'One minute I held the key, next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand.'
Coldplay, Vida La Vida
My attention was recently drawn to a post on the Casebook Forum by the individual who now posts as 'Iconoclast' in which, having uploaded a 119 page document entitled 'Society's Pillar', advocating James Maybrick as the author of the Maybrick Diary and Jack the Ripper (located here), he says, to my surprise, 'I would welcome a rebuttal from David Orsam which I would be happy to add into the document if he chooses to email me one'. I'm not entirely sure why he has singled me out, especially as many of the arguments that he is trying to knock down, such as the claim that the diary is a 'shabby' and 'amateurish' hoax, were not made by me. Indeed his main opponent seems to be the late Melvin Harris. In any case, the outrageous censorship policy of the Casebook Forum prevents me from posting a response to my old friend on the Forum itself so my options were either to ignore it, email a reply to him or write a rebuttal article on this website. Ignoring it was my initial response. After all, I doubt if many people have read his long essay, either properly or at all, which, I'm bound to say, does very little more than repeat arguments he has been making for over 10 years on the Casebook forum to little effect under various names, starting with 'Tom Mitchell' on 30 August 2008 (and then as 'Soothsayer' three days later and then as 'Gladiator' for a short time in 2012/3), to which he has added a few additional points taken from Robert Smith’s 2017 book. Yet, I feel rather sorry for the old chap. He obviously feels he has no-one to debate with in my absence and he's clearly spent some time doing some formatting work for his document even if he hasn't added very much to what he has been saying over the years by way of research. I don’t particularly want him to incorporate any rebuttal from me into his document so I thought I would write a response here. But, in future, after he reads this, he might want to be careful what he wishes for.
Iconoclast says in his Forum post that the knowledgeable reader of 'Society's Pillar' will find it difficult to conclude that the Maybrick diary is a forgery and will come away thinking that the puzzle of Jack the Ripper's identity has been solved. With all due respect to him, he is at best misguided and at worst delusional. Why does he think that by repeating everything we already know in one document it will convince anyone that the Maybrick diary is genuine? He also quibbles with the notion of the late Melvin Harris that the author of the Diary only needed to read three books while ignoring in its entirety Harris' convincing article, 'The Maybrick Hoax: A Guide Through the Labyrinth', found here, in which Harris sources much of the information contained in the diary to just a few books. What is most disappointing from my perspective is that Iconoclast appears never to have read my own article Robert Smith and the Maybrick Diary: The False Facts Exposed!, published on this website, and thus falls into error quite badly as a result, as we shall see.
As far as I can tell with Iconoclast, he read Feldman's book with great interest and excitement in the 1990s and got sucked in by much of Feldman's madness into thinking that James Maybrick genuinely did write a diary during the last year of his life and was thus Jack the Ripper. Despite hundreds and hundreds of posts by many different posters on the Casebook forum over the last ten or eleven years attempting to knock him back into reality, and despite me posting an incontrovertible fact that proves the Diary is a modern forgery, he has clung forever to the belief that Feldman got it right and Maybrick was the Ripper. Nothing seems to be able to pull the wool (or is it cotton?) back from over his eyes. Even a late realization that Feldman's claim about historic Grand National race times being akin to a state secret is totally wrong (and Iconoclast admits to possessing a copy of a reference book containing the nineteenth century race times) doesn't seem to have reduced his adoration for Feldman's convoluted thinking and attempts to make something out of nothing, usually based on various cryptic clues supposedly left by the murderer. Above all, Iconoclast seems to have been convinced by the appearance on the wall of Kelly's room of the initials "FM" which he believes stands for ‘Florence Maybrick’. Unfortunately for him, while I do recognize that the marks he sees on some of the published versions of the photograph known as MJK1 could be interpreted as comprising the letters "FM", I have also seen an original of what is probably the highest quality print of this photograph in existence and can confirm that the marks which have been interpreted as "FM" do not appear on that photograph, meaning that they must be marks that have only become visible on degraded secondary copies and did not exist in reality on Kelly's wall in November 1888. And that's the end of that.
The good news is that Iconoclast has at least abandoned a few of the odd assortment of curiosities that he has previously collected together to support his claim that the diary was genuine. Some of these I'm glad to say have been discarded as a result of a debunking by me in the Forum. Nevertheless, a lot of nonsense remains, much of which is of the type of (superficially convincing?) argument made by those who wish to prove that Nostradamus was able to predict events in the twentieth century when writing some four hundred years earlier. These arguments are those made by people who read into Nostradamus what they want to read. Thus, while Nostradamus never said anything about Adolf Hitler, he wrote that ‘The greater part of the battlefield will be against Hister…When the child of Germany observes nothing.’ If you assume that Hister means Hitler then, of course, you have found an extraordinary reference to Hitler hundreds of years before he was even born but that’s because you have ended up doing the work of Nostradamus for him. There are similar attempts made by defenders of the Diary to do the Diary author’s work for him (or her). They interpret something vague in the Diary as having meaning and then say 'Wow! How could a forger have known this?’. They don't seem to see the fundamental flaw in that approach.
A claim frequently made by Iconoclast is that some of the information in the Diary could only have been known by a forger if he had visited the Public Record Office in Kew (or, one might add, Chancery Lane where records were previously held before they were transferred to Kew). This reminds me of people who believe in psychics because a psychic has revealed to them some kind of information about a deceased relative which they consider would have been too difficult or complicated to obtain from a living person (even though such a thing would have been quite possible) and therefore think that the most likely explanation is that the psychic has spoken to a dead person to obtain that information. The flaw in their logic should be obvious. I don’t happen to think that the forger needed to visit the Public Record Office to obtain any of the information in the Diary (and one needs to use a certain amount of imagination to interpret the Diary in a way that suggests that such information is contained within it) but if there is information in the Diary which could only have been obtained from the Public Record Office then the most likely explanation is that the forger visited the Public Record Office. But to Iconoclast that seems less likely than the Diary containing the genuine thoughts of Jack the Ripper, despite other evidence pointing overwhelmingly to the fact that it is a forgery.
As to that, I have already demonstrated that the Diary cannot be authentic due to the inclusion of the anachronistic expression 'one off instance', which a nineteenth century author cannot possibly have used. So that really is that. It is the incontrovertible, unequivocal and undeniable fact, as called for by Iconoclast in the Forum thread he started back in 2008, which proves the Diary to be a modern forgery. Iconoclast has certainly not controverted it in his essay. On the contrary, he admits that it is one of the 'truly solid, evidentiary question marks against the authenticity of the Maybrick scrapbook'. He's certainly never provided, in response, an incontrovertible, unequivocal and undeniable fact to prove the Diary is genuine. In the absence of that, we have his long essay. I don't complain because an argument is usually built up of many strands but even he must admit that there is not one single fact which proves that the Diary is genuine, thus highlighting the unreasonableness of his demand for evidence showing the reverse (even though one single fact does, in this case, happily, prove that the Diary is fake!). The fact that I am responding to Iconoclast's long essay in this way should not allow one to imagine that I have not already disproved the authenticity of the Diary, for I have. But rather than dealing with the 'one-off' point in this article, and repeating things I have already said, I have made a compilation of my postings on that subject (together with some new additions) which can be found here.
That out the way, let’s get cracking with the rebuttal. Before doing so, I should say that the argument about whether James Maybrick was or was not Jack the Ripper is not one that interests me. The entire inspiration behind a possible forgery might have been that it was written by someone who was convinced that Maybrick was the Ripper (and who might have been right) but didn't have sufficient proof to write a book about it so put his or her theory forward in the form of a fake diary. So it by no means follows that if Maybrick was the Ripper then the Diary is genuine. I am only interested in whether the Diary is genuine or not, albeit that, if it is genuine, it must mean that Maybrick was the Ripper. It's difficult to disentangle the two subjects but it should be borne in mind that my focus is on the Diary.
One other thing before we get cracking; one might think that the question of provenance of the Diary is the first and most important one to deal with, but Iconoclast buries that in the middle of his essay. That being so, I will deal with it at the very end. Otherwise, I will follow the order of his essay with my rebuttal, giving page numbers to assist anyone who wants to follow it against Iconoclast's essay.
SECTION A - SCIENTIFIC AND FORENSIC ISSUES
1. The Watch (p.8)
Surprisingly, Iconoclast starts his attempt to prove that Maybrick was Jack the Ripper by focusing on the watch bearing certain engravings, as discovered by Albert Johnson. His main argument is that the experts who briefly examined it didn't think they could have created the engravings themselves. But academic experts are not necessarily good forgers or criminals nor are they necessarily the best people to judge the ability of a forger to create a convincing forgery. They may not even be aware of the techniques available to forgers. In any case, it's fair to say that the scientific evidence about the watch is inconclusive. The two expert reports contain important caveats which should not be ignored. Dr Stephen Turgoose said that, 'there are no features which conclusively prove the age of the engravings' and that, while a complicated and difficult process, the engravings, 'could have been produced recently and deliberately aged by polishing...' . Dr Robert Wild only produced conclusions which he stressed were 'preliminary' and stated that the time available for his examination was 'limited to only a few hours.'
To this I would add that the circumstances in which the engravings were discovered by Albert Johnson are remarkably suspicious. The story was that, as a college security guard or porter, he was induced to bring the watch to work by colleagues after a discussion in May 1993 about something seen on the Antiques Roadshow relating to gold and/or antique watches. The back of the watch then caught some sunlight and the engravings, or scratches, otherwise invisible to the naked eye, miraculously became visible. The problem with this story is that there was no edition of the Antiques Roadshow on British television in the weeks prior to this supposed discussion. The last one broadcast prior to the discussion was on 28 March 1993. Further, it just so happens that Johnson worked at a college which gave him access to a microscope in the Science and Technology block and he was thus able to examine the watch under a microscope on the same day that the engravings or scratches had been glimpsed, which was remarkably lucky. How many people do you know with instant access to a high quality microscope? Johnson's brother, who, for some unknown reason, owned a share in the watch, had a criminal record. One can surely not rule out the possibility that this man knew about Albert's ownership of the watch, had access to it, and arranged both for the markings to be placed on it without his brother's knowledge and for Johnson to be induced by a colleague to bring the watch to work under a pretext of his design. That's if the story of the discovery is true but it was never put under any proper scrutiny and only one of Johnson's colleagues who was present at the time of the discovery has ever been identified and spoken about it. The evidence that the engravings or scratches were on the watch when it was purchased by Albert Johnson is vague and inconclusive. That being so, the notion of the scratches or engravings being added after the watch was purchased by Johnson cannot be ruled out.
2. The Forensic Examination of the Diary (p.17)
Iconoclast refers to the bound volume which contains the Diary text as a 'Victorian scrapbook' throughout his essay. At one point (p. 108) he states categorically: 'The scrapbook is Victorian'. This is nothing more than an assumption. It's never been proven that the Diary is Victorian, it could just as easily be Edwardian, or post-Edwardian. Kenneth Rendell described it as 'a Victorian or Edwardian era scrap book.' No doubt it is technically correct to refer to the volume in question as a 'scrapbook' but, as it is normally referred to as the Maybrick 'Diary', I will use that word instead.
Iconoclast must know that Dr Baxendale’s report of 9 July 1992 concluded that the Diary was a fake. This is important. Dr Baxendale was the expert forensic document examiner who Shirley Harrison's Word Team turned to in 1992, due to his reputation and experience of 22 years in examining questioned documents. He was the leading expert in other words. He concluded:
'The ink of the diary was readily soluble in the extractant and only a small amount of insoluble black residue was left of the paper.'
In his Summary and Conclusion, Baxendale stated that ‘The ink of the diary is freely soluble’ which, he said, points to ‘an origin much later than 1889.’
As Baxendale explained in his report:
‘Other things being equal, the longer an ink has been on a document, the more difficult it is to dissolve it, because of oxidation and other reactions. It is most unlikely that an ink which was a hundred years old would dissolve as easily as did this ink.’
His opinion was that the ink did not date from 1889.
Now, according to Iconoclast, based on what he has read in Robert Smith’s 2017 book, Dr Baxendale 'retracted' his conclusion in a later report dated 20 August 1992. This is false. Far from retracting his conclusion about the solubility of ink in his 20 August report, Dr Baxendale actually repeated it. Anyone who has read my article about Robert Smith’s book entitled ‘The False Facts’ will not be surprised to learn that there are false facts in that book. The only reason I didn’t include this particular false fact in my article was because at the time I wrote it, in 2017, I didn't have access to Baxendale’s 20 August 1992 report. But I do now.
According to Iconoclast, relying entirely on Smith, the retraction was in Baxendale’s statement that, '…there would appear to be nothing in the chemical properties of the ink in the diary to preclude it being of a similar age' [as] 'an ink applied to paper about a hundred years ago'.
For anyone who hasn't read Baxendale’s 20 August report, this might seem like Baxendale really has retracted his conclusion about the ink and is admitting that the Diary was written 100 years earlier. But he was not doing this. Any careful reader of the above quote will have noted dots indicating that some words have been omitted. Those words completely change the meaning of what Baxendale said. For Baxendale said this (underlining added):
‘…if an ink known to have been applied to a document about a hundred years ago were found to have a similar solubility, then there would appear to be nothing in the chemical properties of the ink in the diary to preclude it being of a similar age’.
The word 'if' is essential to the meaning of the entire sentence. For what Baxendale was saying in essence was that he hadn’t been able to examine the ink of every single document from the nineteenth century and that, if a document were found from the nineteenth century which had similar solubility to the ink he had tested in the Diary, he would, of course, have to concede that the Diary could have been written in the nineteenth century. But absent the existence of such a document, Baxendale’s conclusion about the modern age of the Diary stood.
Now, the really observant reader will have noticed some dots at the start of the extended quote that I have provided. For I removed the word 'However'. Let’s put the word 'However' back in to the quote and look at the full context of that sentence. For Baxendale wrote this in his 20 August report:
‘As previously reported, the ink was found to be freely soluble, and I would have expected an ink applied to paper about a hundred years ago to be far less soluble, due to the effects of slow oxidation and other long-term chemical reactions.
However, if an ink known to have been applied to a document about a hundred years ago were found to have a similar solubility, then there would appear to be nothing in the chemical properties of the ink in the diary to preclude it being of a similar age.’
So we can see that, in its full context, Baxendale was not retracting his finding about the solubility of the ink but repeating it, confirming that it was found to be 'freely soluble'. And he was saying that this wasn't consistent with what he would have expected from a document written in 1888 or 1889. He then adds the caveat that we have already discussed which only applies if a document from the nineteenth century can be found with ink of similar solubility. Absent such a document (and I'm not aware that one has been identified) Baxendale's conclusion that the Diary was a forgery must stand.
Furthermore, there are other pertinent comments by Dr Baxendale outside of his report.
This is a note of Melvin Harris based on what he had been told directly by Dr Baxendale:
'When Dr. Baxendale made the first examination of the diary ink it looked so new to him that he didn't even bother to make a chemical test for iron. As he explained to me, he made a visual examination of the ink only and since it showed not the slightest trace of age-bronzing, concluded, rightly, that it could not possibly be an iron-gall ink laid down some 104 years ago. His solvency test, a perfectly valid test in experienced hands, took him by surprise; "The pigments dissolved in distilled-water within seconds", he told me. This should not happen with a century-old gallotanic ink."'
According to a report in the Sunday Times in 1993, Dr Baxendale concluded that the ink had been applied to the paper recently, within the last two or three years. Thus, from the Sunday Times of 19 September 1993:
'One test used commonly to date documents such as this is, the solubility test...For a document purportedly more than 100 years old, Baxendale would have expected the ink to take several minutes to begin to dissolve. In this case, says Baxendale, "it began to dissolve in just a few seconds." Baxendale concluded it had probably been written recently, in the past two or three years."'
According to Melvin Harris: 'the ink dissolved at the fast rate one would find in a newish ink.' Harris also noted that: 'In August and October 1993, independent visual examination of the Diary ink, by myself, by Dr Joe Nickell, by Kenneth Rendell, by Maureen Casey Owens and by Robert Kuranz, revealed no signs of ageing. We were all viewing a fresh, washed-out looking ink, that gave signs of having been diluted. So at that time there were six examinations that all pointed to one conclusion: the ink was new.'
All the forensic document examiners (and I stress forensic document examiners) who have examined the Diary, in other words, have stated that it is not old.
Misled by Robert Smith, Iconoclast’s essay has nothing to offer in response.
There is, of course, a lot more that can be said about the scientific tests on the Diary and, especially, on the ink which I have already discussed in great detail on the Forum but I won’t spend any more time on the subject here because it's all rather dull. Iconoclast doesn’t claim that any scientific test positively proves that the diary was written in the nineteenth century. The most he ever says is that the scientific tests reveal nothing inconsistent with the Diary being written in the nineteenth century but of course, as we have seen, the solubility of the ink, in 1992, IS inconsistent with it having been written in the nineteenth century.
3. The Handwriting (p.21)
According to Iconoclast, 'we do not have an example of Maybrick's private hand' (p.86) and, 'There is no known example of James Maybrick's handwriting when composed solely for his own eyes.' Those are odd statements aren't they? A person's handwriting is a person's handwriting. I'm not aware of people having public and private handwriting. But it allows Iconoclast to say that it, therefore, 'remains an unanswered question as to whether the handwriting of the Victorian scrapbook is his'. I don't think his premise is quite correct though. The handwriting of the Diary is obviously not James Maybrick's. The only question is whether he wrote the Diary in a handwriting other than his own. Why would he do this? Well it's not an easy one for Diary Defenders to answer but it's just about conceivable (I suppose) that sociopaths or psychopaths, with multiple personality disorder, might change their handwriting while thinking and writing about their crimes. If that's the case there is not much to be gained by a consideration of the handwriting.
Iconoclast does make a futile attempt to argue that the handwriting on Maybrick's will is not that of James Maybrick. I say it's futile because we have a certain example of Maybrick's handwriting in an inscription from him to his then wife, Sarah Ann, on 2 August 1865 which said 'To my darling Piggy. From her affectionate Husband JM'. Even Feldman admits that this handwriting (which is reproduced in his book) doesn't match the handwriting in the Diary. There is also a letter from Maybrick written while on the R.M.S. Baltic, reproduced in Feldman's book. That handwriting doesn't match the Diary handwriting either (and the theory offered up by Feldman regarding this handwriting is no more than that it was similar to the handwriting in a letter supposedly sent from Galashies (12 miles from Innerliethen) in Scotland on 8 October 1888, which letter also does not match the handwriting in the Diary) . There is also a surviving letter written by Maybrick from Norfolk, Virginia, in the early 1880s which doesn't match the Diary handwriting. We also have Maybrick's signature from his wedding certificate which can be compared with the signature on the will. For myself I could perfectly accept that the will was written by a solicitors' clerk or some such person and is not in Maybrick's handwriting but I find it hard to see how it could not have been signed by him on 25 April 1889 bearing in mind that there were two independent witnesses to it.
One gets the impression that Iconoclast is a bit out of his comfort zone on the scientific issues, relying heavily on extended quotes from other authors, but that he feels more at home with an examination of the contents of the Diary. So let's move on to that.
SECTION B - EVIDENTIAL ISSUES
1. Gladys (p.33)
After a short introductory ramble designed to convince us how psychologically deeply complex the Diary is (while, at the same time, carefully not mentioning that both of his two star witnesses, Professor David Canter and Dr David Forshaw, have accepted that it may, nevertheless, be a fake), Iconoclast's first big point regarding the content of the Diary comes under the heading 'A daughter's illness' and relates to the comment which appears early on in the Diary that, 'My dearest Gladys is unwell yet again'. According to Iconoclast, this entry in the Diary 'causes a significant problem'. It does not. Also according to Iconoclast, the entry about Gladys' health was 'precisely confirmed by Margaret Baillie's letter [of 13 April 1889] to Florence '. But it was not. It's only because of poor research by Feldman, Harrison, Smith and others upon whom Iconoclast relies so much that it has even been referred to by Diary apologists. Iconoclast thinks that the entry shows some inside knowledge by the Diary author about Gladys' health. It is extremely disappointing that he has evidently not read my article 'Robert Smith and the Maybrick Diary: The False Facts Exposed!' in which this point was totally and completely debunked by me. That article (already referred to above) can be found here. If anything, the mention of Gladys being ill at some point in early 1888 suggests that the author was confused about the state of Gladys' health and had been misled by some inaccurate reporting of the evidence at Maybrick's trial. What it certainly does not do is offer any support to the claim that the author of the Diary was in possession of information that only someone with intimate knowledge of the Maybrick family could have had. Nor did the author of the Diary in any way need to visit the Public Record Office to write that line.
