Thursday, 27 December 2012


As you know, we're busily pulling together our Tales of The Oak comic for next year, so our final spooky selection for this year, is an excellent small press collection of winter horror, Shocking Chillers.

An adaptation of the first Magic Torch spooky story I wrote - Jolasveinar - is one of the stories featured.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Green Oak Trees

We continue to prep our Tales of the Oak comic, but as a special Christmas Treat, here's the first full strip, a short tale of festive fear and folklore, we hope it's very much in the classic Tales from the Crypt style. We can't wait to share more of the comic with you over the next few months.

And now, get yourself ready for the upcoming solstice with a classy, and just slightly scary, animated video for Jethro Tull's festive EPIC Solstice Bells...

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Ghost Tales of the Clyde Valley

The story below (and many others) appear on the Ghost Stories from Scotland's Clyde Valley, a compilation of tales collected by Christine Tweedly while working for the Clyde Valley Tourist Board in the 80s. Some wonderful stories and images on there. Give it a visit.

The Haunting Tale of the Beautiful Black Lady

Broomhill House was one of several large houses in the Millheugh area of Larkhall. It belonged to a Captain McNeil, a sea-faring gentleman, who sought his fortune in far-flung exotic locations. Legend says that the Captain returned from one of his adventures with a beautiful Indian princess, ,with whom he was very much in love. She was installed at Broomhill, but her happiness was short-lived. Her ignorance of Western customs made her a social embarrassment and the Captain forbade her to leave the house except at night. After a while, she was no longer seen at all and the Captain claimed that she had disappeared. However, her ghostly form soon returned to seek revenge.

At first she was seen at the window of Broomhill, beckoning to passers-by. Then she was seen roaming the surrounding orchards and the area known as Morgan Glen. Her revenge on the Captain is not documented, but his death certificate states that he died of premature old age!

The Black Lady was the subject of the first attempt to perform an exorcism live on television. It was in the 1960s, and the BBC team who visited the Larkhall site to document the event found that their cameras were freezing over although the weather was not cold. And was it the Black Lady who added the final macabre touch? When the filming was completed, the director set off for another location and was killed in a car crash.

You can see a clip from the exorcism attempt in this short film about Tom Robertson the ghost Hunter...

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Para Handy : The Stowaway

Para Handy by Ross Ahlfeld, from the first Tales of the Oak book

Most folk are familiar with Neil Munro's classic tales of Para Handy and the crew of The Vital Spark, if not, get reading or watching

A particular prized possession of mine, is a book of reprints of some of the stories signed by Walter Carr, Dougie himself. My Uncle Jim - my gran's brother - was a fan of the tales and gave me a copy of the stories when I was a little too young to totally appreciate the humour, but that's meant I've found more in them each time I have gone back. Uncle Jim was a Merchant Seaman, he was yer classic avuncular gentleman, never married but generally always smiling or dishing out cream soda floats. But I remember once, after a wee calamity of my own, him telling me a story about the one woman he loved, who tried to make him choose between her and the sea. "I asked her not to, but she made me choose. And it would always be the sea". Amazing man.

Anyway, as part of our scary December stories, I thought I'd share an attempt at a tale of the unusual featuring The Vital Spark and her crew.

The Stowaway

It was bitter down on Greenock Quay, and the grey and the cold seemed even to have affected the temper of the master mariner himself, who was in a most unusual mood.
'Och, it's chust, this time of the year, in cold like this, I'm sometimes minded of a wee trip from a few years back that went awry.' he said, 'Och it wass a bad cargo that.'
I was well acquainted with the broad spectrum of what Macfarlane would term a bad cargo, indeed, it would be easier to draw up a much shorter list of what he considered acceptable cargo for The Vital Spark.
'Ah weel, there huv been a few strange cargoes doon the years fur sure. No' the sort o' stuff ye wud be expectin' to see on a fine vessel like the Fital Spark, but ye ken what owners iss like, they wud put yer very life and station in peril fur just a few mair coppers. Sure I’ve hud it aal from suffragettes to stuffed albatrosses and there wass that unfortunate business with the Kirk organ, which eventually hud to be scuttled followin' the mishaps that befell us. But the wurst though, weel the wurst I don’t often care to talk aboot.'
Here, I allowed the appropriate silence for the good Captain, knowing him to be a great artisan of the dramatic pause. Instead, he stared out on to the river with an uncommonly troubled expression, such as he normally reserved only for weddings.
'And what cargo was that then?' I asked eventually.
'Weel, weel now. Its chust, it’s been so long since I’ve given it but a second thought. I don’t like to trouble myself with it. And sure Dougie flat denies it ever happened, him that particular month being a Rechabite and not prone to the deliriums. It aal came aboot in the long winter of a few years back. Do ye mind, when it wass so cold we were all waiting fur the river itself to freeze. Well, we were chust back from a wee cargo trip oot to that western isle that grows aal the fruit. Funny wee place, but it’s ay warm there, even in the midwunter. So the biting chill and mists o' the Clyde wur a wee shoak to the system. And no sooner had we dropt off aal the fruit crates, than we wur told to be aal the way aff back again to Lewis oan account o' some museum pieces needin' taken up for further study in Gleska.
'We wur to meet a Mr Jamieson at Stornoway, he wud be accompanying us with the cargo up to Gleska. It being the last chob of the year, the lads was aal promised a wee trip intae toon afterwards fur refreshments and dancin’. This suited The Tar chust fine, as he wass at this point in time still on the lookout fur a wife, and felt sure that it would be easier in the run up to Christmas on account of everyone wantin' to keep waarm in the wunter months.
'The cargo wass...and I'm no mistaken here...some bones and a few wee rusty brooches will think I'm having a laugh with you, a box of stones, and the like which had been found out near Callanish. Or wass it the Broch? Most certainly wan o' the two. And we wur reassured they wur of no small educational significance. And to be fair they weren't so very heavy either as to be causing too much strife while lifting, a particular worry of The Tar.
'It wass Mr Jamieson hisself though who set the whole enterprise aff on the wrong foot. He had a sort of a furtive look about him, a munister would likely have ken better what it signified, but to me, he looked like he wass trying very hard not to be seen. He wass not the most talkative of passengers, but as ye know fine, the crew of the Fital Spark are curious and conversational sowls, so were efter askin Mr Jamieson aal sorts of details about the cargo aal morning. Eventually, mebbe in desperation, hoping they would let him at peace, he told us why his wee box of stones and bones wass off to Gleska.

