Death in the Necropolis
Death in the Necropolis.
Those of you who are parents will know that children from quite an early age will challenge and test you. “Don't do that!” you will say, “or I will punish you!” And they do it anyway! - just to find out if in fact you mean what you say. They want to know your true limits and where the barriers really are – how far they may go before they are actually punished.
As they get older, they begin to examine their friends – pitting their wits one against the other and testing themselves with daredevil challenges of bravery. It is a part of growing up. Sometimes these challenges can be quite dangerous and occasionally tragic consequences are the result.
A group of young Glasgow teenagers were out one Hallowe'en, playing 'Trick or Treat'. After some time, they became bored and began trying to frighten one another with ghost stories. Eventually the conversation drifted on to the subject of the Glasgow Necropolis – the city's main cemetery and one of the largest graveyards in Britain. The youngsters talked about entering the graveyard at midnight! But a cemetery at midnight on Hallowe'en, they all decided was not the best place to be – all that is except for one girl, fourteen year old Lindsay Walker, she wouldn't mind going into the graveyard she said, not only that, she would go to the old Victorian section, said to be haunted – and at midnight precisely, she would actually dance on one of the graves!
The others were horrified at the idea!
“Ooh! you wouldn't dare do that!” said one of the other girls.
“Yes I would” Lindsay replied, “And I will. Come with me and watch!”
But none of the others had the nerve to go with her.
“Then I'll go on my own” she said.
“How will we know if you actually dance on a grave?” questioned one of her pals.
Fifteen year old Kenny Jackson offered the solution.
“Here, take my pen knife. Stick it into the grave that you dance on and leave it there. Tomorrow, we will go and look. If you actually have danced on a grave, we will see your footprints and my knife will still be sticking there!”
And so, nervously giggling and pushing each other as teenagers do, they made their way to the entrance gates of the cemetery. No one other than Lindsay herself was prepared to venture any further. They checked the time, it was eleven-thirty-five.
“You've got twenty-five minutes” said Kenny, as he handed over his pen knife.
“We will wait here until you come back. It will take you ten minutes to get to the haunted graves, so you should be back at about twelve-fifteen.”
Lindsay disappeared through the gates and the others sat on the low wall outside to wait for her return.
There was a short walk from the gates, passing the Cathedral and along the path that led to a bridge (known as the 'Bridge of Sighs'). Once over the bridge, you arrived at the main entrance façade. The waiting teens followed Lindsay's journey in their minds. It was a bright moonlit night but not particularly cold.
Kenny looked at his watch, “Five minutes to go!” he muttered.
“I wish she hadn't gone!” said one of the girls, “We shouldn't have let her!”
“Don't be daft!” said another, “You know what she's like, we couldn't have stopped her. Anyway it's only a bit of fun and it'll all be over soon!”
“I wouldn't call jumping up and down on someone's grave a 'bit of fun'” said the first girl, “What if it's your granny's grave she's dancing on? It's just not nice!”
Lindsay by this time had reached the older part of the cemetery. There were over two hundred graves in this section, many of them neglected and uncared for. She found a grave that was surrounded by a low wall. A small headstone indicated that the grave's incumbent was a Josephine McPhail, who died in 1858, aged 47. A mound of earth filled the space inside the wall. The grave was in a shaded area, away from any light spillage and Lindsay was now feeling much more nervous than she would have admitted to her friends.
“Let's get it over with!” she muttered to herself as a church clock began to strike the hour of midnight. She was surprised to find herself trembling with fear as she stepped on to the grave, and nervously at first, then becoming more and more frenzied, began jumping up and down. The bell was still chiming as she reached into her coat pocket for Kenny's knife, opened the blade, stooped down and thrust it into the earth.
Relieved that it was nearly over, she began to rise when to her horror, she felt Josephine McPhail's fleshless bony hand reached up from the depth of the earth and grip hold of her skirt! Overcome with terror, she screamed a piercing scream as her heart seemed to explode inside her chest and she collapsed across the grave.
A few minutes earlier, back at the gates her friends were startled by the distant ringing of the church clock. They stopped talking and strained their ears, listening for – they didn't know what.
“She'll be doing it now!” whispered Kenny.
The words had hardly left his lips when a dreadful and terrifying scream was heard coming from inside the graveyard! They jumped in shock and grabbed each other.
“Jeeze! what was that?” said Kenny.
“It was Lindsay”, said the girl who had earlier disapproved.
The screaming stopped and they held their breath in the silence that followed.
“She's probably trying to scare us!” said Kenny nervously, “You know what she's like!” But he didn't sound too convinced. They waited but heard no other sound from the cemetery. After another fifteen minutes, Lindsay still hadn't returned and one of the girls began crying.
“Something's gone wrong! she wailed, “What if there was someone in there, waiting for her?”
“How could anyone know she was going to be there? We only decided to do it on the spur of the moment!” answered Kenny.
“Well I'm not going in to find out” said the girl, “I'm going home!”
“I'm coming with you” said another.
“Me too” added a third and most of the group began to break up and move away.
Kenny and one of the other boys waited for another five minutes, not liking the idea of leaving without Lindsay, but in the end, convincing themselves that she was playing a joke on them all and having found another way out of the cemetery was herself probably on her way home. They too left the gates of the cemetery and headed for home.
At around six-thirty the following morning, lying across the grave, Lindsay's lifeless body was discovered by a gardener beginning his early shift. He immediately reported to the graveyard Superintendent who informed the police.
At the inquest, the Coroner, having listened to testimonies given by Lindsay's friends and expert witnesses, observed that police evidence had shown that Lindsay, in the darkness, had plunged Kenny's pen knife into the solid earth, and unknowingly pushed the blade through the hem of her skirt. As she began to rise to her feet, the knife would have prevented her from fully standing up.
In her nervous and agitated state, he concluded that her imagination would have led her to believe that she was being held by some supernatural force and that she died of fright.
His verdict was, “Death by misadventure.”