Exploring Liverpool’s Intriguing Myths and Legends

Liverpool Liver Building

Liverpool is home to an array of myths and legends, from haunted hotels and pyramid tombs to Bold Street’s time slips. Here’s a selection of some of the city’s most notorious tales.

1. William Mackenzie’s Tomb

The legend of William Mackenzie is of him selling his soul to the devil in exchange for always winning at poker. The deal being, as soon as his body was buried, his soul would go to hell for eternity.

After a massive poker winning streak, he was so rich, he was able to afford quirky last requests in his will. In an attempt to avoid being buried and going to hell, Mackenzie had his own pyramid/mausoleum built, in which he is entombed sitting in his favourite gaming chair, holding a royal flush.

The pyramid is still situated in St Andrews Church on Rodney Street, Mackenzie is now thought to be buried beneath the pyramid, which wasn’t finished until seven years after his death.

William Mackenzie’s Tomb: St Andrew’s Church, Rodney Street.

2. Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler is alleged to have spent time in Liverpool while his half-brother Alois Hitler Jnr was living at 102 Upper Stanhope Street, Toxteth, between November 1912 to May 1913.

The claim was made by his sister-in-law in a wartime memoir. She was initially unable to sell the manuscript and most historians dismiss the work as being a fabrication written in an attempt to cash in on her famous relation, as there’s no corroborating evidence.

Liverpool actor Paul McGann made a fascinating documentary short about Hitler’s Liverpool links in 2011, watch it here.

3. Liver Birds leaving Liverpool

Perched on top of the historic Royal Liver Building, the Liver Birds are said to have originated in 1207 when King John was granted a Royal Charter to register the city of Liverpool as a borough.

Stories surrounding Liverpool’s famous Liver Birds, known as Bella and Bertie, are almost as old as the birds themselves. It has been said they are based on a mythical bird that once looked out over the shoreline. Legend has it that if the two birds were to mate and fly away, the city would cease to exist.

Another urban legend suggests that while the female bird is is looking out to sea, the male is looking the other way, waiting for the pubs to open in town.

Royal Liver Building: Pier Head.

4. Origins of Scouse dish

The stew-like dish of Scouse – or lobscouse – from which Liverpool residents derive their famous nickname, doesn’t originate from Liverpool. The popular stew-style dish comes from Norway and became popular in port cities. The dish is still eaten by sailors in northern Europe today.

Scouse arrived in Liverpool via the busy docks and became a hit. The name is believed to be derived from the Norwegian lapskaus, Swedish lapskojs and Danish labskovs.

For the perfect scouse recipe, see the National Museums Liverpool recommendation here.

4. Adelphi Hotel

One of the most frequently spotted spirits at Liverpool’s historic Adelphi Hotel is that of Raymond Brown, a pageboy who died after becoming trapped in the baggage room lift at the age of fifteen.

Although the accident occurred in 1961, Richard is still seen wandering throughout the hotel, clad in his uniform and offering a helping hand to guests struggling with their bags.

In 2022, the Liverpool Echo reported on a sighting with video footage, the footage was made by startled guests staying at The Adelphi, after an Elton John concert.

Adelphi Hotel: Ranelagh Street, Liverpool.

5. Paul is dead

The ‘Paul is dead’ conspiracy theory claims that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by a lookalike.

Rumours suggest that clues in Beatles songs, played backwards, revealed the truth. Played backwards, Strawberry Fields Forever features John Lennon saying what sounds like ‘I buried Paul’ towards the end of the song.

The Beatles themselves played along by throwing in hints in their music, while always stressing that it was just a myth. Paul even took the joke as far as releasing a live album in 1993 called Paul is Live.

6. Bold Street time slips

A time slip is a paranormal experience where a person accidentally travels through time.There have been a host of reports down the years of Bold Street time slips, many documented by Liverpool writer and expert on the occult, Tom Slemen.

In the most noted cases, the people involved suddenly see shop fronts, vehicles and fashions change to the way they were decades before. They report an eerie quiet, followed by a darkening of the sky, just before the transformation occurs. So far, most of the sightings have centred around the 1950s and ’60s.

One explanation given for the timeslips, is high voltage rails in the underground railway system, creating a portal through time. The rails form concentric circles – the centre of which, is roughly under Bold Street and over to Brooks Alley.

7. Croxteth Hall

The magnificent 230-room Croxteth Hall in the West Derby suburb of Liverpool is considered one of the most haunted locations in Liverpool.

Croxteth Hall had been known to generations of locals as being incredibly haunted, but it was through footage that appeared on the national news in 2009, that its haunted reputation extended.

In the CCTV footage, the figure of what appears to be the shape of a man appears from the bushes, slowly moving along a path leading up to the house before disappearing. Many people believe this is the ghost of Hugh William Osbert Molyneaux, the 7th Earl of Sefton.

Croxteth Hall: Croxteth Hall Lane, Liverpool.