Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Re-Post with Iron Teeth: The Gorbals Vampire Myth

There's an endless amount of confusion swirling around in the news lately about The Gorbals Vampire origin (thanks BBC), as well as recent misinformation on a couple of worthy comic book related blogs. Wading through it all it became obvious to me: time to drag out the Hy Fleishman tale "The Vampire with Iron Teeth" again.

I originally posted the scans below here at THOIA last year (CLICK HERE for that post), yet somehow over 6 months later this still isn't enough proof that a bunch of comic book spooked school kids in 1954 started The Gorbals Vampire legend (?!) People for years have blamed horror comics on this now famous incident, the same incident that sparked the enforcement of new comic book censorship laws in Scotland. But equally lame are the conspiracy kooks who for decades have claimed that "vampires are real" and that no such comic book story about a "vampire with iron teeth" ever existed, so this lingering doubt in Glasgow persisted, only adding more fuel to the vampire myth. It seems wild to me that until I posted this story back in Sept '09, no one up to that point in 60+ years had ever managed to find a copy of this comic book or come forth with it as proof--- I even have the thanks of one John Maclean of the Glasgow Press who says THOIA's post officially puts an end to all the theories that have plagued Glasgow for over half a century!

So if you're unaware of the full, fascinating story, CLICK HERE first, and then check out the scans. Seriously people, there are no such things as vampires. And this did not originate from a horror movie, or an EC story... though it could have possibly come from the bible, right?

Nah. It came from the 1953 issue of Dark Mysteries #15.

UPDATE: Artist Hy Fleishman's daughter Roberta has left a comment at the BBC Radio Scotland Blog:

At 12:27pm on 25 Mar 2010, Roberta Fleishman wrote:

I was first informed of this 1954 story last fall. I was in contact with John Maclean of the Glasgow Press who was convinced that a comic book story for which my father was the artist - "The Vampire With Iron Teeth", Dark Mysteries #15, 1953 - was the source for the hysteria that day. Whether or not the comic book story was the impetus for the response by the school children, the reaction to censor comic books was no different than the same response in America during the 1954 Kefauver hearings in the United States Senate. Also Steve Banes in his blog http://thehorrorsofitall.blogspot.com/ comments about the connection between the gorbals vampire and the 1953 Dark Mysteries story. I think there is more to the connection between the comic book and the September 1954 reaction in Glasgow than previous investigators have realized. Roberta Fleishman
Find out more on April 12th when BBC Radio Scotland airs The Gorbals Vampire story, or leave your own thoughts and comments at the BBC by clicking HERE!

Additional links about The Gorbals Vampire:




Trevor M said...

Seems iron-clad to me, Karswell.

Pappy said...

The Gorbal's Vampire...now there's a myth you can really sink your iron teeth into!

Mr. Cavin said...

Honestly I remain unconvinced. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't be surprised if you're right, and this issue did indeed fall into the hands of the wee little darlings. But the point the Glaswegians have been making all along was that US comics were at best an underground thing in Scotland at the time, and that these kids had, in all likelihood, never been in contact with one. I recognize that what I'm saying makes the timing between the story and the comic a coincidence, but I'm cool with that. It's pretty easy to imagine an anthology manga publishing a Japanese story similar to whatever scared me and my friends in the seventies (poisoned aspirin and white vans, nuclear death from the skies, friggin' Jaws). But no matter how much I would have wanted to, I'd have never laid my hands on it.

It seems just as likely to me that the nearby iron foundry (and, indeed, the iron-toothed bogeyman parents used to keep their kids behaving in that area at the time) could give rise to something like this. Vampires are in no way unknown in the British Isles, even to kids deprived of pre-code horror.

Mr. Karswell said...

One other point: no one is doubting the biblical mention, or Alexander Anderson's "Jenny wi' the Airn Teeth" poem from 1879 (see the great Potrzebie blog for more on this), it's all simply a matter of timing-- this issue of Dark Mysteries containing "The Vampire with Iron Teeth" story by Hy Fleishman came out in 1953, the Gorbal's Vampire incident happened one year later. How many incidents prior to 1954 involved groups of Glasgow school children running wild at midnight through a cemetery and hunting a vampire because of a poem or bible verse? Comics were immediately blamed in this case, thus the censorship laws established at that time in Scotland, though "academics" continually argued that "no comic book about a vampire with iron teeth" ever existed, which now we see obviously does, and simply because this issue could not be found, stories of "real" vampires evolved.

goblin said...


