Tag Archives: Supernatural story

Come Into My Parlour (1977-78)

Sample Images

Published: Jinty 19 November 1977 to 11 February 1978

Episodes: 13

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Kom maar in mijn web [Just Come into My Web] (in: Groot Tina Boek 1981-3)

There’s nothing like a story with a creepy cackling crone, a black cat, and a hubble-bubble cauldron for a Halloween lineup. So we bring you this one from Jinty 1977.

Plot

Jody Sinclair is starting a new job at the kennels with Mrs Denham when she begins to have strange visions of an old hag calling out to her to come to a creepy old house, one that is supposed to have been empty for years. In the house there is a portrait of the hag. The hag is a witch named Mother Heggerty, but she compares herself to a spider as well: “Come into my parlour!” and “Let me see what I have caught in my web this night!” 

Mother Heggerty places a cat’s paw necklace around Jody’s neck to enslave her. Under Mother Heggerty’s bidding, whenever Jody touches the necklace she does whatever Mother Heggerty says. To test her, Mother Heggerty has Jody deliberately takes a dog off its lead when she walks it. Afterwards Jody has no memory of it at all. Mother Heggerty says she is using Jody to destroy old enemies of hers. 

Jody is aggressively defensive when her younger sister Tess asks her about the cat’s paw necklace. This odd behaviour makes Tess suspicious. Then Tess sees Jody wandering off in the dead of night and decides to follow. However, the witch realises Jody is being followed and has Jody lock Tess in a shed. In the parlour, Mother Heggerty is no longer in the portrait; she’s lurking behind a secret panel as a full-fleshed person, complete with bubbling cauldron and a black cat named Satan. Mother Heggerty now reveals she wants revenge on the Saxton family for injuring her ancestral family, but they need a bit of finding first because “they hide like rats”.

On the way back, Jody, who has no memory of locking Tess in the shed, lets her out. Mother Heggerty forces Jody to lie about things to Tess. At this point, Jody realises how Mother Heggerty has enslaved her through the necklace, which she soon finds she can’t remove. She also senses she has developed a kind of split personality because of Mother Heggerty: one is her own side, the good side, the other the bad side wanting to do evil. And the two sides are locked in conflict. Oddly, Jody finds herself gaining new confidence with her growing evil side into the bargain and can stand up to people in a way she could not before. 

Jody’s search for the Saxtons begins. Nobody seems to know who or where they are, but eventually Jody stumbles across Saxton Cottage, which was once part of the Saxton estate. The big house they once lived in has burned to the ground and it’s only a ruin now. Jody reports to Mother Heggerty that it looks like there are no more Saxtons. Mother Heggerty says there are because she can feel their presence. She orders Jody back to the ruin to light a fire there as part of a spell to find what happened on the night of the fire. Through this, Jody learns the Heggertys put a curse on the Saxtons, which culminated with the fire that destroyed their home. To get away from the curse, the Saxtons changed their family name and sank from sight. 

Then Tess takes the cat’s paw necklace (looks Mother Heggerty goofed and failed to take precautions to ensure nobody else could remove the necklace!). But now Tess is wearing it and she’s the one now enslaved by Mother Heggerty. Not wanting this for her sister, Jody runs after her to get it back, but the bewitched Tess pushes her into the river. Jody manages to save herself and make it to Mother Heggerty’s. She agrees to be enslaved again to free Tess, who is made to forget what happened.

Two days later Mum gets a job working for Mrs King. Through this, Jody befriends their daughter Madge. Then Mother Heggerty summons Jody again, this time to a Saxton grave, and there are fresh flowers on it. Jody’s job is to find out who is visiting the grave, and she finds out it’s the Kings. Realising the Kings are the Saxton descendants, Jody tries to warn Madge, but the necklace makes her faint. To stop Jody’s good side interfering with her plans, Mother Heggerty puts Jody under a new spell to make her completely evil. Fortunately for Jody later, Madge comes on the scene at this point and sees Mother Heggerty with Jody. 

