Just further proof of the power imagination; a few horror comics can cause children to run rampant through a Glasgow cemetery, armed with knives, sharpened sticks, …and dare I say, rocks? Sure a few kids with knives might not sound so bad to you, if anything, it might remind a few of us of the dastardly and daring things we did as children… like eat raw crawfish, and force our siblings to eat insects. Not to mention, causing various problems for the neighbors. As the world grows more litigious, however, the things we did then, –like throwing rocks and mud at other warring tribes from the block up the road, –well, parents are suing each other over this kind of behavior today.
Just as we have changed our views on childish behavior, so had the community in ’50s Scotland. A hundred years before, children descending on a cemetery to hunt vampires with knives, –and guns, most likely, would have been pretty normal, especially if the children had been reading horror fiction. I’m not one to condemn reading material, or media; in fact, I’m a strong advocate of parental action. See something you don’t want your kids watching? Turn off the television? Find something you don’t want them reading? Throw it away. They’re not adults, don’t treat them like they are; and you can apply that basic rule to various parental issues.
Back to Scotland; on September 3rd, 1954, hundreds of children, according to the local papers, –not just five or six, descended on the cemetery armed and dangerous, to kill a vampire with iron teeth. The kids were turned away by police, but still returned nightly, for weeks, trying to find and kill the vampire. Needless to say, these kids were just arriving at that ‘Lord of the Flies’ level of hysteria, and it was only a matter of time before they killed someone.
So politicians, and frightened parents responded in the only way they knew how: censorship. American horror comics were banned under the Harmful Publications Act, and minors were no longer able to buy the comics. Ironically enough, the story of the Iron Vampire, called the Gorbals Vampire, had actually come from the typical boogeyman story, told by parents to keep children in bed at night, –only his name was the Iron Man. Wonder if that’s what Ozzy was talking about? I somehow doubt that any parents stood up to take responsibility.
There’s a Radio 4 documentary, airing at at 4 p.m. PST on March 30, for those interested n hearing more. Interviews with those children, now grown, who participated in ‘the hunt’, will be broadcast as well. You can listen on the BBC iPlayer. Accompanying newspaper clip is borrowed from the Southern Necropolis Research website.