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Thread: Mass Grave in Old Swan

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    Re-member Ged's Avatar
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    Default Old Swan.

    Does anyone remember that when they were demolishing the opposite side of St. Oswalds street, they came across a mass grave site. My mate lived in Elm's House Road so I was forever getting the number 10 in Norton Street. I was born in Holly Street, the flats similar to Eldon Grove and later moved to Gerard Gardens when Holly Street had to make way for the new St. Anne Street Police station. I loved that community and era - no playstations or X boxes, no interacting via a joystick, screen or keyboard - proper face to face games. Does anyone have any photos of Rose Hill Police station which preceded St. Anne Street station?


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    Still alive snappel's Avatar
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    I'd heard about the graves from a Tom Slemen story, but I've no idea. There's an interview with him where he mentions it...

    "There were 3,561 bodies buried according to age group in a huge square, in coffins of an unknown type of wood that would not burn."

    They were found in October 1973 while clearing space for a Roman Catholic primary school. No maps or parish records show this graveyard.

    "The mystery deepens as the Home Office soon cordoned off the site, and the bodies were taken to be cremated and buried at a cemetery in Anfield."

    Archaeologists from London were furious, but the Home Office refused to comment until the 1990s and then admitted the entire files were lost.


    Source

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    All sounds a bit dodgy if true doesn't it. A Tom Slemen story recently appeared in the Bootle Times about a reptile monster type creature that's supposed to have popped in and out of the rubbish chutes in Gerard Gardens much to the horror of the local residents and was well known. Weill I lived there from 1968 to 78 and heard nothing about it. Now i'm not saying any of his stories are 'made up' but 11 books of ghostly happenings? I've heard that someone will come up to him at his book launches and say have you heard this one Tom, whether they then appear in his next book and how much verification can actually be made is open to question but if nothing else the paying public seem to like them enough.

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    PhilipG
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    There is some truth about the mass grave in Old Swan.
    I first read about it years ago (well before Tom Slemen's books).
    Can't remember the details, but they were thought to be the casualties of some mass sickness in the city centre, and they were all buried together outside the Town.

    It sounds like more details have been added to the story to make it more "interesting".

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    That's a more likely explanation than a mass-genocide by members of the occult. Or whatever.

    Would be interesting to find out more about it...

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    I wonder if they may have been plague victims like those buried in Addison Street which was formerly called Sickmans lane because of it?

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    PhilipG
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    Quote Originally Posted by snappel View Post
    That's a more likely explanation than a mass-genocide by members of the occult. Or whatever.

    Would be interesting to find out more about it...
    I've found the source.
    It was Derek Whale's "Lost Villages of Liverpool" Part 1 (1984).

    The graves were first discovered in April 1973, so a trawl through the newspapers at the Record Office might reveal contemporary accounts.
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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snappel View Post
    That's a more likely explanation than a mass-genocide by members of the occult. Or whatever.

    Would be interesting to find out more about it...
    Plague victims usually were buried without coffins. Most, if not all, were in coffins. Plague and cholora tended to take many victims.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilipG View Post
    There is some truth about the mass grave in Old Swan.
    I first read about it years ago (well before Tom Slemen's books).
    Can't remember the details, but they were thought to be the casualties of some mass sickness in the city centre, and they were all buried together outside the Town.

    It sounds like more details have been added to the story to make it more "interesting".
    Hi all

    There appears to be a strong school of thought that the bodies may have been those of Irish famine victims. I remember Waterways was asking recently where Irish famine victims were buried. The following is from
    Manchester Irish.com in April of this year:

    FAMINE IRISH: MASS MURDER IN LIVERPOOL

    A fascinating piece by Peter Berresford Ellis recently appeared in the Irish Post. In 1973 a mass grave was found in Old Swan in Liverpool. In total the remains of 3,561 bodies were found. Journalists were kept away from the site and the Home Office ordered the immediate cremation of the bodies.

    Merseyside criminologist Keith Andrews has investigated the case and believes this is a case of mass murder,

    "...'Containment Squads' moved in on the diseased and starving immigrants, removed their children, then herded the Irish men and women to a containment camp in a field on the outskirts of Liverpool. They were then systematically shot and buried in unmarked coffins".

