Due to the sudden explosion in popularity of this website, with loads of members of the online forums within the JTR community visiting and then discussing it and, indeed, talking about me, Lord Orsam, I thought it would be helpful to respond to all the feedback I'm receiving in one 'blog' page. This is that page. You've found it. Well done you.
The most important and revealing thing about the responses posted on JTR Forums following my article 'A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To JTR Forums' is what the posters have NOT said in response. The same is true of the comments posted in the Casebook Censorship Forum in response to my update on 'Send In The Clowns'. You will see that the theme of what has been avoided runs hilariously through the entire batch of responses on both sites.
So here are my responses to their responses (together with responses to additional relevant online posts) which, to avoid everyone jabbering on incessantly about being upset or happy at their number in the list, I'm doing in order of online appearance. I'll start with the JTR Forums responses:
THREAD: 'DAVID ORSAM BLOG'
Jonathan Menges (#45)
At his second attempt of responding to the suggestion in my article 'From Commissioner to Asterisk' that he was the individual who reported the now infamous Tumblety thread to Ally Ryder, Jonathan Menges posted this:
'Ok, I didn't report the thread that led to his confrontation with Ally Ryder (and I told David as much weeks ago but he apparently doesn't believe me).'
To say I was disappointed by this response would be a massive understatement. If he didn't want to discuss the position he could have said nothing, alternatively he could have revealed the full story - but he has taken a strange middle ground while, at the same time, claiming, somewhat bizarrely, that I am refusing to believe what he has told me in private - something he didn't need to mention at all - thus making me sound like a mad, paranoid person refusing to accept plain facts.
Now, it's perfectly true that I was in email communication with Jonathan Menges following publication of my articles earlier this year and, during that time, I took the opportunity of asking him directly if he had reported the Tumblety thread to Ally Ryder. When he replied to me, he expressly asked me to keep his reply confidential. I have done exactly as he asked and, when I commented (in 'A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To JTR Forums') on his response to my 'From Commissioner to Asterisk' article, I took care not even to hint that I knew anything more than I had said in that article. The bafflement I expressed in 'A Funny Thing' about Mr Menges denying something that I hadn't even suggested he had done, is exactly what I thought when I first read his JTR Forums post on 11 June 2019, which was before I had spoken to him by email.
Out of respect for his wishes to keep his email confidential, I'm not going to reveal what he said to me in that email but I would ask that he either posts it himself or gives me permission in public to quote from it. What I will say, however, is that, in my view, reporting a thread does not necessarily involve pressing the 'report' button and that sending any form of communication to Ally Ryder about a thread, or about my own posts in a thread, would, in my opinion, constitute reporting that thread. I'm particularly surprised that Jonathan says that I 'apparently' don't believe his denial because he knows full well what I believe, and it doesn't involve him lying about anything.
The reason I say that he knows what I believe is because I made it clear to him in my reply. What I said was that I am sure that he is the person Ally Ryder was referring to in her ruling of 21 May 2018 when she said 'Luckily in this instance, several (sic) someone else's reported this thread, for various reasons'. Now, I didn't receive a reply from Mr Menges to my email but he must know from having read it that it's not a question in any way of me not believing him. I do believe entirely what he told me - and that is clear from my email to him - but I still believe that he reported the thread to Ally Ryder, and I also believe that she took the view that he reported the thread. The position that he has allowed to remain uncorrected in his public posts is, in my view, very misleading (as was his initial post on the matter) and does not get us closer to the truth of what happened. Perhaps he could now, at the very least, post the same answer to the question 'Did you report the thread?' that he gave to me.
I do hope that Jonathan does elaborate in full because (while some will not agree) I think it's important we get to the bottom of the issue of my forced resignation from Casebook, something which I still find to be both quite shocking and rather mysterious and, from what I now know, the scandal seems to go even deeper than I first thought. But that refers to something in JM's email that I'm not allowed to discuss. So the best thing, it seems to me, is to have everything out of the open and that I can be released from the confidentiality request.
Just to add that I do not for one second think that Jonathan Menges is 'a puppet master' or that he has any power to lock threads on Casebook or run the Casebook Forum in any way, nor have I said that he has. What I have said is that he is an important, influential, well connected (and much respected) person in the field of Ripperology so that when he reports a thread to Ally Ryder, in whatever form, that report is treated very differently to when Joe Bloggs reports one, and the language he uses when sending his report could well influence her into how she deals with the matter in question on the Forum. I don't think he fully appreciates that fact himself.
What I also told him (in a slightly more polite form) is that I didn't think he had any business interfering in the thread, that the issues between Mike Hawley and myself in that thread had nothing to do with him and that he should have left it alone. But I also said, and I now quote myself, 'Naturally, you couldn't have anticipated what would happen, and I'm sure you felt you were acting in the best motives and out of good intentions, but I'm afraid your intervention, no doubt unwittingly, did affect the outcome, and cause, at least indirectly, the termination of my membership of the Forum.'Gary Barnett (#46)
'I suspect the men in white coats are on their way'.
Why Mr Barnett thinks that men in white coats are needed to take me, Lord Orsam, away with them to assist with their umpiring of a cricket match is not explained. Mind you, I am good at working out when someone is stumped.
Howard Brown (#47)
'Actually, as I told the person who told me that Dave had this new entry on his Blog....which we have provided a link to for over 4 years now.....I didn't say Dave was barred from participating. What I did say was that I wasn't going to ask him again.
I do, however, understand how he might get the impression he was persona non grata from what I said.'
I'm grateful to Howard Brown for linking to this site when I publish updates, albeit that I am less grateful when he refers to it as 'Mr Warmth's Blog' which is, at the very least, not its correct name. I see that the latest reference is to 'Dave Orsam's Blog' which is great, and fine, although, as it happens, I have never really been a 'Dave' and would prefer to be addressed, and referred to at all times in the future, as Lord Orsam. Thank you.
I'm also grateful to him for accepting that I might have reasonably got the impression that I was persona non grata for what he said on JTR Forums. I understood him perfectly well to be saying that he wasn't going to invite me to join again, as opposed to him barring me from his site, but that was something which, as I said, gave the impression that I wasn't welcome to join.
What I would have been more interested to read in his response would have been his justification for describing me as 'Mr Warmth' in the first place. I'd also like to have known if he now accepts that prior to 'A Funny Thing' I'd never commented on or criticized JTR Forums, as opposed to a few of the members who happen to post on his site.
'One other thing.....
Nevertheless, the amount of power in the online world of Jack the Ripper studies concentrated into the hands of two individuals, who have unlimited power to decide who and who is not allowed to post online about the subject, is troubling.
He's perfectly entitled to believe that if he wants to.
Whatever Casebook decides to do about a poster, post, thread, or disagreement between two parties is none of our business. Never was, never will be.'
Leaving aside that the final two sentences of Howard's post here do not follow on, or bear any relation to, the sentence of mine that he's quoted, his members don't seem to agree with him. I mean, if Casebook's decisions about posters are 'none of our business', what does he have to say about Mr Poster's claim that I am 'banned from certain websites'? Even if it was true, which it isn't, why was that even posted about me on JTR Forums? Was there a reprimand from the Administrator? I didn't see one. All I saw was Howard following it up with a double whammy, saying 'And he's not invited on this one either'.
The other thing I will say is that the sentence of mine cited by Howard is, in my opinion, an issue of free speech affecting the whole of Ripperology and one which goes beyond how Casebook deals with a squabble between members. I have no doubt that I was censored on Casebook, in a thread closure, for asking questions of an author which were fair and reasonable questions (with further issues relating to the fact that I have, during my time on the Forum, evidently upset some important people with my posts). It's not really an issue of Casebook deciding what to do about a dispute between two parties but an issue relating to the actions of the administrator of Casebook herself. It's all very well saying 'Ah Casebook is nothing to do with JTR Forums' but then if that's the case (even leaving aside all the times when there were responses to my Casebook posts on JTR Forums) why are there any discussions about what I post on my website? Why, for example, are JTR Forums members allowed to suggest that men in white coats are coming for me? Would that be acceptable to be said about the administrator of Casebook.org? After all, I can rightly claim to be the administrator of Orsam.co.uk. Should discussion about me and this site be prohibited? If not, why does Casebook get a free pass? Discuss.
Howard Brown (#48)
'People have been barred from even looking at Rubenhold's page who never wrote a word online about her or her book.'