Iconoclast concludes this section by saying that the letter from Margaret Baillie, 'puts paid to any assumption that the Victorian scrapbook is a slipshod piece of work.' It most certainly does not do that, but one point I would like to stress is that the issue is not, as far as I am concerned, whether the Diary is a slipshod piece of work or not. In fact, that is wholly irrelevant. The only question is, or should be, whether the Diary is genuine or not. Arguing about whether the Diary is slipshod or shabby or not is only going to confuse matters. Unfortunately, Iconoclast is obsessed with the point, no doubt because many Diary critics have claimed it is a shabby hoax. It's not a claim I have ever made and, personally speaking, I don't care whether we have an expert forgery on our hands or a shoddy one. Expert forgery or shoddy one, the Margaret Baillie letter does not help at all to confirm the authenticity of the Diary.
2. Vitriol (p.37)
Iconoclast is impressed by the fact that the author of the Diary wrote of a desire to throw acid over one of his victims. He claims that this is 'entirely inconsistent with the belief that the text was written in the late 1980s or early 1990s'. That is a strong claim but Iconoclast fails to justify it.
Iconoclast tells us that attacking someone with acid is known as 'vitriolage' albeit that this appears to be a French word which has crept into the English language through the back door, not being featured in any proper dictionaries of the English language (and may not even have been in use in England in 1888). During the nineteenth century, the offence was usually just referred to in the British press as 'vitriol throwing' or a 'vitriol attack'. To throw acid at someone with intent to injure, incidentally, is - and was in the nineteenth century - to vitriolize, and a person who does so is known as a vitriolizer.
Iconoclast first quotes from a 2017 article by Ian Jack which refers to the crime of throwing acid and gives a long quote but carefully cuts off the quote at the very point where his reader would have read this sentence about 'vitriolage': 'It was common enough, as late as 1938, for Graham Greene to have his sinister protagonist Pinkie carry a small bottle of acid in Brighton Rock.'
That quote wasn’t helpful for Iconoclast because it suggests that the concept of acid attacks continued into the twentieth century. Because, you see according to Iconoclast, after the Victorian era, the crime of 'vitriolage', 'rapidly disappeared from the annals of British crime until it made its worrying reappearance in recent years in the twenty-first century’. We will see that this not true.
Quoting someone called Cassie Watson, Iconoclast tells us that, 'In February 1882 an editorial in the Times commented on what was then known as vitriol throwing, after oil of vitriol, strong sulphuric acid.' Had there been some kind of outbreak of vitriol throwing in 1882 which prompted such an editorial? Not at all. Did the Times actually devote an editorial to the subject of vitriol throwing? No, is the answer. All the Times actually said was this:
'In the circles in which MRS. PAY and MR. MOORE move furens femina [furious woman] operates with violence and vitriol, with open scandal, or even with the weapons of the murderer.’
At the time this editorial was written, Mrs Esther Pay had just been charged by a coroner’s jury with murdering (by strangulation or drowning) a little girl aged 7 called Georgina Moore. It was alleged that the murder had been committed to spite the little girl’s father, who was the Mr Moore in question. The truth of the matter is that the Times, in a long editorial about the case of Esther Pay and her alleged murder of Georgina Moore, was not commenting on vitriol throwing at all but simply making a mention of it by way of an aside as a stereotypical example of another method of attack supposedly used by women. The point being made in the Times editorial - to the extent it was making any kind of point at all - was that throwing acid had a reputation as a woman's crime. To counter this, Iconoclast quotes a statistic provided by Watson that about half of the cases she had studied were by men but she not only doesn't give a time period for the cases she had studied but expressly says that vitriol throwing continued until the Second World War (and subsequently became less frequent) which rather contradicts the notion that it rapidly disappeared from the annals of British crime following the Victorian era.
We are told that 'fewer cases were reported' and sulphuric acid was ‘rarely used in post-war incidents’ with only a resurgence in the 2000s. According to Iconoclast, therefore, ‘The scrapbook author’s thoughts of vitriolage, then,….’ Whoooah, let’s just pause there. The scrapbook author does not mention the word vitriolage, only acid throwing. Let’s continue, ‘…are entirely consistent with a disturbed mind functioning in 1888 but not of one writing hastily in the world of 1988 or so’. But is that true?
Well on 24 October 1986, Philip Walters was jailed for 10 years at Bristol Crown Court for throwing sulphuric acid into the face of his 19 year old former girlfriend Debbie Brown. (Times, 25 October 1986). On 30 July 1990, Terence Goodhew, 33, was charged at Central Criminal Court with creeping up behind numerous women in the street and throwing acid over their buttocks and legs (Times 31 July 1990). The Times of 19 April 1991 reported that a 26-year-old woman had acid thrown in her face by two men in the street in south-east London and might be blinded. On 2 January 1992 it was reported that two men, Anthony Langden and Jason Raby, were remanded for attacking a 74-year-old woman with acid in her Oxfordshire home (Times 2 January 1992). These were all nationally reported cases.
And here are a couple of examples from the 1960s, a decade when any author of the diary in 1988-1992 was likely to have been an adult. On 31 July 1967, Winston Keith Black, aged 22, was convicted at Essex Assizes and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for throwing nitric acid in the face of his former girlfriend, Carol Ann Denny, aged 21 (Times 1 June 1967). On 18 March 1968, Locksley Kerr was charged at North London Magistrate’s Court with throwing sulphuric acid at four people in four different areas of London (Times, 19 March 1968).
It's ludicrous, therefore, to argue that acid attacks against women were so specific to the nineteenth century that the thought of one isn't likely to have entered the mind of someone writing a Diary in the 1980s or 1990s.
It might also be added that newspaper searches reveal that the most common way of referring to such attacks during the nineteenth century involved the use of the word 'vitriol' as opposed to 'acid' whereas, during the second half of the twentieth century, they would only be referred as acid attacks, with the word 'vitriol' never being used. A search of the Times archive, for example, for the expression 'throwing acid', produces only 1 result in the nineteenth century but 42 results in the period 1912 to 2013. On the other hand, a search of 'throwing vitriol' produces 109 results between 1824 and 1939 (with any references later than this being historic references only). Equally, a search for 'acid attack' produces no results in the nineteenth century and 154 hits between 1912 and 2013 but the first reference to acid attack as a crime (as opposed to, say, acid attacking buildings due to corrosion) comes in 1951. If one searches the British Newspaper Archive for the expression 'throwing vitriol' for the period 1880-1889 it produces 3,609 results. A search for 'throwing acid' in the same period, however, produces a mere 45 results. [A search for 'acid attack' in the BNA, incidentally, doesn't produce useful results due to multiple references to acid attacking metal etc.]
One could reasonably conclude from this that a Diary author in 1888 was rather more likely to have written that he wanted to throw vitriol over women than acid. One certainly can't say it's conclusive because there were a few mentions of acid throwing in the nineteenth century but it means that the point is clearly not as much in favour of the Diary being authentic as Iconoclast seems to think.
3. The Lyrics of Michael Maybrick (p.39)
A good example of Iconoclast wasting time bashing ghosts of the past is in the fact that he devotes an entire section to the entry in the Diary where it is said that Michael Maybrick wrote lyrics (as well as music). For many years this was thought by some people to be a mistake on the part of the author of the Diary because it was believed that Michael only wrote music, not lyrics, but then for another period of years it supposedly showed amazing insight on the part of the diarist because, although Michael almost always composed just music, for one or two songs it was discovered that he did write the lyrics. I believe that I was the first person to point out that the Diary author's source for thinking that Michael Maybrick wrote lyrics could have been a book about the Maybrick case by Nigel Morland which had long been claimed by Melvin Harris to be a reference work used by the forger. In that book, as I posted on the Casebook Forum back in 2017, there is a reference to 'the strong, religious and moral nature of his [Michael's] lyrics'. Iconoclast mentions this quote in his essay but only because I had drawn his attention to it in the first place.
So the fact that the author of the Diary refers to Michael as a lyricist neither helps to authenticate or disprove the authenticity of the Diary. In which case, why does Iconoclast waste so much time writing about it in his essay? What's the point of showing that some people got something wrong in the past on the subject? It doesn't help us in any way going forward.
Let us move forward.
4. Unexplained Entry (p.40)
For Iconoclast, the fact that he can't explain something in the Diary apparently suggests that it's authentic. There is a crossed out reference to a 'mole bonnet' in one of the poems. Iconoclast says that it isn't obvious what it means,'if it means anything at all.' That being so, why spend any time discussing it? Iconoclast apparently can't imagine how a forger could have conjured up 'so esoteric a notion'. I, on the other hand, can imagine it. If there was such a thing as a 'mole bonnet' then the forger has seen or heard a reference to it somewhere, possibly in an old library book, or perhaps from an elderly relative, and is showing off his or her knowledge of Victoriana. If, on the other hand, there never was any such thing as an 'mole bonnet' then it hardly demonstrates that the Diary is genuine. Rather it just shows that the author wrote something nonsensical. So that gets us nowhere.
5. Chalk and Talc (p.41)
Another crossed out poetry reference can be found within the line, 'Give Sir Jim his dues, He detests all the Jews, and indeed was it not in talc'. Talc can also be in the form of chalk, especially in chalk used by tailors. By some tortuous logic, Iconoclast (via Smith) links chalk used by tailors with Maybrick because Maybrick worked in the cotton industry, but I fail, personally, to see the connection between tailoring and the trading of cotton. If a modern forger of the Diary was aware of tailor's chalk - and there is no reason for him not to have been - then he could easily have slipped in the reference to talc into the Diary. It doesn't seem to mean anything.
6. Perhaps one day I will give her a call (p.41)
Some people think that the fact that the Diary author used the expression 'give her a call' means that the Diary must be modern. It's not something I've ever argued and, as far as I am aware, to give someone a call in the nineteenth century was another way of saying you would pay them a visit. There is nothing in this to assist us as to whether the Diary is genuine or not. Iconoclast seems to keep wanting to stress the 'complexity' of the Diary but complexity doesn't equate to authenticity and this line or argument is really a waste of time in a discussion about whether the Diary is genuine or not.
7. Is it really the case? (p.42)
The Diary author includes a poem which says, 'I could not possibly redeem it here...I could send him poste haste if he requested that be the case.' As with most of the poetry in the Diary it's not at all clear what the author is talking about; in particular it isn't stated what is to be redeemed. Iconoclast thinks that 'the case' in the poem is a reference to a red leather cigarette case that was found amongst Catherine Eddowes' possessions. He also thinks that the cigarette case belonged to Maybrick. This really is an example of Iconoclast making the Diary say whatever he wants it to say. There is no obvious reason why'the case' in the poem is Eddowes' cigarette case but if it is, there is no reason to think that it is being said to be Maybrick's cigarette case. Yet this is what Iconoclast says, apparently with a straight face:
'The Maybrick journal was the first time in one hundred years that the red leather cigarette case as an Eddowes possession was questioned.'
This is pure nonsense, of course. The Maybrick journal doesn't question the cigarette case as an Eddowes possession. It doesn't even mention a cigarette case (other than in a crossed out line of the poem which says no more than 'Tin match empty/cigarette case') let alone question whether it belonged to Eddowes. Iconoclast says, 'the author of the scrapbook makes a very considered decision to see the cigarette case as the killer's' but this is a ludicrous statement. It is the Diary defending READER of the journal (and in particular Paul Feldman) who has imagined that 'if he decides that be the case' is a reference to the cigarette case and then goes on to imagine that the author of the journal was saying it was his own cigarette case, for neither proposition is stated in the journal. It's not even something that is suggested or implied.
But if the author of the journal is actually saying that he owned the cigarette case, this could easily have been an invention of a forger, based on the newspaper reports of the cigarette case having been found with Eddowes. Would it matter if the forger was the first person to have considered the idea that the cigarette case was owned by the murderer? I would say no. We don't, today, have any reason to think that the case wasn't one of Eddowes' possessions and I can't agree with Iconoclast's assertion that there is any significance in the Diary author making a new point about the case (if that actually is the case, excuse the pun, which is by no means clear). After all, there aren't many other Jack the Ripper diary forgeries around and the exercise of forging a diary is inevitably going to lead a forger to have some new thoughts about the case (no pun intended this time) that no-one has ever had before.
7B - Arsenic in the case? (p.43)
Iconoclast says that 'Eddowes' body was the only one at autopsy tested for drugs'. It is possible to speculate wildly about why this might be? Oh yes, it certainly is, for Iconoclast suggests that this might have been because the police had looked in the cigarette case and found that 'perhaps...it contained arsenic or strychnine'. This is about as far away from reality, as it is possible to get.
The reason Eddowes was tested for drugs is very simple. It was suspected after the Double Event that the Whitechapel murderer was sedating his victims with some form of narcotic drug (or chloroform) before murdering them, which is why they weren't heard to make any sound (i.e. Dr Phillips said at the Stride inquest: 'The absence of noise is a difficult question under the circumstances of this case to account for...' (Daily Telegraph, 6 October 1888)). The theory was actually expressed in writing by Roderick MacDonald, the coroner for North-East Middlesex, in a letter published in the Daily Telegraph on 4 October 1888:
'The theory is that the murderer goes about with vial of rum or brandy in his pocket drugged with an opiate - such as a solution of morphia, which is almost if not tasteless -that he offers a swig of it to his victims...and that they are then easily dispatched without fear of making any noise or call for assistance.'
Hence, at the inquest of Eddowes, on 4 October, Dr Brown was asked by a juror if any drug had been administered to Eddowes. The doctor said he didn't think so judging from the breath (Times, 5 October 1888) but stated that he had not analysed the stomach contents for that (Daily Telegraph 5 October 1888). He also informed the juror that the contents of the stomach had been preserved for analysis (Daily Telegraph, 5 October 1888).
On the morning of 11 October 1888, the Times reported that: 'The contents of the deceased's stomach have been analysed, but no trace of a narcotic can be discovered.'
This was confirmed in evidence at the inquest of Eddowes later on the same day by Dr William Saunders who said, as recorded in his deposition (underlining added):
'I received the stomach from Dr. Gordon Brown carefully sealed with his own private seal...I carefully examined the stomach and its contents more particularly for poisons of the narcotic class with negative results, there not being the faintest trace of these or any other poison.'
So Dr Saunders was particularly looking for a narcotic class of drug. Neither arsenic or strychnine are narcotic drugs so he clearly was not looking for those.
There was also interest, incidentally, in the stomach contents of Elizabeth Stride and the coroner asked Dr Phillips on 5 October if there was any sign of liquor in her stomach, with the doctor saying there was no trace of it (Times 6 October 1888). Furthermore, on the same day, the coroner asked Dr Phillips if, in the case of Stride, 'there was any appearance of an opiate or a smell of chloroform' to which he doctor replied, 'There was no perceptible trace of anaesthetic or narcotic' (Daily Telegraph, 6 October 1888). This makes it patently obvious, should there be any doubt in the matter, that a contemporary theory (prior to the analysis of Eddowes' stomach contents) was that the killer was drugging or anaesthetizing his victims.
But as to why the stomach of Catherine Eddowes only was analysed for drugs, and not the stomachs any of the other victims, there is a very simple explanation for this which has nothing to do with any nonsense about arsenic or strychnine having been found in her cigarette case. it is to be found in the qualifications and job title of Dr Saunders. He was a doctor of medicine, a Fellow of the Institute of Chemistry, a Fellow of the Chemical Society and, most crucially, Public Analyst of the City of London. It is the fact that he was the City of London's analyst which is the key here. Instructing a specialist to analyse the stomach contents of a corpse was obviously expensive. It wasn't something that was routinely done at inquests held in the Middlesex district, undoubtedly because no-one was prepared to pay for it. But the City of London was a more wealthy district and, clearly, was willing to cover the cost of a stomach analysis by a qualified chemist (and actually had a Public Analyst on the payroll) in this case. Dr Brown wasn't suitably qualified. So it was the fact that Eddowes, alone of the victims, was murdered in the City of London that caused her stomach to be checked for (primarily) narcotic drugs. It really is that simple.
8. Cold Hands (p.43)
Iconoclast seems confused about whether cold hands is a 'classic' symptom of arsenic addiction/poisoning or an 'obscure' one. He tells it's both in the same section! To try and establish whether cold hands really are a symptom of arsenic poisoning, he googled it and decided that, yes, it is, but due to the lack of hits I guess he figured it's difficult to establish - and he comments that the Diary would have been written 'long before the easy accessibility of the internet'. This is a classic mistake made by armchair researchers - whose entire research is done online - who seem to think that prior to the internet there was no way for anyone to find out anything. They apparently forget that public libraries existed which contained thousands of books, packed with information, all instantly accessible for free. There were other ways of finding out things in the 1980s and 90s.
While one can agree that the Diary author's complaints about cold hands must be linked to him supposedly being an arsenic addict, this looks like something too obviously and calculatedly inserted into the Diary by someone wanting to use their knowledge that cold hands is a symptom of arsenic addiction or overdose. The central theme of the Diary is that Maybrick was driven to murder due to his addition to arsenic (as well as his hatred of his wife) so it would be no surprise if a forger of the Diary took a little time to investigate the symptoms of arsenic addiction. Michael Barrett's wife had trained as a nurse so, if he was behind the forgery (as he confessed to being), even leaving aside the use of public libraries, it's not as if he would have had any great difficulty in finding out.
There isn't actually any evidence in the files in the National Archives (which contain unpublished medical evidence) that Maybrick ever complained to any of his doctors about having cold hands. He did complain of numbness (which is mentioned in the Diary) but this was also stated by his doctors in evidence at the trial and featured in published books. The absence of evidence is not conclusive but it does mean that the forger did not get 'lucky' once the files in the National Archives were examined (and he could reasonably have expected to get 'lucky' on the basis that Maybrick was an alleged arsenic addict).
But here's the thing I want to emphasize. Although commonly believed, it was never actually proved at Florence's trial that Maybrick was an arsenic addict. I'm not here wanting to discuss the truth or otherwise of whether he was or not, just that it's possible that a forger could have taken a radically different approach. Michael Maybrick said he had no knowledge of his brother taking arsenic (although Florence had written to him in March 1889 claiming to have found some white powder in his possession, which Maybrick subsequently denied was true). According to Dr Fuller, who had examined Maybrick on April 1889, in his evidence at Florence's trial: 'I saw no indication in Mr. Maybrick of his having been a person who had been in the habit of taking arsenic.' Most importantly, there is an unpublished letter in the National Archives from G.A. Witt, a London based Commissioning Agent, for whom Maybrick was the Liverpool agent. This is, as we shall see, referred to by Iconoclast for another reason but the content of the letter is ignored. What Witt, who claimed to be one of Maybrick's most intimate friends, said in his letter to the Home Office dated 24 August 1889, was this:
'The idea of Mr. M. being an arsenic-eater is to my mind simply absurd. I am sure myself or his brother Michael M. before whom he had no secrets would have known it.'
Now, can you imagine if the Maybrick of the Diary had revealed that he was NOT addicted to arsenic? We would have been told, would we not, how amazingly lucky the forger was again for an unpublished letter in the National Archives to support that narrative. But, of course, on this occasion the forger did not get lucky. The belief of Mr Witt is totally ignored and never mentioned by Feldman, Smith, Harrison et al.
And there's more.
Because Mr Witt also tells the Home Office this in his letter:
'I saw Mr Maybrick at his office and dined at his house whenever I had to run down to Liverpool. Last year in June Mr and Mrs M. both came up from Liverpool and were our guests, and my wife and I at the time commented on the evidently unsatisfactory state of affairs. I remember that when again Mr. M visited us a few months later he complained of his eyes watering and giving him trouble and I chaffed him about getting old. I did not see him this year as I have been travelling for 9 months in the East and only returned a few months ago, finding my poor friend dead.'
Now this is important. For Witt is saying that the Maybricks came to London in June 1888 to visit him and then, a few months later, Maybrick came back down to London when he said nothing about having cold hands but did complain about his eyes watering and giving him trouble. What do you think the author of the Diary says about his eyes giving him trouble? I'll tell you. Nothing! So there we have another example of the forger not getting lucky with some new evidence. But this is ignored by Iconoclast.
I don't blame Iconoclast because he will have never seen the letter. But he has been let down by Feldman (and others) who buried this information whereas, had the author of the Diary said something about his eyes watering, this would have been shouted from the rooftops.
