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Green Eye of the Mersey: the legend of the stone that fell from the sky

For thousands of years, the belief has persisted that certain people and objects can bring misfortune. In 1830, a British banker and gemstone collector named Henry Thomas Hope bought a large blue diamond which became known as the Hope Diamond.

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The origins of the oversized diamond are not known with any certainty, but it is thought that the gem was cut from an even larger diamond in the Golconda mines of India, and there is a brief reference to the Hope Diamond being in the possession of King Louis XIV in the 18th century.

It was later lost in the turmoil of the French Revolution. Today the Hope Diamond is kept at the Smithsonian Institute in America, but the gemstone is regarded as a jinx because every person who owned it in the past either dropped dead of unnatural causes or committed suicide after buying the diamond.

The hope diamond
The hope diamond

In England there is another example of an unlucky diamond; a spectacular emerald-like gemstone folklorists have nicknamed the ‘Green Eye’. On October 21st, 1839, the night skies over western Wales lit up with a blinding blue flash, and scores of people saw a meteor fall to earth. On the following morning, a farmer near Hollowmoor Heath in the neighbouring county of Cheshire discovered a small crater in his field.

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None of the cows would venture near the crater, and the farmer saw that there was a black object the size of a billiard ball embedded in the centre of the crater. The farmer showed the object to a clergyman and he passed it on to a friend named Ibbotson, who was an amateur astronomer. Ibbotson cleaned the meteorite and sawed it in half. In the middle of the globe there was an object that was so hard, the blade of the saw glanced off it.

Ibbotson cracked the meteorite open and saw that the object was a precious stone which was white like opal. The unearthly gemstone was the size of an egg and had a peculiar flaw: the stone contained a circular green emerald-coloured crystal which made the stone resemble a human glass eye with a green iris. Ibbotson sent a report of his findings to the Royal Astronomical Society in London but never received a reply.

He decided the ‘Green Eye’ as he called it, would be an unusual birthday gift for his niece who lived in Dublin, and five months later, Ibbotson boarded the steamer William Huskisson at Liverpool Docks, but the ship never reached Ireland. The steamship sank in the middle of the Irish Sea, and no one has ever explained why, as the ship was in excellent condition and its captain and crew had made the crossing hundreds of times, yet 40 passengers – including Mr Ibbotson – perished beneath the waves.

Weeks later, Ibbotson’s suitcase was washed up on the English western coast at Hoylake, and a man named William Peters opened the case and saw the strange Green Eye stone. He took the gemstone to a valuer who couldn’t identify the material that the stone was made from, so Peters went over to Liverpool to sell the stone, and twenty-four hours later he died from a typhoid-like fever which claimed 15,000 victims in the town.

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So-called ‘Fever Sheds’ were opened in the port, and the body of William Peters was literally thrown onto a heap of corpses in one of these sheds. A poor Irishman named John Law who stripped and searched the plague corpses, became the next owner of the Green Eye, and was naturally delighted at his lucky find.

He showed it to his friends at a tavern in the town and said he intended to get it valued soon. The landlord of the inn was very superstitious; he said the gemstone had an aura of evilness about it, and told Law to take it off the premises. Law laughed at the landlord’s comments and went home. Half an hour later, a boy ran in the pub and said that Law was dying outside his lodging house.

Law was impaled on railings in front of the house, and was barely alive. Two railings had gone through his back and were protruding from his chest. Law was barely alive, and coughed up blood as he gave an account of what had happened. He said a man had ran into his room and demanded the diamond. There was a struggle, and the man pushed Law through his open window. He had landed on the railings.

Law’s friends made the fatal mistake of trying to lift their companion off the railings, despite Law’s terrible screams. But their well-meant intentions killed Law. As they lifted him, a railing severed a major artery and the other railing ruptured his liver.

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Then the so-called Green Eye gemstone fell out of Law’s hand. One of the bystanders picked up the stone and a fight later broke out over who should have it. Law’s cousin – a man named George Wishart – claimed it and he later emigrated to the Isle of Man.

One day, Wishart decided to have the Green Eye mounted in a gold locket, but on his way to the jewellers, he literally dropped dead in the street. A pathologist said he had died from cardio-congestive failure, but couldn’t fathom out why, as Wishart had a legendary cast-iron constitution.

Wishart’s niece, a woman named May Allen, took possession of the seemingly jinxed gemstone, and within a year, five of her friends had died in tragic accidents, but still, Mrs Allen refused to believe that the Green Eye was cursed. In December 1909, she decided to visit relatives in Liverpool with her son Ernest. They both boarded a steamship named the Ellan Vannin, and yes, you’ve guessed it; that ship sank in mysterious circumstances on its way to the port in Liverpool Bay.

Lookouts on the Wirral lighthouse were horrified to see the Ellan Vannin’s lights go out, then suddenly, the ship went under the waves within a couple of seconds. Everyone on board the ship was drowned, and the cause of the sudden sinking has never been solved. The bodies of May and Ernest Allen were buried at Liverpool in the western side of St James’s Cemetery next to the Anglican Cathedral.

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Relatives of Mrs Allen said she had definitely taken the Green Eye diamond with her to show her Liverpool cousins, but the diamond was never found on the body. We must therefore presume that the cursed Green Eye gemstone is somewhere in the River Mersey, probably within the wreck of the Ellan Vannin which still lies beneath the waves of Liverpool Bay.

Considering its dark history of tragedy to all those who have owned it, perhaps the Green Eye should be left where it lies.

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Tom Slemen

Tom Slemen is a Liverpool writer, known foremostly as the author of the best-selling Haunted Liverpool series of books which document paranormal incidents and unsolved or unusual crimes. Check his Books on Amazon here.