Yet, Howard still is happy to invite Rubenhold to join in the discussions on JTR Forums whereas my invitation to join (made to me in private) was very publicly withdrawn. That was the point I was making about Rubenhold.
'Neal Sheldon wasn't drummed out of Ripperology.'
I never said he was, of course. I'd already read the posts on JTR Forums in response to Rubenhold's claim about this. What I was saying was very different and had nothing to do with whether Sheldon was or was not, in fact, drummed out of Ripperology.
'This list of desparacidos which Dave mentions is almost entirely a list of people who have left this site on their own volition.'
Whether these unidentified individuals left either of the sites of their own volition, just as I left Casebook of my on volition, is neither here nor there and does not, in itself, mean that they haven't been drummed out of Ripperology. I don't know either way.
'On the bottom of every post I make is my email address and the message, To Join JTRForums, contact me at Howard@jtrforums.com
The typical registration process is inoperative here.....its been inoperative for over 10 years.
We disabled it to prevent spammers ( we had a problem about 11 years ago with this) from climbing aboard. Our membership, I believe, appreciates this.
That's all well and good but all I can say is that when someone emailed me suggesting I join JTR Forums, out of curiosity, I went straight to JTR Forums to check out the registration procedure and found that rather unfriendly message which I reproduced. I naturally worked out fairly quickly that one needed to email the administrator to become a member but, whether the current members appreciate being protected from new members joining or not, my feedback as a former prospective member would be to fix the automatic registration system, if possible, especially now procedures exist to prevent spammers which did not exist 10 years ago, because I can't help thinking that adding hurdles which need to be overcome before joining a Forum, especially imposing the need to email someone who you may not know, can be daunting and possibly off-putting to some. That's just my feedback which I offer free of charge to JTR Forums. That advice is shaken, not stirred.
Gary Barnett (#49)
'Some of the muppets on JTR forums recently commented on my article about Robert Smith's book.’ said Dave the charmer.
If he’d left the ‘of the’ out, his claim to have been referring to specific Forums posters might have held water.
As part of his campaign to smear me at every possible opportunity, Gary Barnett is now perverting the English language. I think the point he is trying so hard but failing to make is that, in saying 'Some of the muppets on JTR forums..', I must have been referring to all posters on JTR Forums so that, therefore, I was attacking JTR Forums as a whole rather than just 'the muppets'. Consequently, I assume the argument goes, Howard Brown was justified in withdrawing my invitation to join his forum.
But it's perfectly untrue, and Barnett's claim that if I had said 'Some muppets on JTR forums...' it would have somehow made a material difference is absurd.
I'm not sure where Barnett has taken that of mine quote from (presumably something I posted on Casebook) but it should be perfectly obvious to anyone that in saying 'the muppets' I was referring to the muppets who were the topic of my article 'The Genesis of the Muppets' in which I explained why I called that small group of posters 'the muppets'. In fact, I think there were only ever three of them. Now, if I recall correctly, one of those three didn't actually comment on my article about Robert Smith's book - only two of them did - so I referred on that occasion to 'some of the muppets' rather than just 'the muppets'. That's the explanation and that's all there is to it.
Interestingly, when going through some old threads, I was reminded that Gary Barnett's response to my September 2017 article criticising Robert Smith's book, as posted on JTR Forums, was that, 'The primary purpose of the piece seems to be to show how clever the author is', a comment I quoted in my 'Response to the Muppets'. I'd forgotten that this was a Barnett snipe but it makes an absolute mockery of Howard Brown's claim that I've ever given darling 'Gary' a hard time. Without any provocation he just came gunning for me...and, two years later, he still is!
Gary Barnett (#50)
Orsam has attempted to bluster his way past the errors in his ‘New Suspect’ article (don’t call it a blog, you might offend him) without success.
He claims he didn’t state in the article what his suspect’s real name was. This is what he said:
He was then arrested under his real name on about 13 November.
He must have heaved a sigh of relief that that sentence didn’t actually include the name under which he tells us his suspect was convicted at that time - Joseph McCarthy.
He also seems to miss the point that the George Yard address was where his suspect may (or may not) have lived 5 years after 1888.
The only bluster here is by Barnett who is blatantly avoiding any mention or acknowledgement of the fact that my article about McCarthy was a lighthearted joke (of which he was evidently unaware) and that his attempted criticisms of it, posted in various online threads on multiple forums, including in a Maybrick thread on Casebook (yes, you read that correctly - he was trolling!), have fallen flat on their face.
I can't believe he's still going on about what the real name of the 'suspect' was, or wasn't (although, strangely, not in the actual thread he started about this 'suspect' which he has now, apparently, abandoned). Of course I assumed that the joke suspect's real name was McCarthy based on the entry in the Metropolitan Police register just like Barnett assumes his name was O'Brien based on later records. I made this clear in my update response when I said:
'One would have thought that the authorities would have been able to work out the guy's real name after discovering that it wasn't Michael Sheen.'
So, yes, I certainly did assume that the authorities had worked it out and that his real name was Joseph McCarthy but, like I said in my update, I didn't actually state what his real name was in my short article - and Barnett himself accepts this with his strange 'sigh of relief comment' (as if I actually care about any of this nonsense).
Presumably desperate for something else to say in his post, while transparently avoiding any admission that he had missed my warning that the thread should not be taken too seriously (for he took it very seriously indeed!), he is sadly reduced to commenting on something that just isn't true. Far from 'missing the point' that the George Yard address was where McCarthy may or may not have lived five years after 1888, I addressed it head on when I said that the fact that McCarthy went straight to Whitechapel after leaving prison, at the end of his five year sentence, in 1893, 'suggested to me, at least, that he had some connection with Whitechapel prior to his imprisonment and may well have lived off and on at various lodging houses in the area during the period of the Ripper murders in 1888'. How that can be said to have missed the point when I've dealt with it directly, and in full, escapes me. And that was based on what I knew in 2015; now I know that, under the name of O'Brien, McCarthy was arrested in 'H' Division (Stepney) in 1894 - something Barnett omitted to mention in his critique - thus strengthening the notion that he was associated with the East End. Barnett, himself, seems to have missed the point that he got it wrong in saying in one of his own posts that the Whitechapel address was McCarthy's 'intended address', to which he might not have gone, because he wasn't aware that it was his actual address after he left prison.
Barnett hasn't addressed or admitted to a single one of his own errors or poor deductions, including his attempt to suggest I might have got the date of Michael Sheen's trial wrong and his slip up regarding McCarthy's licence revocation and date of release. Not to mention his failure to establish the details of the 1887 conviction. There is just no acknowledgment of any of it, whereas, on the other hand, I responded to every single comment that he made about my own article. Every single one, however minor and however irrelevant and however ridiculous. And that was in circumstances where the whole thing was a joke anyway and none of it actually matters!
Paul Begg (#51)
Apropos the above, David Orsam seems to think that Ripperology IS Casebook or the Forums,but it isn't. Even if someone was “drummed out” of Forums, he wouldn’t necessarily be “drummed out” of Casebook, or out of any of the numerous Facebook forums or from Twitter or from writing their own blog (as Orsam has done), or from the pages of Ripperologist. And that assumes that the administrators of either Casebook or JTRForums bars people without good and justifiable reasons.
It is perfectly possible that Neil Shelden was "drummed out" of somewhere, but Ripperology is an interest in the mystery of who murdered at least five women in the East End of London in 1888. How can you be drummed out of an interest? It's like saying someone was drummed out of photography or train spotting or ornithology or quantum physics. Anyway, Neil Shelden had a lot of supporters who respected and admired his work, among them Martin, Keith and myself, who had praised his work from the day he first published an article in True Detective. We'd have supported him and the work done by Jenni as much as we could. And much of the early criticism of Rubenhold was supporting his work on the victims, which Rubenhold appeared to be ignoring.
As someone who doesn't actually do social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, so that I have no idea what kind of devil's work goes on there, I'm not sure I can really agree with Paul Begg on this one. I rather think the core of Ripperology in 2019 is online and the core of online Ripperology is the two online forums. If you are not participating in at least one of them, you are pretty much invisible, at least from my perspective.
