WN Herbert’s ‘Murder Bear’ turns Hellbeareen especially for IS&T – Happy Halloween!

















Murder Bear liked to disguise himself as the ghost

of a small boy when it was time to walk among

the spirits and enquire which did homeowners prefer,

tragedy or terror? They would lean down to correct him,

‘I think you’ll find it’s trick or…’ – only to see ichor

start to pour from the child’s eyes and nose and ears,

and hear behind them the scorching hiss of tar

slumping its way down their stairwell like a tongue,

unscrolling itself in pops and flickers, squeezing

between the banisters like mud through smoking teeth

and curling around their melting slippers – ‘…terror!’

the now-decayed urchin would conclude, before

reforming and heading next door. He loved our games,

and would often slip a drowned kitten or two

into the basin where the children dooked for apples,

or thread a libertarian’s liver onto the string

of treacle-dunked scones. Nothing delighted him more

than substituting for a pumpkin the flaming head

of a much-loved teacher, or intricately carving a neep

into an anatomically correct inverted platypus.

Come midnight he would lead a dancing host

of rot-shrouded skullheads through town as

the sky filled with ghost riders trailing horse guts,

and daub the splintering doors of cowering householders

with a paw replenished by dips in a boiling tureen

of blood and borscht, borne on the back of the skeleton

of a giant turtle raised by his necromantic skills,

while bellowing theatrically, ‘Bring out your living!’







W.N. Herbert is the Dundee Makar or laureate. He teaches Creative Writing at Newcastle University, where he’s Professor of Poetry & Creative Writing. He is mostly published by Bloodaxe. Recent and forthcoming titles include Omnesia, The Third Shore (with Yang Lian), Whaleback City (with Andy Jackson), and, of course, Murder Bear (Donut).


*Hellbeareen does not appear in the Murder Bear pamphlet, but if you love Murder Bear as much as we do, read more about his exploits here.

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