Most people can agree that 1941 was a hellacious year for Europe. But in all this chaos, a strange mystery seemed to have almost slipped through the cracks. It remains unsolved to this day. Link
Liverpool was one of the most heavily bombed British cities outside of London during the hectic Blitz. At this time, much of he city was destroyed, in rubble, or otherwise, for lack of a better phrase, messed up.
During this year, the Germans dropped a bomb in Liverpool on Great Homer Street. This bomb seemed like all the others. However, amongst the rubble emerged a water-tight, metal cylinder roughly six-and-a-half feet long.
Though we don't know the exact date this bomb was dropped and the cylinder emerged because of the massive bombing and subsequent cleanup. However, on July 3rd, 1945 it finally got its moment in the sun.
A group of children saw the cylinder, further prominent because of the clean up, and decided to break open part of the cylinder to have a peek inside. However, what saw them shocked them: in the core of the cylinder was a corpse.
The police were alerted almost immediately and the cylinder was fully opened to reveal the skeleton of a man, who, by locals guess, seemed to have perished in the bombings a few years earlier.
Strangely enough, something didn't jive with this rational theory. Why? Well, the man inside was dressed head-to-toe in Victorian period clothing and lying on some sort of cloth. Attached to his head remained a few meager strands of hair and his head was propped up on a makeshift pillow created from brick wrapped in burlap.
Rumors swirled in the first few days, and the story even made it to newspapers. The Evening Express stated, "at the present stage there did not seem to be any suggestion of murder. It was quite possible that the man was of the 'queer' type and had crawled into the cylinder to sleep. Hey may have been dead 20 years." As a note, 'queer' in this usage refers to someone with a mental illness.
Furthermore, a few days later the body was examined by Mr. G.C Mort, a coroner, whose last name 'Mort' does not escape the Astonishing Legends team as a lot more than slightly coincidental. During this examination it was revealed that two diaries (illegible), a post car, and a rail notice had all been found on the skeleton's person. What's so strange about this? Well, they were all dated between 1884 and 1885. Furthermore, a worn signet ring, a set of keys, and undated receipt from a T.C. Williams & CO. were also discovered.
An investigation revealed that T.C. Williams & CO had been a local paint manufacturing company that operated until 1884, when it fell into financial ruin. It was then believed that the body was Williams son, born in 1859. However, this was quickly ruled out when the investigation found the younger Williams buried in a cemetery in Leeds. But, the elder Williams' body was still confirmed.
On August 31st, 1945 the official inquest recorded an open verdict. An open verdict means that the death was deemed suspicious, but lacked an obvious cause. The Liverpool Evening Expressed said it was, "impossible to find the cause of death, which he [Mort] believed took place in 1885. The body in the cylinder has never been officially confirmed as T.C. Williams, but it does remain the prevailing theory.
If a body that lay undiscovered in residential Liverpool for over 50 years wasn't enough of a twist, let us not forget about the cylinder. How does a body end up in a cylinder, with a pillow and cloth that closely mimicked funerary purposes?
Well, according to the Home Office in 1945, the cylinder seemed to be a part of a ventilation systems. Don't worry, it was likely not a freak paint-manufacturing accident, as not paint chips were found inside. Could Williams have been escaping the prying eye of creditors an bill collectors by taking a nap in the old system and then fell sick to deadly fumes? Or, perhaps, did he fake his own death using this body as decoy...even though it was never discovered in the 19th century?
We might never know for sure, but that doesn't mean we should stop trying.
The above picture is from Google Maps and is a current, by 2008, depiction of where the cylinder was found (A49, Wigan, UK).
Special thanks to Marie Mayhew, member of the ARC, who submitted the idea behind this article. Thanks, Marie!