By pure chance, I happen to have this website, which wasn't in any way designed for me to be doing this, and it gives me a voice, but that's more by luck than anything else, having previously posted articles prior to my departure so that people with an interest in the subject already knew it was here. If you can't participate on the forums, you can't ask questions of the people who do participate and you can't join in any of the discussions which ensure that knowledge is built up for all.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who doesn't tweet and all that nonsense. If you can't share your thoughts and ideas with others online and can't interact with them because you have been forced out of the forums, then I do maintain that you can easily be drummed out of Ripperology. That doesn't mean that you have to stop having an interest in it, or researching it, but it obviously means that you are excluded from the social group which discusses it. Then, and perhaps even more importantly, if your reputation is actually undermined with false statements made about you, and your credibility attacked, in posts which are very much in public for all to read, you can potentially find yourself ostracised by all the serious players in the field, and, indeed, by anyone and everyone, who might believe the lies that are said about you.
I think it's naive to hold the view that, 'oh it doesn't matter, you can just do it all on your own in a vacuum'. In any field, be it photography, train spotting, ornithology or quantum physics, if you are shunned by your peers, if no-one else with an interest in the subject will speak to you, and you are ignored by those you respect, and can't communicate openly with them, then, yes, I would have thought that anyone might feel the need to leave those fields in such circumstances. I'm not saying any of that has happened to me, incidentally, only that I can easily see the potential for it happening. Comments about men in white coats coming to take me away and about me being banned from 'certain websites' etc. etc. are obviously part of a campaign being waged against me by certain persons who, as far as I can tell from their posts, would love to drum me out of Ripperology. But sadly for them, they can't.
As for whether anyone actually has been drummed out of Ripperology, I truly cannot say. One thing that does occur to me though: If Jack the Ripper was, by some miracle of science, still alive, and wanted to participate in the discussions on the forums, should he be drummed out of Ripperology?
Mr Poster (#55)
He seems to think Mr. Poster is an aggressive type as well.
I am saddened by that as his work on Spandau Ballet was stunning ... completely changed the field forever. A paradigm shift the significance of which will only be appreciated in years to come.
All my Spandau Ballet fan friends were literally gobsmacked by the revelations. It was the topic of conversation at our get togethers for ages. Finally.... a matter which had been of such concern had been given the work and time commesurate with its importance.
Personally, I have not looked at a toilet wall the same since I read that so it grives me that he feels that way.
I think what Mr Poster is trying to say is that he did learn something new from my book about Spandau Ballet. He is welcome.
And that's the lot from JTR Forums. The majority of the substantial points I made in my 'Funny Thing' article were not responded to. No-one even attempted to explain why the male insider Simon Wood's book has been virtually ignored on JTR Forums while the female outsider Hallie Rubenhold's book has been dissected down to the very footnote references. Perhaps of most interest was that there was no denial that Gary Barnett did indeed call Hallie Rubenhold a 'pampered middle class twat' on 27 August 2018. I wasn't entirely sure when I wrote the article if the asterisks had or had not been added later by Howard Brown, but I'm certain we would have been told by now if the word 'twat' had not been in the original of Barnett's post. This means that the 245 word thesis of Caroline Morris/Brown on 6 March 2019 (in The Five thread, #1230) that Barnett hadn't actually called Rubenhold a twat - because, she claimed, he had only said (in an earlier post) that the last thing the women of the East End need is another pampered twat - was nothing more than an exercise in sophistry, one which no-one else thought fit to correct with the actual facts.
By pure coincidence, most of the people posting hostile comments in the 'David Orsam Blog' thread don't agree with my conclusions about the Maybrick Diary and I can't help thinking that those conclusions are what has produced such venom in their responses, yet none of them actually have a word to say (either in that thread or elsewhere) about my conclusions on the Maybrick Diary! Time after time, I face this situation. Responses are concentrated on me, Lord Orsam, rather than on the actual issues I'm writing about, by people who want to try and play the man rather than the ball. When I finally do get someone attempting to respond properly to an article it turns out to be Gary Barnett trying to pick apart a joke article from four years ago. Come on chaps. Raise your game!
CASEBOOK CENSORSHIP FORUM
THREAD: 'THE DIARY - HOAX OR NEW'
May I very politely - as I am extremely humble and insignificant and easily ignored and overlooked - point out that in Orsam's incredible 'analysis', I am actually NUMBER TWO before c.d. (whoever he might be) and the fragrant Caz. I did seriously try to read all of Orsam's tiresome ramblings, but failed. Isn't he just something else, chaps?
Earlier in the thread at #300, apparently before he'd even read my article, Graham posted: 'Do you think it might just be possible to move on from the boring and increasingly tiresome arguments about 'one-off' and 'top myself'. This is a bizarre thing for anyone interested in the Diary to say. The expression 'one-off' PROVES that the Diary is a modern hoax, which is the entire subject of the thread and, indeed, the most crucial bone of contention in the Diary story. It's the key to the whole thing! One really doesn't need to discuss anything else about the Diary unless one simply wants to talk about the mechanics of the hoax. It's the one indisputable and uncontrovertible fact that shows the Diary is a modern fake. What more does Graham want? Asking to move on from 'one off' is the equivalent of an admission from someone that he doesn't want the mystery to be solved.
When it comes to what this poster doesn't say in his response to my article (which he can't even be bothered to read in its entirety, apparently), we find that he has nothing to say about the fact that my article includes images of the very thing that he thought I had never seen. Thus, it will be recalled that, in #260, Graham had said:
'I do wonder if Orsam ever thought to consult old technical and mechanical drawings before he made his pronouncement....I bet he didn't.'
He must now know that I did - but he has nothing to say about it. The funny thing is that at the time he wrote the above, he obviously was kind of interested in the 'one off' debate for he was saying at the same time that he thought that the earliest written examples of 'one off' would be found 'prior to 1888'. Now he knows that this isn't the case (in respect of 'one off' to mean unique) he's lost interest. How odd.
There's nothing else worth responding to in any of the other comments in the thread, although an honorary mention should go to Iconoclast for being surprised that a rebuttal to his essay actually rebuts everything he said in that essay, and for his classic comment:'Surely not every single thing I (for example) have written is utter mince? Maybe it is...' (#378). Enough said!
THREAD: 'ACQUIRING A VICTORIAN DIARY'
Paul Begg (#1729)
'Anyone who was there will confirm that Mike was well and truly plastered. Andy Aliffe would no doubt have done his best, but he wouldn't have been able to stop Mike from drinking. All he could have done, and the best he was probably expected to do, was to limit Mike's intake and make sure he was capable of standing and talking after a fashion.'
From what Keith Skinner has since posted on Casebook, Paul Begg must be talking here about the Cloak & Dagger club event at the Whitechapel pub rather than the previous day's lunch in Notting HIll (which he doesn't appear to have attended). R.J. Palmer inadvertently referred to what was said at the lunch meeting as having been said at the Whitechapel pub which has, perhaps, caused some confusion. At the lunch, according to Keith Skinner, Mike was evidently not drunk. The contemporary report by (the then Ripperologist editor) Paul Daniels of the Cloak & Dagger club event makes no mention of Barrett being drunk although it does draw attention to his 'bewildering change of character' from the previous day's lunch and his 'rambling and incoherent' performance in the pub which would be explained by too much alcohol.
One assumes that Jonathan Menges' underlying suggestion in his original post was that because Barrett was drunk at the Cloak & Dagger club meeting nothing he said can be believed. Sometimes, though, truth can emerge through alcohol, but I think the more important point is that, if he was drunk that night, it is even more miraculous that Barrett was not only repeating the claim about having written the Diary in 11 days that he had made four years earlier but that his story was entirely consistent with the fact that he acquired a Victorian diary in March 1992 (which story wasn't consistent with the chronology and narrative in his affidavit, thus being a remarkably sophisticated lie to be telling four years later). He was also doing no more than repeating what he had said when apparently sober the previous day.
Keith Skinner via JM (#1739)
I would be interested in knowing the basis for Roger’s assertion that few people were willing to approach Outhwaite and Litherland? The authors of Inside Story did – as did, independently, Shirley Harrison. Now, Roger may have been critical of the thoroughness of our investigation which is fair enough. But I understand he and David Orsam both approached O&U and found out details of an auction which occurred at the end of March 1992 or beginning of April 1992 when they believe Mike Barrett purchased the scrapbook and had it ready to take down to London on April 13th 1992. Maybe they are correct but it would have been useful if they could have disclosed their research for us to follow up. We’d still do it – even now – if there was conclusive documentary evidence Mike had purchased the scrapbook under the name of ‘Williams’. Game, set and match. I suppose what slightly bothers me about this scenario is that Mike presumably would have taken an enormous risk in someone from the auction house not recognising the diary, later on, in its new guise as the diary of JTR?
