A group of children riding their bikes while wearing gas masks, late 1930s.
By the time 1939 rolled around in Britain somewhere in the neighborhood of 38 million gas masks had been delivered by hand to homes in the event of a gas-related attack. On September 1,1939, Germany had invaded Poland leaving Britain and France with little choice but to declare war on Germany in order to help stop the advancement of Hitler’s military.
The masks were made to be portable, a rather terrifying aspect of what had become a way of life in Britain during wartime. In order to try to take away some of the fear regarding the omnipresent notion that bombs full of toxic gas could at any moment start raining from the sky to the din of air raid sirens, masks for children were manufactured to be more appealing to kids. In addition to making colorful masks Walt Disney even got in on the gas mask game and designed a “Mickey Mouse” gas mask in 1942. Only about 1,000 of Disney’s offputting Mouse masks were made.
During wartime it was also commonplace for schools to run emergency drills and there is almost nothing more chilling than the photographs taken during such drills that show children, some still clearly in diapers holding hands while wearing gas masks. Unless of course you consider that hospitals would also run drills and were instrumental in helping teach caregivers and parents of how to put their infants into special “baby gas respirators” that covered everything but the baby’s legs.
An image of a baby enclosed within the confines of a gas mask can never been unseen. So as crazy as this world has gotten over the course of this last year or so, the photos in this post are a somber reminder that things can always be (and used to be) much worse. Have some perspective.
Nurses in Britain helping test out gas masks for babies (under the age of two), 1940.
A group of mothers with their infants inside their gas masks.
For three nights the children came to the “City of the Dead.” They carried knives, clubs and stakes—even a crucifix. Two hundred or more children came to the Gorbals Necropolis—a large cemetery situated in the south of the city of Glasgow. They were aged between four and fourteen. A few were just toddlers accompanying older brothers on this terrifying hunt. There was a sense of excitement. A sense of danger. Some thought it thrilling. Others were terrified. Most set with a grim determination of what had to be done. They said they were ready—they knew they were ready. Ready to hunt and kill a vampire.
In September of 1954 the children from the Gorbals district of Glasgow were terrorized by tales of a hideous vampire. A ghoulish beast, he was supposedly seven feet tall with blood red eyes and sharp iron teeth. The children called this creature the Gorbals Vampire. They said it had already killed two young boys—drinking their blood and feasting on their flesh. The police refused to comment but when pressed claimed they had no knowledge of these missing children or the vampire who had eaten them. But the children thought they knew better…
Tales and half-truths spread word-of-mouth: Wee Jimmy had heard it from Rab; and Rab heard it from Billy; and Billy should know ‘cause his cousin’s a policeman.
On September 23rd, police constable Alex Deeprose was called to a disturbance at the Gorbals “City of the Dead”—the Southern Necropolis. PC Deeprose was shocked on arrival to find up to 200 kids roaming the graves looking for signs of a vampire. At first, he thought the children were joking—but when they begged him to help find the vampire and drive a stake through its heart, he realized that this was no joke.
Tam Smith was a seven-year-old schoolboy at the time. He recalled the scene in a newspaper interview:
“The walls were lined with people. We ventured through the gatehouse and there were loads of kids in there, some wandering around, some sitting on the walls. There were a lot of dogs too, and mums and dads with kids.
“We found a place to stand out of the way because there were so many people there. I think the whole of the Gorbals was in that graveyard. It’s hard to put an estimate on the number of people.”
But what had caused so many people to believe there was a vampire in their midst? Ronnie Sanderson was an eight-year-old from the Gorbals when the vampire story first spread through the city:
“It all started in the playground - the word was there was a vampire and everyone was going to head out there after school. At three o’clock the school emptied and everyone made a beeline for it. We sat there for ages on the wall waiting and waiting. I wouldn’t go in because it was a bit scary for me.”
“I think somebody saw someone wandering about and the cry went up: ‘There’s the vampire!’ That was it - that was the word to get off that wall quick and get away from it.”
