Gurning Man is a Glasgow urban legend from the 1970s that may well have been invented by the internet. MJ STEEL COLLINS looks at whether there’s any truth in the legend.
We have all heard an urban legend at some point about some wacky, perhaps horrific, tale that seems very unlikely.
And the person telling us it’s true because it happened to a friend of a friend.
Urban legends are no doubt taken with a pinch of salt by most.
They seem too outlandish to be true, and many of them follow well-worn tropes.
Still, they are also modern folklore, and folk tales do start with a grain of truth.
Urban Legends In Glasgow: Patter Merchants
For the urban legend, Glasgow is an ideal environment.
Glaswegians are renowned patter merchants, and wacky tales form part of that. You just need to look at the stand-up routine of Sir Billy Connolly to see the proof in the pudding.
One weird tale told about Glasgow, reeking with all the traits of a good urban legend is a complex affair.
It has led to questions whether it actually happened.
An Area Stalked
The story goes that The Gurning Man was a bizarre figure seen by terrified female witnesses between the hours of 9pm and 4am around Crosshill from 1976 to 1979, and then later in the early 2000s, in adjacent Queens Park.
If anything, the tales seem like the Springheeled Jack stories of the early 19th century. They too feature a terrifying being going out of its way to torment unsuspecting women.
The Gurning Man purportedly stalked the south side of Glasgow, an area made up of a very mixed demographic. As one local informed me, it has both posh ‘big hooses’ and your average Glasgow tenement and council housing, with the varied population to go with that.
Gurning Man in Glasgow, Nervously Moving Under A Street Light
A pair of teenage girls heading home from a party were the first to see The Gurning Man.
Despite it being very late, the streets were well lit by the moon.
Ahead of them, they saw the strange, agitated figure. He appeared to be a man in his 50s, wearing a black leotard, nervously moving about under a streetlight.
The sight scared both girls, and they ceased talking as they tried to pass the figure quickly.
From the side of their eyes they saw the man’s face – caught in a contorted sort of pained, smiling grimace.
To add to the creepiness, the man was also making a strange grunting, snorting noise.
The girls started running. One looked behind to check they weren’t being followed, and the figure was gone.
There was no way he could have ran off that quickly.
The witnesses were so scared, they contacted the police. The police said they had received other reported sightings of a similar figure.
A Strange Snorting From The End Of The Bed
A few nights after this incident, in a house less than 100 metres from where it occurred, a woman was woken by a bizarre snorting noise.
At first, she thought it was her husband snoring strangely.
But she soon realised that it was coming from the end of the bed and a feeling of terror descended on her.
She looked towards the end of the bed and saw a horrific male figure standing there, rubbing his chest and smirking.
On catching the man’s eye, the woman screamed, waking her husband, who ran to slap on the light. And… there was no one there.
Putting The Milk Bottles Out
A third incident relating to the Gurning Man of Glasgow occurred when a woman putting her used milk bottles out for collection caught sight of man, in tight fitting dark clothing, looking like he was jogging on the spot in the middle of the road.
The figure rapidly vanished, leaving the woman scared and alarmed.
A total of 17 sightings were said to have been reported. Eleven of these were street sightings, and six were within private homes.
Each describes a man in his 50ss moving in an agitated manner, clad in dark clothes and being skinny and bald, who would seemingly melt into the air.
Police chalked the indoor sightings to interrupted burglaries.
Several theories abound as to what the figure was – from a ghost, to a mentally ill and/or homeless person, to a being from a parallel universe!
21st Century Return of The Gurning Man?
Two sightings of the Gurning man were apparently reported in 2017.
In the first, a woman living in the Queens Park area, next to Crosshill, was heading home after seeing some friends, when she saw a strange figure standing between a parked van and car.
She described him as a ‘spindly old man’ wearing tight dark clothes, with a neckline that almost revealed his nipples. She only saw him when within a few feet of the man. He then started making strange noises, rubbing his chest and loudly snorting and groaning. She placed him at between 70 and 90 years old.
A group of teenage girls made a further sighting within Queens Park itself. They were sitting, when one saw a strange movement in the bushes. She pointed this out to her friends, one of whom shone their mobile phone torch in the area. And they saw The Gurning Man, fitting the classic description and characteristic behaviour. The girls hotfooted it.
But Is Glasgow’s Gurning Man True?
Stories of weirdos stalking about Glasgow and scaring the wits out of women is something that would remain in the memory of those about at the time, not to mention hit the papers.
Glasgow is a city that definitely remembers its lurid past.
It seemed apt to make enquiries amongst folk I reckoned would definitely know. And everything turned up blank.
This ranged from someone who grew up and went to school in the area, a friend who is a walking book of Glesga tales, a local historian, an ex-police officer and my mum, who was a teenager at the time of the late 1970s sightings.
None of them could place the story – my mention was in fact the first time they had heard it.
Newspapers Say Nothing
Newspaper archives were my next stop.
Had the Glasgow Herald or defunct Evening Citizen documented local poltergeist hauntings in the 1960s and 1970s, they would have mentioned a creepy, leotard clad ghoul tormenting women in Crosshill, to the extent that the Gurning Man is said to have done.
In fact, there would no doubt have been a sizeable police hunt for the culprit that would have been dream copy for the local press.
Conclusion about Gurning Man
So where does the story come from?
Looking at an online forum discussing the case, the lack of information on the Gurning Man in Glasgow is duly noted.
Followed by a suggestion that it was nothing but a tale cooked up by an highly-imaginative writer for his paranormal website. In other words, a good bit of fake lore.
It’s certainly a perfect example of an urban legend that captures the imagination.