First of all, I do hope Jonathan Menges doesn't join me as an asterisk for recklessly posting the words of a non-member in the Forum which I believe IS in breach of the Forum rules, albeit that the Admin of that site ignores the rules when it suits her and makes up new ones at the drop of a hat.
Secondly, I'm pleased to see that Keith Skinner's view of the 'Orsam theory' (which, as I now understand it, should perhaps more correctly be called the 'Palmer theory', but hell I'm claiming it!) is that 'maybe' it is correct. That means we've come a long way since I was told by one of his fellow co-authors of Inside Story that the timesheet evidence was going to make any notion that the diary could have been forged in March/April 1992 redundant.
Thirdly, Keith's understanding that I approached O&L for information is not correct. As I stated on the Forum in the 'Acquiring a Victorian Diary' thread (#12) in response to a question by Caroline Morris (#11) asking me if I had enquired of O&L as to whether they kept sales brochures: 'All my information about O&L's auctions in 1992 was derived from specialist antiques magazines from 1992 and I had no contact whatsoever with O&L'. The information I extracted from those magazines was given in the OP of the thread (#1):
'I can confirm that in March 1992 Outhwaite & Litherland held auctions once a week, every Tuesday, so that the first auction held after Barrett would have received the 1891 diary would have been on Tuesday, 31 March 1992. The auction (like other auctions in that month), held at Kingsway Galleries, Fontenoy Street, Liverpool, was described in antique magazines as being for "Victorian, Edwardian & modern furniture and effects". It started at 10.30am.'
Here is one such example, which comes from the Antiques Bulletin dated 21st-27th March 1992: being firstly the column heading showing the date of various auctions in alphabetical order around the country, then the O&L entry underneath that heading:
A similar listing appears in the Antiques Trade Gazette of 21st March 1992.
I don't know if Keith Skinner is even aware of this website, let alone whether he would be able to navigate to this page, so someone might need to give him a link in order for him to read the above. If he ever does visit, he might want to recall his promise to me on 17 February 2018 that he, via James J, would be posting online the transcript of the Maybrick Diary found on the Barretts' word processor within 'a few weeks' ('Acquiring a Victorian Diary' at #1085). [See response to #1758 below].
Just to add that I don't agree with Keith that there was an 'enormous risk' to a forger that someone at the auction house might have recognized the Diary. There was a risk, sure, but there is always a risk in every criminal operation. If risk was a reason for not committing crime there would be no criminals and we would all live in a crime-free environment.
If a forger was going to produce a fake nineteenth century Maybrick-as-Jack diary, the one thing they certainly needed to acquire, if the forgery was going to have any chance of success, was a suitable genuine artefact containing genuine blank paper from the period. Any such acquisition was always going to involve SOMEONE being in a position to recognize the artefact after it left their possession.
But how big a risk was a forger really taking? After all, while a black and white image of the Diary did feature in some newspapers, there wasn't exactly a national televised appeal to ask if anyone knew where it had come from. And, frankly, were the people in an auction house, who must have dealt with hundreds of items every week, going to remember an old scrapbook that had briefly passed through their hands?
In any case, the scrapbook is fairly non-distinct. How would anyone, who had seen or been in possession of the black scrapbook, have been able to prove that the Maybrick Diary was one and the same? Even if they had a photograph, one could only have said it was similar. If we assume that Barrett had removed the pages of photographs which were in the scrapbook, he had already made it hard to identify. In his 1995 affidavit he talks about removing a 'makers stamp mark' dated 1908 or 1909 from the inside front cover with linseed oil, and he made a similar claim at the lunch on 9 April 1999 albeit that the date on what he then referred to as 'a label' was said to be 1912. According to Dr Baxendale's report of July 1992, 'The inside front cover has been damaged and it appears that something which was once attached has been torn off'. It's unlikely that a maker's stamp mark or label of any description would have been dated, as such, but there would have been nothing to have stopped the original owner of an Edwardian scrapbook writing a year themselves on a label. What is frequently ignored is that Victorian and Edwardian ledgers and the like DID often have something which could roughly be described as a maker's stamp mark, but more accurately as a label, on the inside front cover. How did Barrett know this if he was inventing everything in his affidavit?
Here is an example of such an inside front cover, with a label in a Victorian account book:
A consequence of any attempts to change important features of the scrapbook is that it would have been very hard if not impossible for any former owner of the Diary, or for someone at an auction house, to have positively identified the scrapbook as being the Maybrick Diary. No-one is likely to have ever gone and asked them. The only reason any researchers ever made enquiries at O&L was because Barrett had, himself, stated for the first time in 1994 (and then subsequently in his 1995 affidavit) that he obtained the scrapbook at an auction house (O&L) in Liverpool. Until then, no-one asked the question of any auction houses. So the 'enormous risk' that Keith Skinner is talking about is of the rather unlikely event of someone who had seen an image of the Diary coming forward on their own accord to claim that they were aware that a black photograph album was sold at an auction house in 1992. But who would they have even come forward to? They would have had to have been pretty determined to obtain contact details of a relevant researcher or newspaper. And then what? Barrett would simply have said, no they are mistaken. It's not the same photo album/scrapbook. What then? If the informant was able to remember the exact date of the auction in question, someone like Feldman would have pointed out that 31 March 1992 was three weeks after Barrett had first contacted Doreen Montgomery. This would probably have been enough to dismiss the story in the 1990s, prior to Barrett's 1994 confession or, indeed, after his January 1995 affidavit in which he appeared to be saying that the forgery had been done in January 1990. If the informant gave the wrong date or had some other failure of memory, the whole story could have been discredited by Feldman and would have just become one more rumour floating around the story of the Diary.
But if the worst came to the worst and the Diary was positively identified, then the scam was over. The risk didn't come off. We probably wouldn't be talking about the Diary today. But there's no good reason to think that the forger or forgers would have anticipated such an outcome. Had it happened, it would have been unfortunate rather than inevitable (or even likely).
In short, I don't think that the 'risk' element can be used to undermine the story of the creation of the Diary in March/April 1992.
Keith Skinner via JM (#1741)
Having enjoyed responding above on the actual subject of the Diary, I'm saddened to have to write about some far less relevant topics, following what might fairly be described as a bit of a 'rant' by Keith Skinner on the Censorship Forum in another post relayed, against the rules as I understand them, by Jonathan Menges, who seems to be asking his friend Ally Ryder to ban him into an asterisk.
I'm not going to quote all of Keith's post (which is addressed to R.J. Palmer rather than me) but there are three elements worthy of comment. This is the first (with my underlining):
'I have absolutely no problem in anybody checking, double checking, or triple checking my research. Indeed, not only do I welcome this I would wholeheartedly encourage it. If I’ve f—-ed up, or bungled it (Melvin Harris’s accusation), or been lackadaisical or missed or overlooked things in my incompetence - in an age when the internet and on line sources were not readily available or accessible - then I don’t mind admitting this. What does anger me are these insidious inferences I read from some people who post on these boards – but do not have the courage to go the full distance and identify to whom they are referring, hiding behind the shield of “they’ll know who they are” - that those researchers who continue to seek the truth about the origins of this document have a vested financial interest. Which quite honestly is bollocks on stilts.'
I wonder if Keith sees the problem here. For he seems to have done exactly what he is criticizing others for, i.e. not naming the people to whom he is referring. Presumably he thinks they'll know who they are. But will everyone else? The reason I raise it is because of the possibility that some people might think he is referring to me. There's a lot of posts on the Censorship Forum and I doubt most people will have managed to read them all, so who knows how they will interpret his post?
For the record, my own view has always been that experts should be, and deserve to be, paid for the work they do and that this is standard practice. In most cases it will not affect their integrity. In respect of Keith Skinner, there should not be any question or doubt about his integrity. From what I know of Keith Skinner, the fact that he might have been paid for any research in the past will have made no difference whatsover to any of his conclusions or findings and will not make any difference in the future. Anyone who takes a contrary approach to the case is barking up entirely the wrong tree.
