- Hallowe’en Story – Judy: 1555 (28 October 1989)
- The Girl From Further Down – Judy: #1607 (27 October 1990)
- Tales from Skeleton Corner – Judy: #1632 (20 April 1991) – #1635 (11 May 1991)
- Tales from Skeleton Corner – M&J: #11 (27 July 1991) – #41 (22 February 1992)
- Skeleton Corner – M&J: #48 (11 April 1992) – #98 (27 March 1993) [not in every issue]
- Skeleton Corner – M&J: #101 (17 April 1993) – #115 (25 July 1993) [no episode issue #102, #111, #112]
- Skeleton Corner – M&J: #129 (30 Oct. 1993)- #194 (28 Jan. 1995) [not in every issue]
- Artist: Guy Peeters (Judy #1607, JudyAnn93)
- Artist: Oliver Passingham (Judy: 1632-1635, M&J: 11-41, 48, 50, 52, 58-59,61-63, 65-66, 69, 72, 77, 85-86, 91-92, 98, 101, 103-110,113-115, 122, MandyAnn94)
- Artist 2: Mike Dorey (M&J: 129-141, 143, 150, 153, 158, 163, 171, 173, 191-194, MandyAnn95)
This is an updated repost of a previous entry (10 years ago!), as I’ve re-read more stories and learned new information.
There wasn’t an ongoing plot, instead a skeleton, named Bones, introduces short scary stories, sometimes with a moral attached. It was usually 2 to 3 pages long. The stories varied from greedy girls getting what they deserved to innocent people being hassled by gremlins! A few stories focused on Bones and also had him interact with characters and influence outcomes.
The spooky storyteller was a common appearance in these comics, most famously the Man in Black in Diana and Damian Darke in Spellbound, this story would take the spookiness one step further with a skeleton narrating the tales. The story that would become known as Skeleton Corner, had a quieter beginning then others though, first appearing in a one-off story aptly called Hallowe’en Story in Judy issue 1555 (28 October 1989), a skeleton tells the tale of a poor girl in Victorian London, who gets a much needed job as a sculptor’s model. The sculptor emphasises the importance of being punctual and she is even when it is later discovered that before the last sitting, she was killed! This is a story that I believe was originally a Damian Darke story, though I can’t find the exact issue right now. The Skeleton returned again the following Halloween in issue 1607 with another story The Girl From Further Down. At this point the skeleton has not been named as Bones or there is not mention of Skeleton Corner. Then in issue 1631 (13 April 1991) there is an advertisement for the upcoming issue with the Skeleton saying “Hi girls – it’s me again” and talking about the story Flower Power that will appear in the next issue. From issue 1632 to Judy’s last issue in 1635, the stories appeared with their own title with the caption “Tales from Skeleton Corner” beneath it. When the stories continued in the Mandy & Judy magazines it followed this format, until issue 59 when the individual titles were dropped and it just became known as Skeleton Corner.
Comics like Misty and Jinty were better known for their spooky stories, but there was still room for these kind of stories in other comics too. Skeleton Corner was a bit of a softer approach, to the IPC comics but there were still some gems of stories featured. The storytelling skeleton, Bones, while he may appear scary he didn’t have a creepy personality, he was presented as a more as a friendly person who just happened to be a skeleton. He did set the tone well for the stories, as being a supernatural character that was possibly creepy but not overly disturbing!
There were two main artists for its run Oliver Passingham and Mike Dorey. Guy Peeters also did an early story and some of the annual stories. Whoever was on drawing duties always did a good job, I am a fan of both artists though I think Dorey had an edge on creating a darker tone.
The stories themselves varied and of course being short stories they were sometimes they were limited with the space to work with. Often the stories had a girl who was greedy, selfish or ignored the rules getting a fitting punishment. Other times the main character could be a nice person, who just had the bad luck to move into the wrong house or meet the wrong person. Some of the more effective scary stories were when the ending was left ambiguous with Bones only hinting at what may have happened. There are stories that could leave you quite unnerved, so it had a good mix, of the truly spooky and the stories that were lighter or had more happier endings.
Here’s a selection of some of my favourite stories in publication order rather than a ranking:
- Watching You! – Judy: #1635 (Art: Oliver Passingham)
Becky Brown keeps seeing a sad figure of a girl in her neighbour’s house which is currently being built. She finally goes to investigate and finds a paint splattered dungarees, which she figures flapping in the breeze was creating an illusion of a figure… but then she turns to see the figure in her own bedroom window. A nice build up as we see Becky get the courage to explore the other house and just when there seems to be a rational explanation, the twist of the figure now appearing in her own bedroom is well done.
- What’s in a Name?– M&J: #14 (Art: Oliver Passingham)
Sonia is writing a story for a competition, she decides to make it a romantic story and names the protagonist Pippa Gale. She is surprised when her brother starts dating a girl named Pippa Gale, even more surprising is Pippa has also entered the competition and named her protagonist Sonia Steel. While Sonia and her brother laugh at the coincidence, Sonia doesn’t tell them she is worried as her story is called “The Tragedy of Sonia Steel”
- The Longest Night – M&J: #38 (Art: Oliver Passingham)
Rachel’s brother Jon keeps having nightmares about it being dark forever, their gran says it reminds her of a legend of battle between light and dark. When the electricity goes out Jon lights a candle to keep away the dark but nearly starts a fire. They put the candle out, but in the morning it seems there was truth in the story as now darkness has won because there is no light!
