Published: Jinty 19 November 1977 to 11 February 1978
Artist: Douglas Perry
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.
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.
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.”