The only thing that puzzles me is why Mr Skinner seems so angry about it in August 2019. I have to say that in all the debates on the Forum regarding the Maybrick Diary that I was engaged it between 2016 and 2018 I don't recall anyone casting any doubt on Keith's integrity, either seriously or at all. Nor am I aware of it having been done after my departure from the Forum. Having said that, if someone did so so, it's more likely to have been remembered by Keith than by me. But it's certainly not something that sticks in my memory and I find it difficult to think that anyone whose opinion is worth anything will genuinely believe that about him.
Here is the second passage of Keith's post that I'd like to comment on:
'At the 2017 Liverpool Conference I fully expected to be openly challenged by a gentleman who said he was going to be in attendance and who openly stated on the Message Boards he’d have a few hard, difficult questions for me. He did not show and then offered the lame excuse he had to leave early but, in any case, did not want to spoil an old boys hobby! That was it – the sum total of his awkward penetrating questions. Easy enough to be full of bravado on the Message Boards but come the day when he has the opportunity to test his beliefs and put me on the spot, he slinks away.'
Keith doesn't name the gentleman in question but I know from the Forum, and remember this very well, that it was a poster who said he lived in Liverpool with the username 'Mike J.G.'.
When I read Keith's post, however, his categorization of Mike J.G.'s posts did not accord with my own memory of them so I thought I would do some checking. While I no longer have access to the search facility in Casebook, I believe I have searched all the relevant threads from the period and I can find no post by Mike J.G. in which he 'openly stated on the Message Boards' that he would have 'a few, hard questions' for Keith Skinner. I believe this is a result of a complete misunderstanding, as I shall demonstrate.
Mike J.G. first mentioned the Liverpool conference in my 'Acquiring' thread on 6 September 2017 (#4086) when he said:
'The convention at the Marriott hotel is at the end of this month, and I can't say I'm too excited for the Maybrick section, as I'm expecting it to be about these new "reveals" from the book in question, about the electricians who supposedly found the diary, etc, and not much else.'
At this stage, he hadn't revealed he was going to the conference but, six days later, in the '25 YEARS OF THE DIARY OF JACK THE RIPPER: THE TRUE FACTS' thread, having been criticized by 'Caz' for not having read Robert Smith's book, Mike J.G. responded (#710):
'Don't worry, Caz, I'll be at the conference with friends, and at £50 a day, I don't feel the need to splash out on a book that doesn't tell me anything new or interesting. I've got more important things to buy.'
Three days later he then mentioned to 'Kaz', not to be confused with 'Caz' (#1177):
'I'll be at the conference, Kaz, so if there's any new info, I'll get it there, and if I fancy buying his book, I'll get it there from one of his groupies, lol....? '
Then, four days later, on 19 September 2017, we have what appears to be the source of the whole misunderstanding. For, 'Caz' said to Mike J.G. in #1378 (underlining added):
'Not my fault if you were too busy taking the piss to read what I actually told you. But it would certainly explain a lot. For starters it might explain why you think something is 'obscure knowledge', if you don't take in what's going on around you. I hope you perform better than this at the conference or you'll be coming back complaining that you weren't told anything.'
For some reason, therefore, 'Caz' was apparently expecting Mike J.G. to 'perform' at the conference. Presumably, with Mike J.G. being a vocal critic of the Diary, she just assumed that he was going to confront Keith Skinner, despite him not even having hinted that he would be doing any such thing.
All Mike J.G. said in return (#1380) was that:
'I hope Skinner isn't as hopelessly vague and evasive as you seem to be when you attempt to explain consistently inconsistent errors, Caz.'
It should be said (because it relevant to this story) that two days later, on 21 September 2017, I published my article on this site entitled 'Robert Smith and the Maybrick Diary: The False Facts Exposed!'. On the following day, 22 September 2017, the conference began.
From Mike J.G. there was then a curious silence. He didn't immediately come back to the Forum to reveal what had happened at the conference, even though many people, including myself, were keen to know. Had this vociferous critic of the Diary been converted to the pro-Diary cause?!!!
Finally he did return in January 2018 and the reason for his silence became apparent. There was nothing to report! After Sam Flynn made the joke about having wondered if he had been converted, Mike J.G. replied ('Acquiring a Victorian Diary' thread, #455):
'Haha, cheers, Sam. No chance! It was very uneventful, tbh. While it was interesting to see the players, etc, I was mostly bored by it all, a friend I was with seemed to enjoy it, though.'
At this point, 'Caz' pounced. Although Mike J.G. was under no obligation whatsoever as a paying member of the public to say anything at the conference or to make himself known to Keith Skinner (and had never said he was going to do any such thing on the Forum), or even to do anything at all, she posted (#474):
'Keith Skinner looked out for you at the conference, expecting you to say hello and challenge him on all sorts. He even checked the attendees list with no luck and came away assuming you didn't book your place after all.
Of course, he was also assuming your username was your real name, which is not necessarily the case. So were you just too shy to speak to him when you had the chance? It's a great pity because you could have cleared up some issues with the man himself and shared the results with us here on your return.'
I have to comment here: I read this at the time and thought it was absolutely outrageous. It seemed to be an attempt to smear Mike J.G. in some way, either by suggesting that he had lied and hadn't actually gone to the conference or that he was posting under a false identity or that he was a timid coward who hadn't had the courage of his convictions to raise objections to the Diary with Keith Skinner in person. Above all, and with all respect to Keith Skinner, I thought it was quite scandalous that he was sharing what I would have regarded as private information about the names on the attendees list for the conference with Caroline Morris for her to post that information in public as part of what just looked to me like some kind of attempt to smear and/or humiliate a critic of the Diary.
Just by way of example, what if I had secretly decided to attend the conference without wishing to tell anyone. Would that information have ended up with Caroline Morris? And would it then have been posted online?
I bit my lip at the time, thinking it was for Mike J.G. to object to this, not me (although, if he had, I would have supported him) but, as it happens, he didn't seem to care one jot about it!
His explanation for not being found on the attendees list was this (#479):
'No, mate. As I say, I was in a bit of a hurry as I actually have a life to lead! lol. I'm a busy man, Caz. I didn't have time to "challenge" an old bloke about his hobbies. I probably wasn't on the list because I bought my ticket on the day and went with David Upton, a man I believe you have met before. Tell Keith, if he wants a straightener or something then he's free to PM me.'
He was then challenged on this by 'Kaz' who pointed out that he lived in Liverpool and had an interest in the Maybrick case but 'you get yourself in a room full of like minded people and you don't raise a point? Ask a question? you're suddenly "in a hurry" ?'. He (for 'Kaz' is a 'he') added: 'Little surprised at that, Mike, especially considering the way you conduct yourself on these boards.'
Again, Mike J.G. was very laid back about it all, saying in his response (#487):
'I'm not sure what any of that is supposed to even mean, lol. Most of the things I wanted to ask were already being asked, not to mention the fact that I'd rushed in to meet a friend and was set to travel from Liverpool to Newcastle that very night with less than an hour's window. How do I conduct myself on these boards? lol. I'd have loved to have had a bit of time to mill around, but between the many ye olde heads already in there, and the fact that it was bloody roasting, I was more content to hear their lack of evidence and get on with my night.
I was led to believe that David's article was being passed on to Keith, and the majority of what I intended to ask was already included in David's piece, in fact, all of it was.'
My interest in the subject remains what it is, it didn't rise or fall with the conference, which, like I said, was pretty underwhelming overall.'
So that's where my own article, published on the day before the conference, became relevant. I have no idea why Mike J.G. was led to believe that my article was being passed to Keith Skinner or who could have told him this. But it seems to me that the short point is that Mike J.G., having had no idea that Keith Skinner was expecting him to do something, listened to what was being said in order to find out at first hand what the Battlecrease evidence was (having not purchased Robert Smith's book) and then, having got his money's worth (or not, as the case may be) he set off to do something else in his life, as, I would suggest, he was perfectly entitled to do. With, as he says, an hour to catch a train to Newcastle that evening, it's entirely understandable that he had to rush off. The fact that Keith Skinner had, it seems, built himself up to expect a challenge at the conference is really neither here nor there. It was all in his imagination that such a challenge was coming.
