Dark Days at Torloch Towers [1977]

  • Dark Days at Torloch Towers – Spellbound: #35 (21 May 1977) – #41 (02 July 1977)
  • Artist: Juan Sarompas (thanks to David Roach for confirming)

Plot

At the secluded boarding school, Torloch Tower, a new science teacher, Miss Ray is preparing  a special experiment with her class. They leave the solution for over night but friends Gail Thomson and Pat Moore return to the lab late to collect something Gail forgot. They can’t get in to the locked room but see in the window a strange black cloud forming from the solution and escaping through the key hole. Suddenly the girls start bickering, they return to dorm room still angry but the next morning they feel bad about the fight. They go back to the lab to investigate and find the room trashed. Their friend Faye is watching them, when a strange black bird appears in front of her, she becomes spiteful and tells the headmistress about the girls being outside when they shouldn’t be. Gail and Pat get called to the head’s office and already Faye is regretting her actions and is there too asking the headmistress to forget what she said, they all get punishment for their actions. Faye thinks the other girls won’t be friends with her anymore but because of their experience they believe her that something evil and strange came over her.

Gail and Pat are showing Faye the lab when Miss Ray appears. The normally understanding teacher,  accuses them of wrecking the lab, then girls notice the dark  shape nearby that then dives into lake. The evil influence doesn’t last too long at least and Miss Ray apologies to girls. The cloud now in the form of a fish causes two other students attack another swimmer. It leaves the water turning into a lizard. Gail, Pat and Faye wonder what they can do to stop the creature especially as it can change shapes, but they know they must try to stop its nasty influence. Later Gail and Pat see the cloud in its original form again, it is moving slower and they observe it feeding off ink and becoming stronger and faster again.

Revitalized the shape makes Joan the captain at the hockey match want to win game at all costs.  She gets sent off for foul play on other team. Then the cloud takes shape of a cat and causes the real school cat to attack Pat. Later, surprisingly the Cloud stops at prize day notice and looks like it is reading it. It then turns into a question mark, and the girls can’t make sense of what it is planning. The parents arrive for prize giving and the Headmistress is influenced to say insulting things at the ceremony, Pat pulls fire alarm to stop the speech. Gail and Pat discuss if the parents take action on what the Head said their could be real trouble and they need to destroy the thing before it destroys the school (incidentally the parents don’t complain it seems because it is never mentioned again). The girls consider talking to Miss Ray for help, but she has taken some leave to visit her mother. Pat gets idea to kill the “pest” with fly killer but it only makes it angrier. While cleaning up spilled ink they then think they should use ink remover on the thing, they lure it in with some ink to feed on and the pour the ink remover over it. The thing is completely destroyed, the nightmare is over and the girls are happy to forget about it and enjoy the rest of the school term.

Thoughts

This story has great art, from the impressive school and its location to the menacing cloud, also the layouts and composition are really good. This elevates the story a lot, the mysterious shape that can change into  animals (and a   question mark) makes for a very creepy opponent, and the art captures that and the girl’s terror perfectly. The three main characters all are given their own personalities, Pat being the most proactive, Faye being nervy and Gail being the more calm supportive one.  We don’t know what motivates the shape but it is interesting rather than many other evil influence stories, it doesn’t latch onto one person, and neither is its effects long lasting. This give the girls a better chance of defeating it. They are smart enough observe the creature, then come up with a solution from what they have seen.

The story does leave a lot of unanswered questions, from the beginning it was so vague what experiment the class were doing, I thought that Miss Ray was behind it, (it wouldn’t be the first time a nice new teacher wasn’t what they seemed). So how the cloud/shape was created was unclear and also what it’s ultimate goal was. The girls are surprised when it seems to read the noticeboard, showing it has some intelligence, perhaps it particularly wanted to stir up jealousy as the swimmer, hockey and prize giving instances were all related to people being better at something than others. Whatever the reason, it is quickly defeated in the last episode and the girls are happy to just forget about it, which is a bit of an anti climatic ending.

