The Famous Fable of Liverpool’s most Infamous Un-dead Resident

William Mackenzie

Now don’t get me wrong dear readers, for no-body really knows who or what these phantom shadows are or who they used to be in life… But it is myth, and it is folklore that this particular apparition is none other than the Spirit of Will Mackenzie, a proud stubborn man, a Scot, from a small town called Newbie in Dumfries-shire who lived in Liverpool during the 1800s.

Many things are known of William Mackenzie, he fiercely endorsed the early railways, he was a great champion of scientific progress, to everyone who knew him he was regarded as a pillar of the community. But, like each and everyone of us here this evening I have no doubt. There was a darker side to Will Mackenzie – one that entirely contrasted with his image of goodliness.

This proud pillar was secretly cracking, crumbling, buckling under the weight of his many dark secrets… You see, dear Will McKenzie was a compulsive gambler, a violent drunk, a womaniser and it is rumoured that he flung his family Bible into the fire when his love died of a fever, he renounced God and declared himself to be (probably the worst thing you could be in God fearing Victorian England) an Atheist.

There are so many stories, fables and tales surrounding this figure Will Mackenzie and there have been countless sightings of his Ghost on Rodney Street. 

However, the story, that really stands the test of time, goes a little something like this…

One foggy night in October 1850, Mackenzie, not for the first time, became embroiled in a debauched drunken poker game with a mysterious gentleman known only as Mr. Reeves.  Mckenzie knew Reeves to be a dab hand at poker and had played with him on many occasions before. But this one night, Mackenzie played a game with Reeves into the early hours of the morning – a game he was never to forget to his dying day.

Mckenzie lost everything to the mysterious Reeves, every stock every share, every ship every house including the palatial mansion he called home.  Just before dawn Mckenzie was making tracks to leave, when Reeves said to him…

‘One more game, Mackenzie?’

But ‘I’m penniless, you have taken everything I have, I’ve nothing else to bet’ said Mackenzie’

 ‘What about your soul sir?’

‘Is this some sort of a joke man?’ 

‘I assure you Mckenzie this is no joke. For a man, who claims himself to be an atheist cannot believe he has a soul to lose? And, to make it more interesting, I’ll wager you this – If you win the next game, I will give you back everything you’ve lost to me tonight.’

Mackenzie was far too proud to admit his views especially on religion may be wrong and too avaricious and greedy a man to pass up an opportunity such as this, so the stupid fool bet his soul to the devil himself…

Of course Mackenzie lost the bet.  He fell to his knees when he realised who his opponent truly was and begged Reeves not to take his soul.

‘Fear not, Mackenzie, I will not take your soul … Not until you are dead and buried beneath the ground in your grave.’

And with that the two gentlemen parted company, Reeves vanished into the blackness without a trace and they never saw each other again.

Upon death, Mackenzie was so afraid that the Devil might come to claim what was rightly owed, that he left a rather strange, bizarre set of instructions regarding the internment of his body in his will. Will Mckenzie stipulated that he was not to be buried below the ground, but above it, sitting upright, seated at a table displaying a winning hand of poker: was this one last desperate attempt to cheat the Devil out of taking his soul?

And do you all remember the bet? As long as his remains lie above ground Satan cannot claim his soul. But has he condemned himself to walk the earth as a restless spirit until judgment day?  And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, if you would like to see the eerie pyramidal tomb where his rotting body rests according to the instructions in his will, then you had better all join us on the Hope Street Shivers Tour!

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