"Weel" he says, "These bones were recently dug up in a secluded spot on the island, and they had a wee circle of stones - these very stones, also buried around them in a circle. There wass only the one body, only the one set of bones, and they were buried in a way that shows that the gentleman concerned wass all huddled up when he wass interred. There's nothing much too peculiar about that," he says, but I'd huv to say, it maybe sounded just a wee bit peculiar to the more under educated crewmen of the Fital Spark, such as Macphail, "but what's very strange indeed, is the condition of these bones. It looks very much as if they have been gnawed upon, and the teeth marks match no creature kent by science."
'Weel ye can imagine how this played, especially with Macphail, who is particular feared of monsters huvin' sailed to Australia that time and had the bother with the sharks. But, oor Mr Jamieson, looking most uncomfortable, yet seemin' unable to help hisself, presses on regardless.
"The jewellery wass scattered all around him, and one piece still clutched in his hand. And on each of the stones, strange carvings and pictograms, and on some others scratchmarks, again, from a larger beast than ever lived on the isles. It's a mystery to be sure. A mystery."
Here, The Tar produced wan o' the stones, huvin' been searchin' through the crate while Jamieson spoke. "Put it away!" Jamieson screams "Fur yer own sake put it back!"
I have nivver seen Colin move so quick in aal my life, and right away, he wass below decks with the carbolic soap, trying to wash aff any misfortune that might have rubbed aff oan him. As ye might imagine, the mate wass quite put oot by the whole discussion, and made it plain, "The only mystery is why ye dug it up and why we let ye bring it on board. Its bad luck for us aal."
Mr Jamieson declined to join us for evening meal, which, given The Tar's recent efforts, I wass not minded to disagree with. Instead he sat beside the cargo, hands in his pockets against the cold. It wass after dark that the calamity befell us.
'Now, it was Dougie and I both in the wheelhouse, and on my mithers own grave, up by the mast, there was a man standing on dake by Mr Jamieson. A stowaway, ay. But wan that ye could see right through as though he wur sugar glaze or a nice silk net curtain as ye might see in Pollokshaws. A big heavy fellow it wass, barely dressed for the cauld. Dougie and I both chust stood, and since then, neither of us huv been able to agree upon why we didn't go to Mr Jamieson's aid. It wass as though our legs were sacks of coal.
The stowaway chust stood, quietly, pointing at Mr Jamieson, who wass in some commotion shakin his heid and he's shoutin "Please leave me alone. Why won't you leave me alone". The Stowaway keeps pointing, only now, he slowly opens his mooth and there's a howlin' too, o' the sort that I'm sure even chilled the old bones in the box. Weel this seemed to be the last straw fur oor Mr Jamieson, and he chumped straight aff the boat. At which point the stowaway promptly vanished.

We wur goin' at a fair clip, and it wass the dark of midwunter. But sure we stopped to see if we could catch sight of the poor sowl, and by this time the howling had roused even Macphail, so we wur aal there to look and call oot. But even that many pairs of eyes and lanterns won't make the wunter dark light. He wass gone. And so wass our stowaway. Dougie wass for throwing the cargo overboard, but the morning wass comin' on, and we had aal been lookin forward to a trip to Gleska.

A terrible business. And wur we not now late as weel from aal the looking for Mr Jamieson? There wass aal sorts of accident reportin' to be done at Gleska, and while I wass dealin' with the owners and officials, Dougie wass out speakin' to fowk, tellin only hauf the story and intimating that oor Mr Jamieson wass not so demure a curator as to not enjoy a good few too many refreshments. And sure it can get fearsome slippery on dake in midwunter sails at night. Smert, makin' sure we widna get a name for oorselves as a ghost ship. A cursed puffer is a terruble thing, it can hauf yer workin' week in two. It's a short skip from there to only running a passenger ferry to Helensburgh in the summer months.
There wass some commotion at the museum also, as not all the intended artefacts were intact and present. I'm pleased to say though that my honesty wass never in question, more it wass felt that Mr Jamieson hud been efter takin' a few wee pieces which he must huv had in his poaket afore he slupped and fell ower the side.

It wass a terrible business right enough. A terrible business. It almost put us right aff the dancin’.

Here, Para Handy shook his head sadly. He would be drawn no further on the matter.