Does that mean the teachers and Christians and Communists were right after all?

Horror comics – ruining Scotland's youth since 1954!

Pappy said...

Mr. Cavin's letter, earnest as he is in his "unconvincedness," shows it's just hard to kill a vampire, or at least a good myth.

Perhaps the poem influenced the writer of the story. It's an oddball story, after all, horror theme or not, and you have to wonder where the writer was inspired to come up with the idea for iron teeth.

I don't find it hard to believe at all that this comic is the root of the Gorbals Vampire legend, even if the inspirations for the story go back even further.

Even if American horror comics were "underground" in Scotland at the time, it would have taken just one lad, one copy of DARK MYSTERIES #15, obtained from who-knows-where, but maybe a sailor home from a trip to an American port. It could involve the boy passing around the comic to his chums, starting a rumour at school, and the gullibility of his fellow students. Even though it seems remote it's well within the realm of possibility, and as Karswell points out, the timing is right.

Mr. Cavin said...

Don't get mad at me for playing devil's advocate, okay? You like the devil just fine.

Have you ever heard of the logical fallacy called post hoc ergo propter hoc? It describes the process by which people confuse succession with causality. In other words, people think just because something happened "before" something else, it can be assumed to have "caused" it. I like to beware of this fallacy when I am coming up with easy-looking answers.

I have absolutely no doubt that this comic book story might have influenced those Scottish kids. As a matter of fact, we'd only be talking about the title of this story anyway, actually, since no vampire with iron teeth ever appears here the way the kids imagined it. I can see US comic hearsay making its way into places the experts tell us the issues never got.

But I can also pretty easily imagine a group of children coming up with this on their own. Not based on bible stories or poems--though that's possible--but just because they are kids and make neat stuff up. And I find it pretty damning to the assumption of causality here--that this here comic book did it--if it's true that these kid's parents were recorded as using an iron-toothed bogeyman in cautionary stories they'd tell their children. Or were the parents also influenced by American horror comics from the year before?

Okay, here's some wild free associating: in April 1999, the novel Batoru Rowaiaru (Battle Royale) was published in Japan. It was immediately very popular, eventually also becoming a bestselling manga series and a popular movie. In the book, junior high school students are armed by the government and they compete to kill one another on a secluded island. The very same April, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold armed themselves to the teeth and shot thirty-four people in their Colorado high school. These two facts, in succession, might seem so coincident as to express causality. The Japanese bestseller and the US headline in my example bear more in common than comic story and the campfire bogeyman in the subject of this post. But even though Harris and Klebold could easily have found copies of this synopsis online, there is no evidence that they were aware of it at all.

Frederick said...

A good urban myth is harder to kill than a Terminator, because people love to believe in them. Like the Area 51 myths, no amount of evidence will convince those that there is no conspiracy to cover an alien craft crash. And so on...

Mr. Karswell said...

And Occam's Razor says, "when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better."

I think that holds true for mythology and vampires with iron teeth, too.

Anonymous said...

It's just too bad that the simpler Occam's Razor explanation is that the local legend led to the panic, not an American comic that may or may not have made it to Scotland in time.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I'd be more afraid about kids learning that a guy's plan of getting rid of the vampire by committing genocide on a group of people worked. The only reason this guy got his comeuppance was due to his wife's vanity.

I think it is highly possible that kids in Scotland were influenced by this story. The fact that detractors of that theory were saying that there was no such story about a vampire with metal teeth were wrong makes it possible and it can't be ignored.

I would have loved to see a debate in some room with two guys arguing and someone in the audience pulling this comic book out. Wouldn't the detractor sure feel silly.

Anonymous said...

Considering that bloggers were proven right that there was indeed a housing bubble in the US, in spite of the arguements and ridicule from the mainstream media and the NAR, it does not suprise me in the least that this blog, THOIA, and Karswell would shine light on evidence that yes, there was a comic book dealing with a vampire with iron teeth.