We may also note that the period of the Diary covers June 1888. Yet the author of the Diary says precisely nothing about going down to London with his wife to stay with the Witts. On the contrary, he says that Michael is expecting him (and him alone) towards the end of June. He also says nothing about seeing Witt a few months later, bang in the middle of the period of the Ripper murders.
Feldman knew all about Witt's letter because he mentions it for another reason in his book but he has ignored everything that doesn't fit with the Maybrick of the Diary. In a way, this is ironic because the Witt letter does corroborate the Diary to the extent that it says that Maybrick was in London in June 1888. I'm not aware of anything other than the Witt letter and the Maybrick Diary which says this. But, at the same time, the Diary is pretty clear that Maybrick came to London on his own to stay with Michael (because Maybrick asks to be locked in his room to prevent him from sleepwalking), whereas Witt tells us that both Maybrick and his wife came to stay with him in June, so that the Diary must be talking about a different visit to the one referred to by Witt.
I'm not attempting to argue from the Witt letter that this proves that the Maybrick Diary a forgery. The use of 'one off instance' does that. I'm also not saying that the forger definitely didn't see the Witt letter before creating the Diary. What I am saying is that the proponents of the Maybrick Diary have been selective in their use of new evidence and that all this 'he got lucky' argument is only sustainable because they have picked out the bits from the 'new' evidence that support the Diary and ignored the bits that don't.
9. The McCormick Poem (p.44)
The amount of speculation and uncertainty with regard to the 'Eight Little Whores' poem, and the fact that Iconoclast doesn't appear to making a positive point about it, makes it unsuitable for any kind of rebuttal. It would only be a waste of my time. I will only make the point that Iconoclast claims that if the original of the poem could be found, 'and 'Jack's' was spelled without the possessive that would provide a very strong indicator that whoever wrote 'Eight Little Whores' also wrote the Victorian scrapbook.' Apart from the dubious nature of that assumption - as if the Diary author was the only person in Victorian England who would have written 'Jacks' instead of 'Jack's' - Iconoclast contradicts the entire basis of this conclusion by saying later in his essay that he thinks that the 5 October 1888 letter, about the body found in Whitehall, could have been written by Maybrick, despite the fact that this letter does use the possessive when referring to 'Jacky's.' Thus does Iconoclast want to have it both ways. It's by Maybrick if it does use the possessive and it's by Maybrick if it doesn't!
9a We All Hate Dutton (p.64)
I wouldn't want to leave this subject without responding to Iconoclast's claim that, 'More recently, and certainly since 1993, it has become fashionable amongst Ripperologists to treat most of McCormick's work as simply contrived' whereas'prior to 1993 and the publication of Harrison's first book on Maybrick - the Dutton evidence in particular was largely tolerated'. Iconoclast provides no evidence to support these statements. Even Robin Odell, who uncritically reproduced some of the correspondence published by McCormick, in his 1965 book, 'Jack the Ripper: In Fact and Fiction', said that Dutton's work on the subject was 'unverified' and, as it was hidden from the public, 'cannot be fully accepted.' When dealing with McCormick's reliance on Dutton's 'Chronicles of Crime' in their 1987 book, 'The Ripper Legacy', Martin Howells and Keith Skinner said that, 'the reader is faced with the unpleasant possibility that the author's evidence may be contrived.' They spoke of the possibility that, 'a contributor has deliberately fabricated information in order to strengthen his particular case.' In the 1988 edition of 'The Complete Jack the Ripper', Donald Rumbelow quoted the claims of Dr Dutton, as reproduced in McCormick, regarding the Eight Little Whores poem and the Ripper's handwriting, as well as Dutton's claim that he had photographed the writing on the wall, and said, 'This I find frankly incredible'. Noting that McCormick built his theory on the notes he took of Dr Dutton's jottings, he said: 'This is a major weakness of the book'. The authors of the 1991 'The Jack the Ripper A to Z', noting that McCormick had refused requests for a meeting to discuss his work, stated that 'The consequent impossibility of checking Mr McCormick's sources, and the variants between his original and revised editions in quotations from the same source...make The Identity of Jack the Ripper a book to be used with extreme caution.' They also point out that, while Dr Dutton was a man of wide interests and considerable ability, 'It is customary for researchers to disparage the views of Dr Dutton.' If Iconoclast wants us to believe that Ripperology has suddenly turned against Dr Dutton since the production of the Diary in 1993 he surely needs to demonstrate this, with evidence, rather than simply state it.
10. Don't Panick Mr Maybrick! (p.48)
The author of the Diary spells (or mis-spells) panic as 'panick’. While accepting that the correct spelling in 1888-89 was 'panic', Iconoclast seems to see something significant in this, based on 'panick' being an old way of spelling it. I’m afraid I don’t. There are a number of spelling and grammatical errors in the Diary and this just appears to be one more of those. Nothing more, nothing less.
11. Sir Jim M. May (p.48)
I have already dealt in my 'The False Facts' article, which can be found here, with the supposed amazing coincidence, or non-coincidence, that one of Maybrick's servants is supposed to have referred to him as 'Sir James' when he refers to himself in the Diary as 'Sir Jim'. I won't repeat that here but refer to the reader to it, albeit that it is slanted towards what Robert Smith said rather than Iconoclast. I would just add to this my belief that the forger of the Diary made a continuity error in the narrative in this respect.
The first appearance of 'Sir Jim' in the text of the Diary is when Maybrick makes a joke about being knighted by Queen Victoria, for his services to murdering, and writes 'I can now rise Sir Jim'. He then goes on to refer to himself as 'Sir Jim' many times, especially in his poems. But we find, prior to this, a crossed out line of poetry which says, 'M will catch Sir Jim with no pills', and a second crossed out line which says 'Sir Jim will do true'. There is no other reference to 'Sir Jim' prior to the knighthood fantasy sequence. This does raise the possibility (which, as I say, is what I believe happened) that the forger mistakenly inserted the 'Sir Jim' into a couple of early poems at a late stage of drafting of the Diary text, forgetting that he had hadn't yet introduced the notion of Maybrick being knighted. If Maybrick already called himself 'Sir Jim' it's a bit odd that he then comments that he will become 'Sir Jim' after the knighthood. It should have been more like 'Sir Sir Jim'!
We are told about two other amazing coincidences. The first is that there is in the National Archives a telegram in which Florence says to Albert Brierley: 'Recalled owing to May's critical state...' Iconoclast says, 'This is astonishing'. This is on the basis that, having spotted the cartoon in Punch which says 'CATCH WHOM YOU MAY!', the Diary author sets off writing a poem based entirely around himself being called 'May'. To me, this suggests that the Maybrick of the Diary has only just thought of calling himself 'May' based on the cartoon.
The other supposedly amazing coincidence is a letter from Florence to Brierley in which she writes 'M has been delirious since Saturday'. It coincides with how the Diary author riffs on about the how the initial 'M' found at the scene of Chapman's murder matches his own initial.
What I would say about both the telegram and the letter is that they were both written by Florence to her lover, thus probably initiating a change to the normal way she referred to her husband. From multiple documents and evidence we know that she normally referred to, and addressed, Maybrick as 'Jim'. This is also how Maybrick signed off his own letter to his brother on 29 April 1889. There is, in other words, no evidence that Florence or anyone ever addressed Maybrick as 'M' or that he thought of himself as 'M'. Exactly the same is true of 'May'. Nor is there any real reason to think that he knew that Florence ever referred to him as either 'M' or 'May'. Florence's correspondence with Brierley was secret.
I don't know for sure why Florence referred to her husband as 'M' in a letter to Brierley but as 'May' in a telegram to the same person but I suspect it might have something to do with the nature of telegrams. Perhaps it was easier or more convenient or more appropriate for the purpose of a telegram to call him 'May' rather than M. It's not terribly surprising that she didn't want to refer to him as 'Jim' (or Maybrick) in correspondence with her lover.
When it comes to the amazing coincidence, let's note a couple of things. The envelope with 'M' on it existed as part of the Ripper murders on 8 September 1888. The cartoon which said 'CATCH WHOM YOU MAY!' was published in relation to the Ripper murders in an edition of Punch dated 22 September 1888. So regardless of anything to do with Jack the Ripper, Florence referred to her husband as both 'M' and 'May' in May 1889, matching what was written on the envelope and using a word that featured in the Punch cartoon.
Now, I don't think anyone would ever argue that Florence referred to Maybrick as 'M' because of the 'M' on the envelope nor would they argue that she referred to him as 'May' due to the cartoon. Yet, those 'coincidences' existed completely independent of the Diary. All that has happened is that the Diary author (be it Maybrick or a forger) has noticed the connection between the 'M' on the envelope and the 'May' in the cartoon and linked it to the name Maybrick.
Unless there is evidence that Maybrick was frequently referred to as 'M' or 'May', and that he knew about this, I don't agree that the forger did get lucky. But really it's not a question of getting lucky or not because Maybrick, as the assumed Diary author, never says that he was commonly known as either 'M' or 'May'; he just seems to enjoy playing on the 'M' on the envelope (albeit that it is argued that he was responsible for it being there in the first place) and the 'May' in the cartoon (which he certainly was not responsible for).
One thing I would also add is that Florence's letter to Brierley in which she referred to Maybrick as 'M' was read out at Florence's trial and has been transcribed, or the image has actually been reproduced, in a number of books that would have been available to a modern forger, so that when Iconoclast says, 'The luck of the forger continued when Feldman's team uncovered a letter from Florence to Alfred Brierley in which she wrote '...M has been delirious since Sunday....'' this is very misleading, if not disingenuous. The use of the word 'uncovered' makes it sound like it had previously been covered up but it hadn't. It was a very well known letter.
12. The shared grave (p.50)
Iconoclast refers to the mention of Maybrick's mother and father sharing the same grave as 'a casual aside' but for the less emotionally attached reader of the Diary it seems to be an awkward way for the the forger to show off some local knowledge, either gleaned from previous visits to the local cemetery or from the Florence Maybrick trial transcript.
13. Some Minor Ripper letters (p.50)
Iconoclast thinks that a letter (which was unpublished as at April 1992) from 'Jack the Ripper' dated 5 October 1888, addressed to 'Dear Friend', in response to the Whitehall discovery is from Maybrick despite the handwriting being different to that of the Diary (which can be deduced because it was said by Thomas Bulling of the Central News Agency which received the letter to have been similar to the handwriting on the Dear Boss letter). The main reason Iconoclast connects it to Maybrick is because the author of the letter says: 'I must get to work tomorrow treble event this time yes yes three must be ripped'. He compares that to the Diary author who said 'Will visit the city of Whores soon, very soon. I wonder if I could do three?'.
There is a problem of chronology here though. For the time period in which the Diary author muses if he could do three murders in one night must be long after 5 October. We know this because the Diary author writes in the preceding paragraph, 'It has been far too long since my last' (i.e. the double event) adding that he has been unwell. In that paragraph, he also speaks of hitting his wife which he tells us was 'a one off instance' showing his ability to time travel. If the 5 October letter was written by Maybrick, it means that, having determined to kill three women and having sincerely and positively promised in writing to kill three women 'tomorrow' (i.e. on 6 October), Maybrick not only failed to keep that promise but then, some time later, wondered privately in his Diary if he could kill three women, to which he added a question mark, indicating uncertainty. It doesn't seem to make sense. Surely he's already had that thought and been so confident that he could do it that he's actually promised a treble event to the Central News.
There is also the supposed coincidence that the letter writer refers to 'the Divine power that protects me' which is compared to the Diary author's comment that 'I am convinced God placed me here to kill all whores...'.
Even Iconoclast has his doubts about whether this was a letter from Maybrick, though, noting, 'The author of this October 5 letter uses the possessive 'Jacky's' correctly which is generally lacking in the Victorian scrapbook, and the overall tone of the letter is not in keeping with that of Maybrick's so-called scrapbook notes'. But this doesn't appear to prevent him from concluding that the letter was written by Maybrick.
The fact that, three days later, another 'Dear Boss' letter purporting to be from 'The Ripper', which was stated to have been sent from Galashiels (near Innerleithen) in Scotland, to the Metropolitan Police in London, also excites Iconoclast on the basis that Innerleithen was part of the tweed weaving industry so it simply must have been sent by a Liverpool cotton merchant! Erm. Let's just say that this is one of Iconoclast's less convincing points in a large pool of them.
The thing is, there are a lot of Ripper letters out there and it's not that difficult to find things in some of them that might relate to a particular suspect.
14. Middlesex Street vs Petticoat Lane (p.53)
As is well known, Hutchinson claimed to see a man entering Kelly's room with her on the night of her murder. According to Iconoclast:
'He claimed that two nights after Kelly's murder, he saw the man in question through the thick Whitechapel fog. Of all the streets to see Jack in, Hutchinson stated that he saw him in Middlesex Street.'
The point here is that Maybrick had a room in Middlesex Street so he is amazed by the coincidence.I have regrettably had cause to chide Iconoclast on the Forum in the past for his laziness. Too often he relies either on his memory, or on second hand sources, without actually checking the evidence. For what Hutchinson was reported to have said to a newspaper reporter on 13 September (and which is easy to check) was this:
'I believe that he lives in the neighbourhood and I fancied I saw him in Petticoat Lane on Sunday morning, but I was not certain.'
So there was no mention of any fog, it was on Sunday morning when the sighting took place (presumably in broad daylight, not at night), it was in Petticoat Lane (which refers to a market extending over a number of streets, including Middlesex Street, but also Bell Lane, Wentworth Street and Goulston Street) and Hutchinson was uncertain if it was the same person.
Iconoclast knows there is an issue as to whether the sighting actually happened in Middlesex Street specifically as opposed to Petticoat Lane because he cites Underwood saying that Hutchinson thought he had seen the man in the Petticoat Lane. It appears to be Harrison who has misled him, saying in her 2003 book (p.169) that Hutchinson, 'despite a choking fog was almost certain he had seen him in Middlesex Street'.
In any event, Underwood was one of the sources for the Diary identified by Melvin Harris, so it has to be assumed that the forger knew of Hutchinson's sighting in Petticoat Lane from Underwood's book, in which case it hardly 'reflects his attention to detail and his willingness to dig deeper than the surface' as Iconoclast claims. All the forger had to know was that Middlesex Street was part of Petticoat Lane market and, if he's happy that the man Hutchinson saw could have been Maybrick, it's very a simple matter to place Maybrick in a room in Middlesex Street.
15. Freeman flourish (p.53)
I don't know whether a flourish on a certificate signed by Maybrick in 1876 is echoed in the Diary or not but the only point Iconoclast wants to make here is that 'the hoaxer has once again demonstrated a far greater degree of complex research than he has been given credit for'. As I am, and always have been, happy to say that the forger might have carried out complex research in preparing the Diary, it would be a waste of time to spend more time on this. I am, indeed, critical of those who don't think that the forger would have carried out complex research because such people are those are likely to be easily fooled.
16. Reason to be in London (p.53)
On the first page of the Diary, the author makes the point that he has decided that London will be the place where he shall commit certain unspecified acts by which, apparently, ‘all who sell their dirty wares shall pay’, and he says, ‘Indeed do I not frequently visit the Capitol and indeed do I not have legitimate reason for doing so.’ From the context, one would naturally assume that he is referring to the fact that his brother, Michael, lives in London and that he seems to regularly visit him. Thus in the very first paragraph, the Diary author says that he has received a letter from Michael (who lived in Regent’s Park, not Queen’s Park as Iconoclast says) and adds ‘perhaps I will visit him.’ Then, a few paragraphs later, we have, 'Yes I will visit Michael for a few weeks'. So the fact that Michael lives in London could easily be interpreted as the diary author’s ‘legitimate reason’ for visiting London and there doesn’t seem to need to be another reason for him to do so.
However, it has been noted (as mentioned above) that there is a letter in the file in the National Archives in which a commissioning agent, Gustavus Witt, with an office at 4 Cullum Street, in the City of London, informs the Home Office in August 1889 that Maybrick carried out his firm’s London business (in Liverpool) up to the time of his death.
Now, it’s possible, of course, that the author of the Diary means that this is the legitimate reason for him to visit London, albeit that Mr Witt’s name or existence is never mentioned or otherwise hinted at in the Diary, nor is it referred to as a legitimate business reason. If that is the case then does this mean that the Diary must be genuine? The answer is no. If the Diary author is referring to Witt as being the legitimate reason for him to come to London (and I must stress the word 'if'), then a forger could have visited the Public Record Office prior to April 1992, seen the Witt letter, and inserted this ‘clever’ remark into the diary knowing that someone researching the Diary would find the Witt letter. But the problem for us is that the comment in the Diary might well have had nothing to do with Witt, even if the diary was written by Maybrick. For he might just have meant that his legitimate reason to be in London was because he regularly kept in touch with his brother. Who knows? There is nothing in the Witt letter which tell us that there was any business (as opposed to social) reason which involved Maybrick needing to come to London to see Witt.
In fact, there is one clue in the Diary that points towards Michael being the reason for the Diary author’s visit to London. For early in the diary the author states: ‘I cannot allow my clothes to be blood drenched, this I could not explain to anyone, least of all Michael.’. He then refers to asking Michael to lock him in his room at night . This shows that, even if the purpose of his expected visits to London was business related, the author expected to be staying at his brother’s house while he was carrying out the murders. It is for this reason, he says, that he has taken a small room in Middlesex Street. Therefore, it would be possible for him to come down to London for no actual reason at all – other than to commit murder - but with his wife and friends in Liverpool thinking he has gone down to stay with his brother (i.e. his legitimate reason). Then he says ‘The next time I travel to London I shall begin’. He doesn’t say the next time he travels to London on business. Just the next time he travels to London.
A better point for Iconoclast - but one he does not make - is that, just before the Kelly murder, the Diary author writes, 'Michael was under the impression that once I had finished my business I was to return to Liverpool that very day'. To which he adds, 'And indeed I did one day later ha ha'. The extra day's stay in London gave Maybrick the opportunity to murder Kelly, apparently. So it could be argued that the Diary author had knowledge that Maybrick had business in London which he could say he needed to finish before returning to Liverpool. While that might be true, it would not seem to have been beyond the wit of any forger to imagine that a businessman from Liverpool might have had to visit London to conduct business. In fact, as it happens, a forger didn't need to imagine anything. Bernard Ryan's 1977 book, 'The Poisoned Life of Mrs Maybrick', says that 'James continued...to travel often to London for a day or two 'on business'.' So the information (whether right or wrong) that Maybrick frequently travelled to London on business was right there in print and available to anyone who had read Ryan's book. Perhaps it was this very comment which inspired the notion by the forger of Maybrick being Jack the Ripper in the first place! The fact that we are never told in the Diary what Maybrick's business in London was, must leave it very much inconclusive as to whether the Diary author had any real knowledge of the purpose of any of Maybrick's visits to London to the extent that this purpose was connected with Witt.
In truth, even if one puts aside Maybrick's potential desire to regularly visit his brother in Regent's Park, Ryan's statement that Maybrick often went to London on business provides a full explanation for the entry in the Diary that the author had 'legitimate reasons' to visit London.
One final point I would make on this subject is that the heading in Iconoclast's essay is 'Legitimate reasons to be in Whitechapel'. Yet the Diary author never writes about having a legitimate reason to be in Whitechapel. He only speaks of having a legitimate reason to be in London. This is an important distinction because Iconoclast wants to make the point that Witt's office in Callum Street, while not being in Whitechapel, was not far from the Minories which is not far from Whitechapel. Well that might be important if the Diary author had said 'Do I not have a legitimate reason to be in Whitechapel?' But he didn't say this, referring only a reason to be in London which, of course, as mentioned, might simply mean visiting his brother in Regent's Park, or, alternatively, might simply be a reference to the 'business' that Ryan said in his 1977 book that Maybrick often conducted in London.
17. Christmas 1888 (p.54)
Iconoclast crows over a letter in the National Archives from Florence's mother in which it is stated that, 'The December of 1888 was the first time during her married life she [Florence] had been able to dance or had been out of society; and her health was stronger. She was left unattended by her husband...'. This is supposed to support the Diary's claim that Maybrick spent Christmas of 1888 with his brother Thomas in Manchester, albeit that the letter from Florence's mother doesn't expressly mention Christmas (or Maybrick being in Manchester for that matter) and, for all we know, was speaking of another part of the month.
But hold on.
December 1888 was 'the first time' Florence had been able to dance or been out of society? And that was because she had been 'left unattended' by her husband? So what was she doing all those days when Maybrick had been going off to London during the summer and autumn of 1888 to murder prostitutes? Surely she had been 'left unattended' by him during those periods. And, according to Iconoclast, he wasn't just travelling to London in order commit murders, he was going to post letters as well. Either he was going backwards and forwards between London and Liverpool during the entire month of September or he was staying in London for extended periods. Either way, he was surely leaving Florence unattended. So it's not such a great point for Iconoclast really.
