WHEN the extraordinary 'Case of the Gorbals Vampire' happened, it shocked and chilled the nation. The case saw hundreds of schoolchildren roaming across Glasgow hunting for a vampire - and such was the outcry it led to new censorship laws in the 1950s for the new craze, American horror comics.

More than sixty years on, the story is being brought back to life with the help of the people of the Gorbals. A play inspired by the real-life monster hunt will be staged at the Citizens Theatre, based in the Gorbals, involving performers drawn from the community. School pupils are being invited to join in by creating comic book artwork, short stories and a new mural to mark the weird legend.

The hunt was triggered by rumours which swept around school playgrounds in September 1954 that two boys had been killed and eaten by a vampire with “iron teeth” which was roaming Glasgow’s Southern Necropolis.

Over three nights hundreds of children descended on the graveyard armed with penknives, sticks and stones in a bid to find the ‘vampire’. Even infants “just able to toddle” joined the mini-army, according to contemporary newspaper reports.

The incident was blamed at the time on the influence of American horror comics - such as Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, which had already caused moral outrage. The events surrounding the Gorbals Vampire were a key factor in the UK government introducing legislation one year later to ban the sale of material portraying incidents of a "repulsive or horrible nature" to children.

Guy Holland, associate director, Citizens Learning, at the Citizens Theatre said there was never any record of children being abducted or missing at the time, and various suggestions have been put forward as to what triggered the mass panic.

These included the poem called ‘Jenny Wi’ the Airn Teeth’, a terrifying tale of a monster which chomps up children who fail to go to sleep - which was a popular bedtime rhyme at that time.

The biblical tale of Daniel’s dream of four beasts, including one which devoured victims with its “large iron teeth” has also been suggested as fuelling young imaginations.

Holland said: “Another interesting aspect is the local area at that time was dominated by Dixons Blazes, the iron foundry that would go 24/7, belching out smoke with the night sky lit up orange.

“There was clanking noises of metal going on and the area was polluted and smelt pretty foul – and it was directly behind the Necropolis.

“I think that might have had as much to do with it as anything else, kids knocking about in the graveyard at night and all the smoke and the colour going on, the noise. It is a potent mix.”

Holland said the story was ideal for a stage production and more than 120 local residents say they want to perform in the play, including many from the Gorbals area. The play will be performed at the Citizens on October 28 and 29 this year.

A competition is also being held for children to write a horror story, and a project to publish a new comic book inspired by Tales from the Crypt will be ongoing in the weeks running up to the play.

Secondary school pupils are also being given the chance to design a mural based on the Gorbals Vampire, which is supported by The ScottishPower Foundation and will be brought to life by Art Pistol, a project responsible for some of Glasgow’s iconic street art including the giant tiger on the Clyde.

Playwright Johnny McKnight, who has written The Gorbals Vampire play, described the real-life event as like a “primary school version of The Crucible”, in the sense collective of hysteria being triggered – but the children had decided to confront the problem head on.

He said: “There is something just fascinating about the idea of primary school kids going to take on a vampire.

"That is the very definition of the world gallus.

“If I was at school and there was a rumour a vampire had killed two school mates, I would have been lying awake in my bed at night, terrified I was going to get it next.

“I love that in the Gorbals, the reaction to that was 'let’s get the bastard tonight'.”