“I just remember scampering home to my mother: ‘What’s the matter with you?’ ‘I’ve seen a vampire!’ and I got a clout round the ear for my trouble. I didn’t really know what a vampire was.”
The vampire hunt and the story of the two missing children spread panic across the city. Still, the police had no report of any missing children. At the local school the headmaster denounced the story as nonsense and warned children against believing such a ridiculous tale, but the following night and the night after that the Gorbals children came out in force looking to kill a vampire.
The press picked up on the story. “AMAZING SCENE AS HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN RUSH CEMETERY” ran one headline. The Gorbals Vampire was dismissed as an urban myth—an example of mass hysteria. The press began to investigate how this fiction of the murderous bloodsucking monster came about. They claimed American comic books like Tales From The Crypt and The Vault of Horror were responsible. These comics with their graphic tales and gruesome imagery were the cause of the mass panic. Yet some academics disagreed stating they had found no reference to any iron toothed vampire in either comic. Instead they claimed there was “a monster with iron teeth in the Bible (Daniel 7.7) and one in a poem taught in local schools.”
Then another story spread about a woman—most probably a witch—who was said to be in league with the Gorbals Vampire:
“There was an old lady who used to carry two cats in a basket. She would go to the graveyard to get peace away from the kids and let her cats have a wander. But she was in there the night we went looking for it and people were involving the ‘cat woman’ with the iron man. It was a shame when you think about it, she was an eccentric with wiry hair, but we called her Tin Lizzie. She was the iron man’s ‘burd’.”
In fact, the press were half right. The story of an iron-tooth vampire had been inspired by an American comic—but not Tales from the Crypt or Vault of Horror—rather Dark Mysteries.
In issue the December 1953 issue of Dark Mysteries #15 there was a story entitled: “The Vampire with the Iron Teeth.” This was the apparent source of the panic over the Gorbals Vampire.
The suggestion that “nasty” American comic books were corrupting young children led to an unholy alliance between teachers, Communists and religious leaders to demand a ban on sales of comics like Tales from the Crypt and the Vault of Horror to children.
Yet our two eyewitnesses to the events of September 1954 have said they had never seen a horror movie or read a horror comic.
On September 26th, 1954, the Sunday Mail newspaper ran the following story:
Hey America! Here’s a wild Donald Trump-inspired playlist that all the hip kids are tuning into! I did an expanded version of this on my Intoxica radio show on Luxuriamusic.com. This should keep you in “the mood” until the debate!
And here we go!
More Trump-inspired music for all you hepcats and pussycats after the jump…
Writing in Vintage Sleaze, Jim Linderman describes Pages of Death as the story of a teenage boy who “hung out reading pornography at Baker’s Variety Store until he couldn’t stand it any longer and murdered a girl in a whipped up frenzy of smut inspired rage.”
Two self-righteous, anti-smut-crusading, Dragnet-esque police detectives investigate the “sex fiend” murder of an eleven-year-old girl. The trail leads them to the rec-room of a teenage boy and his extensive porn stash. BUSTED.
The cops pay a visit to the shop owner to let him know he’s culpable in the young girl’s murder for peddling smut. Wrap-around segments narrated by Heisman Trophy winner, Tom Harmon deliver the Citizens for Decent Literature‘s over-the-top message that nudie magazines turn young men into raging sex maniacs. The exact same stock music Ed Wood used for Plan 9 From Outer Space plays over the soundtrack during the investigation.
Pages of Death is a hilariously dated exercise in nostalgic sex-paranoia that has been described as the “Reefer Madness of porn.” The Oregon Historical Society should be commended for making this lost classic available to the public.