SECTION C - THE NONSENSE
Things haven't been too good up to this point but from page 57 onwards of Iconoclast's essay we really get deep into the nonsensical, absurd and risible collection of points that he has been peddling for years which are supposed to both show that Maybrick was Jack the Ripper and that the Diary is genuine. Most of them scrape the very bottom of the barrel and most of them originate with Feldman but for some reason Iconoclast loves them. Our first nonsensical point is with the name Jack.
1. JA - CK (p.57)
There is no doubt that if you take the first two letters of James, and the last two letters of Maybrick, you arrive at 'Jack'. But the question is: why would you do this? It's not a normal way of forming words, or names, as far as I'm aware. I mean, let's take some well known names of the current day. Donald Trump. Using the same principles, he would be Domp. But does anyone ever call him that? No! Theresa May (who was the British Prime Minister when I started writing this, but no longer) would be Thay. Jeremy Corbyn would be Jeyn. Boris Johnson would be Boon but, in fact, he is (sometimes) called BoJo. I think I've already demonstrated that it's not a normal thing to do to randomly take the first two letters of a first name and the last two letters of a surname. I've never once considered calling myself Daat or been called that.
So when Iconoclast tells us that there is a 1 in 456,976 chance of 'Jack' being formed this way out of James Maybrick (a figure he reduces to 1 in 28,561 to eliminate rarely used letters) it's completely meaningless. In fact, the ability to form the very common name of 'Jack' from the letters of James Maybrick occurred the moment that Maybrick was christened. It existed when he was a baby and throughout his entire life. It pre-existed the Ripper murders, in other words. The first two letters of James Maybrick's christian name and the last two letters of his surname ALREADY formed the name 'Jack'. There is nothing statistically surprising or remarkable about this at all.
Even if there was something 'statistically surprising' in it, so what? Iconoclast tells us that: 'In statistical terms it is extremely unlikely that this event occurred by chance alone'. What 'event' is talking about? Does he mean the christening of James Maybrick? Why would it be so unlikely that you can form the name 'Jack' out of a baby's name? What is so amazing about it anyway? In any event, the whole point of a coincidence is that it defies statistical analysis, yet coincidences happen all the time, every day of the week. What significance is there in this very minor coincidence?
I mean, Iconoclast's argument is a bit like putting forward an argument that someone called 'Jack' in 1888 must have been Jack the Ripper on the basis of the coincidence between their name of Jack and the 'Jack' in Jack the Ripper. It's basically the same argument. Being called James you are already half-way there because Jack can be a shortened form of James as well as a 'shortened' form of John (or rather, to be strict, Jonathan because John and Jack have the same number of letters).
The argument is actually like another one of Iconoclast's mad arguments which he has thankfully now abandoned as a main one under its own heading (although he still can't remove it completely from his mind) regarding the coincidence between there being a Whitechapel in Liverpool and a Whitechapel in London. It seemed to fall me to me (on the Forum) to tell him that this was a pre-existing coincidence, i.e. which already existed prior to the Ripper murders, and that one can't say that every murder in Whitechapel, London, was committed by someone who lived in Whitechapel, Liverpool. I'm not sure, actually that this convinced him and I think it was only because I was able to point out to him that the exact same connection between the two Whitechapels had been made in Peter Underwood's 1987 book 'Jack the Ripper: One Hundred Years of Mystery', when referring to the suspect James Kelly (who was from Liverpool), that he could see that it wouldn't have been difficult for the forger to have connected the two Whitechapels and woven a narrative in the Diary around that. Mind you, he tells us, 'as an aside' (on page 53), that 'the hoaxer must have wondered at his remarkable run of luck when he realised that Maybrick's extended motive for choosing Whitechapel in London could be linked to his claiming to see Florence with one of her 'lovers' in Whitechapel, Liverpool'. Considering that there is no evidence that Florence ever met any lovers in Whitechapel, Liverpool, the forger seems to have been making his own 'luck' on this occasion.
But to conclude on the 'JACK' point. As far as I am aware, the Diary author doesn't even say that the reason he was calling himself 'Jack the Ripper' was because he was taking the first two letters of his first name and the last two letters of his surname. I would actually go further and say that even if Maybrick truly was Jack the Ripper, and christened himself as such, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he hadn't even noticed that 'JACK' could be derived from his name in this way. It's just such an obscure formation of a name that it's not worth considering. 'Jack' was a very common form of name for creating labels of this kind such as Jack Frost, Jack O'Lantern, Little Jack Horner and Jack the Giant Killer. Even Iconoclast admits that 'Jack' was a 'popular Victorian name for someone with a mischievous and playful character' so why he thinks it's such an important point I have no idea.
2. Another Little Clue (p.58)
A clue left by the murderer, as we have seen, is supposed to be the 'M' on the envelope found next to Chapman's body which is supposed to stand for Maybrick. But Iconoclast tells us that it goes further than this because, according to Iconoclast, 'The envelope contained not just the letter M but the letter J.' JM were Maybrick's initials!
There was, however, no 'J' on the envelope. Feldman, who is, as usual, Iconoclast's source for his information, or rather misinformation, based his information on a misread document. What Inspector Chandler said in his report of 14 September 1888 was that:
'Enquiries were made amongst the men but none could be found who corresponded with anyone living at Spitalfields, or with any person whose address commencing with '2'.'
Feldman (or rather Stephen Knight who was Feldman's source on this occasion) read the number '2' as a 'J' and, therefore, believed that the initials on the letter were J and M. The Chandler report is correctly transcribed in the Ultimate Sourcebook. Furthermore, Shirley Harrison acknowledged the error in her 2003 book when, noting that Feldman had been using a transcript prepared by Stephen Knight, said (p.125): 'But in Inspector Chandler's original report at Scotland Yard a figure 2 is written in exactly the same way as the supposed J in Stephen Knight's copy.' Harrison's book is one of Iconoclast's 'key publications' so there was really no excuse for someone writing in 2019 to make the same mistake as Feldman over 20 years ago.
Iconoclast's bombastic claim that, 'The author of the diary was right, and, if he was a forger had picked up material missed by every modern author on the subject of Jack the Ripper' is wrong. But even if there had been a 'J' on the envelope this wouldn't justify Iconoclast's claim because the author of the Diary said nothing about writing a 'J' on the envelope! It's another example of how Iconoclast has let his imagination run wild.
We may also note that Iconoclast writes: 'One thing was sure; our diarist was forcing us to reread source material that was to rewrite history'. But this is one thing that is certainly not sure! It hasn't happened. The fact that, unknown to Iconoclast, there was a number "2" on the envelope does not force us to rewrite history in any way.
As for the source of the envelope: William Stevens, a lodger at Chapman's Lodging House provided a statement on 15 September that it had been picked up by Chapman from the kitchen floor near a fireplace, prior to her murder, and that she wrapped her pills in it. According to the evidence of Inspector Chandler at Chapman's inquest (which, I think, is best reported in the Morning Advertiser of 14 September 1888):
'A piece of paper - an envelope - was found near the spot where the head had been, and this contained two pills.'
So Iconoclast is presumably asking us to believe that in the early hours of the morning, the murderer of Annie Chapman took time, while in the yard at the back of 29 Hanbury Street, in the open air, to write the letter 'M' on an envelope which contained two pills and was thus not able to lie flat. I would suggest that the letter 'M' was already on the envelope and that it had nothing to do with Maybrick but that the forger of the Diary was well aware of it from secondary sources and, noting that it was the same initial as Maybrick's surname, incorporated it into the narrative of the Diary. We may bear in mind that the letters 'F' and 'J' would have been perfectly suitable for this purpose (i.e. to mean Florence or James respectively). And then, who knows, if there had just been a 'B' on the envelope, the Diary author could have been interpreted as saying that it was a clever clue which stood for 'Battlecrease' or 'Bunny' or 'Brierley' to which Iconoclast would no doubt have said, 'What an amazing coincidence!'.
3. More crazy clues (p.59)
According to Iconoclast, the small piece of coarse muslin, small tooth-comb and pocket comb in a paper case found next to the body of Annie Chapman were clues to the identity of the murderer. How so? Well, we are told, 'Muslin is a cotton fabric of plain weave, and a weaving comb is a tool used to pack the weft firmly in place during the weave.'
You might have noticed the flaw in the theory. It wasn't a weaving comb found next to Chapman's body. It was a small tooth-comb and a pocket comb. I'm thinking that this would more likely make the killer a hairdresser or a mad barber (like Kosminski, for example, or maybe George Chapman) or perhaps a dentist, with a play on the word 'tooth'.
In any case, at no time in the Diary does the author refer to this muslin and comb as being a clue. It's something worked out by others on his behalf. Heck, the Diary's author doesn't even say he has left a clue relating to his profession or a clue relating to the cotton trade. It's all just been imposed upon the Diary by modern day writers. Yes, the Diary's author wrote, 'I have left the stupid fools a clue which I am sure they will not solve'. Well of course one has to comment that if it was the muslin and comb which was supposed to tell the police that the murderer was a cotton trader it wasn't a clue that was possible to solve. But the most important thing is that the Diary's author doesn't confide in his own journal what the clue was. Why not? One obvious answer is that the forger wanted to leave it all vague and ambiguous so that anyone could find whatever clue they wanted which pointed to Maybrick. And the most obvious one - and one which a forger could easily have known about - is the letter 'M' on the envelope. It's not that hard if you are a modern forger pretending to be Maybrick to make the connection between the 'M' on the letter and the 'M' in Maybrick's surname. The Diary doesn't say that the author has left multiple clues, just a single clue so if you take the Diary literally one cannot conclude that both the envelope and the muslin/comb are clues.
But Iconoclast goes further and says that farthings supposedly left at Chapman's feet pointed to the muslin and comb as being source of the murderer's wealth. Anyone who thinks this is ludicrously tenuous would be correct.
At least Iconoclast, in a moment of self-awareness, admits that 'it could also simply be the appearance of a Maybrick association made by a mind predetermined to find one.' Indeed.
4. Correspondence (p.60)
Iconoclast makes various points about the Ripper correspondence, and he claims that Maybrick wrote at least the 17 September 1888 'Dear Boss' letter (considered a modern fake by most Ripperologists), the 25 September 1888 'Dear Boss' letter and possibly a couple of other minor ones (e.g. the 5 October letter about the Whitehall murder and an 8 October one supposedly from Innerleithen in Scotland) but, remarkably, he says nothing about the 16 October 1888 'From hell' letter enclosing a portion of a human kidney. Did Maybrick write this one or not?
Well if, as Iconoclast believes, Maybrick wrote the 17 September letter, surely he also wrote the 16 October letter. For the 17 September letter (which no-one other than the killer and its recipient can have seen) concludes 'Catch me when you can, Jack the Ripper' while the 16 October letter concludes, 'Catch me when you can'. That surely can't be a coincidence. Further, the Diary author speaks of eating the kidney for supper while the author of the 16 October letter speaks of having eaten part of the kidney. Surely that can't be a coincidence either. So why do we have no commentary from Iconoclast about it?
It's a bit of a puzzler that Maybrick would sign at least three letters as 'Jack the Ripper' (and possibly six if you include the 1 October postcard, the 5 October letter and the 8 October letter signed 'The Ripper') but then omit to do so with the one enclosing the kidney on 16 October. It's also a puzzler that all three letters are in a different handwriting, none of which, I suggest, match the handwriting of the Diary (although we will discuss that later, for Iconoclast disagrees in respect of the 17 September letter). But if, as Iconoclast seems to believe, the 17 September letter matches the writing in the Diary why doesn't the handwriting of the 25 September letter, nor the 16 October letter?
Most important of all, why does the Maybrick Diary make no mention of the sending of the kidney to Lusk?
And, my goodness, if Maybrick wrote all those letters, it must mean he was not only in London on about 8 September to murder Chapman but also there again on 17 September to send the first Dear Boss letter, then again on 25 September to send the second Dear Boss letter, then he's there on 29/30 September to do the Double Event (and then still there on 5 October to send the Whitehall letter) then on 15 or 16 October he is in London to send the portion of the kidney (in an envelope with a E or E.C. postal district stamp).
He certainly seems to have been back in Liverpool shortly after the Chapman murder because the entry in his Diary immediately following the Chapman murder says, 'I thought of my funny little rhyme on my travel to the City of Whores' as if he was not in that city, i.e. London, at the time. He says that the part of Chapman's body that he has taken away with him is in front of him at time of writing. He intends to fry it and eat it later which suggests he has access to private cooking facilities. Then in the next entry, after having actually eaten the body part, he writes an entry saying it has taken him three days to recover. He's certainly back in Liverpool for the next entry because he not only speaks of seeing his mistress that evening (who must have been living in Liverpool) but also speaks of burning St James's to the ground 'on my next visit'. Then he comments on the Punch cartoon in the issue of 22 September which effectively dates all prior entries to before this date. Is he supposed to be travelling back and forth to London posting letters but not committing any murders during this time? We don't read about any of this in the Diary. Immediately after the Double Event, the author refers to having taken all he could away with him which he is saving for a rainy day (presumably a reference to Eddowes' kidney). There follows some draft poetry which appears to be written on the same day, and then, within the same entry, the author says that he will be wining and dining George 'Tonight' making clear he is in Liverpool. It's a shame Iconoclast doesn't provide us with some kind of chronology of Maybrick's travels between London and Liverpool so we can see how it all fits together.
The main thing I want to focus on in the rest of this section, however, is the 17 September letter (for a discussion of the finding of which see here). I really don't understand why Iconoclast says, 'The September 17 letter... has to be written by James Maybrick or else the Victorian scrapbook is a hoax'. The reason he gives for this strange statement is because the 17 September letter mentions 'ha ha' which is echoed in the Diary and inspired the 25 September letter. But that assumes that the 17 September letter was a genuine letter written on 17 September 1888. As I will demonstrate, the 17 September letter cannot possibly have been written on that date. Iconoclast does discuss the possibility that the 17 September letter was a modern hoax ('a truly miraculous hoax' as he describes it for some reason) but thinks that, if one believes the Diary is a fake, the hoaxer must have been the same person as the author of the Diary. I can't see the logic of his reasoning here. The 17 September letter appears to have no connection with the Diary. The handwriting, despite Iconoclast's attempt to claim otherwise, is different (appearing to be an attempt to mimic the look of the 'From hell' letter) and the look and the feel of the entire letter in respect of its layout and format is different to the look of the Diary.
This is the letter in colour:
This is the same letter in black and white:
And here is a typical page from the Diary:
There is no obvious reason for anyone viewing both the letter and the Diary to think they were written by the same person, despite Iconoclast’s forensic attempt to compare a few words in the letter to some in the Diary. The contents of the 17 September letter are obviously based on the 25 September, 1 October and 16 October Jack the Ripper/From hell letters, just like the Diary, but that means the hoaxer didn't need to see the Diary nor have any knowledge of it to create the hoax.
Iconoclast's theory is that the 17 September letter was sent on or about 17 September 1888 by Maybrick to the Home Office but that, as there was no public mention of it, a frustrated Maybrick addressed his next 'Dear Boss' letter to the Central News agency. He presents this theory as if it's unproblematic, and the most natural and obvious explanation in the world. It is, however, highly problematic. Every letter received and filed by the Home Office at the time (including anonymous and pseudonymous letters) was assigned a reference number and recorded in a huge register which gave a brief description of the letter and noted the name of the author (if provided) and the date received. There are three such registers for the year 1888 alone. If the 17 September letter, which was found in the Home Office file numbered A49301C (which now has the National Archives reference of HO 144/221/A49301C) had been genuinely received by the Home Office on or shortly after 17 September 1888, and placed into the file in which it was subsequently found, it would have been assigned an individual reference number, e.g. A49301C/1, which would have been written on the face of letter, and this reference number would have been recorded in the register. The letter would also have been date stamped upon receipt at the Home Office by the registry staff.
Here is an example of the first page of a properly recorded letter to the Home Office (from a Mr Thomas Blair of Dumfries) which is dated 11 November 1888, bearing a Home Office received stamp of 13 November 1888, and assigned reference A49301C/16. The reference to the register in which the letter was recorded is HO 46/93 p. 396:
Having checked the entire contents of the three Home Office registers for 1888 I can confirm that the 17 September letter is definitely not recorded in those registers as having been received and filed at the Home Office.
This doesn't rule out the possibility that the 17 September letter was an enclosure to another letter addressed to the Home Office but in that case the covering letter would have been filed and recorded in the register.
Equally problematic is that the letter was found within a folder, or sub-file, within A49301C numbered A49301C/12 relating to a issue which had nothing to do with the 17 September letter, albeit that this sub-file relates to a different (private) letter accusing someone of being Jack the Ripper which, having been misaddressed, had been opened by the Post Office and provided to the Home Office under a warrant dated 15 October 1888, before being returned to the Post Office after it was investigated by the police. This sub-file was copied onto microfilm at the Public Record Office in September 1988 but there is no sign on the microfilm of either the 17 September 1888 letter or the thin divider (sometimes referred to as a folder, but apparently not, as Iconoclast, states, an envelope) in which it was found. The letter was discovered a few months later, in late 1988, by a researcher in the hard copy file (see this short article on the subject here, to repeat a link already provided above).
Even more problematic is the fact that the Home Office file numbered A49301C wasn't opened until 25 September 1888 at the earliest. The first document in that file is a letter from Mr Harris, the secretary of the Mile End Vigilance Committee, to the Home Office dated 24 September 1888. It was originally allocated to the main file and assigned the number A49301/9 but then the 'C' file was opened and it became the first document in that file and was re-numbered A49301C/1. The folder, or sub-file, in which the 17 September letter was found, numbered A49301C/12, was opened on 15 October 1888.
The 17 September letter, therefore, is somewhere it should not be, at a date location which doesn't match the date of the letter, and there is no satisfactory explanation as to how it got there.
What is certain is that the letter was not intended to be placed on any Home Office file (let alone on A49301C) and its appearance in such a file was not the result of a deliberate action by any authorized Home Office official. Consequently the letter was either in the file by mistake (because it had somehow become stuck inside some cardboard that was subsequently used as a divider) - and it is unknown in what year and by whom the divider was inserted into the file - or it was deliberately placed there by someone who was not authorized to do so.
I should state that the fact that the letter is not recorded in the register, and was thus not assigned a reference number, and was not date stamped is not, by itself, conclusive that it wasn't received by the Home Office in 1888. Personal, secret and private & confidential correspondence received at the Home Office did not get logged in the register and was not placed onto official files (unless sent back down to the registry by the recipient with a request that it should be made official and thus filed). Such correspondence also wouldn't necessarily be date stamped. Obscene and threatening letters addressed to the Home Secretary would also not be stamped or logged and would not be forwarded to the Home Secretary (or his private secretary) but sent to an official in the criminal division of the Home Office to deal with.
There is no other example of a 'Jack the Ripper' type letter on the Home Office files so we can't be sure that such a letter would have been filed. As mentioned above, anonymous letters or letters signed with a pseudonyms were placed on the Ripper file but these would be letters offering suggestions on how to catch the murderer and such like. As far as I am aware, there is only one other known 'Jack the Ripper' letter (in the form of a postcard) which was addressed to the Home Office. This was a postcard addressed to Henry Matthews at the Home Office which is postmarked 31 October 1888 and which said:
Dear Old Boss,
I daresay you are in a bit of a fix not being able to catch me, shall take a rest for some time yet and then commence work again it is no good you're trying to catch me because it won't do
Jack the Ripper
This is the front of the postcard:
This is the reverse:
There is no Home Office stamp on this postcard, nor any reference number and it is not recorded in the Home Office register. The stamp on the front of the post card, with the crown, says 'Public Record Office' and was thus stamped when received and collated by the PRO.
The postcard was not found on any Home Office file. It is in MEPO 3/142 which is the Metropolitan Police collection of Ripper correspondence. One can only assume that it was received at the Home Office and immediately handed over to Scotland Yard.
This throws into sharp relief the fact that the 17 September letter wasn't found on a Metropolitan Police file, where one would have expected it to be if it had been addressed to the Home Office. It was in a Home Office file where it most certainly should not have been. I must repeat that this letter, if addressed to the Home Office, could not have been filed on a Home Office file in the normal course for the reason I have given.