That's a wee excerpt from a publication currently in development, The Strange Cargoes of Para Handy, featuring the crew of the Vital Spark in various eldritch misadventures with pirate ghosts, seamonsters, mermaids and the like.

Today's bonus video, is a wee bit of festive self-indulgence, a scary Christmas poem I recorded with my wee family last year, also featuring some monster folklore. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Late Night Story...

Here's two spooky tales from Late Night Story, read by Tom Baker in his trademark rich fruity tone. There's a nicely freaky intro sequence as well.

Tom Baker is also reading a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol this year. How can that go wrong?

Friday, 7 December 2012

Moonlight Over Inverkip

As part of our new project, we challenged the good folk of Greenock Writers Club to come up with some new scary stories for us. There were some real crackers, and a few dark twists on local tales that we'll share with you in a future podcast or on the blog. We thought though, that we would share the winner with you first. Moonlight Over Inverkip is a really excellent take on the legends surrounding Mary Lamont. It was written by Mark Jones, who loves writing so much, he is also a professional proofreader. Hats off to Mark, and a big thank-you to the writers club for getting involved and helping us out.

Moonlight Over Inverkip by Mark Jones

Woozily, the world oozes across her eyes. A kaleidoscope of oil-on-water colours, these high Inverclyde hills collide and contract, expand and diffuse, images filtered through a mind befogged by Valium and whisky. Spellbound, she stumbles over fields, glides by the loch, slides through familiar places, past curious fleeting faces and out, out, out along the wrong roads, a long way from home, a long way beyond the areas she and her dog usually roam. Cauldron Hill, Blood Moss, Rotten Craig, Back o’ the World disappear behind her.
He stands in the storm, observes her approach, with eyes so dark you could think their sockets hollow. Long hair whipped by the wind, he might almost have horns. When finally she arrives, he pulls up her dress and sinks teeth into her thigh. As he cries with delight, her spirit flies, borne on the breeze.

Valium and whisky have been mother’s little helpers for years. Father hasn’t known how much she steals to afford them, nor that six months ago she took from a man of the town a large loan she must now repay in ever-increasing increments of interest. A shark in the shadows of Greenock’s undertow, he comes pockmarked and parka-jacketed once a week to collect. Why the deal? Because although hubby earns enough at Inverkip’s new power station for their needs, he can’t afford her appetites. She struggles to scrape together repayments. Each evening she walks the dog up in the woods of Crowhill and Leapmoor, searching for a solution. 
One evening she detours to a lonely telephone box and calls the pockmarked parka man, arranging a meeting in the forest itself. He knows wives require discretion, understands their need for secrecy. Two nights later he waits beneath a fir pregnant with autumnal raindrops. He expects her at seven. He doesn’t expect a brick in the nape, as high as she can reach, felling him. Prostrate, his skull is easily bludgeoned. A wild gust bursts the tree. Blood and rainwater run pink along the burn into which she rolls him, making it look like he – a stranger amid a perilous landscape – tripped and drowned. Breathless along the twilit track homeward, she feels surprisingly fearless. Leaves weave in the swirling smirry dusk, whispering:
“Confess, confess.”
She ignores them. She’ll burn his notebook containing the addresses of the indebted. She’s safe, elated. She’s murdered more than the man, but her past also – and with it all morality. She feels no remorse. She’s free. She cackles.
What tastes has she that make her so restless, so greedy? Their marriage a sham, neither she nor Davey are faithful but remain together for the sake of politeness and his promotion prospects. She loved her daughter when young. Now she merely tolerates the eight year-old. Sandra seeks solace instead in booze and pills and afternoons in hotel rooms with a dipsomaniac journalist called Daryll. He says he loves her; but she needs him, which is worse. They were to elope, but he won’t commit. That’s why she took the loan, but Daryll frittered it. That’s how she became stuck with the shark-in-a-parka. That’s why she’s killed him. She’s a murderess because each successive decision she makes to enliven her dull life leads to a worse one.
At home the staircase creaks:
“Confess, confess.”

