On a low but prominent hill in Glasgow, Scotland, you will find the Glasgow Necropolis. This Victorian garden cemetery looks a lot like the Parisian Père Lachaise Cemetery. There are about 3,500 monuments here of which 32 are Grade A listed. The variety of trees, plants and animals give a peaceful feel to the place. But that has been quite different in the past.
The history of Glasgow Necropolis
The Glasgow Necropolis is originally known as Fir Park and is located on a piece of land which was purchased by the Merchant’s House in 1650. At first, the church was responsible for burying the dead, but soon there was a growing need for an alternative. Glagow’s population was growing rapidly and fewer people attended church. This change required a change in law to allow burial for profit.
The location for the new cemetery was quickly found. In 1831, a competition in the local newspaper was held to design the new cemetery. Sixteen plans were submitted. The first prize was won by David Bryce. His brother, John Bryce won second place. The Glasgow Necropolis was the first garden cemetery in Scotland. In September 1832, the first person was buried in the Jewish section of the cemetery.
About the Glasgow Necropolis
The cemetery is 37 acres (15 ha) large and lies to the east of Glasgow Cathedral. About 50,000 people are buried here, but not all have a tombstone. This was quite common back in those days. A statue of John Knox overlooks the entire cemetery from the top of the hill. This statue was built in 1825 and several grave monuments are built around it. The main entrance is approached by a bridge which was designed by David Hamilton.
This bridge is nicknamed the “Bridge of Sighs”, because it was part of the funeral procession route. There are 180 species of plants and trees at Glasgow Necropolis and it’s very attractive to animals. Roe deer, rabbits, grey squirrels, bats and wood mice are its living residents. But, according to many, it’s also the place where another creature resides.
The Gorbals Vampire
One September evening in 1954, police constable Alex Deeprose was called to the Glasgow Necropolis. What he found shocked him: over 200 young children wandered the cemetery grounds. They were all armed with stakes, knives and some even brought dogs. After his first shock, Deeprose decided it was time for the kids to leave, but they were with too many for him alone. The hunt lasted for hours because of this and only ended when it started to rain. Later he found out the children were on a vampire hunt. According to the children, two boys had been brutally murdered by what they called the Gorbals Vampire. The vampire with the iron teeth.
Yes, the children had a mission: to slay the 7 ft tall vampire. The story appeared in the local newspaper and soon gained worldwide coverage. Some young vampire hunters were interviewed, like Tam Smith (aged 7) and Ronnie Sanderson (aged 8). Both still recall that night well. To this day, they claim they have seen figures roaming the cemetery grounds that night. Smoke and flames caused by the nearby steelworks might have added a bit to the eerie atmosphere. Tam and Ronnie say it all started on the school’s playground. The rumor of the two murdered boys spread like an oil stain and when the children didn’t find help with their parents, they decided to go after the vampire with the iron teeth themselves.
According to the police, there was no account of two missing boys at the time. So, what drove the children for their hunt? There are some explanations for that. One of which is the tale of “Jenny wi’ the airn teeth”. This sharp toothed hag was said to haunt Glasgow Green since the beginning of the 19th century. Jenny would creep up behind her victim, sink her metal jaw in them and eat them for supper. Of course, this was just a tale to keep children from running away from home. But, to the children that were on the hunt that evening in 1954, it was very real.
The iron toothed vampire could also have come from a passage in the Bible. Daniel 7:7 says: “Behold a fourth beast dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth”. But, parents, Christians, Communists and The National Union of Teachers were convinced this all was to blame on American horror comics. The campaign even reached parliament and resulted in the 1955 Children and Young Persons Act being passed. This law still stands today.
The lady in white, the boy and the moving statues
Glasgow Necropolis is also haunted by a lady in white. She has been seen by several people. Ghost hunters recently claimed to have seen the apparition of a boy near one of the monuments and the statues are rumored to change facial expressions from time to time. Disembodied voices have been picked up as well. The cemetery is haunted, alright!
Glasgow Necropolis today
Guided tours are provided daily at Glasgow Necropolis. These tours will take you along some of the most prominent statues and their stories. Ghost tours are available as well. Let’s hope this Covid-pandamic is over soon so we can explore for ourselves!
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Cover photo: Theasis via Getty Images
Sources: wikipedia, glasgownecropolis.org.uk, amyscrypt.com, glasgowlive.co.uk, ebooksvisitscotland.com, thescotsman.com and dangerousminds.net
Address: Castle St, Glasgow G4 0UZ, United Kingdom