard was opened to provide a burial ground for the working classes along similar lines to the spectacular Necropolis in the East End of Glasgow.
Over the last 170 plus years, the Southern Necropolis has filled up. It is deceptively large. From the Caledonian Road entrance, it looks deceptively small. All you can see is a tall crumbling wall running a short length of the road, fronted by a crumbling gatehouse entrance that has seen better days.
However, upon entering the gatehouse, you find yourself traversing several acres of gloriously gorgeous cemetery, with all kinds of stones and monuments.
It’s from here that several local ghost stories emanate.
Some, admittedly, are spun by local youths looking to find a quiet spot to do a bit of illicit drinking.
The most famous one, involving a murderous, iron jawed vampire roaming the gravestones, even led to questions in Parliament in 1954, eventually culminating in the passing of the 1955 Children and Young Person’s (Harmful Publications) Act, banning children from accessing more extreme horror comics.
The story goes that in September 1954 some local children had supposedly gone missing, and that a seven-foot vampire, lurking in the Southern Necropolis, had killed them.
This would already be a fairly evocative image to the fertile mind.
Add a backdrop of a huge iron foundry, Dixon Blazes, which flared red late into the night, and you have horror gold dust.
Local kids got whiff of the story and descended on the graveyard in their hundreds once the schools let out. All hell broke loose; local residents called the local police, who were overwhelmed. The crowd was finally dispersed after a local head teacher addressed it.
The following day, pupils were lectured on the folly of vampire hunting. But kids still hunted the vampire until the furore eventually died down. The story of the missing children was unfounded.
Questions arose as to how the story came about – perhaps just one of those childhood bogeyman hunts?
The easy accessibility to lurid American horror comics was blamed.
The Vampire wth the Iron TeethThere was scepticism about for decades, until a story called “The Vampire with the Iron Teeth”, which appeared in a 1953 edition of the Dark Mysteries comic.
Equally, the story could have its origins in Dixon Blazes foundry lying directly behind the Southern Necropolis, aided by an old poem studied in schools at the time, Jenny Wi’ The Airn Teeth. (Addendum : The Vampire with the Iron Teeth can be read here and Jenny wi’the airn teeth can be read here.)
The children’s vampire hunt made international news and caused something of a stushie.
Questions were asked in Parliament as to how the Gorbals kid’s came to act in such a way, leading to a debate on the nefarious influence of American horror comics flooding the UK.
Of course, there had been several conflabs by this point about the dangers of such comics, and the vampire hunt provided a handy angle for the latest.
Nevertheless, the end result was that the UK government decided to restrict access to horror comics to the underage so that such chicanery would never occur again, culminating in the 1955 Harmful Publications Act.
Since then, the vampire hunt has become part of Glasgow folklore, to be revived from time to time, usually during the Hallowe’en season. In the meantime, the Southern Necropolis has fallen into quiet decrepitude.

MJ Steel Collins
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