When I was seven I was waiting for my mother in the doctor’s surgery when a copy of THIS fell out of the girls’ magazine I was flicking through:
I had never seen anything like this in all my few, primary-coloured years. My eyes took in the bloated yellow moon, the pen-and-ink bats, the heavy application of eye-shadow on the spooky heroine. I didn’t know that Misty was a cult 1970s girls’ horror comic.
All I knew was that a) I must learn more about these ‘chills from the midnight world’, and b) my mother would not approve.
So – in my first act of petty theft – I rolled up the spooky comic and secreted it in my waistband for the ride home. Then I flung myself onto my bed and opened the comic to the splash page:
Oh my fucking god. Monsters. Things swooping from the shadows. UNNAMED TERRORS STALKING MY EVERY FOOTSTEP. For the next few hours I lay there quietly, poring over this wonderful new treasure as wave after wave of delicious goosebumps shivered across my body.
I was hooked. Not on horror exactly, but on eeriness, creepy tension, and a sense of impending dread.
As you might imagine, Misty’s pages crawled with ghosts, ghouls and other, subtler, eldritch twilit things. But what was terrifying was that these horrors didn’t exist in some eerie other-place that ceased to exist when you closed the comic. They were conjured by the unwitting actions of perfectly ordinary schoolgirls (albeit teenage schoolgirls in flares, with luxuriant hair and solid cat-eyeliner skills. Misty was basically H. P. Lovecraft in a training bra).
If you were a Misty heroine, innocuous acts like petting a stray cat, taking a short-cut home, or finding a lost penny could deliver you straight into the malevolent hands of futuristic Nazis, some very un-PC gypsy stereotypes, or even the devil himself.
And heaven forbid you ever fell asleep in front of the TV:
I was particularly taken with The Four Faces of Eve in which a girl recovering from a horrific accident wonders why her parents are so cold towards her. Why is her amnesia so total? As I read, the girl met an old lady who fainted at the sight of her! When she came to, the old lady explained that the girl looked exactly like her granddaughter, who had – ARGH – recently died.
AND THEN WHAT? I was desperate to know.
But the story continued in the next issue – which I had no idea how to procure. Knowing my mother would throw a fit, I got my grandmother to call the magazine subscription number (look, judge her, not me) – but I was sadly informed that Misty had gone out of print several years before.
For two weeks I was bereft, but it was a weird sort of bereavement where I jumped at shadows and peered suspiciously at lone magpies. And then one brilliant day my grandmother raced into my room and handed me a pile of Mistys she’d stolen from the doctor’s (again, judge her).
I was in seventh heaven. With willpower I have since been unable to summon (especially in relation to cheese), I resisted the urge to read them there and then, and hid them under my bed, saving them for surreptitious, under-the-covers bedtime reading.
And I learned so much from Misty, including:
1. Never mock a monkey:
2. Never ask a magician “how it’s done”.
3. If you suspect some hooded fellows of cult activity, DON’T FOLLOW THEM INTO A DUNGEON.
4. If you ever make a deal with someone, MAKE SURE THEY’RE NOT THE DEVIL.Not sure how you do this, but let’s just say I’m never going on Deal Or No Deal. Because safety first, and also Noel Edmonds.
5. Never, ever, EVER cut your hair into a bob:
I also learned an important lesson about sharing nightmares. The additional Mistys continued the Four Faces of Eve story, in which Eve spooks a palm reader (“Your life-line, it has already ended”), and it turned out that Eve’s parents weren’t parents, but SCIENTISTS, who had sewn Eve together from the bodies of four dead girls!
Damn you, science!
The night I finished the story I ran into my parents’ room screaming about disembodied limbs, and my precious Mistys – mostly unread – were roundly confiscated, and I never saw them again. Luckily, Misty comics are now online! Yep, the publications holds such a dear place in people’s hearts that back issues are now available, a new annual has been published, and you can read some of the – still genuinely creepy – stories online, including The Cult of the Cat, The House that Waited, and – yes – The Four Faces of Eve.
My Misty experience set me up for a lifetime of spookiness, which is why – despite being a rationalist – I devoured Arthur C Clarke’s World of Strange Powers, why I’m a lifetime subscriber to the Fortean Times, and it’s why people call me Spooky Wilder:
Oh, fine, no one calls me Spooky Wilder. Can’t blame a girl for trying. Happy Hallowe’en!
Robyn is tweeting about pumpkins and whatnot @orbyn.