How pleasantly suprising it is that a blogger can find evidence that the mainstream media cannot or will not, or maybe it is just lazy reporters and fact checkers from MSM that are the cause.

(Who says reading comic book blogs are not educational?) ;)

Tim Beard said...

Very interesting story. Never heard this one before.

Pappy said...

I'm not mad at anybody, Mr. Cavin. This is like a few of us sitting around a table, having a beer and a little disagreement over some silly thing. With all the crazy things going on in the world every day that deserve attention, the Gorbals Vampire and a link to American horror comics are good for a few paragraphs in Fortean Times magazine. And some lively discussion in Karswell's blog.

The story is important to me because all of comics history that reaches out beyond its base (i.e., comics fans, comic creators, etc.) is interesting.

Add Roberta Fleishman, her letter, and her connection through her dad, who drew the story! I don't know how much Mr. Fleishman remembers about the story, whether he even knew who wrote it. It was likely just another assignment to him. Then over 50 years later comes news that this might have been the cause of an urban legend. That notches up the interest level to me, as it did for her and her dad.

To finish this up, and then I swear I won't say anything else about the Gorbals Freakin' Vampire or the Vampire With the Freakin' Iron Teeth, I like the connection to the horror comic because I believe it, and I want it to be true.

My mother, bless her bones, would tell me just before I went to sleep if I wanted something bad enough I could have it. Then she'd close the casket lid on me.

Mr. Karswell said...

>Then she'd close the casket lid on me.

Haha, good one Pappy, though I can imagine this does not quite close the casket lid on the Gorbal's Vampire (or Mr. Cavin.)

I sincerely appreciate everyone's comments and thoughts, this has been a very interesting, endlessly surprising, ongoing development for over half a year now for me and THOIA, as well as for artist Hy Fleishman and his wonderful daughter Roberta. But let us remember also, for the Scottish village of Gorbals this has been going on since 1954. I usually don't like to toot my own horn but I really do feel that this Dark Mysteries story is the answer that many people have been looking for, and I do hope this helps lay to rest any lingering vampire theories (both plausible and non) that may still be existing there. I also hope that the BBC at least acknowledges THOIA's efforts in helping shed some light on this incident with their Gorbal's Vampire broadcast next month on Radio Scotland.

If anyone has any additonal thoughts or information on anything related to this story (past, present, or future) please do not hestitate to post it here in the comments, as well as at the original THOIA post from September '09. Thanks again!

Max the drunken severed head said...

Sorry to be late to the commentin party, but I have to tip my hat to swell Karswell! Really interesting find and discussion here.

Mr. Karswell said...

Hy Fleishman's daughter Roberta writes in:

"Just got off the phone with my father and we chatted about the "Vampire With Iron Teeth". He suggested that Yvonne Rae, who wrote a lot of the comic book stories he drew, might have been the 'author' of this story as well. Don't know if her name rings a bell with you, but a little bit of trivia that might be of interest. Saw your post on BBC Scotland!"

Thanks Bobbie! Yvonne Rae's name is not familiar to me, and unfortunantly running a quick writer search on GCD provided no results as well. Maybe it's time she received a credit though?

Unknown said...

Having now read the story, the thing that strikes me is that the vampire doesn't have iron teeth. It's only after she replaces the iron teeth that she becomes a vampire.

Unknown said...

Having gone to Glasgow and seen cemetery and having researched the incident extensively, I think the most probable explanation is that there was a conflation in an imaginative child's mind between the boogie man-like "Iron Man," of the Gorbals, who parents used to try to scare their children from going into the Southern Necropolis, which was filled with low-lives and petty criminals, and the comic story "The Vampire with Iron Teeth." I do find it particularly interesting that the Gorbals had a multi-generational history of monster fighting, be it generic ghosts, banshees, the White Lady, or Spring Heeled Jack. I also think the modern day equivalent of the Gorbals Vampire is Slenderman. You can check out my trilogy of graphic novels inspired by The Gorbals Vampire incident, The Children's Vampire Hunting Brigade on Kickstarter here: http://kck.st/2GccnGg