Let me just repeat (and rephrase) that reason for the sake of clarity:
A description of every single sub-file within A49301C (and indeed all the other A49301 files) is recorded in the massive Home Office registers. Every document within every numbered sub-file relates to the description of the correspondingly numbered sub-file entry recorded in the registers, i.e. the sub-files do not contain irrelevant material. Every sub-file only relates to a single subject or issue, and often comprises just a single item of correspondence. Consequently, if the letter of 17 September had been officially placed into a sub-file within A49301C there would either be a record of that letter found in the registers or, at an absolute minimum (to the extent that the letter was an enclosure to another letter), the sub-file description would provide some kind of explanation or clue as to why that letter had been filed in A49301C. As there is no such record in the Home Office registers, the 17 September letter cannot possibly have been placed into A49301C by any authorized person in the Home Office. That is not even to mention the fact that the file numbered A49301C didn't actually exist until some time after the date of 17 September, certainly not before 25 September and almost certainly not until 9 October (at which time some sub-files were transferred from the main file numbered A49301 to A49301C).
Consequently, the 17 September 1888 letter should not have been found in a Home Office file in 1988. To the extent that the letter is not a modern forgery and was received in 1888 then there was clearly an administrative error. But such error is, in my view, most likely to have occurred at the Public Record Office which might well have muddled up a letter which was in a Metropolitan Police file and accidentally transferred it to a Home Office file (because it was stuck unseen in some form of cardboard 'divider'). That is taking a generous view that the letter is not a forgery.
Anyone who believes that the 17 September letter is a genuine letter from the murderer must also believe that the 25 September letter, the 1 October postcard and the 16 October 'From hell' letter are also genuine letters from the murderer. Anyone who believes that both the 17 September letter and the Diary are genuine must, therefore, also believe that all the aforementioned correspondence was written by James Maybrick. Although this will be obvious to the informed reader, let me just spend a few moments setting out the reasons for it.
The 17 September letter says ‘it gives me fits ha ha’. This anticipates the 25 September letter which says, 'That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits’ and the use of ‘ha ha’ (twice) in that letter. The 17 September letter also says, ‘I shant stop untill I get buckled’ which anticipates the 25 September letter which says, ‘I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled’. There is also the 17 September letter saying, ‘So now they say I am a Yid’, somewhat anticipating the 25 September letter, albeit with a different profession, which says‘They say I’m a doctor now’. Not to mention that both letters begin ‘Dear Boss’ and are signed ‘Jack the Ripper’. As the 17 September letter was unpublished, it can’t have influenced a later author. So the author of the two letters, if genuinely written when they were supposed to have been written in 1888, must be the same person.
The 17 September letter also anticipates the 1 October postcard by saying ‘watch out for your old pal Jacky’. For the author of the 1 October postcard refers to himself as ‘saucy Jacky’. This can’t be a coincidence. Yet the author of the 1 October postcard says ‘thanks for keeping the last letter back’. A little odd bearing in mind that he should have been speaking of his last two letters having been kept back.
Regarding the 25 September letter, the Diary author says, early on in the Diary, 'I have not allowed for the red stuff', anticipating the 25 September letter in which the writer says, ‘I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle…’. There are 'ha ha's' throughout the Diary which also appear in the 25 September letter. The Diary author also refers to his 'funny little games', an expression identical to one found in the 25 September letter. There is mention in the Diary of sending another letter to the Central News ('Before my next will send Central another to remember me by') and, after the Double Event, following the publication of the Jack the Ripper correspondence, the Diary author says, 'I wonder if they have enjoyed the name I have given'. So there can be no doubt that the 25 September letter and the Diary are inextricably linked to the extent that if they are both genuine they must both have been written by the same person (i.e Maybrick).
Then, as we’ve seen, both the 17 September letter and the 16 October 'From hell' letters conclude ‘Catch me if you can’. So from Iconoclast’s perspective Maybrick must have written them all.
Let's now look closer at the 17 September letter. In an appendix to his essay, Iconoclast includes a table which provides a comparison of six words in this letter with their equivalents in the diary. This was prepared in 2012 by a Casebook Forum poster called Tempus Omnia Revelat who wanted to demonstrate that the handwriting is identical. The problem is that the handwriting in the Diary (as I have pointed out in the past) is rather variable throughout. So with the word 'love' for example, four examples of this word from the Diary are provided for comparison, none of which are identical on their own to the way it is written in the 17 September letter. But if you take the closest example of the “l” from one example, the best “o” from another, the closest “v” from another and the nearest “e” from another then you could probably form a version of the word that looks similar to the one on the letter. The same for the other words selected in the comparison exercise, namely 'blood', 'never', 'time' ,'about' and 'look'. Hence three or four examples of each word from the Diary are provided for comparison (with the exception of 'about' for which one comparison is provided which does not, in fact, look at all similar). But the problem is that all these words seem to be written in a fairly standard Victorian style hand (or at least an attempt to produce such a style) and, therefore, while there are similarities, it is hard to conclude that they are identical.
But what’s remarkable about the selection is what is not compared. Both the Diary and the letter are signed “Jack the Ripper”. So you’d think the person who compiled the table would have wanted to compare that wouldn’t you? But he doesn’t. It’s not surprising because they look different.
Given that the person who compiled the table spent time finding examples of six words in the Diary which also appear in the letter, he must have known that the word 'find' which is in the letter, appears in the Diary on five occasions, (pages 3, 26, 39, 45 and 60). But no comparison is provided. This is not very surprising because none of the examples of the word 'find' in the Diary look remotely like the way that same word is written in the letter. What is so disappointing about Iconoclast’s approach is that, while reproducing the table, thus giving it his seal of approval, he doesn’t acknowledge this. So he either hasn't bothered to independently check the table or he has and he thinks we wouldn’t notice. But if you want to put forward a credible argument, you have to acknowledge the weak points and meet them head on. Not bury your head in the sand, or pillar of sand.
Handwriting comparisons, in any case, need to be made by professionals with the original documents. The best that Iconoclast could ever hope to achieve is a consensus that the 17 September letter could have been written by the same person who wrote the diary. But that could be true of many other people too.
There is more.
The spelling of the author of the September 17 letter certainly doesn’t match that of the Diary. The letter writer spells 'and' as 'an', 'learn' as 'lern', 'right' as 'rite' and 'until' as 'untill', 'necklace' as 'neklace'. The Diary author spells the words 'right' and 'until' (as well as'and') correctly on multiple occasions. One could argue that the spelling mistakes in the letter are deliberate but then why do we not find similar deliberate errors in the 'Dear Boss' letter of 25 September?
The writer of the 17 September letter writes “So now they say I am a Yid” whereas the author of the diary does not use the word “Yid” but says “If they are to insist I am a Jew then a Jew I shall be. Why not let the Jews suffer?” Strange to have a different word used for the same thing; a word which, in the 17 September letter, seems to anticipate the rhyme that Macnaghten recalled reading:‘I’m not a butcher, I’m not a Yid’. The word Yid is a rather derogatory way for a non-Jew to refer to a Jew yet the Maybrick of the Diary never uses it in his private Diary writing despite supposedly expressing himself this way in a letter which Inconoclast thinks was sent to the Home Office and despite one of his rhymes saying that Sir Jim ‘detests all the Jews’.
There are also some problems of dating here. The writer of the 17 September letter writes, “So now they say I am a Yid”. In the Diary, the author notes that it is being speculated that he is 'a Doctor, a slaughterman and a Jew' and says,'if they are to insist I am a Jew then a Jew I shall be. Why not let the Jews suffer?' The comment about 'a Jew I shall be' in the Diary, which is also followed by a poem about 'The Jews and the Doctors' and 'Jews and slaughtermen' , comes in the same paragraph in which the Diary author writes that he has seen the cartoon in Punch which says “Turn round three times, And catch who you MAY”. That edition of Punch was dated (Saturday) 22 September 1888. Punch was then a weekly magazine which was on sale from the Wednesday before its publication date (i.e. from 19 September) and thus would not have been available as early as the Monday of that week (i.e. 17th September). Consequently the Diary author can't have written his comment about being a Jew (within a paragraph responding to the Punch cartoon) any earlier than 19 September 1888. So the chronology of events we are supposed to believe is that Maybrick wrote (and presumably posted) a letter on 17 September 1888 commenting ,“So now they say I am a Yid” and then, a few days later, without commenting in his Diary that he has written a letter to anyone, writes, “I had to laugh, they have me down as left-handed, a Doctor, a slaughterman and a Jew”. He then goes on to write a poem involving the Jews and Slaughtermen and Jews and Doctors. There are two strange things here. Firstly, as I've already mentioned, that he supposedly switches expression from“Yid” (which is not used at all in the diary) to “Jew”. Secondly, that having told the “Boss”, in effect, that he is not a “Yid”, he then writes in his Diary that, as they are insisting he is a Jew, he is going to be one. That doesn’t make much sense.
But it gets worse. Much worse. The 17 September letter can be demonstrated to be inauthentic (to the extent of it having been a letter written on that date) due to its content. For the author of the 17 September letter wrote 'Lusk can look forever he’ll never find me.' This is an all but impossible statement for a letter written to almost anyone on 17 September 1888 to have included.
As of 17 September 1888, George Lusk was not a well known person. On the contrary, he was almost totally unknown and obscure. In fact, any mention of a 'Lusk' in a letter sent on this date to anyone unconnected with the newly formed Vigilance Committee would surely have been understood by its recipient to have been a reference Alderman Sir Andrew Lusk, a City of London magistrate.
The St James's Gazette of Monday, 11 September 1888, reported that:
'A meeting of the chief local tradesmen in Whitechapel was held yesterday at which an influential committee was appointed, consisting of sixteen well-known gentlemen, with J. Aarons as the secretary. '
It was stated that the local tradesmen had issued a notice stating that they intended to give a substantial but unspecified reward for the capture of the murder or murderers, or for information leading to their capture. That notice, which was posted up on shop windows in the area, stated that 'the undersigned' intended to offer this reward and that:
'A Committee of Gentlemen has already been formed to carry out the above object, and will meet every evening at nine o'clock, at Mr. J. Aarons', the "Crown", 74, Mile End Road, corner of Jubilee-street, and will be pleased to receive the assistance of the residents of the District.'
While Lusk was one of the undersigned, so were fifteen other committee members. It's true that Lusk was stated to be the president of the committee on the notice, and was the first person listed, but his name was not otherwise given any prominence and it was only the name of Joseph Aarons, a pub owner, that actually featured in the main body of notice.
The Times of 12 September 1888 reported as follows:
'A number of tradesmen in the neighbourhood in which the murder was committed have organized a vigilance committee, and yesterday morning the following notice was published….The names of a large number of tradesmen are appended to the notices.'
There was no mention of Lusk in the national newspapers which reported on the existence of this committee. On the Sunday, he had been elected president and chairman of the committee but this fact doesn't appear to have been reported in the national press. It was, however, mentioned on the aforementioned notice posted in the shop windows, which notice was reproduced in the East London Observer of 15 September 1888, but, as stated, Lusk's name was not prominent on that notice:
The Vigilance Committee held a meeting on Saturday, 15 September, which was reported in the press the following day, and the press reports mentioned that Lusk was president and chairman, but here’s the thing - he wasn’t present at that meeting. At this meeting, Joseph Aarons was in the chair and it was Aarons who had been reported that day as organizing the meeting.
While Lusk’s name appears in Reynold’s Newspaper of 16 September as being the absent chairman (and of contributing £5 to the fund along with the same sum received from Mr Spencer Charrington as well as from Aarons himself), this bare passing mention clearly wasn’t going to prompt the killer the next day to say that Lusk was going to look for him forever. He hadn’t started doing anything yet!
On the other hand, the local MP Samuel Montagu had already offered a reward of £100 for the capture of the murderer while the St Jude's Vigilance Association had been in existence and patrolling the streets for about four weeks as reported in the national press on 12 September.
Following the meeting on Saturday 15 September, the newly formed Vigilance Committee wrote a private letter (not mentioned in the press at the time) to the Home Secretary which was despatched on the Sunday. But it wasn't signed by Lusk, it was signed by Mr B. Harris, the committee's secretary. In the letter, Harris said that at the committee meeting on the previous day, 'It was resolved to approach you upon the subject of the reward we are about to issue...' demonstrating that still no reward had yet been offered to the public by the committee. The Home Secretary replied to Mr Harris on Monday, 17 September, but, again, this wasn't mentioned in the press at the time and Lusk's name wasn't mentioned in the letter.
While there were a few newspaper mentions of Lusk in connection with meetings of the Vigilance Committee after 17 September but prior to the Double Event, especially in respect of the offer of a reward of £50 for information leading to the capture of the murderer, which was announced on 20 September, the fact of the matter is that Lusk only really became famous after the Double Event. On 1 October, it was widely reported that Lusk and Aarons had dramatically petitioned the Queen a couple of days earlier, pressing for a reward for the capture of the murderer. On the same day, the Telegraph carried a story headlined 'CITIZENS AS DETECTIVES' in which Lusk was mentioned and it was stated that the Vigilance Committee had gathered information which may be useful to the police. This gave the impression that Lusk himself was hunting for the murderer. On 3 October, the Telegraph commented that the Vigilance Committee ‘under the presidency of George Lusk, continues to meet daily…’. Following all this sudden fame, on 4 October, a strange man was reported to have called at Lusk’s home looking for him and then traced him to a tavern before behaving strangely and then disappearing. Lusk was then back in the papers on 8 October after his petition was answered by the Home Secretary. Lusk was then reported to have received a letter signed 'Jack the Ripper' on 12 October 1888, with a Kilburn postmark; one mimicking the 25 September letter. That letter said:
'I write you a letter in black ink, as I have no more of the right stuff, I think you are all asleep in Scotland-yard with your bloodhounds, as I will show you to-morrow night (Saturday). I am going to do a double event, but not in Whitechapel. Got rather too warm there. Had to shift. No more till you hear of me again.'
This was reported in the Times of 15 October and made Lusk even more famous. Then, on that same day, a man dressed in a clerical costume entered a leather shop which displayed in its window a Vigilance Committee 'reward bill' on which Lusk was described as the president of the committee, and asked for Lusk's address. For the avoidance of doubt, this reward bill could not have been the notice posted up in shop windows on 11 September because that one had not offered a reward, only stating an intention for a reward to be offered. It will instead have been one of the bills referred by the Evening News on 20 September as follows:
'Mr Aarons, the treasurer, announced that he had a tolerably large sum in hand, and he moved that bills should be distributed and advertisements sent to the papers offering the preliminary reward of £50, which will be increased as the funds come in.'
That reward was said on 30 September to be in the process of being increased to £300. It would have been these bills, offering an actual reward, to which the attention of the mysterious 'cleric' had been drawn,not the notice posted on 11 September.
Shortly after the suspicious 'cleric' had asked for Lusk's address, the owner of an extracted human kidney decided to send that kidney to Lusk in a parcel along with a covering 'From hell' letter which was received by Lusk at 8pm on 16 October.
So we can see that the letter of 17 September cannot realistically be genuine. No way would a writer of such a letter on that date have written ‘Lusk can look forever he’ll never find me’. It’s totally anachronistic and would not have been understood by the recipient (unless that recipient had been Joseph Aarons - but if it had been sent to Aarons it wouldn't have made any sense because it's not like Aarons was 'the Boss' who had deputed Lusk to search for the killer). No-one even considered Lusk as a player at this stage let alone regarded him as looking for the murderer. The letter might have been sent on 17 October 1888 - that's quite possible - but there is no way it went out on 17 September 1888.
If it was a misdated letter, it wouldn't be the only one that was sent to the authorities. This 'D[ea]r Boss' letter, for example, is dated 16 January 1888:
We really don't need the Metropolitan Police received stamp to tell us that the date of this letter is impossible. We know it can't possibly have been sent in January 1888 and we can easily appreciate that the writer hadn't adjusted to the new year (of 1889). To assume that the writer of the 17 September letter can't possibly have drafted that letter in October while thinking he was still in September would be a mistake.
One can't, therefore, entirely rule out the possibility that the letter was written on 17 October 1888, in which case the likelihood is that the author of that letter simply copied expressions from earlier Ripper letters of which he was not the author. This would explain why it wasn't regarded as one of the main Ripper letters in an 1896 report by Chief Inspector Moore summarizing previous Ripper correspondence.
At the same time, the circumstances of the letter's discovery, its absence from the Home Office register (along with the absence of any covering letter forwarding it to the Home Office), and the fact that it was found in a file where it should not be, create serious questions about its authenticity. The fact of the matter is that if that letter had been sent to any civilian (including Joseph Aarons) in either September or October 1888, and had then been provided to the authorities, it would have been given to the Metropolitan Police not the Home Office. So there is no obvious reason why it would have ended up in a Home Office file. Likewise, if it had been sent to any government official, including one at the Home Office, it would not have been filed in a Home Office file in which no other Ripper letters were filed and which (at the sub-file level) related to another issue.
In any case, that letter has no obvious connection with the Diary and does not need to have been faked by the author of the Diary. If it was faked by the same person who faked the Diary, the purpose of the forgery eludes me because there is nothing in the content of the letter which can only be found in the Diary. The expressions in the letter which are also in the Diary are also found in other publicly available correspondence said to have been from the murderer. If it is a forgery, no attempt seems to me to have been made by the forger to match the handwriting of the letter to that of the Diary (which, in 1988, probably hadn't been written yet) and it requires a forensic comparison of a few words to even make the case that there is a similarity. But if it were to turn out, remarkably, that the handwriting on the letter matches the handwriting of the Diary then it would almost certainly mean no more than that the forger was capable of visiting the Public Records Office and of inserting a fake letter into the files held there.
4A. Poetry (p.61)
Iconoclast evidently thinks that Maybrick was the author of a short poem recalled by former Scotland Yard detective Edwin T. Woodhall in his 1937 book about the Ripper case which was supposedly sent by postcard to 'some Press head office' soon after 9 September 1888 which began 'I'm not an alien maniac...' and concluded 'Yours truly - Jack the Ripper'. He thinks this is the 'funny little rhyme' referred to in the Diary. Thing is, Woodhall was only three years' old in 1888 (see footnote here) so he wasn't writing from a memory of something he had seen at the time and, as no image of the postcard was reproduced in his book, it's baffling as to how he could have known of its existence, if such a postcard actually existed, which it certainly did not.
Woodhall's book is replete with errors and imaginary 'facts' and cannot be relied on for anything. For example, he tells us that, before her death, Annie Chapman 'had complained about the insults she had received from a certain foreigner called "Leather Apron" a Russian Jew by the name of Bizer'. And that's not my typo. It's not the typo I'm referring to here though; it's the fact of Chapman having (not) complained of ever having been insulted by Leather Apron. Some of Woodhall's fiction is even contradicted by himself within the space of two pages. Thus, he spends an entire paragraph describing a tall man seen near Bucks Row at 3.15am on 31 August 1888 by an unnamed constable from H Division who found Nichols' body (thus, presumably, PC Neil, albeit of J Division), who, according to the constable, says Woodhall, 'appeared very white-faced with dark eyes and moustache...judging by his build and the swift energetic way he moved - not an old man....he wore a rather fashionable tweed cloth cap pulled well down over his eyes as well as a dark muffler, round which his jacket was turned up'. Woodhall tells us that, 'there is no doubt that the mysterious, swift-moving man with his coat-collar turned up and cap pulled well down over his eyes was the "Ripper"'. Yet, not two pages later, the same Woodhall tells us that 'When Mary Ann Nicholls (sic) the poor "creature of the streets" of East End London went to her death - not a human soul saw her, or the murderer who lured her into her death.' So, crikey, the constable didn't see the Ripper after all!
Woodhall also claims that the same constable from H Division who found the body of Nichols had cautioned Nichols earlier that evening and had 'pointed out the risk she ran alone and unaided, if by chance she were suddenly attacked.' He also supposedly told her that if he saw her again on his beat she would arrested under the Vagrancy Act and, says Woodhall, Nichols thanked him and promised to go home.From this it should be obvious that Woodhall was not averse to simply making stuff up. Let's now have a look at exactly what he said about the Ripper poem:
'It is from this time, soon after September the ninth, that these crimes came to be known as the work of the one named "Jack the Ripper," due once more to the influence of the Press in giving this sinister title extensive publicity. During the brief interval between his fourth and fifth murders anonymous communications began to trickle in to some sections of the Press and police. Many, of course, were useless and simply the work of idle and stupid people. But one particular postcard, written in red ink and received by some Press head office was promptly seized on and at once widely requoted by other sensational sections of the Press as the man the police were looking for high and low. The postcard in question was a threat and written in grim poetic fashion, as follows:
"I'm not an alien maniac
Nor yet a foreign tripper
I'm just your jolly, lively friend
Yours truly - 'Jack the Ripper.''
