Published: Jinty 22 December 1979 – 21 November 1981 (final issue)
Artist: Hugh Thornton-Jones
Translations/reprints: None known
In the vein of “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” and “The Jinx from St. Jonah’s” is this regular humour strip, which lasted from 1979 right up until Jinty’s final issue. At 96 episodes, Gloomy Ghost had a respectable innings, though not as long as Fun-Bag or Katie Jinx.
Jinty was not high on ghost stories, so there is some irony that her last regular humour strip is one to star a ghost, and also use ghosts and hauntings to raise loads of laughs with readers.
Our story begins at Stoney Hall, and initially there are three ghosts. They hate how Stoney Hall has become commercialised and they can’t scare anyone because the tourists are all unbelievers and don’t show ghosts any respect. They consider the caretaker’s daughter Gaye the worst of the worst. Two of them pack their bags and leave, never to be seen again. The remaining ghost, a knight called Sir Roger de Grohan, wishes he could materialise so he could really throw a scare into those tourists. The Amalgamated Association of Resident Ghosts and Haunters (A.A.R.G.H.) gives Sir Roger the ability. But when Sir Roger tries it out on Gaye, things don’t exactly go scaringly. Far from being terrified, Gaye is delighted at the ghost, and the two end up striking a friendship.
And so the premise is established for the rest of the strip. Sir Roger and Gaye become firm friends…well, most of the time. Much of the humour derives from their differences and character flaws. Sir Roger is gluttonous and always after food. He can be boastful too; for example, his iceskating ability (below) is nowhere near as brilliant as he claims it is. On the other hand, it helps to get rid of a bully and Gaye gives him the reward she knows he will love: food. He is also a coward at heart. Despite his being a ghost, people scare him more often than the other way around.
Gaye’s flaw is that she has bit of a mean, bullying streak at times. Indeed, several other supernatural forces, including Henry VIII, meet their match in her. She calls Henry an “over-stuffed spectre!” and chases him off with a broom. Henry offers Sir Roger his commiserations about having Gaye for a companion: “Verily, thou has a right one there! And I thought I wast hag-ridden!”
Sir Roger, who prides himself on being cunning, often has to engage in a battle of tricks with Gaye to see who can outsmart the other. Often he proves himself crafty and also makes the right observation, such as Elizabethan gear suiting Gaye far more than a hideous disco outfit. Other times it is Gaye who wins in the end. And when it comes to getting out of scrapes they constantly land in (supernatural or otherwise), Gaye has the edge on brains.
How exactly Sir Roger became a ghost is not established and he is never given an origin. We can safely assume he died from decapitation as his head becomes separated from his body on several occasions. In one episode his head gets accidentally switched with that of Anne Boleyn! It is a pity this was not turned into a full episode. It would have been hilarious to see how Sir Roger goes with Anne’s head and Henry VIII getting the shock of his life to see Sir Roger’s head on Anne.
As Sir Roger is a ghost, a lot of gags derive from the other supernatural forces he brings in with him, such as his mother and father, both of whom wreak havoc on the hall with their demands. The mother is outraged Stoney Hall is sparkling instead of cobwebby, dusty and dull, and Sir Roger is not putting scares into humans. She is a match even for the bossy Gaye, who has to resort to a bit of cunning (a fake telegram from hubby) to get her to leave. But no sooner have they got rid of her when hubby himself descends on the scene. “Crumbs! Here we go again!”
None of the supernatural visitors are outright scary. They are more a nuisance. And of course much humour is derived from Sir Roger being a ghost and having ghostly abilities, including floating, walking through walls, and having the ability to materialise (which sometimes goes a bit wrong). There are also ghost rules to provide humour, such as keeping his sword and armour rusty, and be proud of it. In one episode Sir Roger gets magnetised and has to go through the indignity of a bath to become demagnetised, which comes at the price of losing the rust he is so proud of. He can only hope no other ghosts see him looking so clean and shiny or he will be the laughingstock of the ghost world.
Other gags come from Sir Roger being a real glutton who can eat you out of house and home. He could give Slimer from Ghostbusters a run for his money. For example, in one episode he steps in to make a plump teacher stick to a sponsored slim when she keeps taking naughty snacks. He says it’s all in a good cause – but his ‘help’ seems to include taking opportunities to grab the teacher’s food for himself. Still, he is so successful in slimming the teacher down that she makes a nice sum for charity. On the other hand, Gaye has noticed Sir Roger seems to be putting on a bit for some reason.
Much humour is derived from Sir Roger being from a different time period. Exactly what period Sir Roger is from is a bit inconsistent. Sir Roger’s outfit looks Elizabethan, but he demonstrates throwbacks to living in Tudor, medieval and even Arthurian periods when he was alive. Perhaps some of it should be taken with a pinch of salt, such as his version of King Arthur (above). The throwbacks to earlier times do have their own humour, such as clamping Gaye in the stocks, then she does the same on him to get her own back.
Sir Roger being from another time also lends to plenty of “man out of time” jokes where he has problems understanding the 20th century. For example, he does not understand fruit machines and gets frustrated when he keeps winning “groats” instead of the fruit. In the same amusement arcade he does not understand that the “shoot-a-spook” stall is not shooting real spooks and raises a complaint with the management.
Sometimes Sir Roger’s old-style views work out better than modern times. For example, we have to take Sir Roger’s side when he is shocked to see Gaye dress up in that hideous disco outfit, whereupon he exercises his cunning to see it’s destroyed. In his view, Elizabethan dress is far more becoming, and once Gaye puts it on she thinks it actually suits her very well.
Unlike “Fun-Bag”, which ended on a regular episode, the end of Gloomy Ghost is a definitive one. Sir Roger is offered the chance to join the Hall of Ghosts but deliberately fails the exam because he mistakenly thinks Gaye will miss him too much. When Gaye finds out, she lends him a bit of…um…help, and this time he passes. Gaye knows she will miss him, but she wants him to pass on to the Hall of Ghosts. And when he does, his luggage goes with him, Stoney Hall loses its last remaining ghost, and there is no scope for appearances in the merger with Tammy. The Gloomy Ghost is well and truly laid to rest.