Snuff started life as Slaughter, a dire exploitation film shot in 1971 by husband and wife filmmakers Michael and Roberta Findlay. The Findlays were prodigious in the field of exploitation. Whether working apart or together, they churned out films to meet current trends in the market, so cheap it was nigh impossible they could lose any money. One early production that Michael worked on (without Roberta) was Satan’s Bed (1965), starring the unknown Yoko Ono. The rest is a succession of cheese and grindhouse sleaze, including roughies like Body of a Female (1964) and horror pictures like Shriek of the Mutilated (1974). Slaughter was exceptionally bad, however. It fell between the cracks. Indeed, the film’s producer, exploitation specialist Allan Shackleton, had almost given up on it when he got the idea to film a new ending and precipitate its release as Snuff with a scurrilous marketing campaign.
Scrubbing all references to the Findlays’ movie, Shackleton removed the original title and credits and adopted a new title — Snuff, as in ‘snuff film’. Shackleton was ready to scratch a legend into the annals of exploitation history with a stunt comparable to the War of the Worlds radio broadcast, Orson Welles’ play that convinced 1938 America that Martians were invading Earth. Now, Snuff was primed to electrify the imaginations of a new generation, same as the old generation.
The next move was to engineer additional footage (running a little under five-and-a-half minutes) and splice it onto what was left of Slaughter. For this task, Shackleton hired Simon Nuchtern, a jobbing director with a handful of not altogether remarkable movies to his name.
In the newly-edited Slaughter, the scene cuts away to reveal the new material: A studio set with actors caught in the moment. Surrounding the actors are the trappings of movie making, including one archetypal bulldozing director.
The director confides to a pretty production assistant that the last take “was dynamite. That was a gory scene and it really turned me on.” She confesses it turned her on, too.
What follows is a stupefying descent into madness, and for the tawdry movie of the last seventy-odd minutes a contrivance as daft as it is unexpected. The director, wearing a t-shirt that bears the slogan VIVA LA MUERTE (Long live death), begins to lean on the girl. “Why don’t you and I go to the bed and get turned on… turn each other on, mm?”
“What about all these people watching?” she asks.
“Give ’em just a minute, they’re gonna be gone.”
Still in long shot, still in whispers, the director and girl engage in a little light petting on the prop bed. Contrary to leaving, however, the other people in the room slowly focus their attention on the couple, including the cameraman and soundman.
Point of view of the cameraman as the couple grope and fondle; the girl’s startled face as she suddenly becomes aware that the camera is on them.
“What are you doing? Are you filming this? They’re filming it!”
The girl struggles to free herself from the director’s pawing. “Don’t worry about it,” he says.
“Just move a little back up here — ”
“You’re crazy!” Scared.
“ — right back up here.”
“Let me go!”
“Shaddap!” Then to the crew he says, “Do all of you wanna get a good scene?”
Cutaway to the crew and affirmation.
“Okay… watch yourself… watch …”
“Let me up!”
“Let me go! You’re crazy!”
The director calls for assistance. A member of the crew expressionlessly complies, holding the girl’s arms down on the bed, while the director reaches for a knife.
“You’re crazy. You’re not serious. You’re not really gonna do it,” the girl pleads.
“You don’t think so?”
“Think I’ll kill her…”
The director slices through the girl’s blouse and across her shoulder. Blood (the colour of raspberries) oozes from the wound. She writhes and hollers.
“Scream, go on, scream!” the director demands. “That’s it, scream!”
The screaming becomes a pathetic sob.
Exasperated, he bellows, “STOP!! You want to play!?”
Following a few minutes of spectacular, if hardly convincing violence, the frame runs to leader-tape, then blackness. A whisper punctuates the void: “Shit, shit… we ran out of film.”
Another voice whispers: “Did you get it — did you get it all?”
“Yeah, we got it all.”
“Let’s get outta here.”
The sound of breathing. Ends.
The movie did not premiere with any of its stars in attendance (after all, they were supposed to be dead), nor did it boast any local luminaries. Not many people attended the premiere at all. Sixteen people in total turned out for the first evening show at 6pm. A uniformed security guard was on hand to make sure no one below the age of eighteen was admitted.
