Tag Archives: ghosts

The Haunting of Hazel [1975-1976]

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Published: 11 October 1975 – 24 January 1976

Episodes: 16

Artist: Santiago Hernandez

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Hazel en haar berggeest [Hazel and her Mountain Ghost] in Tina 1976/77, Tina Topstrip 27 (1981)

Plot

A group of girls are heading towards Black Crag Mountain for a course in mountaincraft and are looking towards a national championship. The group leader, Hazel Grenilda Williams, is being haunted by nightmares and feelings of foreboding. Rightly so, for the locals tell the girls that Black Crag has always had a reputation for being evil. Black Crag is said to be at its worst when it’s shrouded in mist, because that is when the evil really brews. Lately Black Crag has gotten worse, and is killing and maiming people. The locals live in dread of Black Crag and many have even been driven away. Hazel gets the same impression of the mountain when she sees it and is full of more foreboding and shivers. She feels Black Crag is like a great big beast waiting for prey. Yet she also has a fascination for Black Crag and feels drawn to it.

More mystery follows when Hazel finds a section of the guesthouse they are staying in, which is converted from an old school, has been sealed off and she is warned not to go beyond the locked door. A cleaner at the guesthouse, Annie, reacts strangely when she hears Hazel’s full name. Annie gets in a panic when a flock of crows mysteriously follow Hazel and her friend Gwen home, because the crows are Black Crag’s evil spirits and bring bad luck to the village. A letter from Hazel’s family arrives warning her not to go to Black Crag, but it’s come too late; Hazel’s already there.

Hazel has been having horrible feelings about Black Crag and now thinks they must be connected to psychic powers, which her family has a history of. She decides to investigate the locked door while having an odd feeling that she knows the place. Beyond the locked door Hazel and her group find a musty old library. In a book of old school records she finds a reference to another Grenilda. She is surprised as she thought nobody outside her family used the name. A page has been torn out just as it was about to record the details of Grenilda.

The group instructor, Miss Price, is injured when she falls through rotten floorboards in the library. She can’t join in the mountaincraft, which the girls start practising. However, rumblings are growing in the group that Hazel is not fit to lead. She has been acting out of character ever since they arrived, is letting that superstitious nonsense get to her, and is becoming irresponsible. The rumblings grow even more when Hazel goes off track during compass reading practice, which prompts a search.

Hazel went off track because her powers draw her to a new ally, Old Marnie the Witch. Old Marnie has psychic powers too and the locals call her a witch because of it. She tells Hazel Black Crag respects courage, so when she defied it, it left her alone. Hazel tells Old Marnie how Black Crag both terrifies and fascinates her and Old Marnie says it’s because they both have similar powers. Later Old Marnie tells Hazel that Black Crag acts the way it does because it has many enemies who misuse it. But if they befriend Black Crag, it can bring good instead of evil. Old Marnie had tried and failed and hopes Hazel will succeed.

A crow shows up again and it causes Hazel to stumble into a graveyard. One of the tombstones reads “Grenilda Williams”. And the tombstone is a new one! Hazel faints at the sight and Annie’s father, Albert Mann, sees her and carries her to the guesthouse. While she regains consciousness, she speaks in a strange manner. Mann is very surprised at this, because it is the old mountain dialect, which is supposed to be extinct. Miss Price informs Hazel that a trust was set up to renew that tombstone each year, which is why it was new. Grenilda is a local girl who died over 100 years ago in strange circumstances.

Hazel is also in further trouble because she left the girls on the mountain while going off after the tombstone. She and Mann go in search of the girls, and find them with the mysterious aid of the crows. After this, there is serious talk of cutting the mountaincraft course short because of Hazel.

Eventually Hazel is given another chance and they go climb Black Crag. No sinister happenings are occurring so far, but Hazel comes across evidence that someone is planting dynamite on Black Crag and it is causing explosions. If that is the case, Black Crag will surely cause even more trouble.

A violent thunderstorm forces the party to shelter in a hut. Hazel finds the name Grenilda Williams again. She senses Grenilda is haunting the place and Grenilda wants her to do something. Grenilda leads Hazel to a cupboard, where Hazel finds what looks like a Bible, a string of beads and a lock of hair. Later, Hazel finds writing at the front of the Bible that could be a clue, but it is very faded.