Jody now turns into an utter delinquent, cheating, bullying, shoplifting, even abusing the dogs at the kennel with a whip, and loving every minute of it. And then she starts playing nasty tricks on Madge that almost get her killed, and then in Mr King’s store once she gets a job there. Mr King gets suspicious of these incidents and has Jody watched by an assistant named Gina. Mother Heggerty detects this and orders Jody to remove Gina. This causes Jody’s good side to resurface, and the two sides are in conflict again. The evil side wins out and has Jody set fire to the store. However, she is caught doing so. She tries to tell Mr King about Mother Heggerty, but he doesn’t believe it, saying the Heggerty line has died out. He dismisses Jody.

Jody’s good side is so overwhelmed that she runs away in despair and almost drowns in a river. She is rescued, and while in bed Madge visits. She says she does believe Jody about Mother Heggerty, having glimpsed her earlier. 

Then Mother Heggerty calls out to Jody again, and everyone sees Jody wander off to the creepy house in a trance. However, the house is now on fire for reasons unknown. Everyone crowding around sees Mother Heggerty and Satan, and they are astonished to see someone residing in a supposedly empty house. The house collapses, destroying Mother Heggerty and the spell she put on Jody. Jody can now remove the cat’s paw necklace, and she tosses it into the flames.

Mr King now does believe it was Mother Heggerty and realises the Heggerty line was not as extinct as he thought. He explains that the Saxtons/Kings sent a Heggerty to the stake for witchcraft and the Heggertys had been out for revenge ever since. Now it really has died out with Mother Heggerty, the last of the Heggerty line, but Jody still gives the remains of her old house a wide berth. She and Madge are now best friends.

Thoughts

Malign influences that take over a girl in girls’ comics tend to go either one of two ways. The first is to simply act out of character, in alignment with the force that’s taking over, and get into terrible trouble because of it. Then it fades – until next time – and the girl is left bewildered as to what came over her. She doesn’t realise what’s going on, she is finding the power too strong to fight, or it has its perks that make it tempting to use again. Examples of this include “Weather-Girl Willa”, “Mary’s Moneybank” and “Head of Hate!” (Mandy), “Sit It Out, Sheri” (Tammy), and “The Power over Patti” (Debbie). 

In the second, the malign force has an agenda and the girl is the helpless slave forced to carry it out. Stories that follow this line include “The Revenge of Roxanne” and “The Curse of Carmina” (Suzy), and “The Hateful Hands of Heather Smith” (Tracy/Judy). Usually the motive is revenge, but sometimes other motives are used. For example, in “What’s Wrong with Rhona?” from Tammy, the force that overtakes Rhona believes its justification is the fight for survival. The malice that follows can be petty acts of spite against people, as in “The Hateful Hands of Heather Smith”, or, as in the case of Mother Heggerty, is more calculating and strategic. 

Mother Heggerty definitely falls into the second category, and is one of the most calculating and strategic. The reason is obvious – she can’t find the enemies she wants revenge on because they’re hiding under another name, so she needs to track them down first. For this she needs a human agent who can do the detective work for her, and then the dirty work. For this reason we don’t get much overt nastiness Jody is forced to do at first. It’s not until the Saxtons are found that it really gets nasty. 

And it’s far more nasty and disturbing than we expected. Normally when girls are forced to do evil things in girls’ comics, their true nature is protesting all the way, helpless against it but never giving up trying to find a way. But in this case, the evil influence has had a psychological effect of developing Jody’s dark side, so part of her is embracing it as well as hating it. The side effects of bringing new confidence in standing up to people are an added bonus hat makes it even more tempting to welcome. It gets even worse when Mother Heggerty, to turn her reluctant slave into a willing one, casts the spell to bring the dark side totally to the fore. After this, Jody is not being forced to do evil like other enslaved girls in “bad influence” stories – she’s now totally evil, an utter psycho who is growing increasingly comfortable with being capable of doing anything. Now that’s really frightening! We wonder how on earth she can be rid of the evil now her good side is no longer able to fight it. It’s a relief when Mother Heggerty gives orders that are too much even for the evil side, and the good side begins to resurface. 

