History Mystery

British cemeteries  are fascinating. When I was staying at Graham Chapman’s house during my first Monty Python-inspired trip to London, he casually mentioned “Karl Marx is just up the road.” I was slightly confused, until he explained that Highgate Cemetery was about a five minute walk from the house, and Karl Marx was indeed one of his neighbors. “People are always blowing it up,” he added casually.

One of the reasons British cemeteries are more interesting than American ones is that they’re just so OLD. Take a walk through, and it isn’t hard to find tombstones that are older than America.

But British cemeteries also have more than their share of mysteries. Brompton Cemetery, near Kensington in London, has a time machine in one corner. Yes, you read that correctly.

When I was in the early stages of writing the book that became The Last of the Time Police,” I stumbled upon the story of this strange but true structure, and the people who created it. Why they created it, and how it got there, is still a mystery. Even stranger, the mausoleum/time machine almost looks like it was built by ancient Egyptians. In fact, it may have been built by a Victorian inventor called Samuel A. Warner, who also invented the first torpedo. When Warner demanded a huge sum for one of his inventions, some claim that he was murdered to prevent it from falling into the hands of Britain’s enemies.

Or, it might have been designed and built by Joseph Bonomi, an architect and Egyptologist who was part of the team that first deciphered the hieroglyphics found in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. (Some people claim that the papyrus that he worked on included the secrets of time travel.)

Both Warner and Bonomi are buried near the mausoleum, which is allegedly occupied by a trio of Victorian spinsters, about whom very little is known for certain. The mother, Hannah Courtoy, is rumored to have been a royal mistress, and extremely wealthy; two of her three daughters are supposed to be buried with her. Nobody knows for sure.

The key to the 20-foot tall mausoleum was lost and no one has been inside in more than 120 years. Of course, that gave birth to rumors that the tomb is empty, and that some or all of them are traveling in time.

Some people laugh at that. What they can’t laugh at is the fact that the mysterious mausoleum is the only structure in the entire cemetery for which there are no plans (and this was at a time when the schematics for any structure proposed for Brompton Cemetery had to be carefully studied before approval).

We also know that all of these folks led extremely interesting lives, and that’s why I made them all characters in The Last of The Time Police. More on some of these folks later, but in the meantime, here’s a shot of the time machine/mausoleum to put everyone in a Halloween mood…

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