At the back of her head hairs pull uneasily. But it’s only Angela, incanting to the moon the story she’s learning at school. The tale of Marie Lamont, the Inverkip witch. Why they teach this local history crap is beyond Sandra. 
“Mrs Munro says Marie was mad, not bad.”
“She had an illness, didn’t understand what she was admitting,” Angela elaborates. It makes more sense, at least, than the charges brought against this real-life seventeenth century teenage witch: milk-stealing from neighbours, storm-raising to drown sailors, and bunk about meeting the devil at midnight to be marked on the body by his bite. Those were backward times when even the educated believed in magic. For lowly Marie Lamont, though, it wasn’t magic, but common sense: never weave widdershins, it’s bad luck: a superstition with logic because widdershins not only entailed defying the natural direction of the sun, but also, if you were right-handed it simply made the task harder. This – and a whole bunch of weird behaviours – seemed sensible to the likes of Lamont, and could be explained just as rationally as, say, the fear of walking under ladders for fear of what might fall from above. But to accusers, Lamont’s actions screamed irrationality: witchcraft. She was burned at the stake.
But if neither magic nor witchcraft exists, for what was the wretched woman slain? And why did she volunteer her confessions in the first place? Maybe Marie – a humble village girl – sought excitement, confessing such accursed acts because she was so restricted in life by poverty and by convention. Telling lies made her life seem more exciting. Lamont knew tales of witches – they were notorious. Notoriety was fame, and fame was enticing then just as now. Ok, Sandra thinks, so the story from the past has parallels with the present. But it’ll give Angela nightmares. She tells her daughter to hush and sleep
Next day, Angela begs to walk the dog at Leapmoor. Mum doesn’t want to return but has no excuse. They won’t walk anywhere near the body.
But Angela runs ahead. Where the moss grows green, Angela sees something and comes bounding back, enthusiastic as the puppy.
“Mummy! Mummy! I met a witch!”
But the girl persists: she’s spoken to a witch down within the darkness of trees.  
“She says I’m a good girl. It’s not me but you she needs to see.”
As odd as these words are, Sandra shivers from other thoughts: she has recognised with horror the very spot at which she smashed in the parka man’s skull. How can Angela have stood in that same spot and not spotted the corpse?  
They depart quickly, Angela reviewing aloud all she knows of Lamont – the satanic transformation of Marie and her accomplices into animals; wild journeys by moonlight; demonic deeds.
Magic doesn’t exist, Sandra repeats. Marie must’ve been mad to have admitted crimes she couldn’t have committed. The words catch in her throat. She sighs to see the Morris 1100 again, clambers inside, turns the engine, drowns Angela’s voice.
Bewildered curiosity piqued and fortified with Valium and whisky, Sandra returns to Leapmoor next afternoon. Where’s the body gone? If someone’s found it, why aren’t the woods blue with policemen? Did she hide it too well? Again she frets – why did she kill him? To save herself – from bankruptcy, divorce, disgrace. She worries not for the man or his family but herself. Her remorse died with him. But fear lives on. She didn’t foresee this.
In the trees, dreich and gloomy, Sandra’s not alone. Behind the branches, something lurks. Since it’s following her, she takes to her heels. But this creature is fleet. Sandra tumbles, wipes mud from her face, feels breath at her ear:
 “Confess, confess.”
Sandra understands. This is her last chance. The witch Lamont looks terrified: 
“I was mad, led by nightmares. You can still choose. Repent.”
But Sandra refuses, pushing past. She is called: she sees him in her mind’s eye, standing on the far side of the darkening forest. Pockmarked. Greasy hair. Hair whipped by the wind: he might almost have horns. She sees beyond the disguise, recognises his true identity. Neither man nor beast.
That she’d slay him he’d known all along. But dying is easy when you’re always reborn.
Rejuvenated, he beckons her. It’s unnecessary to take her forcibly. She volunteers. Marie Lamont may have been as innocent as the beasts in the fields – deluded, driven insane by a tough life, confessing to crimes she didn’t understand – but Sandra isn’t. No nightmare, she’s not mad, walks purposefully. Casting off the costume of her old life, she chooses death with relief.
He clutches covetously his latest concubine, pulls her cheek to his chest. The sensation pleases him and that’s really all that matters to her. This is the twist: she willed this, wanted it. She sold her soul long ago to a loveless marriage and the tedium of a life lived too leisurely. So bored and so desensitised did she become that she embraces the eternal, infernal alternative. Now, the storm and the Devil caress and carry her. By moonlight over Inverkip she travels, borne in his hirsute, musk-smelling arms.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Shop Local for Christmas....

detail from Bloom by Mhairi M Robertson

If you are looking for something different for folk this Christmas, and want to support local artists and enterprise while yer doing it, here's a few suggestions...

First up, why not treat someone to a print from local artist Mhairi Robertson. Mhairi takes her inspiration from local folklore and so her striking and original artwork all has a story to tell. She is very busy just now illustrating for our childrens book next year. Visit Mhairi's gallery here and get choosing...

For a whole range of wooden gifts and goods, many with a local heritage connection, pop along to Inverclyde Community Development Trust's shop at The Dutch Gable House. You'll find traditional woodcuts of local myths and legends, historic ships and handmade Christmas decorations, rustic cheeseboards and nativity scenes all made with reclaimed and recycled wood. If you're very lucky, you might also still be able to grab a FREE copy of the Trust's Identity Graphic Novel / Greenock Morton book.

The Dutch Gable House is also one of the places you can get your hands on Scotchpotch, a miscellany created and collected by our good friends at Greenock Writers Club. All profits to charity as well!

Magic Torch will also have an EXCLUSIVE stocking filler in the shop this year, from our all new Magic Torch Comics imprint, a fully licensed replica of Thriller Picture Library - Captain Kidd Buccaneer, a tale of swashbuckling skullduggery on the high seas featuring Greenock's very own questionable pirate William Kidd. Only available at The Dutch Gable House from mid-December, and for less than half the price of a pie supper*.

There are of course lots of other local retailers and artisans you can buy from this Christmas, you'll find much more comprehensive listings than ours on MyTownHomepage and Simply Local. For example, Gourock Kempock Street Traders Christmas Shopping Night on Thursday 6th December.

Local shops, for local people. In a good way.

*correct at time of blog entry, Pie Supper prices may fluctuate rapidly rendering this comment slightly less accurate

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Midwinter Tales...

As regular readers may know, we like to spend the month of December, curating some appropriately spooky tales for the month.

This year we have dead sailors, poisoned mistletoe, an all new comic strip, ghostly goings on from Greenock Writers Club, Slenderman nightmares from Inverclyde Academy and some new recordings of our previous tales in a Tales of the Oak Christmas Special podcast - which also includes some songs. Truly diabolical. As ever, we'll also be sharing stories and films from further afield. To kick us off, an excellent adaptation of one from the master, M.R. James.

