As Europe lived in the shadow of impending war, the town of Halifax, nestling in sandstone splendour (if a little run down from its industrial heyday) lived in the shadow of a horror of its own. A mysterious 'slasher' was attacking the town's women - leaving them in terror of his approach.
Today, the Slasher is considered to be a case of mass-hysteria alongside such phantasms as the Mad Gasser of Matoon. But for a few short weeks in 1938, he was all too real. In his wake lay a slew of victims - some real, some imagined - and the threat of mob violence.
The streets which were gripped by his supposed presence are little changed since those days. Narrow rows of terraces under the shadow of the mill buildings which still stand - although today many are turned over to flats or modish arts centres.
While the atmosphere of hysteria surrounding the Slasher led to at least 3 self-inflicted attacks and more than one dangerous outbreak of vigiltantism, there remained 3 women who were almost certainly the victims of real attacks. Whether these were inflicted by the same unknown hand will probably forever remain unknown, and their suffering was lost amidst the fever that the phantasm they unknowingly helped to create.
21st November 1938 Lister Lane, Halifax 21 year old Mary Sutcliffe finished her shift at Mackintosh's toffee factory and was heading back home rather late - around 10.10pm.As she crossed Lister Lane, a strange man leapt out from underneath a street light with his hand raised. Sutcliffe raised her arm in an instinctive defensive gesture to... Lister Lane, Halifax: in depth
24th November 1938 Jasper Street, Halifax The caretaker of St. Andrew's Methodist Church, the splendidly named Clayton Aspinall was watching out for latecomers to an evening meeting when a young man ran out of adjacent Arundel Street. Aspinall stepped back out the man's way but the man struck him on the head. Raising his arms to protect him... Jasper Street, Halifax: in depth
25th November 1938 Green Lane, Halifax Minutes after Percy Waddington's self-inflicted 'attack' a similarly bizarre event occurred on Green Lane (which no longer exists). Hilda Lodge, leaving her house to get some vinegar to go with her chips, was terrified to see an arm reaching around a wall towards her.She ran to her neighbour's house... Green Lane, Halifax: in depth
25th November 1938 Elland Lane, Elland On the night of the 25th November - the 'Slasher' was alleged to have struck 3 times in rapid succession. Annie Canon reported being assailed shortly after 6pm, and Alice McDonald around half an hour later in nearby Ovenden.But it was in Elland where the Slasher legend was to see the next stage of i... Elland Lane, Elland: in depth
27th November 1938 Bedford Street North, Halifax By now, the 'Slasher' hysteria had taken hold of Halifax, despite the doubtful nature of at least 2 of the previous attacks. On Saturday the 26th attacks had been reported in Huddersfield and two other locations in Halifax (Aspinall Street and the Caddy Fields).On the 27th, 19 year old Beatrice Sorr... Bedford Street North, Halifax: in depth
29th November 1938 Crib Lane, Halifax What would turn out to the final 'Slasher' attack occurred on the 29th of November - an eventful night.First, Mary Sutcliffe - the first of the Slasher's victims reported a second attack. Then another woman reported being attacked near a church in the early evening. Finally, near the Dean Clough car... Crib Lane, Halifax: in depth