    Berresford Ellis states:

    "If Andrews can prove his contention, we are talking about one of the greatest murders of Irish men and women since Cromwellian times".
    Christopher T. George
    Editor, Ripperologist
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    PhilipG
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    As if!

    Really.
    Some people.

    Etc., etc.

    Presumably the Irish Famine victims died in Ireland and were buried there.
    Yes, I know the Famine caused many to emigrate, but I don't think they emigrated to die wholesale at their destinations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhilipG View Post
    As if!

    Really.
    Some people.

    Etc., etc.

    Presumably the Irish Famine victims died in Ireland and were buried there.
    Yes, I know the Famine caused many to emigrate, but I don't think they emigrated to die wholesale at their destinations.
    Most who died in Liverpool died of Typus, etc. The overcrowded unsanitary conditions caused disease. The vast number of Irish strained the water services. Most Irish left Liverpool for Manchester, London, America, etc.
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    Hi Waterways and Philip G.

    I am just reporting what was on ManchesterIrish.com and don't know one way or the other what caused the deaths of those 3,561 people buried in Old Swan. They could have been Plague victims from centuries ago. On the other hand, they might have been Irish who died of typhus. That they might have been Irish put in some sort of internment camp and shot is obviously a serious charge and forensic examination of the remains should have been able to determine how old the remains were and whether there were gunshot wounds. Although the claim seems to be that the remains were cremated and reburied without such an investigation which seems odd, if not suspicious. I know that Merseyside criminologist Keith Andrews has worked with Tom Slemen on the matter of Ripper suspect Claude Regnier Conder so possibly they are working together on this mystery as well. There is information on Tom Slemen's forum on the Old Swan mass grave and Mr Slemen does say in reply to a query from a forum member, "yes it is possible that they [the Irish] were herded from the ship to the site of the alleged mass murder."

    Chris
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisGeorge View Post
    Hi Waterways and Philip G.

    I am just reporting what was on ManchesterIrish.com and don't know one way or the other what caused the deaths of those 3,561 people buried in Old Swan. They could have been Plague victims from centuries ago. On the other hand, they might have been Irish who died of typhus. That they might have been Irish put in some sort of internment camp and shot is obviously a serious charge and forensic examination of the remains should have been able to determine how old the remains were and whether there were gunshot wounds. Although the claim seems to be that the remains were cremated and reburied without such an investigation which seems odd, if not suspicious. I know that Merseyside criminologist Keith Andrews has worked with Tom Slemen on the matter of Ripper suspect Claude Regnier Conder so possibly they are working together on this mystery as well. There is information on Tom Slemen's forum on the Old Swan mass grave and Mr Slemen does say in reply to a query from a forum member, "yes it is possible that they [the Irish] were herded from the ship to the site of the alleged mass murder."
    Possible, however highly unlikely. There was not any proper investigation. It took at time to clear the bodies, and would guess they would have pinned down the date of the deaths in that time.

    If they were shot because they wanted to get rid of the Irish (Irish were not forigners then) would they put them in coffins and laid them out in order of age? I doubt it.

    In the past there were so many epidemics in Liverpool of cholora, the plague, etc. So much so the city went on a hygine project and led the world in public health, with many cities around the world copying - Liverpool had the first wash houses, etc. This formed much of the public health systems of today.
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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    Local Mysteries with Tom Slemen, Maghull & Aintree Stra

    LAST week I related how 3,561 bodies were found in a mass grave by council workmen who were digging up scrubland to lay the foundations of a school off St Oswald's Street in Old Swan.

    To deepen the mystery, the Home Office told Liverpool City Council to cordon off the mass grave with 10-foot-high security fences and to cremate all of the corpses.

    In 1995, several historians contacted Whitehall, hoping to discover why the Home Office had given orders to cremate the unknown dead of Old Swan, and a spokesman said he couldn't trace any records of the incident.

    The puzzle then, of how 3,561 bodies came to be buried off St Oswald ' s Street, remains unsolved.

    Victims of plague and cholera were dumped in pits often filled with quicklime, but the thousands of bodies found at Old Swan were not only placed in coffins, they had been buried in groups according to their age, which suggests all of the internments took place simultaneously.

