Cylinder of Horror
December 12, 2016
Dark, dark night. The shrill, terrible whistle of sticks of falling bombs. Then the explosions – ground shaking, like miniature earthquakes, shifting houses on their foundations and filling the darkness with bright orange fire.
The Blitz, not London, but Liverpool. 1941.
And in the following, smoke-foggy morning, tired-eyed kids stand surveying this new, devastated world of shattered terraced-houses. Ruins that were once homes.
But wait…Look! What’s that…?
The bombs had uncovered this water-tight steel cylinder. Originally it must have been embedded in the concrete foundations of a building now blasted to rubble. The kids, fascinated by it, played around it. Over time locals came to use it as a bench-seat. Then in July 1945, four years after its exposure, the cylinder split open and a boy glanced inside…
The child would never forget that glimpse of the impossible. The cylinder was a coffin containing a skeleton, fully clothed in an expensive suit and shoes, a gold signet ring on one finger. The authorities were dully notified. Police officers discovered a diary for the year 1884 under the skeleton…but the entries were spoiled, made illegible by bodily fluids leaking from the corpse. They also found a postcard dated July 8th, 1885, a railway ticket dated June 27, 1885, and a business paper with a letterhead bearing the name T C Williams.
From the Victorian-style clothing on the skeleton, the Police were able to establish that the body had been a wealthy male. Further research showed that T C Williams was the paint manufacturer, Thomas Creegan Williams whose business failed in the year 1884. After his bankruptcy, Mr Williams disappeared from society – no records could be found of him at all, suggesting a possible name change, or an unrecorded death?
The authorities presumed that their skeleton was Williams – although it could never be proven. Cause of death was unknown; couldn’t be established. There was, however, a skull fracture behind the left ear, which the coroner seemed to consider irrelevant, claiming, in his opinion, it occurred post mortem. And as if to complicate matters even more, a pathologist working at Scotland Yard voiced the opinion that the body hadn’t been dead for more than a decade…although, later, he conceded it might date from the 1880s.
The big question of how had the man’s body come to be in the cylinder in the first place could not be answered. The cylinder once formed part of a ventilation shaft, and it’s possible the man, whatever his true identity, had crawled in himself. But why?
On the other hand the man may well have been murdered and the body cunningly hidden in the ventilation shaft. But if so, by whom?
So, was this bizarre accident? A suicide? Or an example of the perfect murder? We will never know, boys and girls.
It remains a mystery that is both strange and true.
The one thing we can know with any certainty, is that little Timmy Scott, the boy who first glanced inside that terrible cylinder, never slept peacefully again! Recurring nightmares of animated skeletons pursued him into adulthood…until, finally, in the mid-1950s he was committed to an institution for the criminally insane following a failed attack on a Liverpool shopgirl. Timothy Scott at his court hearing explained to the judge that he was simply trying to free the girl’s skeleton from the darkness within…
Cylinder of Horror