There are also the added elements of mystery, and girls just love mystery. The first is the mystery of where the Saxtons are and what name they are under now. The second is just why Mother Heggerty wants revenge on the Saxtons. We get hints that it’s revenge for a family injury, but the full details are deftly kept secret until the last episode. 

One quibble is that it’s never explained how or why Mother Heggerty found Jody and called upon her to be her slave in the first place. Normally the protagonist falls under the influence because she unwittingly stumbled into the den (“The Revenge of Roxanne”), finds some object she should have left alone (“What’s Wrong with Rhona?”), or something was planted (“The Curse of Carmina”). When we see the connection between the girl and how she got ensnared, we also see how the evil force activates. So we accept it all as logical plotting and good story sense. But we don’t see that here. Mother Heggerty merely calls out of nowhere, lures Jody in, and once she looks Jody over she says, “Ah, yes, I think you will do very nicely.” Why wasn’t it anyone else before Jody? Did Mother Heggerty just pick Jody out of a crowd or something? Did she try with someone else but failed for some reason? Did she summon others but rejected them before settling on Jody? Or had she just set herself up in the neighbourhood? After all, everyone thinks the house has been empty for years.

A second quibble is that the fire that destroys Mother Heggerty’s house comes across as just too quick and convenient a way to end the story because the reason for the fire is not shown. It would have worked better if the story had established how the fire started e.g. the house got struck by lightning. 

Overall, this is a very effective “bad influence” story that is handled a bit differently to most in setting the protagonist on a path that could lead her to genuine evil instead of being merely forced to do it. This makes it more interesting to read than other bad influence stories, and the mystery elements to be unravelled add even further interest to keep readers hooked. The artwork of Douglas Perry brings it all off really well, from the craggy crone face of Mother Heggerty to the horrible looks on Jody’s face once she turns evil. And that cat’s paw necklace is a further element of creepiness, especially to the artwork. It’s repulsive to look at, and it somehow looks more like a spider than a cat’s paw. Mother Heggerty could just as well have been Spider Woman as a witch, in the way she sets herself up with “Come into my parlour.”

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (also the Face of Fear) (1976-1977)

Sample Images (as The Face of Fear, published 29 November 1975)

Published: Tammy 27 November 1976 to 5 February 1977. Plus a Strange Story prologue, “The Face of Fear”, 29 November 1975.

Episodes: 11, plus Strange Story episode

Artist: Diane Gabbot(t)

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

It’s Halloween season, so it’s time to bring out the entries on supernatural stories and covers. Leading off the lineup is this Tammy offering from Diane Gabbot(t), not just because it is a spooky story but also because it has one of the oddest publication histories ever seen in girls comics. It is very odd indeed, because what should have been the first episode of this story was instead published as a Strange Story, “The Face of Fear” (above). “The Face of Fear” appeared in Tammy on 29 November 1975, exactly one year before the serial itself began. It’s not a self-contained story, which Strange Stories usually were. Nor is it a Strange Story mini-serial, which sometimes appeared in Tammy. Strange Stories hadn’t been used that way before in Tammy or since then. Whatever was behind this aberration remains a one-off mystery that’s even stranger than a Strange Story.

Plot

(As) The Face of Fear

Patty and Mark Stephens are enthusiastic brass rubbers. At Grimm Fen, Grimmford, they go to a 12th century church, St. Frideswide’s, in search of brass rubbings. Inside the church they make a rubbing of an ominous-looking brass of a Frenchman named Robert le Mal (Robert the Evil One). They find it odd that he’s depicted as a skeletal figure wrapped in a shroud. His inscription reads: “When I wake up once more – watch out.” As soon as they finish the rubbing of Robert le Mal it gets hit by lightning and an extremely terrible storm blows up from nowhere. As they struggle to make their way back home in the storm, they hear a strange flapping sound. Back home, Dad says he saw a huge flapping figure following them. 

