Liverpool’s urban myths from Hitler to tropical fish and ‘Scouse’

You are never far away from history in Liverpool – and some of it is very strange indeed.

The city abounds in urban legends, those stories which appear to have some credibility on the surface but soon fall apart upon a little scrutiny.

Nevertheless, the fact that it is impossible to deny some of them outright means they are still fervently held on to by some.

We examined some of the most common misconceptions – and may have unearthed a few you haven't heard of.

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Adolf Hitler's time in Liverpool

This is the daddy of all Liverpool's urban myths, in the sense that it's the one nearly everyone will be familiar with – and is still firmly believed to be true by some.

Adolf Hitler, so the story goes, spent time in the city while his brother Alois Hitler Jnr was living in Upper Stanhope Street, Toxteth.

Adolf Hitler

Back in 1912, it was rumoured, Adolf arrived off a train at Lime Street to stay with the family.

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Supporters of the theory believe the 23-year-old Hitler was in the city from November 1912 to May 1913 in a bid to beat being conscripted into the Austrian army.

He was even rumoured to have enjoyed a pint at Peter Kavanagh's pub in Toxteth, the Poste House in Liverpool city centre, and taken a job at the Adelphi hotel.

Local actor Paul McGann made a documentary about this fascinating historical enigma back in 2013.

Paul McGann at Upper Stanhope Street, where Hitler is said to have lived

The claim was unearthed by former Liverpool Daily Post and Echo editor Mike Unger in 1973. He found it in a wartime memoir written by Hitler's sister-in-law Bridget Dowling.

In 2011 he said: "It was a great story and still is a great story.

"Research done over the last few years convinced me it was true. There is no public record to say Hitler lived here, but all the circumstantial evidence would indicate that it is absolutely true he lived in Liverpool."

If so, it didn't stop the future Fuhrer launching deadly bombing attacks on the city and its surrounding area during the Liverpool Blitz of 1940 to 1942.

Paul McCartney is dead

It might come as a surprise to some, considering how the 77-year-old ex-Beatle is still going strong, but according to this rumour Paul McCartney died in a car accident in 1966 and was replaced by a lookalike.

When the rumour first surfaced, it led to fans fervently scouring The Beatles' records and album sleeves for clues – the most famous, and symbolic, one being that Paul was both barefoot and out of step with his bandmates on the iconic Abbey Road cover.

The Beatles – Abbey Road cover

Although regarded as a joke, it was a myth that members of the band themselves acknowledged.

In one song following The Beatles' acrimonious break-up, John Lennon sang about his erstwhile bandmate: "Those freaks was right when they said you was dead."

Paul himself played on the joke by releasing a live album in 1993 entitled Paul is Live.

Bad news for fans of tropical fish

This sounds like a typical example of surreal Scouse humour, but a myth once circulated in the city that it was illegal to be topless in Liverpool except as a clerk in a tropical fish store.

A 2007 survey purported to "reveal" the crazy so-called law again, but at the time a council spokesman was firm on the matter.

He said: "It's something that has been heard of before and does crop up from time to time, but it is absurd. It is a myth and totally made up. It has no basis in fact."

The Liver Birds

Stories surrounding the Liver Birds 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. It is often jokingly claimed the female is looking out to sea while the male is looking another way, waiting for the pubs to open in town.

What would the city be without the Liver Birds?

Legend also has it that if these two birds were to fly away, the city would cease to exist. Fortunately the theory hasn't been tested, but we're pretty sure it's not true.

Jamie Carragher has an Everton tattoo

Years ago it was claimed that former Liverpool player Jamie Carragher had an Everton tattoo on his arm.

What made the rumour so believable was that Jamie had grown up a die-hard Blue before joining LFC and that he supposedly wore a long sleeved shirt during matches to cover it.

Jamie Carragher celebrating victory after the 2012 Carling Cup Final

But Carragher put the myth to bed in his autobiography.

He wrote: “It's not true that I've got an Everton tattoo on my arm, but I was Everton-mad growing up. How times have changed."

Scouse originated in Liverpool

The name and popularity of the dish of scouse would lead anyone to believe that the hearty meal originated here.

But the stew-style dinner actually comes from Norway and is still a favourite among sailors in northern Europe.

Naomi Campbell and Lilian Leung, manager at Ma Boyle's Alehouse and Eatery, enjoy a bowl of Scouse. Photo by James Maloney

As a result of its popularity on the seas, the stew became a hit in cities, like Liverpool, which were sea ports. Recipes for scouse vary massively and many are quite different to the original stew.

In St Helens and Wigan the dish is commonly known as "lobbies", derived from its original name "lobscouse."

Playing poker with the Devil

Many will have been intrigued by a 15 foot high pyramidal tomb in the graveyard of St Andrew's Church in Rodney Street.

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It marks the final resting place of the British civil engineer William Mackenzie.

Born near Nelson, Lancashire in 1794 and the eldest of 11 children, Mackenzie went on to make his fortune working as engineer on canal and railway projects.

The pyramid shaped tomb in St Andrews on Rodney Street, Liverpool. Photo by James Maloney

He died in 1851, leaving most of his estate to his brother Edward, who erected this pyramid shaped monument at the grave in 1868.

The curious shape of the monument has given rise to a popular legend that Mackenzie, as an inveterate gambler, wished to be entombed sitting at a table holding a winning hand of cards. The yarn insists that Mackenzie bet and lost his soul in a game of poker with the Devil and figured that if he was never buried, Satan could never claim his prize.

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