Ticket price notwithstanding, Monarch stuck to their original campaign and public awareness of the movie increased. By the time Snuff left Indianapolis it was already picking up momentum. More than 300 people attended the film’s opening night at the Orpheum Theater in Wichita, Kansas, on January 30. Many of those in attendance were “laughing instead of moaning”, reported a theater spokesman. Shackleton was driving the print of the film in his car from one engagement to another on its route to New York, ballyhooing it at every turn. Having traveled from Cincinnati to St Paul, he witnessed people being turned away from the box office of the Strand Theater on the day of its St Paul premiere, February 20. Pickets and adverse press weren’t only conspiring to stop him in this instance: The theater itself had been closed down by police the day before the scheduled screening, pending a matter of theater licensing. The resourceful Shackleton simply packed Snuff back into his trunk and drove across the river to Minneapolis, where it played an impromptu engagement at the American Theater, fittingly an X-rated movie house, complete with ads proclaiming its ‘ban’ in St Paul.
The trailer—not really all that safe for work—for Shackleton’s ‘Snuff’
The Adult Film Association of America was not happy with Snuff. Not surprising really. Formed in 1969 to protect the interests of those involved in the production, distribution and exhibition of adult motion pictures, the AFAA fought against negative representation, which included among other things child exploitation and rumours of so-called snuff films. Shackleton, hitherto a member of the AFAA, was unceremoniously kicked out of the organization because of Snuff.
Aware that it was all a gimmick and that no one was actually killed in Snuff, the AFAA nevertheless took pains to distance itself from the film. It was the sort of attention they didn’t need. President Vince Miranda, owner of the Pussycat Theater chain, announced that AFAA member theaters would not be screening it. But by and large, Snuff circumvented adult theaters anyway and played the regular houses. The AFAA unwittingly played into Shackleton’s hands when its members joined picket lines on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. “We called a press conference to say the film was a phoney,” recalled AFAA chairman David Friedman, “and that we were proud to say we would not show it.” But the AFAA were not the only group protesting Snuff. Women’s groups were also up in arms.
The absurdity of a theatrical motion picture that dabbled in actual murder (of a crew member, no less) was lost on some; likewise, that such a movie, supposedly having been ‘smuggled’ into the country, should turn up in New York City and openly promote itself on Times Square and around the country. It didn’t matter because lobby groups still protested against it, media still arrived to document the protestations, and officials continued to look into the matter.
But the protests outside the National Theater, which included the presence of ‘high profile’ FBI agents, didn’t stop the movie grossing over $300,000 during its first eight weeks and it certainly didn’t halt the publicity, which shifted into gears possibly beyond the expectation of even Allan Shackleton. Snuff was a rampaging publicity monster.
Killing for Culture available now in special edition—out in paperback next year. And below you can check out the official new Killing For Culture documentary, The Death Illusion: Murder, Cinema & the Myth of Snuff, directed by David Hinds and written and narrated by occasional Dangerous Mind Thomas McGrath.
The great film director Ken Russell once remarked that if he had been born in Italy and called, say, “Russellini” then critics would have thrown bouquets at his feet. He was correct as Russell’s worst critics were generally slow-witted, myopic beasts, lacking in imagination and untrustworthy in their judgement.
Take for example the critic Alexander Walker who once dismissed Russell’s masterpiece The Devils as:
...the masturbatory fantasies of a Roman Catholic boyhood.
Walker was being petty and spiteful. He was also badly misinformed. Russell was not born a Catholic, he became one in his twenties and was lapsed by the time he made The Devils. More damningly, if Walker had taken a moment to make himself cognisant with Russell’s source material—a successful West End play by John Whiting commissioned by Sir Peter Hall for the Royal Shakespeare Company or its precursor the non-fiction book The Devils of Loudon by Aldous Huxley—then he would have realised Russell’s film was based on historical fact and his so-called excesses were very tame compared to the recorded events. However, Walker’s waspish comments became his claim to fame—especially after he was royally slapped by Russell with a rolled-up copy of his review on a TV chat show in 1971—Russell later said he wished it had been an iron bar rather than a newspaper.
Oliver Reed as Grandier and Vanessa Redgrave as Sister Jeanne rehearse under the watchful eye of Ken Russell.
The Devils is the story of a priest named Urbain Grandier and his battle against the ambitions of Church and State to eradicate the independence of the French town of Loudon. In a bid to have this troublesome priest silenced, Grandier was tried for sorcery after a confession was brutally extracted from a nun, Sister Jeanne, who claimed he was an emissary of the Devil. Grandier was acquitted of all charges but a second show trial found him guilty and he was tortured and burnt at the stake. Russell described Grandier’s case as “the first well-documented political trial in history.”
There were others, of course, going back to Christ, but this had a particularly modern ring to it which appealed to me. He was also like many of my heroic characters…great despite himself. Most of the people in my films are taken by surprise, like [the dancer] Isadora Duncan and [the composer] Delius. They’re out of step with their times and their society, but nevertheless manage to produce rather extraordinary changes in attitude and events. This was exactly Grandier’s situation. He was a minor priest who was used as a fall guy in a political conflict, who lost his life and his battle but won the war.
After that they [the Church and State] couldn’t go on doing what they were doing in quite the same way, and around that time  the Church did begin to lose its power. Twenty years later no one could have been burned as a witch in France. The people of Loudon realised too late that this man they knew so well simply couldn’t have been guilty of the things he was charged with, and if they hadn’t been so bemused by the naked nun sideshow that was going on and the business and prosperity it brought to the town, they’d have realised it sooner. So the fall guy achieved as much in the end as if he had been a saint. And to me that’s just what he is.
Though Russell was on a high after his international success with the Oscar-winning Women in Love (1969) starring Glenda Jackson, Alan Bates, Oliver Reed and Jennie Linden, and The Music Lovers (1970) a flamboyant biopic on the life of Tchaikovsky with Richard Chamberlain and Glenda Jackson, he had found it difficult to find a backer for The Devils. Original producers United Artists pulled out, leaving Russell “out on a limb: having written a script and commissioned set designs from Derek Jarman and costume designs from Shirley Russell.
It would have been a disaster to scrap all that work. Bob Solo, the producer, who had spent years getting the rights to Huxley’s book and Whiting’s play started looking around for another backer, but it took four months of offering the package before Warner Brothers agreed to have a go.
Russell’s script was considered too long and cuts were made. He had originally made Sister Jeanne the focus of his story, following the nun through her involvement in Grandier’s execution to her career as a star:
I suppose it’s the film that turned out most like I wanted it to, though I would have liked to carry the story further to show what happened to [Cardinal] Richelieu and Sister Jeanne. At the end de Laubardemont says “You’re stuck in this convent for life”, but as soon as he’d gone Jeanne set about getting out because her brief moment of notoriety had whetted her appetite for more. So she gouged a couple of holes in her hands and pretended she had the stigmata, saw ‘visions’ and, with the help of Sister Agnes, gulled some old priest into thinking she was the greatest lady since the Virgin Mary.
So she and Agnes went on a jaunt all over France and were hailed with as much fervour as show biz personalities and pop stars are received today. In Paris 30,000 people assembled outside of her hotel just in the chance of getting a glimpse of her. She became very friendly with Richelieu, the King and Queen wined and dined her, she had a grand old time. When she died—I particularly wanted to include this scene—they cut off her head and put it in a glass casket and stuck it on the altar in her own convent. People came on their knees from miles around to pay her homage.
More from Ken Russell and ‘The Devils’ including special documentary, photospread and Oliver Reed interview, after the jump…
Yep, this apparently happened in the year 2015 when an Oklahoma Pre-K teacher allegedly accused a 4-year-old little boy of being “evil,” “sinister,” and “unlucky” all because he’s left-handed. Little Zayde was actually sent home with a letter about how left-handedness “is often associated with evil and the devil.”
Picture of letter sent home with 4-year-old Zayde. Courtesy: Alisha
What the actual hell? The news report below sums up everything nicely. You’ll be shocked that this 15th century superstitious nonsense is still happening in 2015.
Kathleen Tonn, a failed, former Republican U.S. Senate candidate who gained infamy briefly for displaying her “gift” of speaking in tongues, decided to wave a tampon around as she addressed city officials in Anchorage, Alaska, last night in a nonsensical anti-gay rights rant. Tonn carried a briefcase full of props into to the meeting of the Anchorage assembly. She pulled a Bible from her case and said “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. You like my trumpet? It’s a sound heard around the world.”
“Since one of my brethren introduced the King James Bible, since I represent the Lord Jesus Christ the great I am, I’m going to add to your public document and your public record from the public document of the great I am,” Tonn told baffled officials.
“Starting with, oh my — a tampon,” she said, pulling a feminine hygiene product from between the pages of her Bible. “Reminds me that little girls in pubescence get periods — female girls.”
Tonn, who is probably best known for a video she posted online showing herself fully clothed and speaking in tongues in a sauna, then angrily read a lengthy passage from the Second Epistle of Peter describing God’s wrathful judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah.
“Now, since you want to create some ordinance to avoid discrimination for members of our community who engage in, I perceive, unhealthy, ungodly behavior, you might want to consider creating an ordinance for one who speaks in tongues.”
Or perhaps summoning a van where people wearing all white uniforms bring you a nice comfy straightjacket and forcibly medicate you?
Dick Traini, the assembly chairman finally said “Ma’am, your time is up. Thank you for your testimony.”
Amateur sketch of Lizard Man by its first recorded eyewitness, Christopher Davis.
A South Carolina woman came forward to the media on Sunday to report a spotting of the legendary swamp creature known as “Lizard Man” and has provided photographic evidence of the sighting.
The woman, identified only as “Sarah” by WCIV ABC News 4, says she “went to church with a friend Sunday morning, [and] stepped out of the sanctuary to see the Lizard Man running along the tree line.”
“My hand to God, I am not making this up,” she wrote in an email to the news station.
WCIV reported her claim as well as the cellphone photo she submitted:
Photo of the Lizard Man taken by South Carolina’s “Sarah.”
The cryptid, known as “The Lee County Lizard Man” or “The Bishopville Lizard Man” or “The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp,” was first reported in 1988 by 17-year-old Christopher Davis. Driving home from work around 2:00 a.m., Davis had to stop near Scape Ore Swamp to change a flat tire. As he was finishing up, he reported having heard a thumping noise from behind and turned to see a seven-foot-tall bipedal creature running towards him. Davis said it had glowing red eyes, green skin, and three clawed fingers on each hand. Davis said the creature tried to grab at his car and then jumped on its roof as he tried to escape—clinging on as Davis swerved from side to side. Davis’ side-view mirror was found to be badly damaged, and scratch marks were found on the car’s roof. After Davis’ tale was reported, others came forward with their own accounts of the beast. According to former Lee County sheriff Liston Truesdale, at least twelve witnesses have come forward.
On July 30, 1990, Bertha Blythers and her five children witnessed a strange creature near Scape Ore Swamp lunge toward the passenger side of their car. In a statement given to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Bertha described the creature as being tall, wide, and having “two arms like a human.” “I never seen anything like it before,” she told the police. “It wasn’t a deer or a bear. It was definitely not a person either.”
Sales of Lizard Man-related merchandise, along with a lucrative speed trap (one I’ve had personal experience with) are major sources of revenue for impoverished Bishopville/Lee County.
This latest sighting is sure to boost the local Bishopville economy, and if nothing else, proves that local TV affiliates (as well as Dangerous Minds) will report on anything. Going only by “Sarah”‘s photo, we’re wondering if the Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp might possibly be a Sleestak.
Here’s a short documentary on the Lizard Man:
And this song by R Logan tells the tale of the creature: