Tag Archives: Mountaineering

The Haunting of Hazel [1975-1976]

Sample Images

Haunting of Hazel 1aHaunting of Hazel 1bHaunting of Hazel 1c

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?