The party arrive back successfully and even save Old Charlie’s sheep, which they rounded up on the mountain. Charlie is grateful for this, but when he learns what Hazel has found in the hut, he warns her not to meddle. Mann seems oddly angry at Hazel saving the sheep. He then gives Hazel a telegram for Miss Price, which informs her that she must leave for a few days and leave Hazel on charge on her own.

Grenilda then summons Hazel back to the library, where Hazel finds Grenilda’s old diary. In it, Grenilda criticises the dangerous use of child labour in a silver mine on Black Crag. She speaks to the mine owner about it, but he just throws her out, saying they are the only ones small enough to go through the narrow shaft in the heart of Black Crag. Black Crag tells her such exploitation will end in disaster. Sure enough, a violent thunderstorm causes a cave-in, and Grenilda says it is the mountain’s curse on the exploitation. Children are still trapped down there; Grenilda is the only one thin enough to go down the shaft, and she feels Black Crag wants her to do it. A newspaper clipping says she rescued them, but she died doing so. The remorseful mine owner set up the trust to renew her tombstone each year.

Just then Steffie from the mountaincraft party decides Hazel deserves a little scare. But Hazel is such a bag of nerves from the haunting that the fright makes her go absolutely crazy with fright and she runs off. She finds herself back at Grenilda’s grave, and the ghost warns her that there is danger for her under the school roof and she is not to go back.

At this, Hazel drags the girls right out of the place and into camping in terrible weather on Black Crag. On the way they pass Annie, who says it’s the dark of the moon, when Black Crag is at its most dangerous, and she’s got a charm from Old Marnie to protect her. One of the girls breaks her leg and Hazel braves the mountain and terrible weather to get the doctor, with the aid of Grenilda. She succeeds, but the girls have had enough of her bizarre behaviour and send her to Coventry. The course continues without Hazel, but at least it gives her more time to pursue the mystery.

Grenilda is helping Hazel out while they do more investigating at the old school. She does not realise Mann is watching and does not like what she is doing. She learns Grenilda saved her brother from the mine, and he is Hazel’s ancestor. Now she realises why her parents wanted her to stay away from Black Crag and why the name Grenilda runs in her family.

Miss Price returns, and when she hears what has been going on she sends Hazel packing. Hazel isn’t having that, so she jumps off the train at the next stop and walks back, but finds the terrain unfamiliar and tough going. Grenilda brings help in the form of Old Marnie. They head for Grenilda’s old home on Black Crag. Old Marnie warns Black Crag is extremely disturbed and angry, and then Grenilda warns Hazel that something evil is approaching.

That evil turns out to be Mann and an accomplice. Hazel overhears Mann saying that he has been trying to scare those girls out of the school, presumably by having Annie winding them all up with scary stories about Black Crag. Once they are gone he does he will move on to the final part of the plan. But it isn’t just the girls he has been scaring; he has also been scaring the villagers into selling their land for a pittance because he wants to reopen the old silver mine. The men have been dynamiting their way through the blocked workings to reach the silver. Hazel now realises why Black Crag is angry. She heads off to tell Old Marnie and spread the word about Mann. On the way Hazel hears a terrible wailing, and Old Marnie tells her it is the Crying Stone, which only wails when something terrible is about to happen to the village.

Hazel then realises the girls are on Black Crag and in danger from a growing thunderstorm, so she must get to them. She makes a most dangerous short cut up a sheer rock face to do it, with Grenilda’s help. Hazel proceeds to get the girls off the mountain in the face of the bad weather. This is followed by dangerous landslides, which Hazel believes are the result of the angry mountain speaking out. Miss Price is so impressed with Hazel’s heroism she overlooks the previous trouble.

The landslides destroy Mann’s shop, and an inspector says the area can never be used for mining again because it is now too unstable. So Mann is now punished and his scheming foiled. Grenilda and Black Crag are now at peace, which means Hazel is too. Now Hazel is no longer haunted she can lead the mountaincraft group properly, and they intend to soar to greater heights in the mountaincraft national championship.

Thoughts

This is the only story Santiago Hernandez drew for Jinty (“Barracuda Bay” is now believed to be Hernandez artwork too, but the story is reprinted from June). Hernandez’s artwork is brilliant at bringing off the foreboding atmosphere of Black Crag, the horrors that constantly haunt Hazel, and the terrifying environments in which they erupt, whether it is the spooky old library or dreadful weather on Black Crag. Further adding to the creepy atmosphere is the rugged, rural environment of Black Crag and the peril that always accompanies mountain climbing, even on a normal mountain.

The real twist of the story is that the things that constantly terrify Hazel turn out not to be the true threat. They are not evil, just angry and disturbed, and it is eventually revealed they have good reason to be. Black Crag, which was initially portrayed as the evil of the story, turns out to be a helper. The real evil comes from Albert Mann, who is trying to scare off people (and is presumably responsible for all the killings and maimings that have been blamed on Black Crag) for his own profit. In so doing he is not only cheating people but also stirring up genuine supernatural forces that start affecting Hazel.

Hazel is the most susceptible to the supernatural forces because she has inherited the family’s psychic powers. But Hazel’s powers have awakened in a most disturbed manner and she cannot fully understand them. Fortunately she has guidance from Old Marnie, who is more experienced with such powers and can inform her about the correct way to handle Black Crag. Unfortunately, but understandably, the members of the mountain group Hazel leads think she’s just losing her marbles and shouldn’t be listening to such superstitious rubbish. In a sense they are right, because it turns out Mann is trying to scare them off and presumably put Annie up to winding them up with crazy, embroidered stories about Black Crag. Yet Hazel is right too, and being unable to find anyone to listen except Old Marnie and Grenilda almost wrecks her career.

One thing is puzzling: when the girls go mountain climbing, they never wear safety helmets. Were safety helmets not worn so much at the time, or is this an error in the story?

Slave of the Mirror (1974-5)

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Slave of the Mirror

Published: 9 November 1974 – 12 April 1975 (20 episodes)

Artist: Carlos Freixas

Translations/ reprints: De spiegel met de slangen [The Snakes Mirror] (in Tina 1976); translated into Greek in Manina.

Plot

In Cornwall, Mia Blake’s sister Janet has bought a run-down old 18th century house built by one Captain Scully and transformed part of it into a boarding house, “Scully House Private Hotel” (other parts are still shut up). There is a portrait of Scully on the wall, and he does not look very nice. Oh dear, could Mia and Janet be asking for trouble there?

Mia is expected to help out, but she is discontented and disgruntled at doing so. She feels Janet treats her like a dogsbody and does not even pay her, though she has the grace to understand that Janet would not mean it. She does not appreciate that the guesthouse is understaffed and Janet can’t afford more help until business takes off. Too bad Mia has those feelings, because they could have made her susceptible to what follows.

When Janet sends Mia up to the attic on an errand, she makes a discovery that proves fateful – an old mirror. The face that appears in it is not Mia’s reflection but the face of a young, beautiful woman. The woman’s identity and origins are as yet unknown, but she soon makes it clear she has powers to hypnotise Mia into playing dirty tricks that are aimed at driving off guests and giving the hotel a bad name. And the mirror also forces Mia to do things that are far worse than that, such as attempting to drown a dog in a well, drown a couple by scuttling their boat, stealing money from a guest, and ruining the Major’s reputation by forging a letter from him saying he cheated in a boat race. There are times when Mia does break free of the mirror’s control. For example, she stops herself killing the dog in time. The same goes for stealing the money, but Mia gets caught anyway, and so it’s another angry guest and another black mark on Scully Hotel. Mia scuttles the boat, but rescues the couple later.

Or perhaps it is because the mirror may have relented sometimes? There is a surprise when Mia realises what she did to the Major and confronts the mirror over it. The face in the mirror starts crying and helps her find a way to clear the Major. Could it be that the spirit is not as evil as it seemed? Whatever brought on the crying, though, it does not last. Soon the mirror is back to its usual tricks.

As only Mia can see the face in the mirror, she cannot convince Janet of what’s going on. Janet thinks her sister is turning delinquent or going crazy or something. Trying to dispose of the mirror or destroying it does not work either – the mirror always comes back. Janet’s losing guests and money because of all the trouble, and she is coming to the end of her tether with Mia. In the end, Mia is put in hospital because of her odd behaviour. Strangely, while Mia is in hospital two men spot her and they say she has what it takes to become a model. Afterwards they have her enter a beauty contest.

Mia’s on the verge of winning the contest when Janet comes up in a huff and yanks her out: “how dare you flaunt yourself in public like this!” Is Janet a prude or something? As Mia says, what’s the harm in a beauty contest? Janet won’t hear of Mia becoming a model either, saying she’s needed at the hotel. This time, Mia has more justification for feeling resentment towards Janet and slogging at the hotel for nothing in return – and that’s bound to increase the mirror’s hold over her.

Sure enough, Mia’s rage has her stealing money from another guest to enrol at modelling school because Janet won’t allow her the money for it. Fortunately she gets a free enrolment as a consolation prize from the contest, which means she can quietly return the money.

The mirror seems to be feeding and amplifying Mia’s own feelings of resentment. She perceives everybody being against her and Janet still treating her like a servant. Mia feels the mirror is sympathising with her there. Now Mia calls upon the mirror to help her with her own revenge against all the people she resents. She grows more violent and starts lashing out. When this happens in her modelling class, Mia is told that if it happens again she will be expelled.

Mia goes home still under the influence, which puts her in a black rage. This culminates in her slashing the portrait of Scully and screaming how much she hates him “you slave driver!” Hmm, could there be a clue there?

Meanwhile, Janet has hired a Spanish student named Inez to help with the guesthouse and take some of the pressure off Mia. Perhaps she thinks Mia has snapped under too much pressure and that’s why she’s acting out of character.

As it turns out, Inez is just the person to help Mia. Inez notices Mia’s odd behaviour when she stares into the mirror and begins to suspect the truth. Inez checks out the mirror with an antique dealer and they discover a note hidden inside it. It reveals that the mirror belonged to Isabella, an ancestress of Inez. In 1770 Isabella worked as a servant for Captain Scully. Sure enough, Scully was a horrible man. He treated Isabella very badly and when she fell ill, she was left to die of fever and neglect in her attic room. Before Isabella died, she wrote the note describing her treatment, how full of hate she is for the house and everyone who lives there, and made an oath to return from beyond the grave to have her revenge.

Now Mia knows the truth, she sympathises with Isabella and tries to tell Janet what’s been going on. But of course Janet doesn’t believe it. She sends Mia to her room. Instead, Mia goes to the attic where Isabella died, and the mirror and note are on her lap. Mia falls asleep where she starts reliving how Isabella suffered at the hands of Scully and was left to die from his neglect. She is full of rage and pity for Isabella. It is small wonder that when Mia wakes up, Isabella’s power is so strong that she has Mia set fire to the attic!

Inez finds Mia in her hypnotic state, which Mia snaps out of. Janet does not believe Mia’s story about being hypnotised and throws her out of the house. While Janet and Inez tackle the fire, Inez draws Janet’s attention to the mirror. Previously only Mia could see Isabella’s face in the mirror – but now both Inez and Janet can see it! And Isabella is crying. It seems Isabella has now repented to the point where she is showing herself to clear Mia’s name.

Meanwhile, Mia is guided towards Isabella’s grave. It just says “Isabella 1752–1770”. Inez follows Mia to the grave and suggests they pray for Isabella. Their prayers include pleas for Isabella to leave Mia alone and find peace. A ray of sun breaks through pouring rain and shines on Isabella’s grave. They take it as a sign that Isabella is happy now she has people who care for her at last.

Mia and Inez return to the house, where Janet says she now understands and asks Mia’s forgiveness. The face of Isabella in the mirror gives a loving smile, and then disappears from the mirror forever.

After the haunting stops, life becomes so good for everyone. Mia’s modelling career is now in full swing. She still works at the hotel, but now finds it enjoyable and works very happily with Inez and Janet. Isabella’s grave gets regular fresh flowers. The mirror is still around, but Mia is so happy that the only face she sees in it now is her own. The hotel is still called Scully House though – shouldn’t they change the name in light of what happened?

Thoughts

This serial has drawn comments that the acts Mia commits under the mirror’s influence are veiled excuses for delinquent behaviour. Still, the same could be said for any protagonist who falls under the power of an evil (or angry) force and is forced to do nasty things. One such victim, in Suzy’s “The Curse of Carmina” is actually sent away to a home for problem children because of the terrible things the evil object (in this case a puppet) is forcing her to do. Janet does not go this far, fortunately; the nearest is putting Mia in hospital.

There are strong similarities between this story and another malignant mirror story that appeared in Jinty several years later, “The Venetian Looking Glass”. It could well be the same writer. The protagonist, Lucy Craven finds a mirror that is haunted by an angry, vengeful spirit also named Lucy Craven, and Lucy Craven Snr hypnotises her into unleashing that revenge. Both stories climax with the protagonist being hypnotised into nearly burning the place down.

However, there are differences between how the two mirrors carry out their mayhem. The key one is that the Lucy Craven spirit can talk through her mirror but Isabella can’t speak through hers at all. As the Lucy Craven mirror can speak, it rapidly becomes established what the spirit wants and why. Lucy keeps trying to plead with her that she is hurting innocent people who have nothing to do with the ancient wrong. By contrast, Isabella can’t talk to Mia at all, so her identity and motives remain a mystery until near the end of the story. Furthermore, Mia can’t reason with Isabella that the people she is hurting have nothing to do with what Captain Scully did. All she can do is try to plead with the spirit not to force her to do things against her will. But most of the time they fall on deaf ears until near the end. Perhaps part of it was Janet bringing out the portrait of Captain Scully and calling the hotel Scully House. In Isabella’s eyes, this must have looked like a tribute to the very man who treated her so badly.

When the motives of the two respective spirits are established, one emerges as a far more sympathetic character than the other. Lucy Craven Snr brought the trouble on herself by being – to put it very bluntly – a bad-tempered bitch. By contrast, Isabella arouses sympathy because she was treated so badly by Captain Scully and her desire for revenge was understandable. Anyone decent would feel sorry for Isabella there. It is this sympathy that finally has Isabella resting in peace. Once she sees there are now people who care for her, something finally gets through to her.

Once Isabella’s motives are revealed it is also easier to understand the odd fluctuations of the spirit looking evil most times and then looking like it is having second thoughts now and then. The same thing has been seen over and over in “revenge” serials. In these serials there are moments when things go too far and innocents get hurt. These moments have the protagonist stop and think and maybe feel some remorse. Sometimes this is what turns her around. Other times the pause doesn’t last because the thirst for revenge resurfaces. Often the desire for revenge clouds their judgement and they do thoughtless, reckless and even dangerous things in the name of revenge. They do not stop think about the damage they are doing or the rights and wrongs of it all. Eventually, though, they learn their lesson.

Mia undergoes a whole new appreciation of life after the ordeal ends. In the beginning she’s completely negative in her outlook, discontented at working at the hotel and feels she’s being used as a servant. These negative attitudes could be why the mirror opened up to her in the first place and why she succumbed to its power. No doubt it is one reason why the mirror’s influence gets so powerful. It amplifies Mia’s bad feelings to the point of insanity; it has similar feelings, so it would empathise with Mia. At the end Mia has a positive attitude and really enjoys working in the hotel with Inez to help out. Being a successful model almost seems redundant. Even without the modelling job we feel Mia would be much happier at the hotel after the haunting ceases. After all, now she’s seen a real dogsbody at the hotel who was treated like a real slave, she would appreciate how lucky she is. She also comes away looking far smarter and more beautiful now that she is a full-fledged model.

The Haunting of Form 2B (1974)

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Publication: 11/5/74-20/7/74
Reprint: Misty annual 1980
Artist: Rodrigo Comos
Writer: Unknown

Summary
Judy Mayhew and her friends Marilyn and Jen are starting their first term at the newly-built Newley Comprehensive. Judy is blown away at how modern and impressive the school is. Marilyn and Jen scoff at Judy for thinking that way, and say a school is a school and lessons the same old drag. However, Newley Comprehensive is built on the site of an old Victorian school, and Judy soon discovers that the Victorian past still haunts – in more ways than one.

