A Trip Through Paranormal Newsprint by M J Steel Collins

Going through newspaper archives can turn up some forgotten paranormal gems, as anyone who knows the work of Charles Fort is aware. It’s an interesting experiment if you are on the hunt for little known ghost stories; on the whole, they only seem to get one or two mentions, but all the same they are intriguing. A trek through the Glasgow papers of yore is a case in point, despite the article from The Glasgow Herald from December 1953 claiming that the city seems to have no ghosts at all. Indeed, a quick look through old Herald editions sees the newspaper contradict itself several times.

I kept my focus on stories from the mid 20thcentury; so much was happening in Glasgow during this time, it seems that the supernatural was a little over shadowed. Apart from the recovery of Joe Fagan from stomach cancer that had him literally minutes from death, there aren’t many tales of the unusual in Glasgow at this time. Joe Fagan’s story is one to be told another day (and it certainly will – it’s a cracker). In the meantime, we have these little gems.
The earliest report comes from The Glasgow Herald of October 29, 1923. Talk of strange happenings in a room and kitchen tenement flat in the Cowcaddens area resulted in two police officers being posted at the close door of the flat to keep a large crowd from entering the building. Weird rappings had been heard inside the flat, which were investigated extensively by both the police and spiritualists. Another group of spiritualists were turned away by the police guarding the close after arriving with the intention of carrying out a séance in the flat. There is no word on the outcome, but it’s more than likely that the tenement block concerned was demolished during Glasgow’s slum clearances, which saw most Cowcaddens completely flattened.
An editorial in the same newspaper some decades later on July 14, 1958, recounts rather tongue-in-cheek, the experiences of three US students who gave up their tenement flat in Gibson Street, near Glasgow University, because of a suspected poltergeist. Whilst their neighbours reported not encountering anything uncanny, the students apparently heard two incoherent disembodied voices, and witnessed their breadboards and eggs go flying off the kitchen workspace. One of the students approached the radio, only for it to switch off by itself. The editorial notes a number of things which could have accounted for it, implying that what the students were experiencing was just the normal noise and rumblings of Glasgow tenement life, to which they were unaccustomed. This included neighbours coming home, buses in the street and cats marauding through the close. Though, it’s dubious this switched the radio off! The same article also mentions the experience of the reporter’s English friend, who apparently had regular conversations with a disembodied voice in their flat in Woodside, not far from Gibson St. Clearly, it was all taken with a pinch of salt.
A retrospective of Glasgow ghosts, appearing in the Evening Times in March 1989, has the intriguing tale of another tenement poltergeist. Originally appearing in the now defunct Glasgow Evening Citizen in 1968, the story centred on an entity which terrified a young married couple to the extent that they fled their flat in Mansfield Street, Partick. A curious point of note is that Partick seems to be the polt hang out in Glasgow; a number of cases have been reported in that area. The couple in this particular incident, Mary Hanlon and her husband Lachlan, a 30 year old shipyard worker (in this town, not the type that scare easily), agreed to return to their flat with journalist Jim Brown in order to prove to their mocking friends and family they weren’t making it up. Previously, a policeman witnessed Lachlan being thrown screaming from his chair. The Hanlons were a little reluctant to return. To start the night, Lachlan sat close by the fire, reading aloud from parts of the Bible. He shivered and edged closer and closer to the heat, to the extent that Jim Brown thought he must have been overheating, but Lachlan was cold to the touch. The poltergeist was more active whenever someone was in the bed recess, where two years earlier, a previous elderly tenant was found dying. Brown asked Mary to go into the recess, but she refused. The reporter then turned out the lights to see what would happen. A bizarre light appeared in the bed recess, just above the bed. The lights were switched back on when Mary started to scream. Afterwards, things were quiet until 2 AM, when the letter box began to rattle. After that they left the flat at the Hanlon’s insistence. As yet, it’s unclear what happened next. Today, Mansfield Street has been regenerated and forms part of the fashionable end of Partick.
Finally, another tale which appeared in The Glasgow Herald on December 15 1978, is a rather vague account of a family in Mosspark, who were moved to a new house. Now, according to the housing dept, the family were moved because they reported supernatural activity in the house, which included an appearance from the Blessed Virgin Mary. The father himself disputed this when approached by the newspaper, stating that the reason they had moved was because of extreme damp, not ghosts or holy visions.

Thanks to Michael S Collins who helped unearth some of these from the archives.


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