Short Stuff: The Body in the CylinderStuff You Should Know
- 1,368 views
- 24 Feb 2021
In 1945, residents of a Liverpool neighborhood found a desiccated body in a long cylinder they’d been using for years using as a bench. It launched a mystery that’s still alive today.
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Hey, and welcome to the short stuff. I'm Josh, there's Chuck and Jerry's lurking there. Are you just hanging around being a weirdo, looking all weird. And this is short stuff.
As I said already, we should tell everyone the other day, it was kind of funny. We were recording in about five minutes in Jerry somehow unmuted herself and she was in some sort of a conference call. Yeah. With like maybe we couldn't get a hold of her.
And it was just like, shut up.
Yeah. I mean, she wasn't recording, but it was very distracting to us. And that's the important thing, you know. Yeah.
I have a thing in my brain where there and this happens a lot when you have a kid like you'll be listening to music and then she'll come in with some dumb toy that's playing different music and it just it breaks my brain and makes me want to break things. It's not good. I don't know what it is. It's a big trigger.
Yeah, well, I like the anecdote.
It was very charming, but now we're not going to be able to get to the end of this episode. All right.
Let's do it. We've wasted oh, a minute.
So. All right. Well, let's start by talking about the Blitz, because that's kind of where the story technically begins. And the Blitz is like this. The German bombing of England in Germany really, really bombed England in general. But most people think of London being bombed the most as the blitz. That's not entirely true.
Well, London was for sure bombed a lot. We don't want to, you know, take anything away from what they suffered. But Liverpool, I think, was number two. Yeah. And England is getting walloped by the Germans. And there's a there's a place in Liverpool where after the bombing, they I think it's near what was then called Great Homer Street. And after the bombing, they kind of left it that way for a little while because I think everyone was just recuperating from the war.
And then in 1943, some American soldiers finally started clearing out this area and found a little something interesting.
Yeah, well, at first they didn't think it was interesting. It was part of the rubble that was cleared out by those American soldiers. But it was a long tube cylinder.
Let me say this found something that would prove to be interesting. Right, exactly. But we are in agreement that at the time they didn't think it was interesting at all.
Now, so little chamber sort of, right? Yeah. It just looked like a tube. You know, I think it was a little under seven feet long, less than two feet in diameter. And it was just made of steel. It just looked like some big dumb thing. But apparently it was heavy enough and big enough that rather than being removed with all the other rubble, it just kind of got left in the area and became kind of a fixture in this little little part of the neighborhood.
So much so that people would like sit on it as a bench sometimes and children would play on it and roll it along and all of that stuff.
And that's the way it stayed for at least a good two years between 1943 when they cleared out the rubble in 1945 when something kind of big happened.
Yeah, I think one end was sort of factory sealed. Yeah. And one was kind of stamped shut by the bulldozers and stuff that were clearing stuff out. Yeah. And over time, over those couple of years that end that was sort of stamped shut, kind of worked its way loose a little bit, just enough for a little kid that was climbing on it to see a bony skeletal foot. Yeah.
A little boy named Tommy Lawless who appropriately found the skeletal foot in the cylinder on a Friday the 13th, 1945. Yeah.
So the little boy who went on to become Ringo Starr went and fetched a cop, the local cop, Robert Bayle or Bailey Bailey, I guess.
But I've never seen it spelled that way. BHL, i.e.. Yeah, sure. That's Bailey. Right. And he said, well, this is way above my pay grade rather famously, and went and got the detectives and they all kind of came together and said, what is going on here in this mystery was launched.
That's right. I think it's too early for a break, but that is a good cliffhanger. I thought so, too.
All right. Do whatever we want.
We're gods here. That's right. Let's take an early break since you set it up so well. And we'll come back right after this.
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All right, great cliffhanger, thanks. They find this thing, they find the skeletal foot they need to get inside of it, so they get a welder to open it up and they get some coroners and some forensics people in there. And what they end up finding was an entire skeleton of a man, about six foot tall dude, Victorian dress. And they had it was it was a little bit of hair still left even on the skull. And here's one key that kind of flummoxes me, that kind of harp on a bit later.
But yeah, me too. There was a brick wrapped in burlap as a little pillow.
Yeah. Which to me kind of confuses a lot of the a lot of the ideas they had of what might have happened to this guy.
It really does. And it's weird that the brick was there and wrapped in burlap. I don't know if it was the guy who writes passing strangers which huge shout out this. This is actually kind of a somewhat well-known mystery. The body in the cylinder is what it's called, but passing strangeness did far and away the best job of kind of getting this point across.
And that guy describes it as as a pillow. So I don't know if that's if it was just him or if that's generally what it's like. But it is very weird that it was there and in that position.
Do we have his name?
From what I can tell the guy who wrote that and probably the guy who has the the blog Passing Strangers, which seems to be defunct, which is a shame because it's pretty interesting, is named Paul Dry. At the very least, that's the name of the person who's accepting compliments on the comments under the blog.
But you want to hear something truly bizarre, Chuck? Sure. There is a little tag called Track Backes. One of them is Indonesia blowing up boats and CGI Pompei, another fishing shop. The third one is CSK. Internet round up.
Really? Isn't that cool? Does that mean we covered this before?
No, I think this guy is just a fan. I don't think the track bags mean anything. I think he's saying like, go check this out. Maybe.