It should be perfectly obvious that Woodhall has got confused here. As a matter of established fact, the crimes did not become known as the work of Jack the Ripper 'soon' after ninth of September. And it should be noted that when Woodhall refers to the ninth of September it is because he was under the impression that Chapman was murdered on 9th September. Hence:
And that was not a one-off error because it also features at the front of the book:
Not sure who 'Marie J. Taylor' was but it's not even the worst error in the book which may be found in the introduction which tells us that the book was written by Woodhall in Buckinghamshire some 51 years before the murders were even committed:
Anyway, it's obvious that when Woodhall refers to the crimes having been known as being the work of Jack the Ripper soon after 9 September, he means no more than that this happened soon after the murder of Ann Chapman (which, of course, was wrong). The date he provides has nothing to do with the receipt or date of any letter from the killer. And indeed he contradicts himself in the same paragraph because he goes on to say that the Ripper correspondence began to trickle in during the brief interval between the fourth and fifth murders which, itself, is nonsensical bearing in mind he is speaking of the murders of Stride and Eddowes.
It should be perfectly obvious to anyone that when Woodhall refers to the Jack the Ripper letter/poem, written in red ink, he is really thinking of the Dear Boss letter (and postcard) of which he didn't have the text to hand so he just made it up, no doubt based on the 'I'm not a butcher' poem referred to by Macnaghten in his 1914 book (and Macnaghten's memoir is expressly mentioned, with approval, by Woodhall in his own 1937 book).
The idea that we can rely on the poem in Woodhall's book as being a genuine one actually received prior to the Double Event, or at any time in 1888, is laughable.
But even if Woodhall could be relied on, it's puzzling why Maybrick didn't work on the 'alien maniac' poem in the Diary bearing in mind that he seems to have used his scrapbook to draft, amend and rewrite other poems. Furthermore, the comment about the 'funny little rhyme' occurs in the Diary immediately after a funny little rhyme, i.e. 'One dirty whore was looking for some gain/Another dirty whore was looking for the same'. Then the Diary author writes 'Am I not clever? I thought of my funny little rhyme on my travel to the City of Whores'. This rather suggests that he was referring to the rhyme on the line above, within the Diary. If he was referring to a rhyme he had written on a postcard and sent off to a press office it's very odd that he didn't say so.
Then we have the second short poem, as referred to by Macnaghten in his 1914 memoir, similarly structured to the later Woodhall one, which begins 'I'm not a butcher, I'm not a Yid'. Again, this is believed by Iconoclast to have been composed and sent off by Maybrick. No date is provided for the letter in which this poem was supposed to be contained and, if it was sent to the police after Macnaghten joined the force in June 1889 (which seems to be the case because Mac says in his memoir that it was one of the first documents he read from a bulging police postbag, due to a large amount of anonymous communications being received 'at that time'), it's obviously got nothing to do with Maybrick who was then dead. Again, it's strange that this poem does not feature in the Diary bearing in mind that the Diary author likes to refine his poetry in the scrapbook, and the choice of the word 'Yid' instead of 'Jew' (despite 'Yid' not being used to rhyme with anything) is strange. The Diary author refers to his funny little rhymes throughout the Diary but there is nothing to link such comments to any particular rhyme and it's very difficult to see how this particular poem is connected with anything in the Diary.
4B. As Time Will Show (p.63)
Iconoclast thinks there was another Jack the Ripper letter written by Maybrick which contained another rhyme, not, for some reason, drafted by Maybrick in his scrapbook, which held a clue to Maybrick's identity. This is a letter, the original of which has never been seen, for which we don't know the date, but it includes the line, 'But you should know as time will show/That I'm society's pillar', thus giving us the title of Iconoclast's essay. The link to Maybrick is the line 'as time will show' which is similar but not identical to the Maybrick family motto of 'Tempus Omnia Revelat' which can be translated as 'Time Reveals All'.
As I mentioned earlier, if you comb through all the supposed Ripper letters and rhymes in existence (either real or imagined by later writers) you are bound to find something you can link to a particular suspect. But surely Iconoclast goes too far when he says that 'the reference to 'society's pillar' provides a rather neat play on the final syllable of his name - brick - a literary device which the James Maybrick (as portrayed in the Victorian scrapbook) frequently delights in'. A pillar isn't necessarily, or even primarily, associated with brick. A pillar can be made out of stone, wood or metal as well as brick. So there is no real play on words or syllables here, especially not a 'neat' one. It's just tenuous.
5. Back from the dead (p.65)
I've already demonstrated that the September 17 1888 letter could not have been written on that date and must therefore be either a fake or a misdated letter. Rather hopefully, Iconoclast draws attention to the bit of that letter which, according to him, says 'I shant stop until I get buckled and even then watch out for your old pal Jacky' , concluding that the author's reference to 'watch' is to the watch at the back of which he has already engraved the initials of his, so far, two victims. He points out that the author of the letter is saying that he won't stop until he is dead (i.e. buckled) but even then, despite his death, watch out! So that strange suggestion (i.e. that the reader needs to watch out even after the Ripper is dead) leads him to think about the watch. But there is an alternative reading of those words which is that Saucy Jacky is saying that if he gets caught and hung, his ghost will come back and haunt the police. However, that's not even the actual explanation because Iconoclast's interpretation of the text (albeit that he follows Feldman and Casebook) would appear to be incorrect. The letter undoubtedly says, 'I shant stop untill I get buckled and only then...'.
That's 'only', not 'even'.
6. Work in the Minories (p.68)
Iconoclast claims that there is a letter 'dated September 29' which refers to the author being at work in the Minories on 1st and 2nd inst. He assumes that this means 29th September 1888.
Leaving aside the absence of any year stated in the letter, Iconoclast makes the common mistake that this letter was dated 29th September. It was not dated 29 September. This is a false assumption. No month is mentioned in the earliest transcription of the letter. It mentions neither September nor October, nor any month of the year.
No-one has ever seen the original or a copy of the letter in question, which was first mentioned (and 'transcribed', possibly from memory) in a 1927 book by journalist J. Hall Richardson. But according to Hall Richardson the letter was headed and dated “Liverpool. 29th inst.” That could be the 29th January (of any year) or October or any other month with 29 days in.
The author of the letter then says he will be at work at Minories 'on the 1st and 2nd Inst.' which, of course, makes no sense in a letter supposedly dated 29th inst (so it must have been 'prox.', if the letter was real). There were no Ripper murders on the 1st or 2nd of a month but, presumably, due to the Double Event having been in the early hours of 30 September, it has evidently been assumed that this letter was written a day in advance of the Double Event. But there is no warrant for this assumption. When the text of letter was reproduced by McCormick in his book 'The Identity of Jack the Ripper' some 32 years later, the part of the letter saying 'Liverpool, 29th inst' was omitted and, instead, McCormick stated, 'On 29th September this assiduous scribe wrote from Liverpool', thus confusing everyone in the future.
If the letter ever existed, it could have been written on 29th December 1888 or 29th January 1889 or 29th September 1889 any other month and year frankly. And, if Hall Richardson was going from memory it could potentially have been any other day of the month.
There is no good reason to make such an assumption that the letter was dated 29 September 1888. As the letter was signed ‘Jack the Ripper’, the strong probability is that it was written after 1 October 1888 when the name ‘Jack the Ripper’ entered the public arena, if it ever existed and was not a figment of Hall Richardson's imagination.
7. Eddowes clues (p.70)
According to the Times of 1 October 1888, a number of small items were found in Eddowes' possession after her murder as follows:
'There were also found upon her a piece of string, a common white handkerchief with a red border, a match box with cotton in it, a white linen pocket containing a white bone handle table knife, very blunt (with no blood on it), two short clay pipes, a red cigarette case with white metal fittings, a printed handbill with the name "Frank Cater, 405, Bethnal-green-road," upon it, a check pocket containing five pieces of soap, a small tin box containing tea and sugar, a portion of a pair of spectacles, a three-cornered check handkerchief, and a large white linen pocket containing a small comb, a red mitten, and a ball of worsted.'
If you are looking for cotton then, bingo!, there was some in a matchbox amongst all those items. That must be Maybrick, the cotton merchant, right? Er, well no more than that the killer was a tea merchant, a sugar merchant, a metal worker, a soap seller, a spectacle maker, a linen seller, a tin miner, a hairdresser, a clay worker etc. etc.
Dr Brown also reported that a thimble was lying off one of Eddowes's fingers and some buttons were found in blood. Iconoclast thinks that these are also clues left by Maybrick which point to a cotton merchant for some reason.
Not mentioned by Iconoclast is that Maybrick must also have left some clues on Stride's body because found on her was this (according to the Times of 1 October):
A thimble! But that wasn't all. Because according to the evidence of Dr Phillips at the inquest:
'In the pocket of the woman's dress were discovered two pocket-handkerchiefs, a brass thimble, and a skein of black darning worsted.'
'I found in the pocket of the underskirt of the deceased the following articles - a key as if belonging to a padlock, a small piece of lead pencil. a pocket comb, a broken piece of comb, a metal spoon, some buttons, and a hook'.
My goodness. Combs!!! And a spoon! And buttons!!! It cracks the case wide open.
I think I will just adopt Iconoclast's words regarding the cotton, thimble and farthings found near Eddowes' body that this,'is a weaker coincidence than others and may indeed be perfectly plausibly explained by the outcome of a struggle and the subsequent attack on Eddowes' dead body.'
8. Eddowes face (p.71)
Iconoclast tells us that there was a '1 in 26' chance that the killer would leave two inverted V's on the face of Eddowes which, when placed together, 'would form a plausible letter M. Except it’s not a ‘1 in 26 chance’ at all. Even if you start with the dubious assumption that the two marks on either side of Eddowes’ face represent a letter, it could be a W. That brings it down to 1 in 25. They could also be two Vs. Which, I think, brings it down to 1 in 24. An inverted V also could be an 'A' (as demonstrated by the best band from the 1980s) so that's 1 in 23.
Maybrick also had a first name being 'James' so he would have had a 2 in 23 chance (or 1 in 11.5 chance) of one of his initials matching a letter carved on Eddowes' face (assuming it was supposed to be a letter, or two letters). The inverted 'V's could also be viewed as triangles or arrows. Once again the author of the Diary is vague about what he has actually done. He says he left his 'mark' but it's not clear from the Diary what it is supposed to be. Why didn't he write it down in his own private journal?
9. Graffitio (p.71)
On occasion, Iconoclast crosses the line of reality and waltzes off into the land of the fairies. No more so than with his interpretation of the writing on the wall. I'm sure no-one needs any reminding of what it said, according to Warren's note:
Now, do you see the names James, William, Michael, Thomas and Edwin (and Florence) in there? Nope? Thought not. I don't either. But according to Iconoclast they are all in those eleven words. More than this, we are told, we 'cannot in all seriousness deny' the notion that those names are to be found in the writing, 'for it is self-evident that these six names and initials can be discerned without any great effort'. He doesn't seem to be joking when he says this. But I do, in all seriousness, deny that those names are to be found in that piece of graffiti.
Apparently 'Juwes' is 'James' and I do not deny that both words begin with a 'J', end with 'es' and have five letters. But the statement 'The James are the Men that Will Not be Blamed for nothing' makes even less sense than the original version. Had it been 'Juwes will not be blamed for nothing' then at least replacing 'Juwes' with 'James' would mean that the new version would make some kind of sense.
It's also true, and I do not deny, that Will is short for William and so William, or Will, is the one name that can truly be found in that sentence. That should be enough but apparently if you take the 'lam' from the word 'Blamed' and add it to the end of Will you get, er, 'Willlam'. Well let's just call that annoying third 'l' an 'i' and hey presto it becomes William. But we get two for the price of one because, with Michael, his initials (but not his name) are supposed to be found in the formation of the word 'Will' with both the 'W' and the 'ill' looking like the letter 'M', at least in the way that Sir Charles Warren transcribed it. Oh I forget to mention that you have to turn it upside down to see it. Probably not easy for anyone viewing the original writing on the wall.
But where is Thomas? Well, apparently 'The men' needs to be changed to Thomas although that tricky space means it can only be 'Tho mas'. Iconoclast doesn't, I think, claim that the writer has actually written the words 'Tho mas' only that 'The men' has six letters beginning 'Th'. I guess the fact that the 'T' in 'The' is capitalized is supposed to indicate that this is a name and if you replace three of the letters then hey, yes, you can make the name Thomas.
So far so problematic but it's on Edwin that the theory surely falls over. Perhaps showing at least a hint of embarrassment, Iconoclast doesn't actually explain in his main essay how Edwin can be found in the writing on the wall and one needs to drop down to an appendix to discover that 'for nothing' in the graffitio means 4-0. Got it? No. Okay, you're a bit slow. For 4-0 means 'win'. And the last syllable of Edwin's name is 'win'. Right, you may be saying, gotcha, but wouldn't that be a more appropriate clue for the name Wynne, as in Wynne Baxter? Don't complicate matters. But it's true that this clue doesn't explain the 'Ed' part of the surname. Surely you need a clue saying 'Head win' or something like that (or even headwind?). And 4-0. Well that could also be read as 'four nil' or 'for Neil' couldn't it? Quick, did Maybrick know anyone called Neil?
I'm sure you want to know where Florence comes into it. Well, like Michael, she only manages to get her initials into the frame. The F and M is hidden in the capital B (at least in the way Sir Charles has written it). Thing is, this depends entirely on the way the 'B' is formed. As Iconoclast himself says, 'Accepting that it [i.e. Warren's reproduction] is a true duplicate of the words as they were written on the wall is critical to the argument that the author was James Maybrick.' But it's a little known fact - and clearly Iconoclast is unaware of it - that there are two versions in existence of the writing of the wall as written out personally by Sir Charles Warren. One of them was provided on a piece of paper to the Home Office on 6 November 1888, being found in the National Archives HO 144/221/A498301C (and this is the one Iconoclast relies on, being the one reproduced above) but Sir Charles had already privately (and unofficially) provided a copy of the writing to Godfrey Lushington at the Home Office on 11 October 1888 and he retained his own copy of this, in his own handwriting, in his private letter book (MEPO 1/48) as below:
The different formation of the 'B', to my mind, puts paid to the nonsense about Florence Maybrick's initials being hidden within that letter but who knows, perhaps Iconoclast will still see them. The 'B' is basically just the way Sir Charles Warren wrote his letter 'B'. Here's an example of Sir Charles writing a 'B' when addressing a letter to Ruggles Brise in July 1888:
I don't suppose Sir Charles was secretly incorporating Florence Maybrick's initials into his correspondence with Home Office officials during the summer of 1888 so I think we can safely say that another one of Iconoclast's fancies bites the dust.
10. The Photofit That Never Was (p.76)
When you think of a photofit* you probably think of an official police artist sitting with a witness to develop a portrait bearing a close facial resemblance to a suspect. Is that what we have in this case? No, we don't! What we have in this case is a sketch or two prepared by a newspaper artist on the basis of vague and possibly conflicting descriptions by different witnesses of a man believed to be the murderer which had been reported in the newspapers. Even the Daily Telegraph said that the sketches 'are presented not, of course, as authentic portraits....'.
Iconoclast claims that Maybrick looks like a sketch of a suspect published in the Daily Telegraph on 6 October 1888. He thinks that this sketch was based on information provided by Matthew Packer (whom he describes as a 'key witness'), although Packer told the police that the man he saw with Stride was 'a young man from 25-30' so that would seem to rule out the 49 year old Maybrick.
There were, in fact, two sketches published in the Daily Telegraph on that day, one in which the suspect has a moustache and one in which the suspect has no facial hair (and a different hat). These are those portraits:
Iconoclast only mentions the chap with the moustache (because he slightly resembles a photograph of Maybrick). He is presumably not aware that the Daily Telegraph of 6 October also printed the following (underlining added):
'In accordance with the general description furnished to the police by Packer and others, a number of sketches were prepared, portraying men of different nationalities ages and walks of life. These were submitted to Packer, who unhesitatingly selected one of those here reproduced - the portrait of the man without the moustache, and wearing the soft felt or American hat.'
So the portrait of the man believed by Iconoclast to be Maybrick was not a representation of the man seen by Packer. He was not selected by Packer, meaning that Iconoclast is barking up the wrong tree. The man seen by Packer had no moustache and was a 'young' man.
The 'others' referred to in the Telegraph appear to have been primarily William Marshall, James Brown and P.C. William Smith who all said they saw a man and a woman together in Berner Street shortly before the time of Stride's murder. They all gave evidence about the man at Stride's inquest on 5 October, the day before the Telegraph published those two portraits. None of them, however, said at the inquest that the man they saw had a moustache, while Marshall said the man he saw was wearing something like a sailor's cap, round with a small peak. Constable Smith said the man he saw was 28 years old, about 5 foot, 7 inches, and wore a hard felt deerstalker hat.
At the same time, while not mentioned at the inquest, we know from a report of Chief Inspector Swanson that the man seen by P.C. Smith did have a 'small dark moustache'. The Daily Telegraph sketch artist, however, would not have had access to a police report so the more likely source of the man with the moustache is the account given by Israel Schwartz to a Star reporter on 1 October in which he said that the man he saw attacking Stride at 12.45am in Berner Street was, 'about 30 years of age, rather stoutly built, and wearing a brown moustache...dark clothes and felt hat'. To the police Schwartz said that the man wore a 'black cap with a peak'.
We may also note that the Telegraph of 6 October refers to a description which had been circulated by police on 1 September of a man with 'a small moustache and wearing a black deerstalker felt hat'. But that's not likely to be what the sketch artist was working on because the suspect hasn't been given a deerstalker hat. However, if we go back to the Star of 1 September we find that a coffee stall keeper whose stall was at the corner of Whitechapel Road and Cambridge Road informed the police of a man who came to his stall for a coffee at 3am on 31 August with a woman matching the description of the woman who had just been murdered. He said the man was about five foot, three or four inches, about 35 years old and was wearing a dark black coat and derby hat. He also had a black moustache and whiskers. As the man with the moustache in the Telegraph sketch is also wearing a derby hat this could potentially be the source of the sketch, albeit that we don't see whiskers. But, while the coffee stall keeper was said to have been allowed to view the remains of the Polly Nichols, he said he didn't think it was the same woman as he saw with the man, so nothing came of it.
The likelihood is that the sketch artist had attempted to collate all the different reported descriptions of the suspect (probably focusing on those supposedly seen with Stride) and, on the assumption that they were all the same man, tried to capture his essence, with and without a moustache, and with various types of headwear.
Certainly it seems that all the sketch writer had to go on was some very sketchy (excuse pun) details, so that it would be ludicrous to think that he could have drawn an accurate representation of anyone based on the available information in the newspapers. It's about as far away from sitting down with a witness to produce an accurate portrait as it's possible to get. No-one, it seems, who claimed to have seen a man with the moustache, confirmed that the sketch on the right, as published by the Telegraph, looked anything like him.
So we don't even need to get into the question of whether the man in the portrait with a moustache looks anything like Maybrick. The portrait was essentially based on nothing! Or very little. As this point goes solely to whether Maybrick was Jack the Ripper or not and has nothing to do with the Diary (and the author of the Diary never remarks that a likeness of him has been published in a newspaper) I have no further comment to make on it.
11. Yet another JTR Letter (p.77)
The count of the number of letters written by Maybrick (not mentioned in his Diary) rises all the time. Now we are told that a letter dated 6 October 1888 signed Jack the Ripper, and threatening its unknown recipient with being ripped up for having informed the police, was by Maybrick. Why? Well for no more reason that it was sent on the same day that the 'photofit' (to use Iconoclast's word) of the man suspected of being Jack the Ripper was published in the Daily Telegraph (and Iconoclast only refers to a single sketch, not the two that were actually published). Yet the letter doesn't refer to any sketches, or to the Daily Telegraph at all. It's no more than an assumption by Iconoclast that it was written as a result of them. And, critically, nothing of this nature is mentioned in the Diary. The Diary writer makes no mention of the sketch, no mention of being worried that his portrait had been published in a national newspaper and no mention of writing anyone a threatening letter.
12. Diego Florenz (p.77)
A letter written to the Liverpool Echo and published on 10 October 1888 from someone calling himself 'Diego Laurenz' seems to have no bearing on the Maybrick Diary.
If it was written by Maybrick, even if Maybrick was also Jack the Ripper, that doesn't necessarily mean that the Diary was genuine. I really have no interest in discussing whether Maybrick was Jack the Ripper.
As for whether the author of the Diego Laurenz letter was also the author of the Diary, I see no connection whatsoever. The author of the Diary does not refer to himself as Diego or Laurenz. The author of the Diego Laurenz letter said 'I am the Whitechapel purger'. The author of the diary does not use that expression. The Diego Laurenz letter states: 'On the 13th [October 1988], at 3pm, will be on stage, as am going to New York. But will have some business before I go'. The author of the Diary makes no mention of going to New York. Nor was there any obvious reason for the Maybrick of the Diary to have written in a letter that he would be on the stage. The author of the Diary also makes no mention of writing this letter and it is unfathomable (bearing in mind his supposed motives expressed in the Diary) as to why he would have done so. While Diego is the Spanish equivalent of James (and Jacob), Laurenz does not mean Maybrick. We are told that Laurenz is supposed to rhyme with Florence but it doesn't. And it doesn't make any sense for Maybrick to have called himself 'James Florence' in any case. So I see nothing in that letter connecting the author of the Diary with it. All we have is a Jack the Ripper letter written in Liverpool signed in what is probably a false Spanish name to mean 'James' or 'Jacob' or even 'Jack':
From Wikipedia (underlining added):
Jack /ˈdʒæk/ is a male given name, although in some cases it can be used as a female given name (a shortened versioned of "Jacqueline" or "Jackie", for example), and sometimes as a surname. In English Jack is traditionally used as the diminutive form of John; it can be used also as diminutive for Jacob and sometimes for James due to its French form Jacques.
Casebook Forum member Sam Flynn has suggested that Laurenz could be a combination of the French word 'La' (or 'Le') for 'the' and the English word 'rent', which the Oxford English Dictionary tells us can mean: 'To tear, pull or rip (something) away from its proper place or current position'. Hence 'Diego Laurenz' could have been the letter-writer's unique and somewhat cryptic way of saying 'Jack the Ripper'. This explanation seems to have as much, if not more, going for it than it meaning 'James Florence'.
13. Frightening the truth (p.78)
There really is no excuse for Iconoclast to still be misunderstanding Florence's letter to Brierley of 8 May 1889 as including a reference to Maybrick having told her that he was Jack the Ripper. I explained the correct situation to him on the Forum (as have others) yet he still persists in deliberately misreading plain English.
You only get to turn Florence's comment, 'The tale he told me was a pure fabrication, and only intended to frighten the truth out of me' into an admission of being Jack the Ripper by perversely reading this sentence wholly out of context from the letter in which it was written.
What Florence said in her letter to Brierley was this (the underlining, which is important to consider for its emphasis, is in original):
"M. has been delirious since Sunday, and I know now that he is perfectly ignorant of everything, even to the name of the street, and also that he has not been making any inquiries whatsoever! The tale he told me was a pure fabrication, and only intended to frighten the truth out of me. In fact he believes my statement, although he will not admit it."
So Florence was saying two things:
1. Maybrick is ignorant of everything (i.e. about her affair) and has not been making any inquiries.
2. The tale he told her was a lie intended to frighten the truth (of her affair) out of her.
The plain fact is that point 2 follows point 1. In other words, Maybrick had tried to scare her by telling her that he knew more than he really did about her affair and by claiming that he had been making inquiries about it. But she didn't fall for his bluff and worked out that he really knew nothing.
And then she continues: 'In fact he believes my statement, although he will not admit it.' That sentence, beginning "In fact..", follows on from the previous two sentences and shows that she is only focussed on her adultery and Maybrick's knowledge of it. Her 'statement' is obviously related to her denial of an affair.
I mean, just look closely at the quoted extract. The comment about Maybrick's 'tale' falls between two sentences. The preceding sentence is about her affair and the following sentence is about her affair. It makes no sense for her to have switched in between these two sentences to refer to something different.
'Would Florence really be 'frightened' by the thought that James would uncover the truth about her visit to London?' asks Iconoclast. Of course she would, because it would have revealed that she had been unfaithful and had committed adultery! That was a critical fact that she needed to hide from her husband. In fact, the preceding sentence in her letter to Brierley said (underlining in original):
'I cannot answer your letter fully today, my darling, but relieve your mind of all fear of discovery now and in the future.'
So Florence actually used the word 'fear'. But not fear of being murdered by Jack the Ripper. Fear of discovery!
And it's important to remember that her letter said that James hoped to frighten the truth out of her, not to frighten her per se.
Let me also do something that has never been done before and put the above-quoted extract from Florence's letter into a wider context.
On Sunday, 5 May 1889, Florence sent this telegram to Brierley:
'Recalled owing to May’s critical state name of street now known have secured Henrietta’s silence but left John to provided (sic) against further contingencies.'
We don't need to fully understand all of this, just to know that what is going on here is that Florence was trying to cover up some lies she had told her relatives about her visit to London in late March 1889 (the true purpose of which was to commit adultery) and she was, at the same time, trying to establish what Maybrick knew about that visit. Her attempts to do so seem to have been interrupted by her husband's illness but the important message she is passing on to her lover is 'name of street now known'. In other words, she is telling him that Maybrick has found out that she had been staying in Henrietta Street (a crucial piece of information which could have enabled him to discover that she had been staying with a man in a hotel in that street). It also seems that Maybrick had told Florence that he had placed an advertisement in the London papers to acquire this information and that Florence had told Brierley of this. Hence, Brierley wrote in a letter to Florence the next day (Monday, 6 May 1889):
‘You know I could not write, and was willing to meet you, although it would have been very dangerous. Most certainly your telegram yesterday was a staggerer, and it looks as if the result was certain, but as yet I cannot find any advertisement in any London paper.’
So what Brierley was saying here was that he was staggered to discover from her telegram of the previous day that Maybrick knew the name of the street in which he and Florence had met for sex. It meant that exposure was certain once questions were asked at the hotels in that street. And note that he is saying that it would have been 'dangerous' for him to meet Florence at this time. This is not about physical danger as such but about the danger of their affair being exposed.
It was in response to Brierley's letter of 6 May 1889 that Florence wrote to him on Wednesday, 8 May, to give him a message which is worth repeating now we can see it in its full context:
M. has been delirious since Sunday, and I know now that he is perfectly ignorant of everything, even to the name of the street, and also that he has not been making any inquiries whatsoever! The tale he told me was a pure fabrication, and only intended to frighten the truth out of me. In fact he believes my statement, although he will not admit it."
From that, it must be perfectly clear that the tale Maybrick had told his wife was that he had been making inquiries by placing an advertisement in a London newspaper and now knew the name of the street in which she had stayed in London. But he was bluffing. He was just trying to pretend to have more knowledge than he did in the hope that she would confess to having been unfaithful. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book!
Quite clearly her comment had nothing to do with Maybrick telling her he was Jack the Ripper.
And I can't leave this subject without commenting on this statement by Iconoclast about Florence's letter:
'...if James Maybrick were innocent of the crimes he ‘confesses’ to in the Victorian scrapbook, then that line really should not have appeared in a letter from his wife to her lover two days before his death.'
With all respect to my old posting chum, this is rubbish. The line has nothing to do with the Ripper crimes. It is, therefore, wholly irrelevant as to whether Maybrick was innocent or guilty of the crimes he is supposed to 'confess' to in the Diary. Iconoclast needs to let this one go.
14. Fab FM (p.79)
Iconoclast relies entirely on copies of MJK1 published in books for his theory that 'FM' was marked on the wall of Mary Jane Kelly's room. I've already mentioned that the best quality print of this photograph shows that there were no marks resembling 'FM' on the wall in Kelly's room. So we've disproved the Diary right there have we?
Well no, actually, because the Diary author never says he had written 'FM' on the wall. It's just an interpretation. If there's no 'FM' then the Diary apologists can try and find something else to explain the two unexplained comments in the Diary. These are firstly the inclusion of the line: 'An initial here and an initial there will tell of the whoring mother.' On it's own this has no clear meaning. The other is, 'I left it there for the fools but they will never find it. I was too clever. Left it for all eyes to see'.
The vagueness of statements such as this is, I'm sure, why so many people reject the Diary as a fake. Why did Maybrick not just write in his private diary or journal, call it whatever you like, what he had done? And it's unclear if what was supposed to have been 'left' at the crime scene relates to the 'initial' here and there line. Certainly if the killer had written 'FM' on the wall, as it is believed to appear in the photograph, it's really strange that he should think the police would never find it. They might not understand it - and, in fact, they most certainly would not - but it's bizarre for him to think that they wouldn't have been able to see it.
If the Diary author was intending to refer to the initials 'FM', it may just be that the forger had managed to see those initials in a poor reproduction of MJK1 in one of the available Ripper books. There is no reason why he couldn't have done, and it would have been an easy association to make with Florence's initials. But, really, those initials are not in the original photograph and were thus not on the wall.
15. American links (p.80)
Maybrick's American links only come into play if the killer was the author of the 25 September letter with its Americanisms. If that is the case, it still doesn't mean that the Diary is genuine and is, therefore, not a topic that interests me. All I will say is that I'm not aware of Americanisms in the Diary so I'm not sure how the argument works.
16. Provenance (p.81)
I'll deal with this (and the supposed Graham likeness) at the very end of this article. For the moment I just want to comment on Iconoclast's statement that:
'What is key is that the Victorian scrapbook is roundly condemned as a shabby, amateurish hoax, and yet somehow it has two potential provenances'.
Leaving aside that I have personally never condemned the Diary as a shabby, amateurish hoax, Iconoclast doesn't seem to appreciate that one of the two potential provenances that he offers up for our consideration must be untrue. They are contradictory and cannot both be right. If the false one is Anne's potential provenance of it having been in her family for donkeys' years then it's an obvious fake provenance. If, however, it's the Battlecrease potential provenance then, while not a fake provenance as such (because it's only ever been offered up by theorists, as opposed to anyone with first hand knowledge), it just shows how coincidence can easily happen.
But if one of the two potential provenances can be untrue (as one of them must) then both of them can just as easily be untrue.
17. Geoprofiling (p.84)
I read Iconoclast's section on geoprofiling carefully and nowhere do the experts say that the Whitechapel Murderer's likely permanent residence was in Liverpool.
The point Iconoclast seems to want to make is that it was amaaaaazing that a forger could have chosen Middlesex Street as the temporary residence for the killer when visiting London. But is it? If we assume that any forger would have understood that the killer needed a base in the Whitechapel area, near where the murders occurred, he could equally have placed him in Commercial Street or Flower and Dean Street, both of which would have been even more amaaaaazing because the former is the street identified by Dr David Cantor as the killer's locus while the latter is the street identified by Dr Kim Rossmo as the location of the killer's most likely base. Then presumably any streets adjoining Commercial Street and Flower and Dean Street such as Church Street, Brushfield Street, Wentworth Street, Thrawl Street, White's Row, etc. etc., as well as those running parallel to Commercial Street, such as Middlesex Street, but also Osborn Street, and those which intersect Commercial Street, such as Leman Street and Whitechapel Road, would also have a decent claim and been equally amazing.
SECTION D - REASONS AGAINST (p.88 et seq)
Iconoclast feels the need to bat away a number of arguments which have been made against the Diary. That's fine but hardly any of them have been made by me so I don't need to respond to those.
Other than to draw attention to the findings of Baxendale on solubility, I've only ever really made two key points against the authenticity of the Diary. The first is that it contains an anachronistic expression, 'one off instance', which means that it cannot possibly have been written in 1888 or 1889 and must have been created in the second half of the twentieth century. That established, in order to try and identify the person or persons involved with the forgery, I have argued that no sensible explanation exists for Mike Barrett's acquisition of a Victorian diary in March 1992 (or more pertinently his attempt to acquire a Victorian diary) about a month before anyone is ever known to have seen the Maybrick Diary.
To repeat a link already provided above, I explain how 'one off instance' is the mistake made by the forger here.
I will only add two things to what I say in that article. The first is that Iconoclast wrongly states in his essay that I have claimed that, after Maybrick's supposed use of 'one off instance' in the Diary, it was 'never "again" (if the scrapbook were genuine) used in written, recorded form until the 1980s.' This is most certainly NOT what I have ever said and it is disappointing that Iconoclast has misunderstood me. He is evidently referring to a post in which I had said that I hadn't been able to find an example of the exact expression 'one off instance' in print prior to 1981. But I was most certainly not saying that examples of such an expression in print do not exist prior to 1981. On the contrary, I made clear that I had found examples of similar expressions dating back to the 1950s and that it's possible (albeit unlikely) that they could be found in the 1940s. That is why I have always said no more than that Maybrick is the first person known to have ever used the expression 'one off instance' and that there is no other example of this expression, or any similar expression, being used for at least the next fifty years, i.e. from 1888 to 1938. That was me being generous because no examples have yet been found prior to 1948 (and, indeed the first example of a similar expression I have personally found is from 1953) so I could easily have said sixty years.
I've posted a great deal about Mike Barrett's purchase of a Victorian diary in March 1992 and Iconoclast is fully aware of the force of the argument. He has, I'm glad to note, taken the point that the advertisement for a Victorian diary placed on behalf of Mike Barrett in March 1992 specified that the diary being sought must have a minimum of 20 blank pages.
As Iconoclast recognizes, this puts paid to the notion that Barrett was only interested in seeing what a Victorian diary looked like. However, it's disappointing to see him quibble with the significance of this on the basis that 'twenty pages would have significantly reduced Barrett's ability to recreate what was presumably a sixty-plus page draft hoax in just eleven days.' There are three answers to this.
The first is that the advertisement was not asking for 20 blank pages. It specified a minimum of blank 20 pages (i.e. 'must have at least 20 pages'). It's a simple point but often ignored. Thus, 20 pages was the absolute minimum requirement.
Secondly, there is a lot of wasted space in the Diary caused by all the poetry, and, if space was really tight for a forger, a lot of this could have been removed without significantly affecting the narrative. The handwriting, which at some points in the Diary becomes rather large, could also have been made smaller.
Thirdly, it just so happens that the typed transcript of the Diary which appears at the back of Shirley Harrison's 1993 and 2003 books is exactly 20 pages in length. Had Barrett had nothing more than a typed version of the Diary in draft form on his Amstrad word processor as at March 1992 it might only have filled 20 pages or thereabouts, thus quite possibly being the reason for him setting the minimum requirement of 20 blank pages for the required Victorian diary.
Iconoclast's second quibble is that the advertisement placed on behalf of Barrett asked for a diary in the period 1880-1890. Now, if I was looking for an authentic Victorian diary in order to create a forged diary of the Jack the Ripper, I would be seeking one from the 1880s: the exact same decade, in other words, as specified by Barrett in his advertisement. It wouldn't need to be one from 1888 or 1889 specifically because the only reason I'm after an authentic Victorian diary to create my forgery is so that it will defeat any scientific tests of the paper. It's not possible for science to date paper to a specific year but an examiner will know if it's from the wrong historical period. So a diary from 1890 or 1891 will still perfectly suit my purpose because it will pass the scientific test. In the case of the scrapbook, Baxendale reported that, 'The paper is unbleached and contains no special brighteners. It consists mainly of cotton fibres, this is in keeping with its purported age and is in contrast with most modern papers, which consist mainly of wood fibres.' So it passed the test, as would any diary or journal (or scrapbook) from the 1880s or 1890s.
But, Iconoclast cries, what about the fact that pages of the diary will have the year marked on them? Well they wouldn't necessarily, is my answer.
This is an example of a genuine personal diary from 1888 held at the National Archives:
Some other examples of Victorian or Edwardian/Post-Edwardian diaries are below:
As can be seen, none of them have the year, month or day of the month printed on them.
It may be that Iconoclast is thinking of an appointments or engagement diary, alternatively known as a pocket diary, which has every day of the year, together with a small blank space to write in entries, printed on it. But no-one in their right mind keeps a personal diary, setting out their thoughts on a daily or weekly basis, in such a diary. The reason is because the space you will need in which to write will vary from day to day. Some days you might want to write over many pages, some days just one line and some days nothing at all. So it's very inconvenient and inefficient to have the dates printed on the pages of the diary. Consequently most personal diaries are in exercise books or blank journals and things like that. I have no doubt that Michael Barrett knew this and, in agreeing to purchase an 1891 diary, was not expecting (or at least not hoping) to find the year 1891 emblazoned all the way through it (as it was). I suspect his plan was to remove any pages which had writing on, just as a number of pages have been removed from the front of the scrapbook, to remove the evidence of previous ownership, leaving only blank pages for him or his wife (or whoever) to write on.
As far as I am concerned that meets all the objections raised.
SECTION E - PROVENANCE (p.81)
The Diary was presented to the world by Michael Barrett with perhaps the worst provenance a historical artefact could ever possess. It had been obtained from a dead man whom he had met in a pub. That man being Tony Devereux.
Barrett's wife, Anne, supported him in this story. She signed a collaboration agreement, in respect of publication of the Diary, in May 1992. She was clearly protective of the Diary at this stage because, a few weeks prior to this, she had told the literary agent Doreen Montgomery that she had asked her husband to place the Diary in a bank for safety because she was worried it might be stolen or burnt in a fire (Letter from Doreen Montgomery to Sally Evemy dated 22 April 1992). It was, indeed, subsequently placed in a bank.
Anne, however, didn't sign the main publishing agreement on 29 July 1992 because, according to Robert Smith, she suspected the Diary had been stolen (Smith, 2017, p.10).
In February 1993, Anne asked her husband, in front of Paul Begg, Martin Howells and Paul Feldman, 'Did you nick it, Mike?'. In other words, she was giving the impression that she knew so little about the origins of the Diary that she was asking her husband if he had stolen it.
In the Liverpool Post (27 June 1994) Anne was quoted as saying of Mike (underlining added): 'He told me he got the diary from Tony Devereux and that is all I know.'
A month later, on 31 July 1994, however, Anne recorded a voicemail message in which she claimed that the Diary had been in her family's possession since at least 1950 (and she had seen it herself in a trunk at the back of a cupboard in 1968 or 1969) and she had given it to Mike's friend, Tony Devereux, for him to pass onto her husband so that Mike would have something he could research. She wasn't able to provide any independent corroboration for her story, although her father backed her up.
For many years, this story was regarded by Diary Defenders as the most likely explanation as to the origin of the Diary. So much so that Shirley Harrison quoted researcher Keith Skinner as saying: 'Those who believe Anne is lying, or that she has been bought by Paul [Feldman] must include me in the plot as well' (Harrison 2003, p.80).
Ironically, it was Keith Skinner who discovered evidence which many Diary Defenders now believe to be evidence which shows that Anne Barrett was lying after all (and, for some reason, it now doesn't need them to include Keith Skinner in any kind of plot!!!). This is the evidence from timesheets of the company Portus & Rhodes that some electrical work had been carried out in the house formerly known as Battlecrease on 9 March 1992 which appeared to involve lifting the floorboards of the room which was once James Maybrick's bedroom. As Mike Barrett had first attempted to contact Doreen Montgomery about the Diary on that same day, it is believed that, far from the Diary having been stored in a cupboard in Anne's family home, it had been lying undisturbed underneath the floorboards of Battlecrease for over 100 years until it was found by an electrician who, on the same day as its discovery, passed it on to Mike Barrett.
For Iconoclast, the situation is a bit confusing because he now has two contradictory explanations for the origin of the Diary and he doesn't know upon which mast to nail his colours.
He seems rather attracted to the idea that the Diary had been in Anne Barrett's family because her maiden name was Graham, and there were newspaper reports in July 1904 that Florence Maybrick was posing as 'Mrs Graham' while she stayed in Cornwall in the six months following her release from prison (as she was required to do under the terms of her release). For Iconoclast there surely must be some kind of link between her use of the name Graham and the Graham family.
Unfortunately, however, there is one fly in this particular ointment. One of Florence's uncles was the Rev J.H. Ingraham and Florence travelled to the United States in August 1904, as Iconoclast admits, under the name of 'Rose Ingraham'. Now, we can see that 'graham' forms part of the name 'Ingraham' so that if she did call herself Mrs Graham for a few months, the most likely derivation of the name is obvious. Even Iconoclast says in his essay: 'This may have been the reason she chose Graham as a surname during her six month's (sic) on licence...'. That being so, is there really any need to consider the matter further?