"The Wailing Well" was originally written for Eton Boy Scouts group, this adaptation is by the wonderful Loonatik and Drinks and tells the tale of three boy scouts separated from their troop while on a country hike...

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Slenderman Cometh...

Ruined cottage on the Old Largs Road

Over the last few weeks, Andy Lee and myself have been working with 1st and 2nd year pupils from Inverclyde Academy on creating pages for comics. It's been tremendous fun, and it's really good to see a local school so interested in encouraging reading and creative writing through graphic storytelling.

The mission was very simple, work with the pupils to write a scary story in a local setting, and all work on designing characters / panels to tell that story. Pupils will create their own pages and Andy will also create some pages based on their story.

Pupils opted to use perennial nightmare meme The Slenderman, a sinister character who originated online, created by Victor Surge. He has since been developed and used by many other people, from being co-opted into urban legend via photoshopping old pictures, to having his own web series. There was even suggestion that Doctor Who's Silence characters were a tribute to the strange creature. Many others maintain that the creature is not fiction at all. All very complex, but part of the real fun of this character is exploring and discovering it for yourself. If you want an excellent overview of the whole developing mythos, check out this article from the journal Darklore.

The pupils opted for short vignettes placing Slenderman in a variety of local Greenock settings, all the more terrifying for off-setting the unusual character with the banal and familiar.

We'll share the full story with you in December as part of our month of midwinter terror, but here's panels by Andy, taken directly from the stories developed by the two classes....

Tesco Car Park Terror

The Murdieston Dam Horror...
(this would make a lovely Magic Torch Christmas card)

Primark Nightmare...

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Old Greenock Characters - Tattie Wullie

The Old Fish Market - McLean Museum

Another in our irregular series from John Donald's Old Greenock Characters, this one features Tattie Wullie and cheery tales of sugar theft.

William Campbell (“Tattie Wullie”), whose portrait is included in John Baird’s very interesting and now comparatively rare print of “The Scene of the Old Fish Market, Greenock,” was well known in the town up to the late ‘sixties. Above middle height, and clad in a suit of white moleskins, apparently fresh from the wash-tub, no matter when or where you saw him, with long lapels to the jacket, which a present day “knut” might envy, he was easily distinguishable at a distance. Stoutly formed, his spare visage was surrounded by a large Kilmarnock bonnet and “toorie.” This bonnet and the coachman’s long whip, which he was seldom without, combined with the white moleskins, to make him kenspeckle.

He was occasionally engaged as a carter, and it is said that once, when not overburdened with cash, Wullie tossed with his horse as to whether the animal should get a feed or he (Wullie) should have a drink. The horse won. Gazing at the coin in his hand, Wullie pondered, and then looked thoughtfully at the patient horse….It was a conflict between honour and thirst, and thirst prevailed. “Aw, yer cheatin’,” said Wullie, and he disappeared within the precincts of an adjacent pub. In about a couple of minutes a boy rushed in crying excitedly, “Hey, tattie, yer horse hes tum’lt doon,” and Tattie answered quietly enough : “Aw, weel, ye must have been leanin’ on him!”

He was frequently employed to guard merchandise discharged from ships, and he used the long whip to chase off sugar “scobers”. “Scobers” was the term applied to those Greenock urchins who pilfered sugar from casks or bags landed from West Indian and other traders. Younger boys were, for the most part, content to scoop the brown sticky substance through open seams of casks or renst in bags, sometimes with a small flat piece of wood, oftener with their fingers; but the older and bolder spirits would not hesitate, given the opportunity, to rip up a bag, break open a lid, or, indeed, to smash a cask. The advent of beet-root sugar was viewed with grave disapproval by the “scober”. It was not to his taste. His enthusiasm was only temporarily damped, however, for quite recently I observed a string of kiddies, some of them little more than toddlers, following up a sugar cart along Rue-End Street, with obvious intention. And so the scobing game goes merrily on, and there is no Tattie Wullie to scare the scober.

Speaking of those daring delinquents reminds me of some comical titles of imaginary drams which formed catchwords of a sort in those days, such as “The Haunted Hogshead, or The Scobers Revenge” “The Bursted Bug, or The Bloody Bowster” and others which I must decline to print.

To return to Tattie Wullie, when I saw him last, he was sitting on the steps at the entrance of the large outer court of the Flesh Market in Market Street. He was minus the long whip and his moleskins were less white than of yore. He looked aged and wearied, with a pensive, far-away expression, as if, while reviewing past events, he was conscious of present misery.  

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Tales of the Oak - Preview Sketches

We thought we'd share a few preview panels that Andy Lee has been pencilling for our Tales of the Oak comic, they feature Auld Dunrod introducing a story about Captain Kidd's treasure...

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Happy Halloween! As a wee treat, here's a preview of our promotional postcard for the new project, put together by our artist Andy Lee. It's good eh?

Part of our Tales of the Oak project is the production of a comic of scary local stories, due for release next year. We've based the comic format on the classic EC horror comics of the 1950s. Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror and Haunt of Fear showcased "twist in the tale" stories, with over the top artwork. The comics have been copied and parodied many times since.

One of the more popular elements of the series, was that the stories were introduced by 3 different hosts, the Crypt Keeper, the Old Witch and the Vault Keeper, all trying to outdo one another with their tales of terror. We've added an Inverclyde twist to our version, our hosts are Auld Dunrod, Granny Kempock and Captain Kidd.

