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At midnight on Thursday, 14th February, 1867, two lovers stood on the bridge in Sefton Park, Liverpool, England. Their names were William Robert D'Onston and Alice Harwood, and they both knew that very soon, they would be going their separate ways through life, because William's stern middle-class parents had pressured him into an engagement with a wealthy heiress. So, upon the bridge at midnight, as a distant clock chimed the twelfth hour, William tearfully told Alice that their three-year affair would have to end, for the sake of his future bride. Alice said nothing in reply, but stared into the reflections of William and herself in the waters below. Then she suddenly turned and kissed him and closed her eyes as the tears streamed out of them. Before parting, Alice said in trembling voice: "Grant me one last favour, the only one I will ask you for on this earth."

William waited for her request with a burning sorrow in his heart.

"Promise to meet me here twelve months from tonight at this same hour." Alice said. William wasn't keen on that suggestion, but somehow, deep in his tormented heart, he knew that he had to see his first real love once more, and so, in a broken voice, the young man replied: "Well, I will come if I am alive."

"Say alive or dead!" Alice shouted.

"Don't be so melodramatic," William said, trying to smile, then he clutched Alice's hands and said, "Very well then. We will meet next year at this very same hour - dead or alive!"

The year dragged by, and exactly twelve months later, William and Alice were reunited at the bridge, but William told Alice that he was now married and no longer cared for her in a romantic way. Despite William's frank admission, Alice was still deeply in love with him. and before they parted, she begged him to for one further, final reunion at the bridge in a year's time, again on February 14th at midnight. William said that would be impossible, as he certainly had no intentions of jeopardising the loyal relationship he was enjoying with his wife. But Alice started to sob and reminded him of the promises they had made to each other during their long affair to stay together. So William reluctantly agreed to one - and only one - further clandestine meeting. As before, they both vowed to turn up at the bridge, whether dead or alive.

In February 1869, William was involved in a shooting accident, and suffered a leg injury which left him unable to walk without the aid of crutches. On the night of the prearranged meeting, William wondered how he could possibly get to the bridge on his crutches, and even considered postponing the journey to the rendezvous, but being a man who kept to his word, he decided to go to the park in a bath chair. The old trusted servant of William's family, Bob, already knew of the affair, and agreed to push William to the park bridge in his bath chair. Old Bob wheeled William through the moonlit streets until they reached the bridge. The servant then helped William out of the chair and watched him walk unsteadily on his crutches along the bridge until he reached the middle. The young man then waited impatiently for Alice to arrive.

William shouted to Bob: "What on earth am I doing standing here upon this bridge on this freezing night, waiting for a girl who I do not care for anymore?"

Old Bob wisely stayed silent. The clock in the distance started chiming midnight, and the approaching figure of Alice was suddenly visible at the end of the bridge.

"About time, too." William was heard to mutter.

Alice reached him, but showed no signs of slowing her pace, so to stop her walking past him, William instinctively tried to embrace the girl, as he suspected that his insensitive comments had upset her.

But his arms passed right through her. Alice glanced back at the astonished William and with a terrible look of sorrow in her eyes, she whispered: "Dead or alive."

William trembled as he watched Alice continuing her walk to the end of the bridge - where she disappeared in plain sight of Old Bob.

"Bob!" William cried out to the servant, "Who passed you just now?"

Bob shrugged and said nobody had, although he had heard footsteps.

On the following day, William visited Alice's family in Huskisson Street and told them of the strange encounter. Alice's parents looked at each other and Mrs Harwood broke down and sobbed. The father then told William that his daughter had died from a fever last night, shortly before midnight.

William almost fainted when he heard the dreadful news.

The nurse who had attended Alice during her final hours then said that upon the girl's deathbed, the girl had constantly repeated the words: "Dead or alive, I must go to the bridge to see William..."

It is said that every year at midnight on February 14th, the lonely loyal ghost of Alice Harwood is seen crossing that bridge in Sefton Park, still apparently hoping to meet her long-dead lover, Robert. As recently as 1995, a park ranger saw a beautiful young outdated-looking woman strolling through the park with a parasol. As she crossed the bridge, the lady vanished...




This story reproduced with permission from Tom Slemen

© Copyright 2004 by Tom Slemen. All Rights Reserved.

Last modification: November 9, 2007


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