This being Halloween I thought it might be a good time to lay a ghost to rest - namely that of Mr William MacKenzie whose restless, devil dodging spirit many Liverpool ghost tour operators will no doubt be conjuring this evening.
“Well, Mr Garrett,” said Mrs Simpson, who had not yet resumed her work, and was looking at the fire thoughtfully, “I shall tell you the story. […] I had an old uncle, a Dr Rant. Perhaps you may have heard of him. Not that he was a distinguished man, but from the odd way he chose to be buried.”
“I rather think I have seen the name in some guidebook.”
“That would be it,” said Miss Simpson. “He left directions –horrid old man!— that he was to be put, sitting at a table in his ordinary clothes, in a brick room that he'd had made underground in a field near his house. Of course the country people say he's been seen about there in his old black cloak.”
“Well, dear, I don't know much about such things,” Mrs Simpson went on, “but anyhow he is dead, these twenty years and more.”
The above passage is an extract from the short story The Tractate Middoth written by Montague Rhodes James and originally published as part of his 1911 collection entitled More Ghost Stories. However, with a few slight alterations where names are concerned the text could easily have been written about the unusual tomb of one W. MacKenzie which stands in Saint Andrew’s churchyard on the city centre’s Rodney Street. Interred in 1868, Mr. MacKenzie’s name is indeed mentioned in many a Liverpool guidebook owing to the fact that grave is marked with an impressive fifteen foot (4.57 metre) pyramid shaped tombstone. The story, often told as a sworn truth, goes that McKenzie was a keen gambler and left instructions that he should be entombed above ground within the pyramid, sitting upright at a card table and clutching a winning hand of cards . Some tellers go one step further asserting that MacKenzie ensured that his body was never committed to the earth as a means of cheating Satan out of claiming his immortal soul . It follows almost naturally that tales of MacKenzie’s ghost roaming the overgrown churchyard and surrounding area are told today by many local folklorists and tour guides alike .
In truth, several such monuments can be seen in graveyards across the British Isles, some of them even having remarkably similar tales attached. Saint Thomas à Becket’s churchyard in Brightling, East Sussex is home to a twenty-five foot (7.62 metre) pyramid dedicated to John “Mad Jack” Fuller. “Local legend had it that Fuller was entombed in the pyramid in full dress and top hat seated at a table set with a roast chicken and a bottle of wine. This was discovered to be untrue during renovations in 1982. Fuller is indeed buried in the conventional manner beneath the pyramid” .
The inscription on MacKenzie's Pyramid door reads:
"In the vault beneath lie the remains of William MacKenzie of Newbie Dumfrishire, Esquire who died 29th October 1851 aged 57 years. Also, Mary his wife, who died 19th December 1838 aged 48 years and Sarah, his second wife who died 9th December 1867 aged 60 years. This monument was erected by his Brother Edward as a token of love and affection A.D. 1868. The memory of the just is blessed".
The inscription proves that MacKenzie was buried beneath (not entombed inside) the pyramid and that the monument itself was not erected until 16 years after his demise. Even so, the legend of his upright interment continues to be told and believed by many.
800 Years of Haunted Liverpool