So, in my opinion, for Keith to come back to the Forum (not as a member, but via Jonathan Menges) and criticize Mike J.G. two years later for not standing up and cross-examining him, either during the conference or after it, is entirely unjustified, especially after Mike J.G. seems to me to have given a very full and reasonable account of his actions that evening, which he wasn't even under any obligation to do.
To complete the story, I might add that in a further post on 17 January 2018, Mike J.G. said in response to Caz's post about Keith Skinner looking for his name on the attendees list (#489):
'Well, my name is quite clearly longer than "Mike J. G." lol. How would Keith know what I even look like? I've got one picture on here on my profile; who was he looking out for, a man with "Mike J. G." written on his forehead? My name would've been down with my surname, if it was even down at all, as I bought my ticket on the day. I was supposed to have one booked by a friend, but no cigar.
Like I said to Kaz, the questions I wanted to ask were already being discussed, wasn't David's article passed on to Keith? If Cheggers ever wants to meet me in the Kingsman for a natter, he can give me a heads up via one of his devout followers on here.'
As far as I can see, Mike J.G.'s position on the matter was perfectly reasonable and, in fairness to him, perhaps Keith Skinner might wish to acknowledge that.
I guess everyone's entitled to a rant sometimes but I don't think Keith needs to be quite so sensitive. If the Diary turns out to his satisfaction to have been forged in March/April 1992 I, for one, am not going to criticize him for anything. I doubt anyone else would either. For anyone to suggest that his own extensive research efforts were at fault would be crazy. Everyone, I'm sure, is aiming for the truth. No-one can always know what the truth is.
The third element of Keith's post that I feel is worthy of comment is his statement that:
'...in 2001-2002, we were not even considering the possibility of Mike having obtained the scrapbook as late as March/April 1992 using the surname of ‘Williams’.
This brought back to mind something I was told by his co-author of 'Inside Story' on the Forum on 5 January 2017 after I had said to her,'it must be obvious that if you or anyone asked O&L if they sold a Victorian scrapbook in 1990 (which is when Barrett dated the purchase in his affidavit) you would not have obtained a useful answer if the scrapbook had actually been acquired in 1992.'. What Caroline Morris ('Caz') then told me in response (#2634) was:
'So you think we only asked O&L about the year 1990, do you? We trusted Mike that much, by the early 2000s, that we went by one of the dodgy dates he had come up with over the years and didn't think to ask the kind of questions that would have given us a definitive answer as to whether Mike's version of events could have taken place at O&L - ever?
I'm afraid you really must think everyone but Mike was incompetent then.'
But the truth of the matter, as Keith has now confirmed, is that no-one ever asked O&L about the possibility of an acquisition in March 1992. The focus was entirely on the period 1889-1991, i.e. 1990 and either side of it.
For the record, I was never even hinting in my posts that anyone was incompetent in not asking about 1992. It was perfectly understandable on the basis of the known information at the time. I was just trying to explain why the position was unresolved in 2017. It was Ms Morris who gratuitously introduced the idea of the researchers being 'incompetent' for not checking the sales records of 1992, no doubt so that it would look like I was accusing Keith Skinner of being incompetent. This was the kind of thing I was having to face on a daily basis back in the day when I was trying to sensibly discuss the Diary only to be met with a barrage of nonsense like this. Indeed, on 23 May 2018 I posted in the Forum to say that Caroline Morris, 'tries to turn everything I say into an attack on him [Keith Skinner] and has, for reasons best known to herself, been doing this at every possible opportunity for the past two years' ('Too Sensible and Competent, #78).
A couple of other comments from me. If Keith Skinner is going to continue with some additional research then he might like to revisit Martin Earl of HP Bookfinders. Is there any more information that can be extracted from him? One thing I've always wondered is how Barrett got his contact details in the first place (or how he even knew of his existence). Mike's affidavit says it all came from the 1986 Writers Year book but that's not correct. It's not in there (or any of the annual Writers Year books). So where? Did Earl advertise outside of specialist book magazines? If not, what I'm wondering is if Earl had previously supplied any books on the Ripper or Maybrick cases to anyone involved in the Diary story (Devereux, Graham etc.) or to anyone in Liverpool. But it's a huge long shot to expect any information from Earl after all this time.
Keith Skinner via JM (#1750)
My thanks to Keith for supplying the comprehensive account of the events of April 1999 which was very helpful, even if it means a life ban for Jonathan Menges for posting on someone else's behalf.
Some highlights that I picked out of Paul Daniel's summary of the two meetings:
'Mike Barrett was not at all what I was expecting, and throughout the afternoon I began to realise that he was an entirely different man to the one I had come to know through the hearsay of many other people.'
'...it was he who had actually composed the text but Anne Graham, his then wife, who had taken the words from the word-processor and written them in her own hand into the ledger. This was one of several statements that Mike consistently asserted throughout the afternoon.'
'...Mike telling us how he had always believed that James Maybrick was, in reality, Jack the Ripper, and [he – Mike Barrett] had written the Diary to draw attention to this fact.'
'Mike had discovered the name of an agent (Doreen Montgomery) from the Artists and Writers Yearbook and telephoned her to ‘sell’ her on the Diary of Jack the Ripper. The crucial point being this was before he had allegedly created the artefact. Doreen took the bait and consequently Mike found that his bluff had been called and he was obliged to actually produce the Diary that he had told Doreen already existed or abort the exercise. He then told us he then had eleven days before his arranged meeting with Doreen to concoct the Diary and that was the time span in which he did so. This was completely new to us at this meeting.'
'Mike revealed his literary history, interviewing the likes of Kenneth Williams and Bonnie Langford for a Liverpool magazine...He decided to write the confession of Jack the Ripper, claiming he did so in 11 days. He dictated, with ex-wife Anne writing.'
'Getting back to the actual writing of the Diary, Keith finally extracted the point that Mike had purchased a red Victorian diary before contacting Doreen Montgomery, and this appeared on Anne’s bank statement.'
'On one of the frequent escorts back to his hotel room just before the talk began he showed me recent examples of his work. While nothing too exceptional, some degree of ability was obvious.'
One small point of clarification. There is a minor error in 'Inside Story' which says that the lunch meeting in Notting Hill occurred on Friday, 11 April 1999 (and I repeated this in 'The Eleven Days'). Clearly, from the information Keith has now provided, it was, in fact, Friday, 9 April 1999, with the Cloak & Dagger event being on Saturday, 10 April. I've amended 'The Eleven Days' accordingly.
Finally in respect of this posting, I'd just like to pick up on Mike Barrett's 1999 claim, as summarized by Keith, that his wife had multi personality disorder which enabled her to write the Diary in handwriting other than her own. If we assume that Anne was skilfully able to disguise her handwriting (and, as I've pointed out elsewhere, there are similarities in the way she forms some of her characters to the way those characters are formed in the Diary) then I suspect that all that happened here is that, after his wife left him, taking their daughter with her, Mike, having noted that the experts said that the handwriting of the Diary shows that its author had a multi personality disorder (and that people with such disorder can have different styles of handwriting), rationalized Anne's decision to leave him ex post facto on the basis that it wasn't his own appalling behaviour that caused her to go but the fact that she suffered from multi personality disorder. I doubt his comments on the subject should be taken any more seriously than that.
'And so to the purchase of the maroon diary. As a Hearts fan (and a season ticket holder at the time of the purchase) I simply cannot fault him for his impeccable choice of vehicle for his proposed forgery, but - Lord - why oh why oh why oh why did he specify 1880-1887 (just about believable though still slightly irrational) and, critically, an 1890 one? I know apologists such as Lord Orsam believe that he was expecting it to be undated (of course he was, this explains why he didn't specify in the advert that he absolutely could not have it stating '1890' numerous times on each page), but even if by good fortune the 1891 version he received had been undated (a contradiction in terms, I think, there), why oh why oh why oh why did he only request 40 sheets (no mention of the size, as I recall) across 20 blank pages when his brilliant original text on his Amstrad was self-evidently far longer than a mere 40 sides even if fickle fortune had sent him an A4 diary? Imagine how much easier it would have been for those who believe his asinine confession if he had just clarified that he needed 'An 1880-1889 diary, preferably 1889, big enough to scribble around 60 or more sides in (so quite a few blank pages, please). Please everyone forget I ever asked once I've got it.'? Personally, I'd have been even more specific and demanded it wasn't a green one, naturally, but perhaps the colour didn't matter so much to him after all.'
