November 1938, Halifax was host to a series of reported attacks
on local people, by a mysterious dark figure, who became known as
the 'Halifax Slasher' (although the attacks included assault by
knife, razor and hammer). According to one report, the 'attacker'
was said to have one distinctive feature - bright buckles on his
These attacks, which took place over a period of ten days, resulted
in a widespread panic with the town all but shut for business, rewards
being offered and vigilante gangs roaming the streets and several
men, wrongly mistaken for the attacker, were beaten up as a result.
Reported attacks came from all over the district including Elland
and later parts of Lancashire also reported attacks. Even Scouts
manned telephone kiosks in the hope of stopping the criminal.
incidents were considered serious enough to warrant detectives from
Scotland Yard being called in to assist in the investigation.
- 16th November ~ The first reported
'attack', came from two girls, Mary Gledhill and Gertrude Watts,
who claimed they were 'attacked' by a man wielding a mallet, in
the Old Bank Lane, Ripponden.
- 21st November ~ The next reported
'attack', was of Mary Sutcliffe, who said she was 'attacked' in
Lister Lane. This was to be the first of the 'slasher' incidents.
Subsequent attacks followed;
- 24th November ~ in Jasper Street,
Clayton Aspinall 'attacked' outside the School of Art.
- 25th November ~ Elland Lane, Elland,
Percy Waddington was 'attacked' outside his own shop.
- 25th November ~ Hilda Lodge 'attacked'
in Green Lane, also Clifford Edwards attacked by a vigilante mob.
- 27th November ~ Beatrice Sorrel
'attacked' in Bedford Street North, close to Halifax's famous
- 27th November ~ Fred Baldwin attacked
outside the Standard of Freedom, Copley, by a group of drunken
- 29th November ~ Margaret Kenny
'attacked' at Dean Clough Mill by a 'well-built man with a broad
face, wearing very lightweight shoes and what felt like a dirty
Also there were two other attacks that
took place on the 29th November, Mary Sutcliffe was 'attacked'
for a second time, outside her home in Allerton Lane, Winifred
McCall was also 'attacked' near Union Square Church.
The same evening saw reported 'attacks' in Manchester and Bradford,
however a confession by Percy Waddington just before midnight
effectively ended the panic.
- 30th November ~ An 'attack' by
a 'dark figure' on Nellie Widdop in Villiers Street, Halifax was
immediately dismissed as were reported of Slasher attacks from
Glasgow and London over the next two nights.
the Yard's detectives had examined the case, they came to the conclusion
that there was no 'Slasher' attacker. The majority of the 'victims'
admitted that their wounds were self-inflicted. Five local people
were subsequently charged with public mischief offences and four
were subsequently sent to prison.
the 2nd of December the Halifax Courier ran the following
on Halifax! The Slasher scare is over... The theory that a half-crazed,
wild-eyed man has been wandering around, attacking helpless women
in dark streets, is exploded... There never was, nor is there likely
to be, any real danger to the general public. There is no doubt
that following certain happenings public feeling has grown, and
that many small incidents have been magnified in the public mind
until a real state of alarm was caused. This assurance that there
is no real cause for alarm, in short, no properly authenticated
wholesale attacks by such a person as the bogy man known as the
'Slasher', should allay the public fear...'
case is now considered a classic example of how a society can go
briefly insane with fear of some unknown menace...
obtained from -
Halifax Slasher: An urban terror in the North of England'
Michael Goss / Pub: Fortean Times 1987.
and 'Weird Calderdale'
Author: Paul Weatherhead / Pub: Tom Bell Publishing