Bizarre Hoaxes: The Halifax Slasher

The Halifax Slasher was an alleged attacker who caused panic in Halifax, Nova Scotia in November of 1938. This person was said to roam the streets attacking mostly women but also a few men with blunt objects and sharp blades. The mention of blades is what led to the man's nickname the Halifax Slasher. The problem with this story is that it was likely concocted. In fact, much of it is known to have been concocted.

The trouble began on November 16, 1938 when Gertrude watts and Mary Gledhill alleged that they were attacked. The said their attacker -- a man -- had a mallet. The only other identifying feature was bright buckles on the man's shoes. The next "victim" was Mary Sutcliffe. She said that the man carried a blade when he attacked her on November 21. More people came out over the next few days. What was bizarre was the public reaction and subsequent hoaxes that followed the alleged initial attacks.

Not long after the three women claimed they were attacked, the town went a little crazy. Citizens hunted for the Halifax Slasher, often coming up with innocent men. Beatings took place and more people came forward saying they had been attacked. The local police called in Scotland Yard for help. In the end, the conclusion was more bizarre than the alleged crimes. A man stalking women in the streets is sadly far from unusual. A town gone crazy and individuals pretending to have been attacked to perpetuate the hysteria is significantly more unusual.

On November 29, a man said he was attacked but later admitted that he lied. The man even harmed himself to make it look like he had been attacked. The investigation turned up a number of these hoaxes and the Halifax Slasher was declared a combination of hysteria and distasteful lies. The people who were found guilty of lying about the attacks were penalized.