On his own terms, Iconoclast has already failed in his own forgery attempt. An 1889 diary marked in the way Iconoclast thinks it must have been marked would have betrayed any Diary which described the 1888 Ripper murders as a fake right there and then.
I've already explained why the advertisement in Bookdealer was sufficient for Mike's purpose in 'Pillar of Sand' but perhaps I wasn't sufficiently clear.
Firstly, Mike did not 'only request 40 sheets...across 20 blank pages'. Iconoclast really does need to get into his head that this was not the request. The primary request was for an unused blank diary from the period, i.e. with all pages blank. If such a diary had a cover with the date 1888 then brilliant but if not and it said 1890, which simply could not be removed, the pages could potentially have been extracted and the diary could have been a loose set of papers presented as a manuscript (who knows, anything was possible). If not, and I'm sure the overwhelming preference was for a bound volume, then it was on to Plan B.
The secondary part of the request in the advertisement was for a 'partly used' diary. The request did not specify the desired number pages except that it had to be a minimum of twenty. That was the absolute minimum that he was asking for. I've already said that if he had about 20 typed pages on his word processor (and the transcript of the Maybrick Diary published by Shirley Harrison was exactly 20 pages) he could have been able to work with that number. Iconoclast seems to think that it wouldn't have been possible to edit or shorten the Diary text in any way but clearly that could have been done if there hadn't been enough blank pages.
An undated 1891 diary is not 'a contradiction in terms' if the first entry in an unmarked diary is a handwritten entry dated 1st January 1891 (or any other day of the year). The same is true of a diary from any other year.
What Iconoclast doesn't seem to be able to wrap his head around is what Mike was probably hoping for when he contacted Martin Earl. Now, obviously, I can't say for sure what was in his head but presumably he hoped that he would be flooded with offers of diaries of all different types and sizes from all different years in the requested period so that he could select the most suitable one for the forgery. He didn't need to go into specifics in the advertisement because he didn't want to narrow down the field down at first instance. The narrowing comes at the second stage. But it seems he only received a single offer of a diary of any description, one which was outside of his preferred date range to boot. In other words, he didn't get ANY offers of a diary within his preferred date range. So it wouldn't have mattered one jot if he had refined his request, he still wouldn't have received a suitable diary via Martin Earl. Nevertheless, he was fairly desperate because he had already told Doreen that he was in possession of the Diary and the longer he left it before bringing it to London the more suspicious it would have looked so he purchased the only one that Martin Earl had been able to find. That plan didn't work because when the red diary arrived it wasn't suitable, so it was on to Plan B and, if my theory is correct, he probably went off to a local auction where he realized that a Victorian photograph album would be ideal once he cut out the used pages and removed the identifying label from the inside front cover.
The other thing to bear in mind, of course, is that it is unlikely that Mike would have wanted to tell Martin Earl the precise reason why he wanted a Victorian diary so he needed to keep the request at a fairly general level and, thus, the advertisement placed by Martin Earl was similarly general.
It isn't that difficult and it shouldn't be that difficult for Iconoclast. Against all the odds he desperately seems to want to try and make the advertisement a point against a forgery whereas it is so clearly the evidence in plain sight showing that Mike was in the process of attempting to acquire a Victorian diary which he could use to create the Maybrick Diary.
Keith Skinner via JM (#1758)
'the reason I did not follow through on my promise to post the transcript is because it was becoming clear to me that whatever material I was putting up on the Message Boards, in the spirit of being helpful, was either being ignored or clinically dissected from the entrenched position the diary was a modern hoax. The overall impression being created and left like a bad odour was the diary investigators had failed to spot things or had spotted them and did not pursue because of some hidden agenda to continue pimping an obvious hoax . You describe yourself as a suspicious fellow – fair enough – but when that suspicion bleeds through to a suspicion that the authors of Inside Story were not presenting the facts objectively and were putting a spin on the tone of the book in favour of the diary being an old document, I take exception. You are on record as saying why should you believe anything Anne Graham suggests and that you don’t trust the woman. Okay – contact and interrogate Anne Graham yourself. '
I must say I'm very surprised to read that Keith deliberately withheld publication of the transcript of the Diary found on Mike Barrett's computer because he thought that the helpful material he was posting on the message boards back in 2018 was 'either being ignored or clinically dissected from the entrenched position the diary was a modern hoax'. I can't for life of me think what material he posted (via James J) that was ever ignored and I could have sworn he was always thanked for anything he did post. I literally can't understand why he would have a problem with any of his material being dissected from the position that the Diary is a modern hoax, whether from an entrenched position or otherwise. Is he saying posters in 2018 were not entitled to have formed an opinion, contrary to his own, that the Diary is a modern hoax? Or, that if they had done, they were not allowed to analyse the material he posted on the Forum? This is so far from what I would expect from an independent researcher that I can hardly believe I read it. I posted material myself that was responded to by other Forum members who had entrenched positions that the Diary was either genuinely written by Maybrick or genuinely old (or both) but that didn't stop me posting it in order to be helpful and to help get to the truth. On the contrary, I think the more robust the debate the better (as long as personal allegations are not made) so that both sides of the argument can be aired and any neutral people can decide where the truth lies.
Keith might also want to consider that if the posters who are calling for new material to be posted had, or have,'entrenched positions' why would they even want any new material, that they haven't seen, which could therefore potentially contradict their own conclusions, to be put into the public domain? It was in response to me asking Keith Skinner if there were any more facts available regarding Doreen Montgomery's conversations with Mike on 9 March 1992 (Acquiring thread, #932) that Keith agreed to transcribe and post Doreen's correspondence on the matter (#937), which I personally welcomed (in #940) saying, 'Thanks in advance for all the new material', even though any mention by Mike in her notes of what the Diary looked like would have have sunk 'the Orsam theory'. Surely everyone is ultimately trying to get to the bottom of the affair and the more material that is available the better. I would therefore repeat my request for him to fulfill his kind promise of posting a copy of the full transcript online and not to worry about what some people (including myself, if he's thinking of me) may or may not say about it in response.
'There are “textual discrepancies between the Diary proper” and the transcript and – yes – meaning could be gleaned from the discrepancies. They are open to interpretation. But they will only be relevant for you if they support your determination to prove this document to be a modern hoax created by Mike and Anne Barrett, Billy Graham and Tony Devereux.'
I'd like to think that on reflection Keith Skinner would withdraw the second sentence quoted above because that seems to be questioning R.J. Palmer's integrity, as if he would not regard evidence supporting anything other than a modern hoax as 'relevant'. Anyway, it's the first sentence that is so interesting. Keith is telling us there are textual discrepancies between the Diary and Barrett's transcript from which meaning can be gleaned. Surely he's not going to leave us hanging for ever with that rather tantalising piece of information. Given that there may be meaning in the transcript, does Keith not regard it as his duty to make it public?
Keith Skinner (via JM) #1761
Another special from Keith, conveyed via Jonathan Menges and this one aimed largely at me! It was posted quite late in the evening of the night before publication of this article, so I have had to reply quite quickly and call to mind some of my posts from 16 months ago so I reserve the right to return to the subject at a later date.
As a general point, it seems to me that Keith Skinner is, after all this time, and somewhat astonishingly, still rattled by the fact that I managed to obtain copies of documents relevant to the Diary story which he has obviously never seen and apparently does not have access to, and which, moreover, strongly support the notion of a modern hoax, just like Caroline Morris was quite obviously rattled when I posted extracts from them on the Forum back in April and May 2018. It may be recalled that I had long been requesting a copy of the invoice for Mike's Amstrad Word Processor to be posted on the Forum, and, when this didn't happen, I got hold of a copy and posted an image of it on the Forum myself. It seems to me that in releasing this pent up anger (or whatever it is) at me in getting hold of these documents, and going into attack mode a la Caz (which doesn't suit him at all), Keith has posted far too rashly on a number of issues where his memory has let him down very badly. Had he taken a bit more care with his post, and taken the time to check my posts from 2018 before putting finger to keyboard, the quality of his own posting in #1761, which I'm afraid to report is not good on any level, but particularly not for someone of his reputation as a careful researcher, would certainly have been much higher.