Next page…

Secret of the Skulls (1976)

Sample Images

Published: Tammy 1 May 1976 to 17 July 1976

Episodes: 12

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Girl Annual 1986; Translated as ‘Het geheim van de schedels’ (The Secret of the Skulls) in Groot Tina Winterboek 1983.

Ghosts, the hauntings, the graveyards, the witches, the possessions, the evil spells, the terror and the macabre, and this Tammy story from 1976 has got the lot. And they don’t come more macabre than this one with human skulls as the gruesome stars of the show. Normally stories like these would be reserved for Halloween time, but of late there has been discussion about the possession serial in girls’ comics at Comics UK, and its close relatives, the evil influence serial and the doppelgänger serial (the latter of which neither Tammy nor Jinty used, but it was seen frequently at DCT). So we are going to look at a few, beginning with this one.

Plot

In the year 1666 Parson Sylvester and his daughter Prue run a parish at St Leofric’s, London. A lightning bolt opens up a secret crypt under the church, and the one-eyed (watch this) gravedigger Israel Quist is shocked to find it is full of human skulls. Everyone is screaming that the skull crypt is full of evil, and their advice ranges from re-sealing the crypt to destroying the skulls, but Parson Sylvester hesitates because of his religious convictions and is not sure what to do about the skulls. Even when he discovers that the skulls inexplicably give off heat and blister the skin when touched, he doesn’t take action. While he hesitates, he leaves the crypt open, which is an open invitation for weird things. 

Sure enough, weird things start to happen. It starts with the parson’s housekeeper Mrs March bringing one of the skulls into the house. Prue soon notices that Mrs March is acting strangely. She denies taking the skull, but Prue can see the tell-tale blisters on her hands, and then Mrs March falls ill and then acts totally out of character, becoming domineering, bullying and abusive. In the middle of the night Prue hears the church organ playing by itself and the door slamming on its own. On another night she sees the organ playing by itself – and images of horrible glowing skulls as well! The coffins in the crypt belonging to Sir Clive Collyngwood, a man with an evil reputation and the son of a previous parson, move around. There are rumours Sir Clive haunts the graveyard. Some of the skulls are stolen from the crypt by the roguish Rufus Doggett, who runs a novelty shop – of the macabre kind by the looks of the live skull and crossbones set on his shop sign. Prue and her father are shocked to find Doggett painting up the skulls and selling them as ornaments and candle holders to the gentry. Doggett offers one to the parson, who of course won’t touch it.

The parson goes to the Bishop of Canterbury for advice, leaving Prue on her own with Mrs March. That night Prudence hears screaming and in the church she finds strange mystical signs drawn on the floor of the church. The Collyngwood crypt seems to go up in flames, and then looks unscathed. But inside, Prue and Quist find signs of charring and Sir Clive’s coffin reduced to ash, and there is a skull from the crypt on the floor. Quist, who had been urging the crypt be sealed up again from the moment it opened, does precisely that. Prue begins to wonder if there is some connection with the evil reputation of Sir Clive, and Quist informs her that there was a book written about it somewhere. 

Meanwhile, the parson’s carriage is nearing Canterbury when the horses rear, causing a bad accident. And what do you know – there’s a skull! Added to that, he is attacked and robbed as well. Later, Mrs March gloats to Prue that her father will be delayed indefinitely. Parson Sylvester arrives at the bishop’s residence in such a ragged state that he is taken for a vagrant and roughly sent off. 

Prue looks for the skull Mrs March took, but there is no sign of it. When she tackles Mrs March over it, Mrs March attacks her and locks her in. Prue hears hammering noises from the crypt and fears it is the skulls wanting to bust out. A strange girl, Lucy Wendover, wanders in, and Mrs March says they are to be friends. But Lucy soon acts like a sadist, enjoying hurting things and cruelly mocking Prue, and taking over the place.