    So, were over 3,000 people massacred at Old Swan in the 1840s or a decade before?

    If there had been some uprising, and the authorities had dealt with the revolt by massacring the dissenters, would they have afterwards buried the victims in coffins?

    Thousands of poor people were disembowelled and hanged by the authorities in England during the Peasant's Revolt of 1382, but news of a massacre could not be contained, and would soon have spread across the country.

    The only clue that seems to provide a solution to this mystery lies in several curious reports from council workmen who claimed that a few of the coffins did indeed bear name-plates.

    If these reports are true, then this could point to an intriguing possibility never considered before; that the coffins were moved from another graveyard and reburied at Old Swan.

    In 1838, the foundation stone to St George's Hall was laid and the site excavated for the hall's foundations lay adjacent to St John's Church.

    For work to proceed, many of the 27,000 coffins in St John's Churchyard had to be removed to make space.

    The army of builders and civil engineers working on the St George's Hall project also suggested the unsightly St John's Church itself should be demolished. Now there was the problem of the church graveyard to contend with, and herein lies the clue to the origin of the mass grave.

    http://icseftonandwestlancs.icnetwor...name_page.html
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    First note that the Tom Slemen article posted above is not from today but I believe appeared before the following which appears to put paid to the speculation that the bodies could be executed Irish people.

    'I gave order to burn bodies'

    Mar 2 2006

    Maghull & Aintree Star


    AS WITNESSED by the huge amount of correspondence received at Merseymart & Star , Tom Slemen's article on the Mass Grave discovered in Old Swan in 1973 drew reaction from many readers.

    One letter that took issue with criminologist Keith Andrews's claims of a systematic massacre of Irish immigrants at the site in around 1848 was written by Liverpool's former principal environmental health officer, Ken Williams, who was in charge of the 1973 exhumation.

    Printed here, it relates to this specific event - not the broader issues regarding the military and the treatment of the Irish.

    Speaking to Merseymart & Star , he said: "I held my position from 1949 to 1989 and the first thing to note is that if you wanted to build or extend on sacred ground you had to consult the Home Office, which would in turn speak to the town clerk, who would then instruct me.

    "The reason there were hoardings was that the Home Office's principal instruction is total decorum, and in this case there were houses on Montague Road overlooking the site.

    "One comment was that these people had been shot and the Home Office were covering it up.

    "The order to burn the bodies came from me and me alone - there were so many that after getting permission to put more than one in a single coffin, and re-inter them in Anfield I had to request permission for cremations.

    "There were no bullet holes in the skulls, and there were already gravestones at the site - it was a marked grave..

    "This discovery was simply beyond the boundary of that graveyard, extending much further than was realised - thousands more bodies.

    "Contrary to one comment in the article, there were indeed coffins containing children discovered.

    "There is also the obvious point that if this was the massacre of three-and-a-half-thousand people - why were they all in coffins with plaques and buried in such an ordered fashion?

    "This was not people who had been thrown in a trench.

    "Also, the date quoted for this 'massacre' was 1848, but some of the coffins had plaques with 1859 on them."

    Key role in the mass exhumation

    I HAVE followed with great interest the recent articles in your paper with regard to the mass grave unearthed in St Oswald Street, Old Swan.

    The principal officer delegated to be in charge of the entire operation was me.

    When the original gravestones had been removed and the bodies re-interred the excavation continued beyond this boundary and it was at this stage other coffins were found. Some plaques on the coffin lids had dates of 1859, however this should not be considered to be a mass grave at any one time.

    I do not recall seeing bullet marks in the skulls and the authorisation to cremate the bodies was implemented by the Home Office as the result of my request - that it should be done in the interest of public health. I know all this to be true - 'cause I was there!

    K. A. WILLIAMS, Gateacre, Liverpool. (Former principal environmental health officer for Liverpool 1949-1989)

    Source
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    PhilipG
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    The graves wouldn't have come from St John's Church during the digging of the foundations for St George's Hall.
    St George's Hall was built on the site of the original Infirmary.
    St John's Church was much further back as this map of 1836 shows.
    The graveyard of St John's became St John's Gardens.