 

 

The Fight Against the Odds

Plot

Young Suzy Parker champion all-round athlete, is kidnapped and taken to the island of Calabay, in the Indian Ocean. There she finds that Professor Gilbraith, a millionaire scientist, has produced a group of androids—robots in human form—which he calls the Odds. With them he hopes to prove he can beat the best of the world’s girl athletes, all of whom have also been taken to the island. Then the Professor brings his Odds and the girl athletes to Wembley Stadium, where the great contest begins. Suzy, knowing the others will have to give of their very best to win, has needled them by pretending to be terribly big-headed. This makes the girls vow to beat her, and Suzy knows that if she can force them to excel themselves in doing so, they will beat the Odds as well.

Notes

  • Art: Eduardo Feito

Appeared

  • The Fight Against the Odds – Judy: #474 (8 February 1965) – #480 (22 March 1969)

The Day the Staff Walked Out

Plot

The girls at Pringle’s Private School are all daughters of wealthy parents. Not one of them has any interest in school work and their laziness has caused them to be expelled from one school after another. They should have been expelled from Pringle’s as well, but the Headmistress thinks it will be better if the staff leave instead. By arranging seemingly innocent incidents, she is teaching them to take care of themselves.

 

Notes

  • Art: Rodney Sutton

Appeared

  • The Day the Staff Walked Out – Judy: #474 (8 February 1965) – (?)

The Big Hand

Plot

Millie Munro, trained by her guardian, Mrs Peters, is to take part in the County Junior Tennis Championships. She plays badly until she becomes the possessor of a racket known as the Big Hand, once owned by Champion Juliet Hambro. Harold Scales, the crooked coach of the reigning junior champion, does everything in his power to stop Millie’s progress.

Notes

  • Art: Ian Kennedy

Appeared

  • The Big Hand – Judy: #474 (8 February 1965) – (?)

Terry and the Time Ship

Plot

Terry Marsden accidentally launches herself into the future in a strange craft and finds herself a thousand years from now in Tibet, now called Nirvan, where she is befriended by Tishani, the leader’s daughter. Terry learns that, back in her own time, a terrible flood is going to devastate the east coast of Britain. She must return to warn of the disaster, but the time ship is taken by Lishan, an unscrupulous historian, who forces the girls to travel through time with him.

Notes

  • Art: Rodney Sutton

Appeared

  • Terry and the Time Ship – Judy: #474 (8 February 1965) – #480 (22 March 1969)

Heartbreak House [1994]

  • Heartbreak House–  Bunty:  #1911 (27 August 1994) – #1918 (15 October 1994)
  • Art: Don Walker

Plot

When Penny Wellman’s father gets a promotion, the family move into Corbie House, a Victorian mansion. The owners were trying to sell for a while so it is cheaper than expected. On the first day exploring a crow flies at Penny from out of the attic. Penny begins to get a creepy feeling about the house. Later while they are unpacking her mother’s ornaments fall down from cabinet, her parents initially blame Penny although she tells them she was not in the room at the time they still seem suspicious. In another room Penny hears some strange noises and is pushed in closet, she has to break herself out but again her parents don’t believe her version of events. Her mother asks if she is unhappy in the house and says she will settle when she makes new friends. Soon after Penny does make a potential friend, Tina, but while visiting Tina gets spooked by breathing noises and laughter that sound like they are coming from the wall. She believes Penny was playing tricks on her.

At school Penny is more fortunate when she makes a friend Emma, who mentions there were strange stories about Corbie house, but then she clams up. Mrs Wellman finds an old portrait of girl Penny’s age that looks similar to her and hangs it in the hallway. It creeps Penny out, and when Emma’s mom is visiting it seems the portrait tells her she is not welcome in house. Of course the adults again think that it is Penny that said these things, but Emma believes her. When mom’s old friend, Anne, a ghost story novelist, comes to stay she thinks she may have another ally, but it turns out Anne doesn’t believe on any of the things she writes about. The ghost continues to get stronger, playing tricks and destroying things and during a costume party the ghost actually appears causing a girl, Abbie, to fall through glass door. Lucky she’s not injured. The ghost appears to just Penny mocking her, she disappears before her mom arrives and Penny knows she will have to figure out how to get rid of ghost herself because no-one else will believe her.