Prue finds the crypt ripped open and more skulls gone. Suspecting Doggett, she goes off to see him. He tells her all the skulls are gone and paid for (except for the one he reserved for the parson), but he does have information about Sir Clive. Sir Clive and an accomplice were evil witch hunters who “terrorised London” and sent hundreds of women to the stake for witchcraft until plague struck them down. He raises a hint that witches could be responsible for the weird goings-on. Later, Prue suspects Dogged knows more than he’s letting on. But as we shall see, she does not get the chance to question him further.

Back home, Prue finds Quist has no knowledge of Lucy Wendover. He shows her a grave showing that Lucy Wendover died over 50 years before and the Wendover line died with her. But in her own room Prue finds Lucy, with yet more blistering skulls, which she uses to torture Prue. Prue notes the skulls burn her but not Lucy. When Prue demands Mrs March remove the skulls, Mrs March says they will all be going all right, “and then the fun will really begin, as Rufus Doggett’s finding out…” Prue heads back to Doggett’s shop and finds it ablaze, with the unfortunate Doggett unable to escape.

The parson arrives back home in such a bad state he has to be confined to bed. Mrs March gloats over him that “it is our revenge”. She takes him to the church and shows him the organ playing by itself and skulls on the altar. She has the parish shut to worshippers. Prue finds a gravestone with her own name on it and next day’s date, but when she tries to point it out to Quist later on, the gravestone is gone and in its place is a freshly dug grave. The parson is now gravely ill, rambling about the skulls coming for him. The doctor says a witch’s curse has been put on him. 

Prue heads off to see Lord Farleigh about things. There she discovers Lord Farleigh has bought some of Doggetts’ skull ornaments and Lucy is his adopted daughter. In Lord Farleigh’s library Prue finds a book: “Stories of English Witchfinders”. It informs her that Sir Clive and his apprentice Jacob Stave were the most feared witchfinders in England who burned the innocent and the guilty alike in the name of bounty. They collected the skulls of their victims from the executions – hence the origin of the skulls. Then the plague killed Sir Clive and struck down Stave, who was also shot in the eye by a victim’s husband. After reading this, Prue realises their one-eyed gravedigger is really Jacob Stave under an assumed name. Then she is attacked by Lucy, who rips up the book and trashes Lord Farleigh’s library. When Lord Farleigh intervenes, he tells Prue the girl is indeed strange but his wife is besotted by her – as if she were under a spell. 

Prue still has a torn page from the book. It tells her that there were only one or two genuine witches among Sir Clive’s victims out of the hundreds he burned. One (Martha Rackshaw) swore vengeance on London, saying it would burn just as she had. 

Back home, Quist shows Prue that the crypt of skulls is now completely empty. All the skulls have gone. When Prue confronts him about being Jacob Stave he doesn’t deny it. He regrets his witch-hunting days and placed the skulls in the crypt as an act of remorse. He believes Mrs March has been possessed by Martha Rackshaw, who is out for revenge on London. Of course it’s to be the Great Fire of London, with the skulls themselves as the firestarters; they can grow so hot they can burst into flames when needed. 

It’s already started at Lord Farleigh’s mansion where Lucy has set the ornamental skulls ablaze to burn the mansion down. She hears her mistress calling (the possessed Mrs March) and comes to the parsonage. Quist and Prue overhear Mrs March telling Lucy the skulls have been planted at Pudding Lane and they will have their revenge. Prue finds her father under a spell and has been turned into a zombie who serves the witch. Under Mrs March’s power he planted the skulls at Pudding Lane. Mrs March tries to hypnotise Prue too, but Quist intervenes. The witch finds him familiar, but she does realise he is Jacob Stave. Quist and Prue break away. 