Our comic isn't going to be as controversial as the EC classics, but there are some good scares in there already - we've got cursed treasure, evil trolls, Catman in the railway tunnels, poisonous oaks, serpent worship cults and moorland ghosts. We'll share a few sketches next month and maybe even a few pages before Christmas.

If you are interested in the history of the Tales from the Crypt series, this documentary is excellent, and also shares a few of the stories. (so be warned...horror ahead...)

If ye like yer scares a bit more "U" rated, then have a listen to Wee Nasties instead

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Scary Sharing

Busy today? C'mon see us at The Dutch Gable House, the shop's open and you can still grab free copies of the Identity graphic novel while yer there telling us yer spooky stories...

Friday, 26 October 2012

Tell A Story Day

Herne at camp, by Ross Ahlfeld

Today is Tell A Story Day. Be sure to do your bit.

Here's one from me. This is sort of a cheat, on account of the fact that it's a poem telling a story, so if that's not yer thing, there's quite a few wee stories you can hear FREE on Auld Dunrod's soundcloud.

And if you liked that, you may also enjoy Santa's Little Werewolves.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Story Gathering - This Weekend

Come see us and give us a wee fright.

The Dutch Gable Shop will also be open for yer Christmas shopping needs.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Live from the Witch Trials

So far this October, we've recommended a visit to the Edinburgh Dungeon and given you your very own Witch Trial to perform. You can read the sad story of Inverkip Witch Mary Lamont in the Identity Graphic Novel.

And over on my own blog, feel the wrath of the Troubleshooter General or discover A Cure For Witches.

If you're looking for a whole evening of scary stories, then check out Ether books, you can download sixty free scary stories, including one from myself.

Rounding off a month of witch recommendations, The Eccentronic Research Council and actress Maxine Peake have recorded 1612 Underture, an old school concept album based on the Pendle Witch Trials. The krautrock road trip has the band travelling round the North of England exploring the truth of the Pendle Witches, and their legacy today. Highest recommendations, especially the Cameron bashing of "Ghost of Old Lizzy Southerns Returns"

In a similar vein and just cos...The Fall...

And finally...a wee bit of Monty Python....

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Minnie Dean

These are 2 pages we scripted for the Identity Graphic Novel, about the sad and sinister case of Minnie Dean, Greenock born woman, hanged in New Zealand for murdering children in her care.

Minnie remains a bit of a "bogeywoman" for many in New Zealand, but as is often the case in such situations, some doubt is now cast on her guilt. In 2009, a headstone was finally laid at the spot believed to have been her previously unmarked grave. The traditional Maori ceremony brought together both descendents of Minnie and her supposed victims.

Hats off to Greenock punk legend Louis Pastore  (now turned Pirate folkster in Shinbone Al)  who first alerted us to this story. Check out Louis's own local heritage researches on GreenockPunks77 and Kingdom of Strathclyde.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Story Gathering

Come help us out next weekend at The Dutch Gable House, this isn't the storytelling club, this is your chance to help us uncover a few scary local stories we haven't heard before...

Thursday, 18 October 2012

War on Witches at Edinburgh Dungeon

A witch, yesterday.
We have a guest blog today from Johnny Campbell, General Manager of the Edinburgh Dungeon...

Imagine a world full of hidden evil, where seemingly ordinary women and men used Satanic powers to murder, ruin crops and inflict illness. Welcome to Scotland’s past.

Back in the 16th and 17th centuries there was a terror of witches – something being revived by the Edinburgh Dungeon for its War on Witches show that runs throughout October. It recalls hideous claims from the early 1590s that a coven that met in the old kirkyard of North Berwick had conjured up a sea storm to sink the ship carrying King James VI. Their spell, using a cat with the hands, feet and private parts of a dead sailor sewn to its body, was cast at Halloween.

Further research by the Dungeon has revealed widespread fears about witchcraft linked to this ancient festival, and people’s readiness to accuse their neighbours of involvement, knowing this could well end up with them being strangled and burned. This year is also the 350th anniversary of the zenith of the Great Scottish Witch Hunt, when hundreds were condemned to death on the most bizarre evidence.

So what was it the Devil’s apprentices were supposed to do on 31 October, the night where tradition has it that the dead walk the Earth? Well, in the case of Elspet Strachund, of Lumphanan (tried in 1597) it involved being spotted taking a burning coal out of her house and burying it in the yard. Other wickedness included using charms to stop a man beating his wife.

Elspet cured animals, using skills learned from elves. At this point sex and marriage rear their heads for she was accused of bedding a male elf. As well as a healer she was a local marriage maker and this may have been the real problem. One accusation was that she caused a man to wed beneath himself, the wife then lost what little she had and they were reduced to beggary.

Katherine Jones, of Shetland, was supposed to have used Halloween to meet with trolls, faeries and the Devil himself. She was examined closely and her trial was told in 1616 she had the mark of Satan on her ‘privie parts’. This (perhaps a blemish or growth) was proof that the Devil had claimed her. Katherine was also said to have transferred an illness suffered by her husband to a visiting merchant from Crail.

Orcadian, Issobell Sinclair, performed rituals to protect cattle at Halloween. Helped by the faeries she would take some of the animal’s hair and wrap it in linen for her magical work.

