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

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Dismembered Cats and Other Stories...

We're swotting away reading lots of interesting books and picking out things to visit at this months Storytelling Festival in Glasgow and Edinburgh, so meantime, here's a few wee folk snippets...

Readers may know that Buffalo Bill's Wild West rodeo show visited Greenock on it's tour of Scotland. The show featured genuine "cowboys 'n indians" of the time, including Annie Oakley. The book "Your Fathers The Ghosts" tells the story of the Wild West troupes genuine misadventures in Scotland, and now award winning filmmaker Alan Knight is looking for support to make it into a film. From 5pm today, you can assist this impressive effort via their crowdfunding site.

The first-ever HLF Scotland photography competition has been launched. For your chance to win a place on a weekend wildlife photography course or an annual subscription to a photography magazine, send your best photos of an HLF project.

HLF want photos that show the huge diversity of everything they fund - from bumblebees to steam trains, and people engaging with their local heritage. Whatever the project is, HLF want to see it.

Find out how to apply in the terms and conditions attached – make sure your photos reach HLF by 5pm on 2 November 2012.

There's been a murder!
And finally...Greenock, a town on the verge of being unshockable, was upset and dismayed today by the symbolic murder of the Greenock Morton mascot "Cappie the Cat" in what looks suspiciously like a gangland hit. Parts of the mascot have still to be recovered. Local gossip already suggests a disgruntled former mascot Mortonosaurus may be involved. Meanwhile security has been stepped up around Greenock Waterfront mascot Polo Bear. Sadly, there are many folk precedents for violence involving sports mascots, as this insensitive slideshow proves. And also this video. We genuinely hope that those involved are caught and brought to justice.

Cappie in happier times