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The Halifax Slasher

~ Man or Myth? ~

 

 

In 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 shoes.


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.

 

The incidents were considered serious enough to warrant detectives from Scotland Yard being called in to assist in the investigation.

 

Timetable of events:

  • 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 Gibbet.

  • 27th November ~ Fred Baldwin attacked outside the Standard of Freedom, Copley, by a group of drunken vigilantes.

  • 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 macintosh'.

    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.

After 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.

 

On the 2nd of December the Halifax Courier ran the following story:

 

'Carry 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...'

 

This case is now considered a classic example of how a society can go briefly insane with fear of some unknown menace...

 

Information obtained from -

'The Halifax Slasher: An urban terror in the North of England'

Author: Michael Goss / Pub: Fortean Times 1987.

 

and 'Weird Calderdale'

Author: Paul Weatherhead / Pub: Tom Bell Publishing

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