Hell and Halifax

Michael Goss. The Halifax Slasher. Fortean Times Occasional Paper no. 3, 1987.
Moving from maniacs on the London underground to mania stalking the streets of northern England, Mick Goss examines anoher urban terror. In the late 1930s the city of Halifax was unwil ing host to a 'slasher', a shadowy figure who would leap at passers-by, cutting at them with a razor, slashing their clo thes and often wounding them seriously. The panic spread from Halif ax throughout the north of England and even fur ther afield (we are particularly intrigued to note a case in Brentford).

An atmosphere of hysteria soon built up, with vigilante groups patrolling the streets, falling upon anyone who looked in the least suspicious (ie, was not a member of the vigilante group), Newspaper reports told of a city under seige, few daring to venture out at night - even the chip shops reported a drop in business. All attempts to trap the Maniac proved ineffectual - until the men from The Yard were brought in. In true Edgar Lustgarten manner they soon had the case bang to rights. But the solution was even more amazing than the antics of the slasher himself.

I'm not going to tell you what that solution was, because besides being an exemplary Fortean study, this monograph is also a true detective story, and only a cad would give the ending away. The case of the Halifax Slasher is much more than just the story of a mad criminal in a provincial city - it tells us much about urban life, the nature of fear, and the monsters that lurk in the shadows of our streets - and our minds.
  • John Rimmer

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