I hope let's find out. Well, that's small world. Yeah. So, all right. They've got this body in there and there's a lot of other stuff in there. And we'll kind of just list out what else was in the cylinder with the skeleton. They discovered a London north western railway notice that had a tag about arrival of some goods that was dated June 27, 1885. I think there was a postcard from Birmingham dated July 3rd, 1885, a couple of diaries which they couldn't read.
It was illegible. I would guess just sort of damage to time would be my guess. And then they found some papers in this proved to be, I guess, the biggest key. They found some papers under the body, one of which was a receipt and a count sheets for a company, T.C. Williams and Company. And then some other kind of stuff that didn't prove to be useful, right? Right. One of the things that got me, though, is that it was found in a bunch of gravlax, like a pool or puddle of gravlax from the body decomposing on to the papers.
What does that what that's called? Gravlax.
Yeah, gravlax. I think we ran into it first in our Urban Explorers episode because people find it in catacombs.
But it's what's astounding is that these coroners from the mid century were able to kind of get the the papers back intact so that they could read them again. That's astounding to me. Pretty cool. They also did find that his skull was damaged, but I think they thought that was kind of due to the bulldozing and trying to get the body out of there.
That's right. Or the cylinder, rather. Yeah, so there didn't seem to be any any evidence of violence, there was just a dead body. So they have no idea what happened to this guy. And at first, I guess the coroner thought this is like maybe a 10 year old cadaver that we're looking at. Everybody else said, what about every other piece of evidence that that you've discovered along with this guy?
And he's like, well, technically, somebody could have dressed up like a Victorian person and gotten a bunch of old papers and keys and stuff in a ring and, you know, died within the last 10 years. And I think everyone kind of said, you know, that's Bosch. The coroner wasn't ready to give that up yet. They actually investigated a theory that it could have been a man named T.C. Williams son, whose name was also T.C. Williams, and maybe it was him.
And he just happened to have some old papers with them. And they say, I think we already said Bosch to that.
Yeah, because I don't think we mentioned there was a paint manufacturing plant in that area that was owned by Thomas Creegan Williams. Yeah, that fit the time period. So they like it can't be that guy. Like he said, maybe it's his son, but they ended up finding him in that. Right.
They found the sign. His body. Yeah. The son had been buried back in 1999 and lead. So he was a kind of football strange truck. Is that the older man? His father had not been accounted for. The man who owned this manufacturing plant in the 1970s and 80s in this area of Liverpool had suddenly just vanished right around 1885.
Right. They did end up kind of figuring out that the tube in the cylinder itself was part of a ventilation shaft, which to me sort of only confuse things a little bit. It was put forth and I don't know if this was Paul who kind of put this forth, knows Ringo or or or general evidence that perhaps this man was despondent and suicidal over the loss of the factory and crawled into the shaft for final privacy. That seems a little bit of a stretch to me.
Yeah, it also seems like a stretch that a ventilation shaft should be closed off on one side. What kind of ventilation shaft is that? Yeah, I guess, but don't they all end at some point they're supposed to end in, like, the open air? I guess so. You know, like I think that's just really weird. Like a one ended ventilation shaft. It just I'm sure there's some kind out there, but it just escapes me.
And then the pillow also seems a little weird, that brick burlap pillow.
Yeah, that's the weirdest part to me, is that that is clearly some sort of a purposeful thing that someone has done.
Right. I mean, like like for comfort. Yeah. But also it's like do you hate yourself too.
Like a brick wrapped in burlap is not a comfy pillow like you could use almost anything else on the planet and wrap it in burlap and it will be more comfortable than brick.
Uh, yeah. And they had pillows back then, you know. Right, exactly. There was another theory put forth that it wasn't Williams. It was someone else that was maybe murdered in retaliation for that factory closing and maybe they stuffed them in there. And Williams maybe just like disappeared after that, changed his name and skipped town. Who knows? Yeah.
So I think they finally closed the case in nineteen forty seven 45, actually, right up right off the bat.
They closed the cases that were never going to solve this or we've totally solved that. We just can't say with 100 percent. But they basically said we don't know who it is, we don't know how he died. But you can probably surmise yourself. And the prevailing theory is that it was T.C. Williams, upon the ruination of his business, possibly took his own life. The fact that he wrapped a pillow or a brick and burlap and took it in the ventilation shaft with him with all this other stuff, which suggests he didn't accidentally go in there and get stuck, he probably died by suicide or it was somebody else made it seem like T.C. Williams.
But the astounding fact is that this happened in 1885. He was in that ventilation shaft all the way up and through the bombing of Liverpool during World War Two and used to be rolled around the playground by children until they finally figured out he was in there.
Yeah, I'm sure there was more than one adult walking around that remembers playing on that. I know. I know.
And then a very special shout out to Josh and Chuck from the past, because it turns out, Chuck, we did talk about this in an Internet roundup which explains the track back.
So this is probably the last time we'll ever talk about the body. Well, I think memory of that. I think this is the best version. I don't either. And plus, no one saw in a round up anyway, so I think we're all good. I enjoyed that show, but big thanks.
And hats off to passing strangers for making such a great blog post. And if you haven't been on that blog yet, go. It's very good. And since I said that, I mean, short stuff is. Stuff you should know is a production of I Heart Radio for more podcasts, my heart radio, is it the radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows?