do you want to play?

St. Andrew's Church Yard 07It was a dark and story night and notorious gambler, William MacKenzie was walking the streets of Liverpool. His goal was an old building in city centre where a Dutchman waited for him, a Dutchman wearing red shoes. During the past few months MacKenzie hadn't much luck when it came to playing poker, his continual losses had left him close to destitution. He was determined that tonight he would beat the Dutchman and gain back some of his pride.

As MacKenzie reached his destination he sent a quick prayer to no one in particular, "Please let me win". With a deep breath he reached for the iron knocker but quickly withdrew his hand, a searing pain chased up his fingers and up his arm. The knocker was hot. Behind him a child snickered, "Be careful Mister". MacKenzie turned around to tell the brat to mind its own business but found he was alone on the street. Frustrated, MacKenzie reached out and rapped on the red door with his knuckles.

An old butler opened the door slowly emitting a long creak. "Right this way sir, his lordship has been waiting."

When MacKenzie was shown into the drawing room the Dutchman leaped up from the table and shook his hand as a slow smile crept up under his moustache. "MacKenzie so good to see you again. I trust you brought a deck of cards?"

MacKenzie patted at this coat pockets and suddenly his face fell, "I seem to have forgotten them."

"Not a problem we can use mine. Would you like to inspect the deck before we begin playing?" the Dutchman handed him a red box of cards.

MacKenzie lifted the lid of the box and flipped over the top card, the Joker. Yet there was something about the face. He brought the card closer to his eye when suddenly the joker's face turned into a hideous devil. MacKenzie quickly shut the box and handed it back to the Dutchman, "No sir, I trust you. Shall we begin?"

The two played for a couple of hours while the wind picked up outside, moaning and groaning in the trees. MacKenzie's bad luck continued. He had nearly bitten through his lip when he realized that his life was over.

The Dutchman put his cards down, "I'm afraid good sir we must end this game. You have nothing more to give me... unless... no never mind."

"What? Unless what?" MacKenzie practically blurted in desperation.

The Dutchman smiled his greasy smile and begin shuffling the cards. "Let us play one more hand, if you win I will give you back all of your losses and double them."

"And if I lose?"

"If you lose you will give me your soul." The Dutchman continued to shuffle the cards eyeballing MacKenzie through his spectacles.

MacKenzie jumped up from his chair knocking it backwards. "Give you my soul?! Whatever do you mean sir?"

From out of the dark corner the old butler moved forward to right the chair. The Dutchman gestured for MacKenzie to be seated. "Please be seated my friend. There is nothing to fear, after all it is well known that you are an atheist so what is your soul to you? It is nothing. I am giving you the chance to win your purse back and more."

MacKenzie sat back in his chair, his mind racing, his heart beating fast. His collar was choking him and the shuffling of the cards was beginning to sound like a swarm of bees in his ears. "Fine. If I win you will return my losses, double. And if you win..." McKenzie swallowed, "I will give you my soul. But I will shuffle the cards."

"As you wish" the Dutchman handed him the deck of red cards.

The game was over before MacKenzie could even begin to contemplate what it was he had agreed to. The Dutchman laid his cards out in front of him, a Straight Flush. The blood drained from MacKenzie's face and his cards shook in his hand. "Sir lay your cards on the table," the Dutchman demanded with a smirk.

"It makes no matter." MacKenzie folded the cards close to his chest. "My soul is yours."

The Dutchman laughed and slammed his fist on the table, "You keep your soul."

MacKenzie looked up a glint of hope in his eye. The Dutchman quickly leaned across the table and grabbed MacKenzie by the wrist, "You keep your soul that is until your dead and buried," slowly he released his fingers, "and then it will be mine."

The old butler came forward once more and helped MacKenzie from his chair and guided him across the drawing room, into the hall and towards the front door. MacKenzie stopped in his tracks and quickly turned to the butler, "Who is that man?"

"He is nothing and everything, a fallen angel sir, now goodnight." MacKenzie was pushed out the door into the rainy streets of Liverpool.

Over the next few days MacKenzie grew sick with fright. What had he done? As his illness progressed he sent for his good friend and lawyer, Frank Dawson. MacKenzie told him what had happened and told him that no matter what he could not be buried, "Please Frank do not bury me. I have left instructions." MacKenzie gestured to an envelope on his nightstand, "I have no money but I know you will look after me, won't you Frank?"

St. Andrew's Church Yard 06

Within a couple of hours MacKenzie drew his last breath. Frank closed his eyes and said a prayer. He opened the envelope and read his friend's letter. Although he believed them to be the ravings of a mad man he valued his friendship and saw that MacKenzie's last wishes were granted.

A pyramid was erected in the small church yard of St. Andrew's where William MacKenzie now sits above ground in front of a card table holding close to his chest a winning hand.

The End

St. Andrew's Church Yard 05I have of course taken great liberty in telling this tale but it is true that a William MacKenzie who was known to be a gambler was 'buried' inside this pyramid in 1851. And he is actually reported to be sitting at a card table with a winning hand clutched to his chest. It is not clear whether he sold his soul to the devil in order to win or if he actually gambled his soul in a game against a Dutchman who was actually the devil. The latter seems unlikely (but works nicely in a story). MacKenzie most likely believed that being buried above ground would cause his contract with the devil to be null and void but just in case the devil comes for him anyway he is prepared to play poker for all eternity. People since have claimed to have seen or have been haunted by the ghost of Mackenzie. The church at St. Andrew's is listed as a Historical Building and is under renovation and has been for quite some time. There was a rumor that the cemetery was going to be relocated. Hopefully this isn't true because it would be a shame to disturb the dead, and how on earth are they going to move that pyramid? And if they rebury MacKenzie in the ground will the devil come for his soul?

Wikipedia information on MacKenzie can be found here

. listening . ramona . guster . keep it together .

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posted by Ashleigh @ 19:08,


At 31 March 2008 at 03:33, Blogger Danielle said...

What a wild story. I love the pyramid, and the idea of the man being buried seated with a winning hand of cards! I think this is the first time I've seen a tomb shaped like that (well, in a regular graveyard anyway).

At 31 March 2008 at 04:32, OpenID steeldreams said...

That's about a million times cooler than our old, dead governor in a pyramid, even if his pyramid is all white and sparkly and nifty looking.

In the world of serendipity, however, I saw another hilltop pyramid, today, on a small hill just on the Queen Creekish side of Florence. Haven't looked it up, yet, though.

At 31 March 2008 at 04:35, OpenID steeldreams said...

So, I looked it up.

"During a trip to India Poston got involved with the Parsee religion and became one of North America's first Zoroastrians. He even wrote a book called The Sun Worshippers of Asia (1877).
He died in Phoenix (Valley of the Sun) in 1902. His remains rest in a pyramid-shaped monument at the summit of Poston's Butte near Florence, Arizona, where he had once hoped to build a Temple to the Sun."

From here:


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    ashleigh (ash'lė) n.
    1: egyptologist; currently living in the uk attempting to obtain a phd in egyptology, hoping in the end there will be a job.
    2: literary; reading to escape reality, to improve conversation, for inspiration.
    3: crafter; crocheting and needlework, creating heirlooms, keeping the world warm.
    4: dreamer; head in the clouds, full of fantasies, wishing to be someone else, somewhere else.
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:: reading ::
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:: recently finished ::
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