This was an era when people thought that supernatural power ebbed and flowed at particular times, with Halloween being one of the moments when it was at its greatest. So in 1658 it was no surprise, that just 20 days before Hallowmass, Grissell McCairtney first met the Devil. It was said that she became lost while gathering shellfish and ended up in 'some eldridge place unknowin to hir where she saw a compne of weemen and one cold black uglie greusome man'.

But once Halloween was over it seems that the powers of witches began to diminish. For example, in 1570, Janet Bowman of Ayr tried as hard as she could to cure a man of his sickness. Her incantations to King Arthur failed and a spirit that would come to her in a whirlwind proved no help, all because Halloween has passed.

The reality though, as the show at the Dungeon points out, is that the victims of witchcraft in Scotland were the people who were accused. Visitors see the burned skeleton of Agnes Sampson, one of the coven leaders from North Berwick and try to bring her back from the dead.

And it seems there were a lot of dead. Edinburgh University academics estimate that at least two thirds of those put on trial for witchcraft were executed and just 4% walked free – if they could still walk after the torture that most had endured.

Find out more about Edinburgh Dungeon and the exclusive War on WItches exhibit for Hallowe'en.

Johnny Campbell. Also scary.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Gibshill Werewolf

Could this be the face of the Gibshill Werewolf?
Not really, no.
Here's a wee tune penned by local singer / songwriter Brian Heron. It's inspired by the story he tells us below....

Good fun eh? A challenge then, if any local bands have recorded any other scary songs, especially some featuring local myths and legends (I'm thinking perhaps a prog rock epic called The Catman or a dubstep shanty about Captain Kidd) then send em on and we'll curate and share a Halloween playlist with all our many and diverse readers. If you don't...we won't and you'll have no one to blame but yourselves, forever wondering about what could have been...As ever though, no fortune only glory...

A Gibshill Story by Brian Heron

It was the 31st of October 1971 and I was 14 years old. The reason I remember, it was Hallowe’en! Lyonie, Codge and I had set up our tent on the hill behind Poplar Street in Gibshill, just on the other side of the old railway-line which ran from Glasgow to Greenock’s Princess Pier via the Kilmacolm line. The rail service was withdrawn in 1965 and just to make sure, the famous “Nine Arches” viaduct (which at 480ft long, sat 100ft above the Devol Burn) was demolished by explosion in 1970. This scene of carnage was just 10 minutes walk from our campsite. Today, (October 2012) the old railway line is now a cycle track.

Why camping? Who knows! Three boys rushing towards adulthood too fast, time to face fears perhaps? Whatever the reason, we decided to camp out that night. No school tomorrow, a nice fresh Friday evening under the ‘Gibby’ stars.

Around 10.30pm (according to the Kingston clock which hung above the Scott- Lithgow shipyard that provided employment for most of the men living on our housing scheme) a man appeared out of the dripping mist that descended from Donnie’s Farm. The farm that once sat majestically above our homes at the top of the hill but was now a burned out wreck of wood and stone. Donnie had died several years before and the farm was torched by some locals shortly after his death around 1967).
“What you doing boy?” the man asked.
“What’s it got to do with you?” replied Lyonie. 
“Nothing” said the man as he smiled. 
“Who are you?” I asked pushing my chest out in a vain attempt to fill the two sizes too big Wrangler jacket I had acquired from the back-greens of Cobham Street. 
The man stated “Walter but you can call me Wattie!” as he put his hands on his hips and took a wee three step march. No! It was more like a jig or a dance than a march. 

The three of use just stood there in our Doc Martin boots, denim jackets and Levi jeans attempting to look mean. Whilst Wattie calmly posed in his tweed jacket and matching bunnet. I remember thinking “Walter is bad enough but Wattie! This guy must be from Gourock?” It seemed to be an absurd stand off, three young boys and this man, poles apart in class, style and culture. Although he appeared to be quite a young man, in his early 20’s, it felt like we were generations apart.

Wattie went on to state he was a local farmer but that this was not his land.
“I’m a bit concerned that you boys are planning on camping out on a night like this” he gravely stated in his best, pompous tone he could muster. We all nervously laughed then Codge said “me and him jist live over the line there (pointing to the roof of both Lyonie and his close), all ave got ta dae is shout and ma two brawers and his two brawers (pointing energetically at Lyonie) will come flying over that fence!”

“That’s good! It’s great to have family” Wattie whispered as he continued to look concerned.
“Can I tell you boys a story?” he nervously inquired.
This guy was beginning to annoy me. He clearly was only in his early 20’s but no way was he a farmer, perhaps a farmer’s son? But not the owner of a farm! Looking back, what did I know about owning land? Here was I thinking like some agricultural connoisseur of farming and I didn’t even know one person who had bought a house never mind a farm! Anyway, he annoyed me.
“Aye“ said Lyonie as he winked to Codge and me.

I didn’t fear this man. There were three of us and despite our youth, we wouldn’t be slow if this guy got funny but he clearly made us uneasy. He proceeded to tell us a story about another farming family who lived in the area.

It was a stupid story about a farming boy who disappeared into the Greenock hills. No one could find him. Several years had passed then one day he returned to the family farm a shadow of himself! According to Wattie he had become a werewolf! Ate his parents! But no one suspected a thing! Except for Wattie of course!!!! His story was so full of holes you could drive the ‘Gibby’ bus through it if it ever bothered to turn up. Oh, and the boys name was Junior and he continued to live on the family farm. Great story eh?!

After he told his story Wattie said “I’ll need to get on my way. I’m gonna go down and see if I can catch Junior!”