- Wake Me Up! – M&J: #50
Lucy Kemp is determined to stay awake so she can greet her dad when he returns late from a long business trip away. She thinks keeping herself scared will help. She tries to read Skeleton Corner from her M&J mag to help, but then says Bones is not that scary. Bones shows up to try and prove her wrong but she only laughs at him! While Bones interacting with the characters, or having his own stories were not always the most compelling, this is a fun little meta story!
- Skeleton Corner – M&J: #108 (Art: Oliver Passingham)
Jo Johnson and her friend Emma are stuck waiting at a bus stop, so the begin playing a prize giving arcade game called Aladdin’s Cave. They win a brooch at first and are surprised when their money is also returned. They continue doing this for a while, but Emma begins to get nervous she worries that something is wrong that the goods might be stolen and that something’s not right with the game and leaves. Jo continues but then the machine starts to shake and all the prizes help form a large frightening genie. A case of greediness being punished!
- Bargain Basement! – Mandy Annual 1994 (Art: Oliver Passingham)
Carrie works part time at a department store Dinnegans. She is excited about the Christmas party, but it turns out to be quite boring with an old fashioned band. She is about to leave when she hears music coming from the basement. She finds a party much more to her liking and a good looking guy asks her to dance. For some reason she isn’t put off by his enigmatic way of talking, even when she is the one that gives him his name Mark.
Mark is disappointed when Carrie leaves, but says they can meet at next years party. The next day Carrie mentions to another employee, that she joined the other Christmas party. She tells her there was no other party. Carrie investigates the basement and gets nervous when it is filled with dusty mannequins, she trips dropping her pen. She is jumpy the rest of the day, and is shocked to find Mark a mannequin set up for a new office display. She thinks she may have imagined it all, when she spots her pen beside Mark and a note “See you at the party next year”. Bones finishes the story by telling us readers that Carrie has decided to leave her job, so there’s a vacancy if anyone is interested, they have great Christmas parties! This is one of the stories that I always remembered, there can be something very creepy about mannequins and though they don’t threaten Carrie, it still has the right amount of scariness, to think of objects watching you and coming to life.
- Skeleton Corner – M&J #129 (Art: Mike Dorey)
Deanne and Emma are on school trip to a wood which has unusual branch sculptures. Emma is rude to the creator of the sculptures and when Emma and Deanne sneak away from the group they are horrified when Emma is turned into sculpture herself. This is one of the more horrific stories told in Skeleton Corner, with some body horror included, while Emma has not acted nicely the punishment hardly seems fitting to the crime and the art really captures it well.
- Skeleton Corner – M&J: #140 (Art: Mike Dorey)
Sally Townsand is a late comer to her new boarding school, so she is given a single room that isn’t normally used. Sally doesn’t like an old faded picture of gates hanging up and is going to take it down, but the housekeeper insists it must always stay there.
Sally takes it down later anyway, she notices a crack in the wall but figures her poster can hide it just as well. That night she is woken up by knocking and tearing noises coming from the wall. Bits of plaster start to fall off. She runs to get the housekeeper who place the picture back up and tells her as long as its there nothing can get through. Bones ends the story by explaining that gates are used to keep things in as well as out. A disturbing tale as the reader is let to wonder what is the gate keeping in, though luckily for Sally she doesn’t find out!
- Skeleton Corner – M&J: #141 (Art: Mike Dorey)
Rachel Gunn and her family move into a new house, they are quite happy and she settles in quickly at her new school. Her younger brother tells her how the previous family disappeared. Soon after Gary starts disappearing and reappearing.
Rachel thinks its Gary playing tricks on her, until it happens with her parents as well. She wakes up one morning and there is no trace of her family, though the car is still in the driveway. Feeling scared she rings the police. The police arrive but there is no sign of Rachel and they discuss how its strange that the same thing happened to the previous family, but its not like people vanish into thin air! This has a nice bit of a build up for a short story and it’s made even creepier when these things are left unexplained.
- Skeleton Corner – #191
On a school trip Amy is not pleased to be roomed with wimpy Debra. She is kept awake all night by Debra claiming she hears noises and turning on a torch. The next night Amy hears the noise as well and asks Debra to pass the torch. She is handed the torch but as she turns on torch, Debra walks into room with teacher she had gone to fetch, so who handed Amy the torch! Again the right amount of creepiness while the presence in the room doesn’t seem malicious it is little disturbing to think there is some unknown entity in the dark!
It was not a new concept to have a spooky storyteller telling stories, The Man in Black (Diana), Damian Darke (Spellbound) and Gipsy Rose (Jinty) all scared readers and taught them lessons weekly. Skeleton Corner was the last of these type of stories that continued this tradition and was successful in having a long enjoyable run of stories.
The next page has a full list of stories that appeared.