When not attempting to discredit me in his post, Keith's other aim seems to be to roll back the years and discredit the late Mike Barrett! BREAKING NEWS: Mike Barrett was a fantasist. The Pope is Catholic. Luxembourg is small. Bears lavatorialize in the woods. I can't really see why else he wanted to mention, from memory, that Mike claimed to have 'faked the Watch' during taped conversations with Alan Gray. It all seems a bit futile to me if the point is to say that Mike Barrett lied about things. I thought the issue that R.J. Palmer was raising about the tape recordings was that he had a vague memory of Mike telling Gray that the Diary was only created after he first spoke to Doreen Montgomery in 1992. That would have been useful information to know in light of recent revelations - did Mike mention this on the tapes? - but Keith has nothing to say about it, preferring to focus on one selected, and somewhat irrelevant, part of the conversation (involving a topic not mentioned in Mike's 1995 affidavit).
Another unpublished document mentioned by Keith, again from his memory (which I have some reason not to entirely trust) is one in which Mike supposedly wrote to Anne telling her that would use a sample of Caroline's DNA to prove she was not descended from Florence Chandler and therefore had nothing to do with JTR. I'm not sure why Keith has to rely on his memory (using the words 'as I recall') when he could have quoted the exact words used by Mike. One possible explanation for Mike having written this, it seems to me, is that he could see that Anne was getting excited about Feldman's theory that she and Caroline were descended from Florence (a convicted murderer), and Mike was simply saying that he could prove this wasn't true with the DNA so it would be foolhardy for Anne to fall in line with Feldman's nonsensical theory and go ahead with it. But without seeing exactly what Mike wrote to Anne (c.f. the way I published all the relevant information I had in my possession) it's impossible to form any kind of sensible conclusion about it.
Anyway, for now, I'll respond to certain parts of Keith's post as follows:
'I do indeed remember the personal correspondence between Mike Barrett and Anne Graham which David posted on to the Message Boards. I have no idea of what the legal concept of “discovery” means but I did wonder why David did not reveal the whole letter(s) for context.'
If Keith was wondering anything about the images I posted in 2018 he could have asked me at the time. He was (and I assume still is) a member of the Forum but decided not to post or ask me anything at all, at a time when I would have been able to reply directly to him on the Forum. Was he in hiding, or what? As it happens, the answer to his question is very simple. There was no 'context' of any sort for me to post in the majority of the correspondence. I was posting certain extracts of the correspondence for specific reasons, mainly relating to issues of grammar, spelling and handwriting. Caroline Morris had suggested that Anne Graham could not have been the Diary scribe because her grammar and spelling was so much better than that of the person who wrote the Diary. The extracts I posted proved that this was not true. The other reason for posting the extracts was to demonstrate similarities between Anne's handwriting and that in the Diary (something that was not evident from the previously published sample of Anne's handwriting). There was no need for me to post anything other than the extracts I did in order to demonstrate this. So there was no context omitted in respect of her letters. The actual content of Anne's letters was wholly irrelevant to anything I was trying to demonstrate.
Regarding Mike's correspondence, this was posted either to show certain quirky elements of his use of written language or instances when he referred to forging the Diary (thus disproving the claim in his recorded interview on Radio Merseyside in October 1995, which I transcribed in full for the benefit of Forum members, that he had only ever admitting to forging the Diary on a single drunken occasion). In respect of the latter examples, I did post the context but Mike's notes were usually very short, written on scraps, so there wasn't much 'context' available. In most cases, my recollection is that I posted the entirety of the notes. I have no idea what Keith could possibly think anything else in the correspondence would show. I'm fairly sure I posted practically everything written by Mike in my possession that was relevant to the Diary. I can certainly state that, to the best of my recollection, I withheld absolutely nothing that indicated that Mike and Anne did not forge the Diary. Had there been any specific requests for me to post additional extracts or additional information that was thought to be relevant at the time I would responded to them, but there were none.
As for the legal concept of 'discovery', now known as 'disclosure' in England and Wales, this relates solely to the disclosure of documents between two parties involved in civil litigation so I don't think R.J. Palmer's original choice of analogy was particularly apt. A better way of putting it is that I had relevant information which had meaning and I posted it in public. Isn't that what one is supposed to do in order to further the truth? The concept of withholding relevant information would never have occurred to me.
'I’m not even sure whether he gave the date(s)?'
If I recall correctly, not a single one of Mike's manuscript notes was dated. He never dated anything. They were written on scraps of paper or on other people's letters. In #4 of the 'And This is Factual' I recorded that he had annotated a letter written to him by Anne dated 1 February 1995. In #5, I noted he had annotated a payment note from 1991.
Where Anne's letters were dated I gave the dates. See for example, 'Too Sensible and Competent' thread, #79 (referring to extract of letter to Mike dated 1 February 1995). The image of Anne's handwriting I posted in #34 of the 'Diary Handwriting' thread shows the date of 13 May 1994. In #70, I posted an extract of Anne's letter which I said was dated 18 July 1994. The extracts from her handwritten letters were posted purely for the purposes of handwriting comparison. Not sure why Keith has a problem with this.
In short, while the dates weren't relevant to anything I was posting, I believe that every time a letter was dated, the date was clear from my posts. Had Keith taken the trouble to check before posting he would have seen this.
'Were not the letters meant to prove that similar expressions and idiosyncracies were to be found in the text of the Diary? Was this what David – and presumably yourself – considered to be relevant?'
That was some of it but not all of it. There was the issue of the handwriting. There was the issue of Mike claiming that he had only once admitted to forging the Diary. The reasons were all set out in the OPs of the relevant threads if Keith would care to check them before posting further on the subject.
'Incidentally, does the legal concept of “discovery” mean you are perfectly entitled to publish a living person’s personal correspondence in the public domain without seeking their permission?'
As stated above, the legal concept of 'discovery' (now called 'disclosure') has no relevance to anything that occurs on an internet forum.
It's rather ironic, however, that Keith wonders why I didn't post the entire contents of the letters then also wonders, at the same time, why I posted ANY extracts from the letters. Post more context I'm told, then, in the next breath, it's post less!!! Perhaps he can clarify whether he wanted more or less of the correspondence posted on the Forum.
'I was once accused by one of David’s many supporters of scraping the bottom of the barrel by putting up on the Message Boards an extract from the Court Case between Anne Graham and Mike Barrett which had appeared in a local Liverpool newspaper.'
I have to say that this comment is absolutely disgraceful. I can hardly believe that someone of Keith Skinner's stature wrote it. He seems to be accusing (smearing?) me of being guilty of something by association of which I had no knowledge. On reading his post, I had no idea who or what he was referring to in this sentence and I had no recollection of the incident whatsoever. It followed that I didn't remember anyone ever accusing him of scraping the bottom of the barrel. Having carried out some Google and manual searches of the Forum within the past few hours, I can only assume he is referring to his post #20 in the thread 'Who was the author of the 'Maybrick' diary? Some options', in which he posted an extract from the Liverpool Daily Post of 12 September 1998, and the response of 'Abby Normal' in #21 who did not use the expression 'scraping the bottom of the barrel' or anything like it. If he cares to check the entire 31 page thread, he will see that I didn't make a single post in that whole thread. Furthermore, Abby Normal's posts have absolutely nothing to do with me. If Keith had wanted to respond to Abby (who, as I read it now, seems to me to have been, rightly or wrongly, questioning the relevance of the 1998 newspaper report), he had the option to do so at the time. My respect for Keith Skinner which was once very high - and I mean as recently as the time I started writing this article a few days ago - has, I'm afraid, evaporated with that single comment.
'I noticed that no such criticism came David’s way when he published personal extracts from Anne’s letters to Mike which had not appeared in the public domain and did not reference the Diary – although I stand to be corrected on this point.'
Probably because everyone (including Caroline Morris who was not only posting about the correspondence in the threads but giving the impression she wanted to see more of it!) could see the legitimate reasons why I was posting it, knowing that any snippets of information in the correspondence (which had the addresses removed) related to events of over twenty years earlier and was ancient history. I also clearly remember Caroline Morris suggesting that I had wrongly transcribed at least one of Anne's errors so that it was important to reproduce the actual image of it in order to prove that it was not my mistake but Anne's.
'Repeatedly I have maintained that it makes no difference to me whether the Diary is authentic or a modern hoax. I just would like to know the truth.'
If that's the case, why isn't Keith posting the transcript which he promised me two years ago he would post in'a few weeks' before disappearing without explanation?
20 August 2019