The first hint is their form teacher, Miss Thistlewick; she is a dragon and more suited to a Victorian school than a modern school like Newley. But the trouble really starts for 2B when they run short of desks and bring up Victorian desks from the basement that Newley inherited from its predecessor. The moment Marilyn sits in it she starts acting like a Victorian girl. Later, Judy sees Marilyn and Jen in class at night. Both are sitting at Victorian desks, writing 1874 instead of 1974 on the blackboard. When Judy confronts them, she has a vision of being in a Victorian classroom and she gets caned by a Victorian teacher. Next morning, Judy finds her friends have no memory of what happened.

Judy soon finds that 2B reverting more and more to a Victorian pattern as more equipment comes up from the basement, such as hurricane lamps when the lights don’t work for no apparent reason. Marilyn and Jen are now talking and behaving like Victorian girls, and two more girls follow suit. They wear Victorian dress in class, which has the rest of the class thinking they are weirdos. They also refuse to participate in sports or domestic science, saying such things are unbecoming for Victorian ladies. They are permitted to do this with the blessing of the headmistress, who is now under the Victorian influence as well after receiving a parasol from the basement. Judy notes that Miss Thistlewick gave the headmistress the parasol.

Judy finds an old Victorian photograph of their ancestors and finds Miss Thistlewick in it as well. She comes to the conclusion that Miss Thistlewick is a ghost – a ghost who has some strange power over her friends. She becomes more convinced Miss Thistlewick is a ghost when she sees her disappear through an archway in the basement and her image does not appear in a photograph.

Then Judy discovers that she is a descendant of the last girl in the photograph – which means she is the next target for the Victorian influence! Sure enough, she finds herself being shadowed by her Victorian-dressed friends who are now trying to force her into a Victorian dress as well.

Eventually Judy does end up in Victorian dress, but is surprised to find herself not under the influence. Later, Miss Thistlewick has Judy put on her forebear’s Victorian dress, which does try to influence her. But Judy fights it off with some self-inflicted pain. Judy realises that Miss Thistlewick is administering the influence through some sort of telepathy. Judy also finds the power has a weakness – it fades over distance, and tries to think of ways to get her friends away from Miss Thistlewick.

Judy has another vision, in which she sees that Miss Thistlwick is responsible for a boating tragedy a hundred years ago. She took the other girls out on a boating trip, but ignored their warnings that they were too heavy for the boat and would sink it. As a result, they and Miss Thistlewick drowned. She discovers that Miss Thistlewick is now sending her friends out for another boating trip. Convinced Miss Thistlewick is trying to kill them, she heads down to the boating trip. But in her drive to get them away, she ends up making the same mistake as Miss Thistlewick. Moreover, their Victorian dress is too heavy for swimming, so now it looks like they are going to drown like their forebears.

But no – they are all rescued by a lock-keeper who says he was alerted by a woman in black who was dressed like them. Dressed like them? Yes, it was Miss Thistlewick, who now appears before them. She had not intended to kill them; she had recreated the boat trip in the hope of a happier ending so her guilty soul could find peace. And she did get a happy ending – by saving the girls. Okay, not quite what she planned, but now she can rest in peace and stop haunting the school.

Next day, Judy and her friends turn up in class in their regular uniforms, and give the pretext to their bemused classmates that the Victorian dress had been an experiment to see how people react to the unusual. They also discover that the headmistress is going to make a bonfire out of all the Victorian equipment in the basement. (Hmm, bonfire when the Guy Fawkes issue is four months away? Maybe the headmistress sensed something strange about that equipment too.) Their last link to the ghost of Miss Thistlewick is now going up in smoke, but they can now look forward to a normal school.

Thoughts
Ghost stories are always popular in girls’ comics. So the moment readers saw “Haunting” in the title, they expected to be in for a treat, and this story is hard to disappoint. Even before we meet Miss Thistlewick, we know that the old Victorian school is going to haunt its modern counterpart somehow. In fact, we sense that the Victorian school is not only going to haunt the modern one, but that harsh Victorian schooling is going to be contrasted sharply with modern easy-going education. So we would be even more appreciative than Judy that Newley Comprehensive is a modern school and not a strict old-fashioned school of a bygone era. We can imagine that at the end of the story, Marilyn and Jen would come to think the same way after scorning at Judy for being so impressed with the new school.