Lyonie shouted after him: “Aye if you don’t find any werewolves doon the Gibby try Weir Street, there’s usually some hanging aboot the aff licence!” The three of us bust out laughing.
“He was ah rite” Codge stated.
I replied “Aye but if he took wan mair step towards ma crisps and juice add av’e taken his heed aff!”
“Aye Herny, sure” Lyonie responded as he seemed to be staring into the middle distance in his sage like way, eyes never leaving Wattie as he disappeared into the Gibby mist.

I too followed Wattie’s descent down into my scheme watching him walk down the lane between Cobham Street and Bell Street passing Gibson Street as he made his way onto Lansbury Street. Just as he got to the blacken, red brick wall ,that separates Irwin Street back-greens from Shankland Road the mist closed in, but I’m sure I saw him leap the wall in one jump!
“Did you see that?” I asked.
“Aye, he’s a way in ta your hoose!” Codge mocked.
I replied “He’ll no find much. Auld John’s away on the boats but he’ll gie that new ludger a oors a fright wie that that mad jaket and bunnet”.

Later that night around midnight (according to the Kingston clock) we heard the howling coming from the scheme. We all sat up, stared at each other as the moonlit tent glowed in an eerie light, paused and then laughed for the next 15 minutes. We were used to strange noises coming from the streets of Gibshill on a Friday night so this was no different. After that night we never seemed to talk about it again.

Life moved on. I got married, had a baby, called her Kirsty and moved to the new Gibby - Broadstone Avenue in Port Glasgow. I was now 25 years old but up to that point in my life whilst living in Gibshill every Friday night without fail I would hear the howling wolf pass by my back bedroom window, stalking the back-greens of Irwin Street and Lansbury Street howling his werewolf song. We always laughed and said it was someone coming back from Broon’s after a night of celebration but sometimes I would remember Wattie’s story.

It’s been 40 years since that strange Hallowe’en evening in 1971 but Wattie’s story has stayed with me. I’ve even written a song about it called “Juniors Farm”. I’ve now lived longer in Port Glasgow than I lived in Gibshill, but the Gibshill community spirit has always been strong and this year I was invited to a Gibshill reunion party in the Greenock town hall. I was asked to sing at the event along with a band of Gibshill musicians called “The Boys from the Hill” Codge played drums. It was a great night and after a few weeks I decided to check out the photos on the Gibshill Facebook.

As I did this something strange happened. I came across a photograph of Wattie! There he was sitting with an older man on a cart being pulled by two horses. Amazing! The photograph mentioned Bogston Farm, so I googled it and found a record in the National Library. I couldn’t believe it I had found Wattie, but there was a problem - Wattie was a young man in 1971 when he spoke to us on the hillside above Gibshill. The photo on the Gibshill facebook stated: “A photograph taken from Bogston Farm which is now the site of Gibshill housing scheme in Greenock” They started building Gibshill in 1934 and the first tenants moved in the same year. This photograph had to have been taken pre 1934 so the young man in the photograph would have been around 70 years old in 1971! I think the older man in the photograph is Walter Alexander senior and the younger man is Walter Alexander Junior. Perhaps Wattie was the Junior in his story! 

What do you think?

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Ready, Set, Galoshans...

It's Galoshans time again, so once again, we're making our free and printable version of the Galoshans play available for download. Try celebrating Hallowe'en a wee bit differently this year. You've got plenty of time to practice.

The Galoshans Play

And if you really want to try something different, this year we're also sharing our wee Everyman style play from our Tales of the Oak book - a play based on the Christian Shaw witch trial case.

The Orchard

It's also time to terrify friends and loved ones with All Hallows Read, where you share your favourite scary book. This year, I will be convincing folks to read Locke and Key by Joe Hill.

In other seasonal news, we also hope to have a wee open day for collecting any scary stories you may have on Saturday October 27th, more news soon.

In October 2013, the Greenock Players popped along to The Dutch Gable House to perform a version of this play. Check it out on Inverclyde TV.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

School Story Competition

Today we are launching a new competition for all Inverclyde Primary Schools. 

We believe passionately in the use of local heritage to create a sense of civic pride, and we know schools in our area work hard to promote citizenship and an understanding of local history. We hope this competition will provide an opportunity to build on that good work.

What we would like is for local school pupils in P6 or P7 to tell us a story set in our home town, using some of the spooky history of the area. It’s something you could do as a Halloween activity, or as part of Tell A Story Day on October 24th

The story can be told in any form, poetry, comic strip, fairytale, whatever suits the story best. It should take up no more than 2 sides of A4 paper including illustrations. 

The winning entry from each school will be included in a special digital “scary story book” which will be online later in the year. The school which sends us the best selection of scary stories will win £50 to spend on new books for the school. The writer of the best scary story will win a £20 book token and their story will also be adapted into a comic strip. Every school that enters will receive a copy of our original book of local folktales “Tales of the Oak”.

We have already written out to all local schools to invite them to get involved, suggesting a few areas they may like to use for inspiration, we've included them below. But you don't have to choose those, there are many more stories on this blog or that you may have heard elsewhere to use for inspiration...

The closing date for the competition is Friday 16 November, if you have any questions at all, you can contact us on We look forward to being terrified by your stories.

Malkie and the Bogle - A Port Glasgow tale....

The Ballad of Auld Dunrod - Concerning the Warlock of Inverkip who terrorised the area

The Legend of the Gourock Monster