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The Gorbals Vampire

On the evening of 23rd September 1954, Glasgow police were called to the Southern Necropolis in the Gorbals, where hundreds of children were storming the graveyard armed with crosses, crucifixes, axes and knives. According to newspapers at the time, some of the children were so small they were ‘just able to toddle.’ In the background the local ironworks, known as Dixon’s Blazes, lit the sky with fire and smoke.

The children were hunting the ‘Gorbals Vampire’ – a seven-foot-tall monster with long metal fangs who had killed and eaten two local boys.

These vampire hunters returned the following two nights to continue their hunt.

Adults in Glasgow blamed American comics, full of vampires and monsters, for the wild events of that week. Gorbals’ Labour MP Alice Cullen took the issue to the House of Commons, resulting in the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act of 1955, banning the sale of ‘repulsive or horrible’ reading matter to children.

That said, those involved in the hunt later recalled that they had ‘no idea’ what a vampire was, saying, “nobody knew we needed stakes – we didn’t have Christopher Lee [of the Hammer Horror films] to explain you had to put a stake through the heart to kill him. We were just going to cut the head off, end of story. Don’t know what we’d have done if we’d met one, like.” These children couldn’t afford American comics and didn’t have TVs at home.

The vampire was probably the product of big imaginations, local ghost stores, the scary atmosphere of the cemetery with the ironworks in the background, and the vampire’s appetite for children could have been connected to the hunger that was part of everyday life in what was then a deprived area.

The story was adapted for the stage at the Citizens Theatre in the Gorbals in 2016. In preparation for the play, the community ran writing competitions for schools and comic book sessions where children learnt about the 1950s horror comics that were censored after the Gorbals vampire incident.

There was an exhibition accompanying the production featuring recorded interviews, an anthology of the children’s winning stories, and artworks designed by the locals as part of a ten-month project leading up to the show. There’s also a mural of the Gorbals Vampire by teenager Ella Bryson and Art Pistol street artists, in an archway on St Luke’s Place near the Citizens’ which includes a short description of the hunt.

One of the tales in our Stories from the Southside collection is set on the first night of the hunt and takes you right to the heart of the Southern Necropolis. Harry Nixon’s ‘A Night to Remember’ walks you through ‘the ominous gatehouse and into the land of the Dead’ – enjoy a spooky this spooky Halloween read by buying the collection on our website or reading our book on the City of the Dead: A Guide to the Southern Necropolis.

You can also follow the Friends of Southern Necropolis on Twitter, and visit the Southern Necropolis and mural yourself!


By Saskia McCracken



The Gorbals Vampire.’ Plays to See.

Gorbals Vampire Brought Back to Life.’ Glasgow Live.

The Ghastly Tale of the Gorbals Vampire.’ Herald Scotland.

Gorbals Vampire Mural.’ Glasgow Discovered.

The Gorbals Vampire, Glasgow’s Southern Necropolis.’ David Castleton.

Gorbals Vampire.’ Plenty of Nothing.

We Went Hunting the Gorbals Vampire.’ Glasgow Live.

‘Children playing in Glasgow’s Southern Necropolis’ (Photo by Bert Hardy, 1948).


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