Quist urges Prue to head to Pudding Lane to warn them. But it’s too late – blazing skulls in the oven have started the Great Fire of London. More of them have been planted like bombs all over the city, and now they’re going off and spreading more flames. While panicking people evacuate, Parson Sylvester wanders through the flames, still in his zombie state. Lucy gloats at the sight of London burning, and Prue realises she is possessed too.

Back home, Quist informs her that Mrs March is burning down the church as well. Recalling that everything started when Mrs March took a skull from the crypt, they head back to the crypt in search of it. Sure enough, they find it there, and realise it is the true source of all the evil (Martha Rackshaw’s skull). They throw it into the flames that are burning up the church. There is a tremendous explosion, and the fire goes out. The parson, Mrs March and Lucy return to normal, and they are bewildered, as they don’t remember what happened to them. After the Great Fire of London burns out, Lord Farleigh promises Parson Sylvester that his church will be among the first to be rebuilt.

There is just one thing that worries Prue. It is not clear if there was one witch or two. What if there were two and they only destroyed one? Quist assures her there was just one and the evil is gone forever. But in the 20th century, on the old Pudding Lane site, workmen find a skull that is red-hot to the touch…

Thoughts

Phew … is your head whirling from reading all that? It ought to be. Once the weird things start happening, they come on thick and fast and just pile up, one after the after, at breath-taking speed, to send your head into a spin and confusion. So many things to confuse you as much as terrify you. The organ playing by itself, doors slamming, illusions, skulls that can burn your skin, screams in the night, the housekeeper acting crazy, a demented girl let loose in your house … the list goes on and on. Prue herself feels her head spinning about all the things that started happening when the skull crypt was opened, as there were so many of them happening.

The pervading thread through it all is those creepy death heads that just keep popping up as much as they mysteriously disappear. Wherever they go, we know something terrible will happen. Human skulls have a long association with hauntings. There are plenty of stories and legends to bear witness to that, such as Owd Nance, the Screaming Skulls of Calgarth, and the skull of William Corder the Red Barn murderer. These particular skulls have the added terror of always associated with heat and fire, from burning when touched to being used as candle holders, so it’s no real surprise to see they can burst into flames and act as firestarters. We aren’t surprised to see the story build up to the Great Fire of London either; we knew it from the period the story was set in.

Witches and victims of witch hunts wanting revenge for their burning/persecution and laying curses that are activated years later are not an uncommon thing in girls’ comics. We have seen it in stories like “The Painting” and “Sharon’s Stone” from Bunty and “Bad Luck Barbara” from Mandy. But seldom has it been done on this scale – laying waste to an entire city. Centuries before the IRA, we had Martha Rackshaw and her skulls launching a terrorist attack on London with skulls that can explode, burn and destroy. We can see the cunning behind it all, having Mrs March take Martha Rackshaw’s skull and thus possessing her. Allowing (or even influencing) Rufus Doggett to take the skulls and start selling them all around as painted up ornaments was a crafty way to distribute time bombs all set to go off when the time was right. Hypnotising Parson Sylvester into planting the rest all over London and using an oven to light the fuse were also inspired. The combined heat from the skulls and the oven was the perfect combustion. 

The motives for possessing Lucy are not so clear, and it’s never established how she became possessed. It’s a bit hard to understand what Rackshaw was trying to gain by it other than tormenting Prue and setting fire to Lord Farleigh’s house. We presume she was somehow possessed by the second witch as she was not hypnotised into being a servant like Parson Sylvester. Perhaps the possession was so Rackshaw could have a willing accomplice and one with handy access to the gentry. Whatever it is, the possessed Lucy is a riot in all the scenes she appears and she ramps up the excitement and horror even more.

Although Martha Rackshaw is evil, we might have some sneaking degree of sympathy for her, and more so for the other victims. After all, they were innocent people executed in the name of profit and superstition. The real blame lies in the evil, profiteering Sir Clive and his witch hunting. Or we might not be so sympathetic to Rackshaw, as she is inflicting revenge on innocent people, not the ones responsible for her burning. Anyway, she is evil and has to be destroyed. 

