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Glasgow's Gurning Man

In 1970s, the people living in Scotland's largest city was subjected to a series of terrifying encounters with the a notorious entity, whose incessant twitching and animalistic grunting put the fear of God into those who encountered him. In this post, we take a look at the Glasgow's Gurning man.

History of Glasgow

The city of Glasgow possesses a truly colorful history, steeped in tradition and heritage. It is Scotland's most populated municipality and was historically the country's largest port, acting as the gateway to a new life for countless foreign workers and travelers. Many of these migrants and their families elected to settle in the city, creating a vast and culturally diverse population. For this reason, Glasgow is rich in folklore, possessing a wide variety of stories, myths and legends, some of which are well-known and others as obscure as he they come.

From the murderous Kelpies that are said to haunt the waters and tributaries across the region to the ghostly armies of dead soldiers, which are said to rise from their graves and do battle with the English for all eternity, there is also no shortage of supernatural tales. In 1954, the local police were called to a disturbance in the city's Southern Necropolis, a sprawling graveyard located in the Gorbals District, which dates back to the 17th century. Upon their arrival, they found approximately 200 school children motivated by a combination of fear and anger, stalking amongst the tombstones armed with kitchen knives and other homemade weapons.

When asked what they were doing, the children replied that they were hunting for a metal toothed vampire, which had already taken and killed two of their number. Every so often one of the boys would see a dark figure, framed amidst the smoke and sulfur from the nearby steel works, at which point the horde of vengeful children would rampage towards it.

After several hours of corralling the angry mob, the police were able to finally disperse them. Although no trace of this alleged vampiric killer was found, stories of monsters who killed their victims using metal teeth are a long running theme throughout Scottish history. These included a man-eating ogre known as the 'Iron Man' and a female ghoul named 'Jenny with the iron teeth', who would enter the bedrooms of small children and devour them as they slept. But amidst these various tales of malicious spirits, alongside such manifestations as the Leaper of Dalmarnock Bridge or the Ghost Children of Tron Theatre, one haunting entity stands out in terms of the fear it imbued during its night time visits.

The first appearance of the Gurning man

The first reported sighting of this ghastly apparition occurred at some point during the late 1970s, within the city's Crosshill district. In the early hours of a summer morning, two young women were making their way home from a party when they noticed a figure watching them from the other side of the road, half hidden in the shadows being cast between the street lights.

As the partygoers stopped to try and get a better look, the silhouette quickly moved out of the half-light, remaining visible, but difficult to identify as it was now bathed in the darkness it had stepped back into. Peering into this inky blackness, the two teenagers could see that the figure seemed to be in a continual state of movement, shuddering and twitching despite the fact it was standing still. When one of them shouted out for the man to show himself, there was no reply and so the women resolved to continue their journey moving away from this mysterious onlooker who was standing alone in the shadows. They had just turned to leave, when the nighttime silence was shattered by a sudden and unexpected high-pitched shriek.

Turning to look, the two witnesses saw the figure emerge from the darkness behind them, emitting a further piercing howl as it did so. They estimated that he was an older male in his late 50s, with a bald head and dressed from head to toe in black. As he slowly crossed the street towards them, they could see that he was riving and undulating, as if not in full control of his own body. But by far the most disconcerting feature of the strange man, was his face, which seemed to be frozen in a pained and hideous gurning expression.

He was grunting and snorting with each step forwards that he took, his eyes staring piercingly at the two women, as he drew ever closer to them. With a cry, they immediately ran home as fast as they could, and called the local police to report the encounter. However, another incident would take place that same year, again in the early hours of the morning.

An elderly Crosshill resident had risen early and made her way downstairs to start breakfast.

Heading into the kitchen, she collected her empty milk bottles, then walked over to the front door to put them outside, so that the milkman who would be passing by shortly could replace them with full ones. As she bent forward to place the empty bottles on the ground, she became aware of a clattering sound further along the street. The early riser turned her head and squinted down the road to see if she could discern the source of the commotion. For a few moments, there was nothing and then the sound of metallic clanging came again.

A tall and slender shape came shaking and twitching out from behind a group of metal bins, hitting them with one sparking leg as he did so. One of the steel containers was knocked over onto its side and rolled out into the middle of the street, as the figure moved on past it. The old lady shrank back in fear, as the sinister apparition came towards her at speed, snarling, and grunting as it did so. The man's face was contorted into a picture of discomfort and rage with his arms flapping and flailing wildly by his sides, as if controlled by the Devil himself. With a guttural roar, the figure's pace immediately increased, as his body writhed and twitched, moving ever closer towards her. Terrified to within an inch of her life, the resident cried out for help, only to see her attacker disappear before her very eyes as soon as the desperate plea had left her lips.

The most disturbing report of the Gurning man

But by far, the most disturbing report of this sinister nighttime interloper took place several years later at a residential property in the same small area of the city. The address in question was home to a married couple and their two young daughters, who had never had any cause to call the police for any reason prior to the incident in question. One night, the mother of the family was awoken from her sleep by a deep and raspy breathing noise that was emanating from somewhere nearby.

