Monday, September 26, 2011

Nothing in the Dark

 In 1938, Halifax, England, was in the grip of terror. The frightened townspeople locked themselves in during the night and shops and taverns were closed down. The local police, together with Scotland Yard, prowled the alleyways and streets along with gangs of hard-edged vigilantes. 

A maniac was on the loose and no one could rest until he was caught.

In November 16th, two women, Mary Gledhill and Gertrude Watts, went to the police and described a narrow escape from a crazed man wielding a hammer. Their descriptions were vague, save that he wore shiny buckled shoes. News of the attack spread quickly and the town grew anxious. Five days later, police received a visit from one Mary Sutcliffe who tearfully told them that she had been attacked by a man armed with a razor. Other reports came in afterwards and Halifax exploded. The local newspapers shrieked warnings of the "Halifax Slasher" and more witnesses and near-victims came forward every day. Some accounts described a man armed with a hammer and others said he held a knife or straight razor. As their search turned up nothing, police offered a sizable reward for information leading the Slasher.  The drunken men of Halifax formed gangs to patrol the streets, and several innocent men were beaten after being mistaken for the elusive boogeyman. News of similar attacks came from nearby Bradford and Manchester. The town was at the boiling point. And then one of the victims came forward with a startling announcement:

His wounds were self-inflicted.

The manhunt had been unsuccessful, not due to some incredible cunning on behalf of the Slasher, but rather because there was never any Slasher in the first place. The whole story was a lie that was embellished upon by each subsequent "victim" until all of Halifax was in a frenzy. The newspapers that had capitalized on the Slasher scare made a quick about-face and happily informed their readers that there was no killer after all. Still, even after police had closed the case, reports of lunatics with razors and hammers were surfacing in towns as far away as London.

Tall-tales die hard, it seems.

But don't take my word for it!
-You can read about it in a book.


  1. The first paragraph could be the start of a tale about werewolves.