    It's also unlikely that they were graves moved from other churches.
    Municipal Cemeteries were created simply because graveyards in churches became full and were then closed for further burials.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ged View Post
    Does anyone remember that when they were demolishing the opposite side of St. Oswalds street, they came across a mass grave site. My mate lived in Elm's House Road so I was forever getting the number 10 in Norton Street. I was born in Holly Street, the flats similar to Eldon Grove and later moved to Gerard Gardens when Holly Street had to make way for the new St. Anne Street Police station. I loved that community and era - no playstations or X boxes, no interacting via a joystick, screen or keyboard - proper face to face games. Does anyone have any photos of Rose Hill Police station which preceded St. Anne Street station?
    Try the scottie press online go to the archives and click on to St Joesephs also try the Liverpool EX Pats on the Liverpool Echo a member called Rookie was a ex Policeman at Rose Hill Police Station in the 50s and 60s.
    Peter

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    Yes, I am a regular contributor to the scottie press. Regarding lots of Irish people dying here after making it from the famine. It is known that over 2,300 are buried in the grounds and crypt of St. Anthony's on Scotland Road so that did actually happen.

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    scouserdave
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    Hiya Ged,
    are you the Gerrard Garden lad who took all the Liverpool pics in the 70s/80s? Top man I've got one of your DVDs. Say hi to Scottie Press' Ron Formby for me. We usually meet up at the Friends of Liverpool Monuments meetings, but I haven't seen him for a while.

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    Senior Member christy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Waterways View Post
    Most who died in Liverpool died of Typus, etc. The overcrowded unsanitary conditions caused disease. The vast number of Irish strained the water services. Most Irish left Liverpool for Manchester, London, America, etc.
    True about typhus, dysentry, cholera etc but where did you get the info about most leaving for Manchester and London?

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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    "This discovery was simply beyond the boundary of that graveyard, extending much further than was realised - thousands more bodies."

    OK they were clearing a graveyard and found 3,500 coffins that extended further than the graveyard. No foul play is suspected.

    Questions:

    1. Why were 3.5K coffins stacked 15 high (if Sleman is right of course, and
    he does delve into fantacy)?

    2. This is a mass buried all at once. Why?

    Could have been relocation of bodies from other graveyards. St.Georges' Hall and St.John's Church. The graveyard of the church is now the gardens of the hall and the graveyard was cleared. Where did the bodies go?
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    I'm sure I read somewhere that they were moved somewhere else. Can't remember now...

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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by christy View Post
    True about typhus, dysentry, cholera etc but where did you get the info about most leaving for Manchester and London?
    In 1850 more people born in Ireland were living in Manchester and London than Liverpool. One of the Liverpool history sites.

    1.3 million Irish went through Clarence Dock gates. The vast majority of them left Liverpool sharpish. Liverpool, which "officially" was a town at the time could not support them. So, they had to go elsewhere.
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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snappel View Post
    I'm sure I read somewhere that they were moved somewhere else. Can't remember now...
    What? Where?
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    Hello ScouseDave. Aye, it is I. Your Liverpool pictorial site is tops. Did you manage to attend one of the 'Gardens of Stone' screenings at FACT. It was a full day event with 3 consequetive screenings and over 100 people were sadly turned away at the desk or by phone so there was another one a few months later which some of the Liverpool pop groups (whose music is featured) attended - The Farm, The Christians, Wah etc...

    There will be other screenings scheduled and we'll let this forum know.

  26. #26
    theninesisters
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    I'm quite sure that I read (possibly Slemen) that the graves were transfared from St John's Church to the site in Old Swan.

    St John's was behind St George's Hall and would have been the correct location for the buriel's to be removed.

    You would need to look in to the erection of St George's Hall from early pictures and see whether there were any 'extra buildings' covering the graveyard so they were removed.
    Last edited by theninesisters; 03-23-2007 at 06:59 PM.

  27. #27
    PhilipG
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jona76 View Post
    I'm quite sure that I read (possibly Slemen) that the graves were transfared from St John's Church to the site in Old Swan.

    St John's was behind St George's Hall and would have been the correct location for the buriel's to be removed.

    You would need to look in to the erection of St George's Hall from early pictures and see whether there were any 'extra buildings' covering the graveyard so they were removed.