Sir Clive is also to blame for the catastrophe by collecting those skulls in the first place as much as for his witch-hunting. In so doing he unwittingly created the weapons the witches used for their revenge. What the hell was he thinking there, collecting the skulls? Was he some sort of ghoul or trophy hunter? The purpose of burning witches is to destroy their evil, so no trace of them must remain. Anyway, how was he able to collect those skulls from the burnings when they should have been burned in the fires? Did he (ulp) behead his victims before burning them? And the irony is, Jacob Stave/Israel Quist unwittingly facilitated the witches’ revenge through his act of remorse as much as his acts of witch-hunting by secretly placing the skulls in the crypt. In so doing he created a ticking time bomb waiting to be discovered. 

The story has a strong but curious message about the evils of witch hunting. Although the people believe in witches, the condemnation of Sir Clive for his witch hunting is strong and he is regarded as evil for this reason. Rufus Doggett says “may his name be forever cursed”, “stands to reason [Sir Clive’s victims] couldn’t all be witches but those two creatures made ‘em confess nevertheless” and their downfall was “the good God at work”. The book on witch hunters does not praise Sir Clive and Stave either; it says they burned the innocent and guilty alike because of the profit they made from it. We even get sceptics who don’t believe in witches. For example, Parson Sylvester always regarded such things as “foolish” and Prue believed the same until the skulls persuaded her otherwise. However, considering that this is also a witch’s revenge story with genuine witches, the message feels rather mixed.

When I first came across the story in the Girl annual reprint I thought it must be reprinted from Misty, what with all these creepy skulls being allowed to feature in gay abandon and freak out any girl to read the story. It was a surprise to learn it originally appeared in Tammy and two years before IPC’s famous queen of the screams title was launched. A story laden with skulls was certainly a bold, audacious move, and ahead of its time in being two years before Misty. It just goes to show the older IPC girls titles could rival Misty for scares when they needed to. The story is worthy of Misty herself, and the artwork of Mario Capaldi really brings off both the macabre elements, the historical setting, and the grim, dark atmosphere of the story. This story is guaranteed to both frighten and thrill any girl to read it and have any parent up in arms (the latter of which would delight the Misty team, as it was a sign they had done things right). It is a story Misty would be proud of. 

Leaves in the Wind (1977-78)

Sample Images

Published: Tammy 31 December 1977 to 28 January 1978

Episodes: 5

Artist: Veronica Weir

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Dutch Tina 1982 as “Bladeren in de wind” [Leaves in the wind]; Indonesian translation in Komik Nina #98 as “Daun Daun Berguguran” [Falling Leaves]

Plot

It is autumn at Laurel and Hester’s school, and those falling autumn leaves make them a bit sad. The headmistress decides to cut down the trees in the school drive to make things more tidy, and as she can be a stubborn, determined sort, it will take a lot to change her mind. Laurel and Hester are upset at this and a lot of other people are too, but none more so than a strange woman who is obsessed with her love of the trees, to the point of monomania. 

The woman senses the girls are friends of the trees and invites them to her house. The girls find the interior lovely but really weird. The room is decorated with trees and leaves and even the furniture is carved in leaf shapes. The girls get a dreadful fright when Hester accidentally pulls a leaf off one of the arrangements; the woman goes absolutely berserk and looks as if she’ll tear Hester apart. The girls make a fast exit after that. The woman apologises for losing her temper, saying that all day she had a strange feeling that “my trees were in danger”. 

After the headmistress gives a television interview on why she wants to fell the trees, the woman picks a real fight with her. She calls her a “murderess”, a “tree-killer” and warns the headmistress her friends will stop her, so she better be careful. The headmistress is unmoved, but Laurel and Hester are uneasy. They also find it odd that the woman knew what the headmistress intended to do when there was no television set in her home.