Believing this to be the sound of her husband snoring away next to her, she turned to rebuke him, only to find her spouse lying silent and fast asleep alongside her. She was still struggling to locate where the sound was coming from, when a shadowy form unfolded from the floor of the foot of their bed. By the dim street lighting that was coming through the curtains, she could see that the intruder now standing in her bedroom was an older looking man dressed entirely in dark clothing. His body seemed to be in a constant state of motion, frantically rubbing his hands up and down his chest and striking the sides of his torso.

A quick check of the house confirmed that all of the windows and doors were secured with no sign of how the phantom trespasser had managed to gain access or indeed that he had ever been there at all. This would be one of six reports of what would become known locally as the gurning man appearing inside somebody's home, with a further 11 alleged incidents where he approached people in public.

Much like the Gorbals vampire before him, the Gurning man was never successfully identified by the local police and nobody was able to capture him on camera. As a result of these factors, the majority of commentators have dismissed both alleged entities as textbook cases of an urban legend, where a tall tale of scary story has been built up over the years by the community into an alleged actual incident.

But unlike the agitated schoolboy witnesses of the 1950s incident, those who reported encounters with the Gurning man were all grown adults, with no identifiable reason to manufacture their accounts. All were women of good character and there was nothing contained within any of their testimonies that contradicted what the other witnesses have described. Each of the 17 reported incidents took place between 1976 and 1979, they all occurred between the hours of 9:00 p.m. And 4:00 a.m. and all were located in or around the Crosshill district. There has also been a more recent series of reports in internet forums, describing a similar figure haunting the city's Queen's Park area, which is adjacent to the Gurning man's traditional stalking grounds.

One of these incidents involved a group of underage drinkers, who were approached in the park during the early hours of the morning by a chittering and snarling old man. When the youths attempted to capture their assailant on camera using their mobile phones, he promptly vanished right in front of them. On another occasion, a female motorist who was driving past the same park was forced to break sharply when a dark figure staggered out directly in front of her car. She caught a momentary glimpse of a middle-aged man, his facial features contorted and full of pain or rage before he evaporated into thin air as his writhing body was illuminated by her headlights.

Who is the Gurning man really?

If the Gurning man is indeed a tangible and not merely a tall tale regaled to children in the hopes that it might encourage them to behave, then who or what is he? The most obvious answer is that he is a normal person, afflicted by some form of debilitating medical condition. His apparent ability to disappear into thin air is harder to explain however, but this might simply be a case of misperception. Due to the stress his appearance might induce, witnesses may misremember what took place or even momentarily look away in fear whilst he makes good his escape.

Other explanations are that he is a ghost or some other form of spectral manifestation, created as a result of a dark moment in the city's past. Glasgow's history contains no shortage of tragedy and horror and the large number of angry spirits that are alleged to haunt its streets are a testament to these many crimes and misdemeanors.

The intriguing theory

A more intriguing theory centers on the Gurning man's apparent inability to fully process or relate with his surroundings, with only limited interactions in each instance. Some believe he may be a visitor from another time, or potentially even another dimension. Whatever process has brought him into our reality may have caused this traveler severe pain and distress inadvertently pulling him to a different point in time and space before he can fully comprehend what is happening to him. There are striking similarities between the descriptions of the Gurning man and another entity who traditionally goes by the name of Indrid cold, dubbed by those who have encountered him as 'the Grinning man'. This mysterious figure has appeared to witnesses all over the world, since he was first sighted in West Virginia during the mid-1960s.

Cold purported to be an extraterrestrial visitor and much like the Gurning man was tall and somewhat muscular in appearance with exaggerated or enlarged facial features and devoid of hair. He was benign in nature, engaging witnesses in conversation and asking them probing questions about their country and communities. Could it be that this Glaswegian entity comes from a similar background, but has taken a more rudimentary and dangerous route, which has had a severe effect on his physical appearance?


As intriguing as the idea of the Gurning Man being the victim of flawed technology pertaining to interdimensional travel, the lack of documentary evidence to support these stories of his appearance does seem to suggest that he may well be a work of fiction rather than fact. Whilst the witnesses were of apparent good character, the fact that they all lived in the same community and their experiences occurred in such a narrow time frame suggests that they may have been the victims of mass hysteria, reliving the traumas they had overheard described by their friends and neighbors. Or maybe he was indeed a genuine person, a criminal miscreant who deliberately altered his appearance to deceive and intimidate his victims whilst he was committing his misdemeanors.

Perhaps if his appearances had been investigated with the benefits of modern technology, his antics would be populating the front pages of mainstream newspapers, rather than the murkier corners of the internet. Whatever his origins, should you ever find yourself walking through the streets of Glasgow in the early hours, be mindful of your surroundings. Because no one can be sure when or where the Gurning man may end up making his next appearance.


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