The very first ghost story competition occurred in 1816, when Lord Byron challenged his companions, including Mary Shelley and John William Polidori, to write a macabre tale. That exercise resulted in The Vampyre and Frankenstein, and so the gothic novel was born. The SSC's competition asked for a 'ghost story', but with those two examples above, it was clear that any scary, macabre or horror story in the tradition of Shelley, Stevenson or Stoker would fit the bill.
My poem contains some Scottish literary and historical references, and you're welcome to try your hand at spotting them. Throw a list into the comments if you like and I'll let you know if you've got 'em all.
The Pies have it
This tale I'll tell if you'll pay heed,
involving pies and devilish deeds.
It could be fiction, but it's true
it's really novel. Here's the proof;
Mary Shelley told it me.
It's better told in broad daylight.
On dark and scary stormy nights
you'd find it much more ghastly then.
Of chimney-pies and luckenbooths –
ye'll hearken 'tently, won't ye.
The butcher, baker and the thief
each in their way caused folk much grief.
Ill-famed in time for crimes, they plied
their trades where Ayr's old market sluice
spilt on cobbled street its bree.
Auld Bean, the thief, he prowled about
and stole what he could later tout.
But unlike burglar Brodie, Bean
would prey on carefree, cantie youths
and careless girls d'ye see.
And Knox, the butcher, couldn't leave,
so joined the gang and stayed to cleave,
from rumps and thighs, the best of flesh.
He sold the scrape for soup and stews.
His knives were sharp to a T.
But Bolfry baked and hawked the pies,
deep-filled enough to inspire sighs.
Throughout the toun his double-crust
caused wholesale drooling: myth or truth?
A baker's tasty recipe.
Some time elapsed before young Hume
came down to Ayr from near Mossblown,
out looking for his missing mates.
He thought he was a canny sleuth
about to make his mark you see.
He wondered where was portly Pat,
and where indeed were Tam and Wat.
They last were seen in Sawney Arms,
where Begbie, with his fresh tattoos,
served watered down his whisky.
Next day Hume stumbled on a piece
of clothing worn by Tam, whose niece
had stitched his smock with homely skill.
That's how she lives. She knits and sews.
Hungry aye, believe you me.
She'd patched it with a bright red square
she'd rescued from a shawl, threadbare,
her Ma had worn for years and years,
and which had Hume then thinking, Clues!
Now, Willie Hume, we shall see.
How did this artefact get torn
from off the smock it once adorned?
Perplexed at that, the young sleuth-hound,
afraid the rag was dreadful news,
wished he knew where Tam could be.
By Hume's sheer luck, he'd found his clue
in Burker's Wynd as he weaved through
the streets of Ayr in search of pals.
Nose to the ground, looking for proof,
from tollbooth back beyond the quay.
He quizzed the butcher if he'd seen
a be-smocked rustic, tall and lean,
with a placeable patch on his knee.
But all he got was a curse and 'strewth!
Crivvens, na, but why ask me?
I found this patch unwound behind
your shop, said Hume, in yonder Wynd.
The shifty look he got from Knox
led Hume's keen instinct to deduce:
guilt lurks therein, I can see.
So Hume resolved to spy on Knox
and soon enough, he ups and locks
his shop and slopes with furtive glance
along the street to baker's booth,
beneath a markéd hanging tree.
So nothing loath, the cunning fox
then tailed his man, and led by Knox
he stumbled in to baker's shop,
where Bean, surprised, yelled, What the deuce!
and Hume replied, So there's three...
A suspect gang, but what's their plot?
was Hume's first thought, full sure he ought
to play it safe while on his own.
If those three were to face the noose,
certain patience was the key.
I heard about your famous pies,
said Hume, and I'd be telling lies
if once I had the chance to taste
your chimney-pie I wouldn't choose
to have one now. What say ye?
Nae bother, laddie, Bolfry eased,
some folks would die for pies like these.
And as he handed Hume a pie,
the thief and butcher, so uncouth,
chuckled, laughed and slapped a knee.
Such mirth was unbefitting then,
but Hume was unaware the den
he'd entered full of innocence
was wicked through and through, aloof
from civilised normality.
Then as he bit down through the rim,
his front teeth struck on something grim.
Hume pulled away and almost choked:
for resting in the pie was proof
of the fate of Tam McPhee.
O there it lay, Tam's grey-blue eye,
unseeing, lodged inside the pie.
It dawned on Hume that those three men
had broken one of man's taboos,
with fiendish, hellish devilry.
The three conspired to purvey pies,
each with the role he played, but whys
and wicked motives for their game
were left for jury to educe
as Hume went home, tearfully.
The Polis took the gang to jail,
a band that went beyond the pale
in baking bits of men in pies.
Their just deserts they got forsooth,
corpses on the gallows' tree.