Well we should note that Iconoclast is attracted by some supposed facial resemblances between the elderly Florence Maybrick and Billy and Mary Graham, the offspring of William Graham, who Iconoclast thinks could be Florence's illegitimate son. The problem with this kind of comparison is that one can be seeing what one wants to see. Private Eye magazine includes a Lookalike feature in every issue comparing two non-related famous people who look similar. Yes, Phoebe Waller-Bridge does look rather like Penelope Keith (see below, from Private Eye 1493) but that doesn't mean they are related (whereas I am related in a rather unusual way to Phoebe Waller-Bridge but that's another story).
Even Iconoclast accepts that the supposed similarities between Florence Maybrick and the Grahams might be no more than a coincidence because he doesn't rule out the possibility of the Diary having been found under the floorboards in Battlecrease, in which case it would be the most amazing coincidence of all if the electrician who found it ended up giving it, by pure chance, to a man married to the granddaughter of the illegitimate son of Florence Maybrick!
Talking of coincidences, here's one for you. Of the two witnesses to Tony Devereux's will dated 22 March 1979 the first was G. Kane the second was.....wait for it....one A. Graham. Could it have been Anne Graham? Well no, I don't think so because in March 1979 Anne was already married to Mike Barrett so would have been Anne Barrett. I also don't think she was living in Southdene, Kirby, at the time. So, by pure coincidence, one of Devereux's witnesses to his will had the same surname as the maiden name of the wife of the man he would later befriend and become entwined with due to the Diary, as well as the same first initial. Is that an astonishing coincidence? No, not really, these things happen.
This is the will incidentally...
Kane's signature is on the bottom left, this is the signature of A. Graham on the bottom right:
Hey, we've also seen in this article a reference to a report by Inspector Chandler of H Division about one of the Ripper murders. Chandler gave evidence at the Chapman inquest so his role was well reported and, if Maybrick was following the newspapers closely regarding the Ripper murders (like the Maybrick of the Diary), he would have seen his name mentioned. Now what was Florence Maybrick's maiden name? Chandler! Florence Chandler and Inspector Chandler. There must be a connection there surely. No there isn't. It's just a coincidence with no meaning at all.
As for the Battlecrease provenance, for it to be true, it would mean that its discovery would have needed to have been communicated to Mike Barrett within a few hours of it being brought out from under the floorboards to enable him to telephone Doreen Montgomery that same day. How could such a thing be possible? Well, an electrician working for Portus & Rhodes drank at the same pub in Liverpool as Mike Barrett, although no evidence has been presented that the two men previously knew each other. This was a man called Eddie Lyons. The problem is that the timesheet evidence discovered by Keith Skinner does not show that Eddie Lyons was working at Battlecrease on 9 March 1992. Furthermore, Eddie Lyons has denied that he found a Diary at Battlecrease at any time or was aware of one and gave it to Mike Barrett.
So is there another possible explanation of where the Diary come from?
What about the man who presented it to Doreen Montgomery? Who was Michael Barrett?
Well, according to Iconoclast he was 'a sometime writer of articles for children's magazines'. This is very naughty of Iconoclast. He complains in his essay, and rightly so, about the case for Maybrick's authorship of the Diary being casually dismissed in a recent television programme on the basis of inaccurate claims, saying angrily, 'By such means are ripper myths and the Maybrick myths and lazily perpetrated'. Yet, here he is blatantly and lazily misrepresenting the nature of Mike Barrett's journalistic career! And he has no excuse for doing so because I told him which magazine Mike Barrett wrote articles for on the Casebook Forum in a series of posts on the Forum in February 2018 (see thread 'Acquiring a Victorian Diary' posts #883, #885, #889, #893 and #895). As I stated in those posts, Barrett wrote articles for a magazine (for adults) called Celebrity, published by D.C. Thomson, during the period 1986 to 1988. He was a freelance journalist whose name would be mentioned in the byline and he would even be attributed with an 'Exclusive' tag (see my article 'The False Facts'). Iconoclast joins the list of Diary Defenders who are in denial about the fact that this miraculous Diary revealing the identity of Jack the Ripper was produced to the world in 1992 by a former professional freelance journalist. According to Anne Graham, 'Michael had always had an idea he wanted to write.' (Harrison, 2003, p.387). Shirley Harrison also tells us: 'Michael Barrett is no fool. Like Winnie the Pooh, his spelling is 'wobbly' in the extreme, but he has a taste for quoting Latin phrases culled from a classical dictionary and knack of collecting unexpected snippets of knowledge from the library' (Harrison, 2003, p.266). He appears to have enjoyed research projects and, indeed, carried out research for Shirley's book. The reason Anne offered up for giving him the Diary in the first place (via Tony Devereux) was so that he could have something to research. And he managed to be the first person to identify the obscure source of the line on the Diary 'Oh costly intercourse of death'. But could he have known the source because he was involved in creating the Diary?
Michael Barrett swore an affidavit on 5 January 1995 saying that the Diary had been by created by him at his home. He said he dictated the text to his wife who wrote the words into a scrapbook which he had purchased at an auction conducted by Outhwaite & Litherland. This affidavit was almost certainly drafted by a private detective called Alan Gray based on extensive discussions he had had with Mike Barrett over the preceding weeks. It was, however, probably a difficult process for Gray to extract from Barrett, who was drinking heavily at the time, a precise chronology of events, and some errors were clearly made. For example, it was said that Tony Devereux had died in late May or early June 1990 when it was, in fact, August 1991. Consequently when the affidavit states that the Diary was written in January 1990 it is almost certain that it was meant to say January 1991.
However, this date is also likely to be wrong. But what Mike Barrett might have been trying to convey to Alan Gray was that the Diary was drafted in 1991, i.e. a draft text of the diary was created (possibly on Mike's Amstrad word processor) but that the Diary was not actually written out in manuscript in its final form until 1992. For the internal narrative of the affidavit to make sense, this must be the case because Barrett refers in the affidavit to one event occurring at an unspecified date prior to the creation of the Diary which we now know for a fact to have occurred in March 1992. This was Mike's attempt to acquire a Victorian diary with a minimum of 20 blank pages. As Mike says in the affidavit that he obtained such a diary before his acquisition of a scrapbook from an auction house into which the Diary was written, he must have been saying that the Diary was written at some point after 26 March 1992, on which date he received a small Victorian diary which was useless for his purposes.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Mike's affidavit is that he said that it took him and his wife 11 days to write out the text of the Diary into the scrapbook. There was no obvious reason for him to ascribe such a short timescale to the writing of the Diary in the affidavit. Even if he had intended to say that he had written it in 1991, as opposed to 1990, he would have had plenty of time available, on that basis, to write it out before presenting it to Doreen Montgomery. However, it just so happens that 11 days was the perfect amount of time between the date he is likely to have acquired the scrapbook and him bringing the Diary to London. Here is that sequence of events:
9 March 1992 - Barrett (using the name 'Williams') contacts Doreen Montgomery to find out if she would be interested in "Jack the Ripper's Diary".
19 March 1992 - Barrett's advertisement requesting a diary dating from 1880-1890 containing at least blank 20 pages appears in a trade mag.
26 March 1992 - A Victorian diary from 1891 is sent to Barrett (and probably received by him 2 days later) but is very small and has the year printed throughout.
31 March 1992 - An auction is held at Outhwaite & Litherland (which in 1992 had an auction day every Tuesday).
13 April 1992 - After an unexplained delay, Barrett finally presents the Diary to Doreen Montgomery in London.
That leaves open the possibility of Mike Barrett acquiring an old scrapbook on 31 March and spending 11 days with his wife writing into the Diary a pre-prepared text before taking it to London on 13 April.
Although Barrett refers in his affidavit to the acquisition of a Victorian diary, the actual date of the acquisition wasn't stated and the reader would have assumed this must have occurred prior to January 1990 due to the dating issues in that affidavit. It was only much later that it was discovered (by Keith Skinner) to have been in March 1992, meaning that he must have acquired the scrapbook at about that time, if the story in the affidavit is true.
But the misleading dates in the affidavit meant that when Shirley Harrison referred Barrett's story to Outhwaite & Litherland for confirmation, they only checked their records on either side of a 1990 sale date, meaning that their records for 1992 were not checked. This is what Shirley Harrison's note of her discussion with a director of the auction company, Kevin Whay, on 16 January 1995 stated:
'Between 1990 and 1991 they held about 300 or more auctions and items such as an old photo album would have been in a job lot marked "miscellaneous items."
So not only were the records for 1992 not checked but an old photo album (or scrapbook) might not necessarily even have shown in the company's records as having been sold at any particular auction. Kevin Whay also confirmed that Barrett could, as had claimed, have used the false name of 'Mr Williams' when purchasing an item, as this was common practice. Two years later a statement was provided to Doreen Montgomery by Kevin Whay in which he said he had 'searched through our files on either side of the alleged sale dates' and could 'confirm that no such information or lot number corresponding with his [Barrett's] statement exists.' Criminally, it would seem that no attempt was made to search the files from 1992 because this was not on 'either side' of the alleged January 1990 sale date. The records of the auction firm apparently no longer exist.
Whay also stated that Outhwaite & Litherland have never conducted sales in the manner described in Barrett's statement but, having discussed this issue on the Forum with someone who had attended auctions at northern auction houses during the period in question and who said they were all conducted in a similar manner, it would seem that if Barrett had simply confused some minor details (i.e. referring to a 'ticket' rather than a 'receipt') his description of the auction process would match how auctions were normally conducted and there is no reason to think that Outhwaite & Litherland conducted their auctions in a special way.
So we can at least say that it is possible that Mike Barrett acquired a scrapbook at an O&L auction, or at the very least that it cannot be entirely ruled out.
That being so, we really do have to ask ourselves why Mike Barrett went to the trouble of contacting a bookfinding company run by Martin Earl on about 9 March 1992 and asked Earl to acquire on his behalf a Victorian diary containing a minimum of 20 blank pages and why he then went ahead and spent £25 purchasing such diary when he was told that one had been found. The only rational reason for such behaviour was, surely, that he wanted to create or forge a Victorian diary. Then we have to ask ourselves what Victorian diary he wanted to create or forge. Was it a diary of Jack the Ripper?
I don't wish to take the speculation much further but a few things are worth considering. Firstly, it is perfectly possible that the text of the diary was drafted a long time before it was written into the scrapbook. In this respect, it's not impossible that Barrett collaborated with Tony Devereux to create the first draft. After all, it has been established as a fact that prior to his death in August 1991 Devereux borrowed from Barrett a book entitled 'Tales of Liverpool - Murder, Mayhem and Mystery' by Richard Whittington-Egan which, in one chapter, told the story of the Maybrick case.
At the time that Barrett was friendly with Devereux, the latter was confined to his house having fractured his hip and would thus have had plenty of time on his hands. We have no idea if Devereux had the skills to write such a document but Barrett's apparent love of research might have meant he was able to assist in getting the facts of the Ripper case and aligning them with the Maybrick case. Or there might have been an unknown third person involved. Information never seems have been obtained about all of Barrett's acquaintances (nor of other family members who could have been involved). If it was Devereux, however, this would have left Barrett in possession of the draft text of the Diary after his death and able to do with it as he wished.
One thing that is certainly interesting is that Barrett appears to have lied to Shirley Harrison in 1992 about the date he acquired a word processor. According to Harrison, in her 1993 book (p.7), after obtaining the Diary from Devereux in 1991, 'Mike bought a word processor and launched himself into extensive research, intending to write the story of the diary himself'. However, it later transpired that his word processor was purchased many years earlier, on 3 April 1986, no doubt because, at that time, he wanted to start a career as a freelance journalist. Was Mike's sensitivity about his ownership of a word processor (at a time when he was claiming he had been given the Diary by Tony Devereux and knew nothing more about it) due to the fact that he had used it to prepare a draft of the Diary? As I've mentioned earlier, if that draft only filled 20 pages or thereabouts (like the typed transcript featured in Shirley's books) it might explain why he asked for a diary with a minimum of 20 blank pages.
It has also become apparent, both from some of Michael Barrett's private notes, and from a 1995 radio interview he gave to Radio Merseyside, that Barrett shares a number of quirks of English with the author of the Diary. For example, he has a particular attraction for using the word 'within' when most people would just say 'in' or 'inside'. Hence, in his radio interview he said:
'Yes. I’ve been attacked very viciously within the press, very viciously within the press.'
'Now because I had, shall we say, a moderate success within writing'
'the various other people that have been involved within the diary, the research - we’ve tried to act completely above board, we’ve got some of the most eminent ink specialists within the world and to get their opinion'
'As far as we are concerned we have produced our documents within the book.'
'Two bottles of scotch within a period of 48 hours'
'believe me drinking two bottles of scotch within a period of 48 hours'
'There’s so many contradictions within the Ripper books'
'it’s been passed within that time and it has actually been, er, proven.'
'he has put that diary in Knowsley Buildings in a certain place within Knowsley Buildings'
'this is the way it works within the business'
'within Anne’s statement within the paperback there is one fact that is absolutely untrue'
Those are just from one single interview.
The Diary author also had a fondness for the word. Thus:
'It shall be, before long, on every persons lips within the land.'
'Within my fright I imagined my heart bounding along the street'
'I will be in Manchester within a few days.'
'Throw it deep within the river.'
And, less awkwardly:
'I can feel the strength building up within me.'
'I am fighting a battle within me.'
I don't want to say any of these are actually wrong, it's all just a bit quirky.
In a note written by Barrett (an image of which was posted on the Casebook forum) we also find him using the pronoun 'I' awkwardly when he writes to Anne:
'Anne I need your help. Please stop this hate towards me and I you.'
The Diary author suffers from a similar quirk:
'They will suffer just as I'
'They deserve that at least from I'
'It is the whoring bitch to blame not I'
'I imagined my heart bouncing along the street with I in desperation following it'
'so young unlike I'
'Too dangerous for I to return'
In another message to Anne, Mike wrote:
'You know the truth. And so help me God I will prove it.'
In the Diary we find:
‘One day God will answer to me, so help me’
‘May God have mercy on her for I shall not, so help me’
‘Damn it damn it damn it so help me God my next will be far the worst… Abberline Abberline, I shall destroy that fool yet, so help me God’
In his interview, as pointed out by Forum member Sam Flynn, Mike wrongly used the word 'regards' a couple of times. Thus he was asked 'You had other problems I think as well didn't you?' to which he replied: 'Erm, regards?' He also said: '...what I was saying is that I was surprised at the contents, in 'The Lodger' it does state categorically regards the ink.' In the Diary we find:
'I am becoming increasingly weary of people who constantly enquire regards the state of my health'
'Will have to come to some sort of decision regards the children'
'Edwin asked regards Thomas and business'
I wouldn't say that these shared quirks prove that Mike Barrett was the author of the Diary but within the context of him having definitely spent £25 to acquire a Victorian diary with blank pages and his confession that he was involved in forging the Maybrick Diary (for which he said he spent £50 to acquire an old scrapbook), it means that he must be considered at least as likely a candidate as any other person, if not far more so, of being the author of the Diary.
While it is unlikely that Barrett had the penmanship skills to physically write the words in the Diary, we may note that when providing a sample of her handwriting for analysis to Keith Skinner in 1994, Anne Barrett did not seem to use her normal handwriting. While it's fair to say that her own regular handwriting does not match the handwriting in the Diary, the formation of certain letters are similar to the way those letters are formed in the Diary (as I demonstrated in a Forum thread entitled 'Diary Handwriting'). It was Mike who accused Anne of being the Diary scribe in his 1995 affidavit and it could be said that it is quite a coincidence - and one to match any coincidence adored by Iconoclast - that the author of the Diary does happen to share a number of handwriting characteristics with the person identified in an affidavit as having written the Diary.
Finally, I would just like to return to the theme running through Iconoclast's essay of the forger of the Diary having got lucky with new research finds. As I think I've demonstrated, there are no actual examples of this and no information in the Diary is actually corroborated by any documents subsequently discovered in archives which were not featured in secondary books on the Maybrick case or during the trial of Florence Maybrick. At the same time, there is plenty of material in the Maybrick Diary which has not been corroborated by any subsequent finds. This, I must stress, does not mean that what the Diary says cannot be true and it is not a point I make against the Diary. Indeed, it is equally true to say that none of the factual material mentioned by the author of the Diary has been controverted in order to prove that it cannot possibly have been written by Maybrick (it's the use of 'one off instance' which does that!). But the author of the Diary didn't always get lucky.
For example, all the evidence shows that Florence didn't commence any kind of relationship with Brierley until November 1888 and that their one and only sexual encounter was in London in March 1889. Yet the Diary author refers to Florence and her 'whore master' from the very start of the Diary which must be early 1888. Of course, if Maybrick was the real author of the Diary he could simply have been imagining that Florence was in relationships with other men due to his paranoia. It's also possible that Florence was having relationships with other men for which no evidence has been left behind. But the point is that the author of the Diary has not, to use Iconoclast's expression, 'got lucky' with new material revealing that she had a lover during the whole of 1888.
I've mentioned that there is no evidence that Maybrick visited his brother in London in June 1888 (although there is evidence that Maybrick went to London in June 1888, something a forger could not have known without having visited the National Archives, albeit that it was mentioned in books that Maybrick visited Ascot in that month and Ryan, as we have seen, said that he often went to London on business) but perhaps most striking of all, there is no evidence of which I am aware that Maybrick visited his brother Thomas in Manchester during Christmas 1888, nor that any murders were committed in Manchester during that period. It seems to me that the forger who, on the whole, has been careful to use only information sourced from published books on Maybrick and the Ripper murders, was taking a risk in saying that Maybrick spent Christmas of that year with Thomas. What if there was a record that Thomas had been staying in London with Michael that Christmas, for example? Or that he had been out of the country. Maybrick's own movements during Christmas might have been discovered to have been different to what is in the Diary. Yet, unlike most of the other supposed facts set out in the Diary which are written in the vaguest possible terms, there would have been no way out of this one. The author of the Diary says he is going to visit Thomas over Christmas and then, after Christmas, says 'Thomas was in fine health' thus leaving no wriggle room to suggest there had been a late change of plan. In other words, establishing that one of Thomas or James Maybrick was not in Manchester for Christmas 1888 would have been fatal for the Diary.
Furthermore, it's hard to work out why a forger would have created a narrative which involved Maybrick going to Manchester for Christmas 1888 in the first place. Had it been the case that there was a reported Ripper murder in Manchester over the Christmas period in 1888, it would have made perfect sense. In those circumstances, the Diary author might well have taken a calculated risk to place Maybrick in that town, with his brother, in order to pin the Manchester murder on Maybrick. But there was no such murder. At least, no-one has been able to find a report of one. So why take the risk of sending Maybrick to Manchester during a specified period?
I don't quite know the answer to the question. For me, it's the one real curiosity in the Diary that I can't quite explain although, ironically, it's not one mentioned by Iconoclast. The best answer I could offer is that the forger felt the need to include some 'new' information in the Diary that was unknown to both Ripperology and Maybrickology (regardless of whether it would ever be corroborated or not). Thus, he decided that Maybrick would commit a Ripper murder or two in Manchester, knowing that one of Maybrick's brothers lived in that city, and thus giving him a reason to go there.
In this respect, I would like to make one additional point. The fact that there might be genuine and hitherto unknown information about Maybrick in the Diary doesn't necessarily make the Diary genuine. We must always keep in mind the possibility that the forger obtained a genuine historical item, perhaps some kind of appointment diary of Maybrick's, or perhaps a diary or journal kept by another member of the Maybrick household. Using information in that document. which in itself might have had little or no financial value, it might have been possible to confidently record some of Maybrick's actual movements in the Diary without any risk of being contradicted by other new or existing evidence. If, for example, it was known from a secret source document that Maybrick went to London in June 1888, and to Manchester in December 1888, the narrative of the Diary could have been woven around those two simple facts. Such a possibility cannot be ignored. It should not be assumed that inside knowledge must mean the Diary is genuine. We should not allow ourselves to be fooled by possible magic tricks. Above all we should never underestimate the resources, ingenuity and imagination of a possible forger. For down that road lies the much visited and well populated town called Gullible.
The conclusion to this piece (combined with my 'One Off Article') is very simple. Iconoclast tells us that: “The Victorian scrapbook has not been proven to be a hoax”. Oh contraire, Rodney! I would say that it now has.
David Barrat, a.k.a. Lord Orsam
28 July 2019
*I just want to make clear that the word 'photofit' is from Society's Pillar (which uses the heading 'October 6 photofit') and I assume that anyone reading it will, as intended by Iconoclast, have conjured up the image of an artist carefully sketching a portrait rather than of an actual photofit, which didn't exist in 1888 - DB 29.07.19