When she meets an old lady, Mrs Scott, she tells her that her grandmother used to work in the house. The Halstow’s had two children a girl Charity, and a boy who died young. Apparently Charity was sweet when she was little but then grew up evil, Mrs Scott says there was some big fire at the house but hasn’t any more details. Penny exploring the attic for answers comes across Charity’s diary, the ghost appears as she she doesn’t want Penny to have it. Penny runs but falls through some rotten floorboards and ends up in hospital. Luckily she is not badly injured and while in hospital she can read the diary in peace. She finds out that Charity’s young brother, Tom, while playing climbed out on the roof and slipped. Charity tried to save him but a blackbird startled causing her let go of Tom’s hand. She was blamed for his death, ans she thought Corbie House hated her and she had plan to get rid of unlucky house. The journal stops there but presumably her plan was to burn it down, Penny later finds out there was fire at house and the family moved to village, but Charity died of fever soon after. Penny contacts the producer of TV series “Injustice” that tells stories of wrongly accused people, in the hopes they can clear Charity’s name and put her spirit to rest. When they agree to come film, Penny explains her research to her parents. While getting some shots on the roof, the cameraman slips but feels someone pulls him back and he regains his balance. Afterwards Penny is no longer is haunted and house once more is happy. Penny has new friends and it seems Charity is now at peace.

Thoughts

In these stories the minute you hang up a creepy old portrait you find in the attic trouble is going to follow! Although the haunting starts before the portrait is hanging Charity does get stronger once it’s up.  Of course typically everything that goes wrong, the parents blame their daughter and don’t trust her when she tries to defend herself. Some very familiar themes in this story!

Before Charity appears it is unclear what is causing the trouble, it is interesting that we find out later that Charity thinks the house is bad luck after her brother died, as  now she is the one making that come true. The motivation for her haunting is a little unclear, is she just trying to make sure no one lives in the house that caused her so much trouble or is there a vicious streak in her? She certainly seems gleeful of the trouble she causes at times and says the house is trying to stop her. Most likely a combination of the two, she does believe the house is bad luck and wants it destroyed, but also with the people of her time blaming her for her brother’s death and calling her evil, she may now believe that they were right and plays the part. She was clearly disturbed by her brother’s death, and it is heavily implied that she tried to burn the house down afterwards. When Penny finds her diary Charity seems distressed and weaker, maybe she is ashamed of her past and thinks she is deserved to be called evil. Saving the cameraman and Penny defending her name appears to relieve the guilt Charity has and let her rest.

 

It’s surprising that Emma, who says she believes Penny and wants to be friends, doesn’t appear again, even if her mother won’t allow her to visit she could be someone to talk to at school. Instead Penny has to do things herself and no one defends her when things go wrong. The ending is wrapped up quickly, Penny decides to start investigation in the penultimate episode and meets Mrs Scott and finds the diary. The next episode (final part) she reads diary, gets film crew to visit and talks to her parents briefly (about Charity’s story not the haunting). It could be paced a bit better if there was an extra episode. Especially her parents after all the trouble happening being on board immediately for film crew coming to their house. Also a few times it seems like things are set up for one direction but then changes or never is developed, like Emma not helping more, or Charity saying the house was trying to stop her. Still a good little ghost story and nice art by Walker.

The Glade of Lost Children

Plot

At the end of the 15th century, during the Wars of the Roses, some of the peasants around Moorford, homeless and starving, leave their children in a forest glade which has a magic reputation. The children are never seen again and it is believed that the forest sprites are taking care of them. Jane Shaw, the young daughter of a farmer, discovers that the children are really being cared for by Lady Marston and her huge servant, Wat, in her castle, while her husband is away fighting. Jane’s own parents have disappeared and her home is burned down, so she joins Lady Marston to help look after the children.

Notes

  • Art: Tony Speer

Appeared

  • The Glade of Lost Children – Judy: #278 (8 May 1965) – #284 (19 June 1965)

Finny

Plot

Mary Martinand her brother, John, make a pet of a stranded dolphin, Finny, and teach him to do tricks. But Finny is taken by Sam Barker, a showman, as the star attraction of his oceanarium. Mary and John go to the show-ground at night to feed Finny and are caught by Bruton Finny’s cruel trainer. Barker blackmails Mary to become Finny’s trainer as Burton has not had success in making him do tricks.

Notes

  • Art: Rodney Sutton

Appeared

  • Finny – Judy: #278 (8 May 1965) – #284 (19 June 1965)