School stories are sometimes set up to make a statement about anti-authoritarianism, and this story certainly works it in with the supernaturally-enforced Victorian code upon the modern classroom. This is at its most frightening in the visions Judy has of the original Victorian classroom. The terrors of the cane turn into downright abuse, with one pupil getting a cut on her forehead and Judy getting one on her hand.

But the Victorian pattern also provides humour as well – something you do not often see in a serious ghost story. As the five girls become more and more possessed by the Victorian influence, they become confused and shocked by what they see in modern life. It starts in small ways, such as Marilyn writing old-fashioned script with a quill and censoring Judy that they must pay attention to the class. When the five girls are dressed Victorian, they think like Victorians as well. They do not know what cars are and think they must be steam driven. They refuse to change into PE gear because “a lady does not expose her legs to the public gaze. It-it’s not decent!” They cannot understand why they are being told off for disastrous cooking. “It’s just that young ladies don’t cook – they have servants for that!” At a Victorian exhibition they are astonished at a classmate calling a Victorian washing machine “an old piece of junk!” They reply, “It’s not junk! It’s the latest thing!”

It must be said that the portrayal of Miss Thistlewick is a bit puzzling. Guilt drives her to do what she does, but she does not give Judy or the reader the impression she is acting out of guilt. “You’re too nosey by far, Judy Mayhew! The time has come to teach you a lesson and to stop your meddlesome ways!” Later, when Miss Thistlewick thinks she finally has Judy under the influence, she says, “Excellent, excellent! Now nothing can stop me!” All right, so maybe it could be put down to psychological causes of some sort. But it is small wonder that Judy thinks Miss Thistlewick has evil intentions. And it is a bit hard to believe Miss Thistlewick is a ghost because at first glance she seems corporeal enough. It might have been more plausible to have a living teacher possessed by the ghost of Miss Thistlewick.

But overall, this story can be regarded as a strong start in Jinty’s spooky storytelling and seems to be one of her better remembered first stories. It is hard to go wrong with ghosts, and many readers must have enjoyed the historical aspect of it as well. Even readers who did not find history appealing would have enjoyed the clashes between Victorian lifestyle and modern lifestyle, portrayed in ways that are both scary and funny. And there is the drama and tension as Judy fights being taken over by the influence, and resorting to more resourceful yet desperate ways to save her friends – only for it to climax in irony. The irony when Judy almost causes the tragedy she was trying to prevent, and the double irony that it helps Miss Thistlewick to meet her objective and redeem herself.

Girl the World Forgot (1980)

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Girl the World Forgot 14c

Publication: 6/9/80-13/12/80

Artist: Veronica Weir

Writer: Veronica Weir

“Ever wondered how you’d cope as a castaway?”

So began the blurb to introduce us to the story of Shona Owen, a Manchester girl who has thought little beyond discos and the pleasures in life. Then an accident at sea turns her into a castaway and forces her to learn a lot of things very fast in the name of survival.

This was Jinty’s second and last foray into the castaway theme. Her only other castaway serial – “Desert Island Daisy” way back in her first weeks – was short-lived and played for laughs. But this serial is definitely not meant to be funny. It is a serious, realistic exploration of survival on a deserted island, with menaces ranging from food shortages to an invisible threat.

It all begins when Shona and her dog Scuffer are tagging along on her parents’ scientific vessel on an expedition off the Scottish coast. A storm blows up, threatening to capsize the boat, and Dad sends out an SOS. He and Mum put Shona and Scuffer in a life raft, but a jagged rock cuts the line and they drift off into the stormy ocean. The parents are rescued in the nick of time. But the search for Shona and Scuffer yields only the empty life raft, and it is presumed that they both perished. The parents are grief-stricken, of course.

What they do not realise is that the life raft dumped Shona, Scuffer and supplies on a deserted island before being washed into the sea, where the search teams find it and draw the inevitable but wrong conclusion. Shona herself hears it on the radio, which was washed up with her. She starts calling herself the girl the world forgot because in the eyes of the world she no longer exists. Even worse, the radio does not inform Shona the fate of her parents (seems pretty odd, that – you’d think it would mention their reaction to her apparent fate). So while the parents are mourning for the daughter they think is dead, Shona has no idea whether her parents survived or not. For the duration of this serial we see parallels between the grieving parents and how they cope with their loss, and the emotional struggles Shona has in not knowing the fate of her parents. For example on Shona’s birthday, she celebrates with what she has to hand, but with tears over her parents – while back home they organise a birthday cake for her, but they too are in tears. As Christmas approaches, Dad keeps his promise to Shona to always have a Christmas tree for her, while she makes her own tree out of driftwood and shells.