That afternoon, a wind blows the falling autumn leaves towards the head’s office and Laurel and Hester hear her screaming. Inside, they find her smothered with leaves and absolutely terrified, saying the leaves seemed to be alive. But she recovers her equilibrium and won’t let this change her mind. 

The woman tells the girls it was a pity they interfered just then, and hints that the headmistress had better really watch out when dusk comes. The girls decide they need to watch the headmistress after this. They are also getting really spooked; leaves and trees appear to come alive and even seem to look like people. And by now Laurel and Hester are really scared of the strange woman.

At dusk, the headmistress has a car crash, and mumbles the accident happened because she tried to miss some people. Laurel investigates the drive and finds leaves in the shape of a head. Then a blast of wind blows the evidence to bits. The woman reappears, accuses Laurel of siding with the tree killer, and says she will soon see what the headmistress saw. She hints it will be that very night. In hospital, the headmistress looks scared, but Laurel can’t tell if it was the shock of the accident or whatever made her crash.

The police put the accident down to skidding on leaves, but then Laurel hears two buses met the same fate, in the same spot, and for the same reason. She heads to the spot to investigate. There, the woman sets three people, made entirely of leaves, upon her. Laurel realises they drove the headmistress off the road and she lashes out at them with a branch. But then the leaf people just turn into three piles of leaves. Later, Laurel learns this coincided with the time the headmistress changed her mind about felling the trees because she had grown scared enough to do so.

Laurel heads to the woman’s house with the news and questions. But inside everything is very different and there is no trace of the leaf-decorated room. The old lady who lives there knows nothing at all about the woman. The lady then tells Laurel the legend about the guardian of the trees. The story goes that the trees used to be a sacred grove for druids. When the Romans drove the druids away, they left a guardian behind. 

Laurel leaves the house, hoping nobody else tries to fell the trees. However, the old lady thinks the tree guardian story’s just a load of rubbish and will fell the trees herself if the headmistress does not…

Thoughts

I haven’t seen many girls’ serials with an autumn theme, but this one has such a setting, which ties in nicely with the October theme this month. It is also a spooky, scary story, which ties in with the Halloween season too. It’s a bit surprising they didn’t publish it during the period in question. It is a short story, at five episodes, which suggests it was probably a filler. 

Tree spirits rising in anger against tree fellers have been seen in Gypsy Rose and Strange Stories, but turning it into a mini-serial gives more room for development and scares. The development of the guardian is brilliantly handled. I like how she is dressed. She is in ordinary clothes rather than robes, hoods, gowns and such, which makes a nice change and her a bit different to most supernatural characters in girls’ serials. At first, to all appearances she is just an old woman and there is nothing really out of the ordinary about her. She just seems a bit eccentric and fanatical about her love of the trees. However, she soon starts to scare when Laurel and Hester see how one-tracked she is about her love of trees and taking things a bit far, as evidenced when Hester accidentally breaks a leaf off her leaf arrangement. The woman progressively reveals herself as something beyond ordinary, making comments about things she shouldn’t have known about, and issuing warnings of things to come. And when these strange things start happening with the leaves, that’s when the scares really begin and the woman becomes truly terrifying. To make her even more creepy, she never gives her name and she remains nameless throughout the story.

It it’s not just these spooky things that are terrifying; it’s the woman’s fanaticism as well. It’s so extreme it goes way too far and starts hurting innocents. Although Laurel doesn’t want to harm the trees, the woman views her as helping the “tree killer”, and that’s good enough reason to attack her with the tree people. And what was the idea with attacking the buses? They had nothing to do with the headmistress’ decision to fell the trees and were no threat to them. Whatever the woman was thinking of, she was going too far there. It was just as well the headmistress took only five episodes to change her mind about felling the trees. We dread to think what would have happened if she had taken more episodes to do so. But even when it’s all over, it’s a sure bet Laurel will never be able to look at those trees in the drive or autumn leaves in the same way again.