Monday, February 20, 2006

Haunts of the Halifax Slasher

Just added to the main features section of the site is a long piece on some of the strangest incidents in the history my home town of Halifax, Yorkshire.

This essay was originally published in Strange Attractor Journal last year, and is presented here with some minor changes (I would still thoroughly recommend buying the original journal, as it's a gem, packed with the odd and inspirational).

The piece, Haunts of the Halifax Slasher, is something of a departure from my usual published work. It's inspired by some of my favourite writers such as Iain Sinclair and Alan Moore, and Guy Debord's ideas of psychogeography and dérive - attempts to rediscover and redefine an urban environment through free-floating considerations of the specifics of local history and landscape. Following the examples of Sinclair and Moore in London and Northampton, I've concentrated on Halifax's long and colourful history of violence, hysteria, fear and loathing, as manifest on a walk around and into the town centre.

As the title suggests, the focus of the walk is the strange events of November 1938, when the town lived for in fear of the phantom attacker known as the Slasher (for an introduction to the case, see here). This spins off into other strange and terrible tales, from medieval legends of murderous monks, through the harsh law of the Halifax Gibbet, sundry riots and murders, to more recent incidents asssociated with far-right political activity.

The common thread through much of it is the ease with which rumour and irrationality, fuelled by ignorance, prejudice and social or economic uncertainty, can erupt into psychopathology. None of which is exactly unique to Halifax, but the town's distinct landscape and concentration of strange history makes for an interesting journey.

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