The island is deserted but shows signs of former habitation, including a talking crow which Shona names Joe. Joe never seems to learn to say anything but “hello”, but provides companionship and light relief to the grimness of the story. But the most notable is the croft. It is deserted, but fully furnished, and there is even a kitchen table laid out for two. The calendar says it was last used in 1941 and there is a sign saying “welcome back” – as if the place had been laid out for someone who never arrived. From the beginning, Shona feels there is something strange about the croft. But as it turns out, Shona has no idea just how strange.

Meanwhile, Shona settles down to learning how to manage the livestock which are running wild on the island, fishing for food, collecting materials for a raft for escape, and working out ways to signal for help. It’s all a steep learning curve for the Manchester teenager who did not think much beyond discos and parties, and Shona herself says as much. But luckily for Shona she has her dog Scuffer to help, and for companionship, of course. Shona learns fast, and is constantly thinking about how much survival is changing her from the hedonistic girl she was before into a more serious and mature person.

The threats to survival are never far away, and they intensify as winter sets in. Colder weather, depleting food supplies, and fish stocks moving elsewhere mean that hunger, imminent illness, and possibly even death are setting in. But the real threat comes from the aforementioned invisible enemy. From the beginning, strange things start happening, such as the stock becoming unnerved for unexplained reasons and Shona having weird dreams of somebody wanting her out. The threat of the invisible enemy close in like a menacing coil as the signs grow that there is someone else on the island who hates Shona’s presence and does not seem to like the way she keeps changing things around at the croft. It gets worse when Shona is almost killed by a rolling boulder. It looks like someone was out for murder when Shona later finds a message on the window: “Leave!” But Shona cannot find anyone else on the island, which makes her all the more frightened. It climaxes on Christmas Eve when Shona sees a woman’s face at the window. The woman leads Shona to the shore, where she sees…Vikings burning a Viking longboat?

Not to worry, it’s just the local people honouring an annual celebration on Christmas Eve. But they get more than they bargain for when they turn into Shona’s rescuers. They explain to Shona that the previous owner of the croft, Alice Drunnon, left strict instructions on her deathbed that the croft be left undisturbed as a tribute to her late husband, who had disappeared on a fishing trip. But Shona unknowingly disturbed it, so she has been up against the angry ghost of Alice Drunnon. Shona respectfully leaves the croft how she found it before she, Scuffer and Joe go to meet their rescue ship.

There is a heart-warming tie-in with the upcoming Christmas issue as Shona is reunited with her parents in time for Christmas Day. She receives the presents her mother had arranged for her, but never thought she would give in person.  At the same time, two fishermen out enjoying their Christmas presents find Shona’s SOS note in a bottle. They dismiss it as a joke, ironically saying there are no people stranded on desert islands in this day and age.

The story bears some similarities to “Seulah the Seal”. They were both illustrated by Veronica Weir, whose strong but not harsh contour lines and use of cross hatching and inking work brilliantly for the rugged environment, animals and wildlife, and misty surroundings which blend in well with the eerie elements of the story. But there are other similarities between the two stories. First is the use of Scottish settings for the rugged, remote, wildlife environments in both stories. Second is the struggle for survival against threats from all sides, including forces that the protagonist does not fully understand (invisible enemy for Shona and seal hunters for Seulah). Third, there is the intense use of emotion, loss and grief intermingled with the love and friendship that keeps the protagonist going. Perhaps Seulah and GTWF had the same writer. Or maybe GTWF was originally scripted for Penny, inspired by the popularity of Seulah. Neither would be surprising. But GTWF has the added element of an increasing supernatural threat, which makes it a dramatic and gripping step up from Seulah.

Update: we have now been informed by Veronica Weir’s daughter that her mother wrote the story as well as illustrating it (thank you for the information!) The credit for the writer has been revised accordingly.