    See my last post (with the map).
    St John's Graveyard was on the other side of St John's Church from where St George's Hall was built.
    St John's Church closed in 1898.
    The graveyard was converted into St John's Gardens, which opened in 1904, and I believe that the graves are still there.

    The foundation stone of St George's Hall was laid in 1838, and the building was completed in 1854.
    Some of the coffins in Old Swan were dated 1859, so there is no way they came from the site of St George's Hall.

    I must admit I haven't read many of Slemen's books, but he doesn't seem to know his history.

    I still think Old Swan was a burial ground for plague victims.
    Last edited by PhilipG; 12-13-2006 at 01:03 PM.

  28. #28
    theninesisters
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    How do you know the coffins were dated? (can you provide a source?)

    This is what Slemen says:

    The demolition men were ordered to leave the site immediately and a cordon of secrecy was thrown around the area. However, the press learned of the unearthed coffin and reporters were amazed to discover that an phenomenal 3,561 coffins were buried beneath that street in Old Swan. The coffins were all unmarked and stacked sixteen feet deep. This site had never been a graveyard, and no one could determine just why thousands of people had been buried there. Stranger still, all the bodies were neatly grouped according to their ages, which ranged from children of ten or 12 to adults in their twenties and thirties. All the older skeletons had intact sets of teeth, which indicates that they were fairly young when they died. But just how the people in the mass grave had died was never established, but there were grisly rumours that their hearts had been removed. These peculiar claims were backed up by several people who had viewed the skeletons and noted that their breastbones had been smashed or removed, perhaps to retrieve the hearts of the corpses.

    Archaeologists in London read of the astounding mass grave in Liverpool and immediately journeyed to the city to investigate, but for some mysterious reason, Liverpool City Council had the three thousand corpses cremated. When the archaeologists from London arrived in Liverpool, they were horrified to learn that the thousands of corpses had been exhumed and cremated. The ashes were then reburied in a special container. The authorities did all of this under a cloak of secrecy.

    The angry and disappointed archaeologists branded the council as philistines and examined the site of the mass-burial pit. The site was definitely not a plague pit from the 15th century, and despite a thorough search of local historical records, the identities of the bodies could not be found. One investigator from the British Museum thought the mass burial had taken place in the early 1700s but couldn't be certain.

    The strange hooded monk in black was seen again throughout the years, and continues to be seen in the vicinity of Broad Green Lane to this day. A group of mediums in the mid 1990s who investigated the bizarre case said they definitely felt the strong presence of an evil discarnate being in the neighbourhood where the mass grave was unearthed. One of the mediums said he felt as if multiple sacrifices to Satan had been carried out by Devil-worshipping monks in the locality of Old Swan centuries ago. He also hinted that there were three other sites of mass graves in Liverpool, and that the locations of these sites would form a huge cross facing the west. Traditional Christian churches face the east, where the sun rises, but the west has always been revered by followers of Satan.

    It has since come to light that there are more mass graves in Liverpool, and yes, they do form a somewhat crude cross that faces the west. One of these graves was uncovered in the 1960s in Cobden Street in the Everton district. The Everton grave contained only three hundred bodies, but they too were grouped according to their age, and no one can determine when or why they were buried there. The other two mass graves are still being investigated and their locations are being kept secret.

  29. #29
    scouserdave
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ged View Post
    Hello ScouseDave. Aye, it is I. Your Liverpool pictorial site is tops. Did you manage to attend one of the 'Gardens of Stone' screenings at FACT. It was a full day event with 3 consequetive screenings and over 100 people were sadly turned away at the desk or by phone so there was another one a few months later which some of the Liverpool pop groups (whose music is featured) attended - The Farm, The Christians, Wah etc...

    There will be other screenings scheduled and we'll let this forum know.
    Alright Ged, no never got the chance to get to the screenings which was a pity. BTW, just playing your Gerard Gardens Holy Cross DVD again. You've got a cracking eye for a Liverpool pic mate
    Love the soundtrack too.

  30. #30
    Gnomie
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ged View Post
    I wonder if they may have been plague victims like those buried in Addison Street which was formerly called Sickmans lane because of it?

    Not sure on this Ged but im sure i read somewhere that Sickmans lane was where the Death Sheds where located?

    By the way its good to see you here Ged(its Tony Andalucia)

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