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  • Lord Orsam

The Incontrovertible Truth

In response to being reminded by RJ Palmer that the diary is a literary hoax, the now asterisked Tom Mitchell said on the Casebook Forum on 15th January 2024:


"Fire over the incontrovertible facts which prove it, then. You and Orsam have failed miserably in your attempts to do this these last few years. Please don't just rinse and repeat the unproven stuff, nor the "one-off instance" stuff which has yet to be categorically proven."


While it might comfort Mitchell to think that I have "failed miserably" to provide the incontrovertible proof that the diary is a fake, so that he can tell himself that he hasn't wasted the last 16 years of his life posting nonsense on the boards on a daily basis (excluding the many times he's been suspended), the truth is quite the opposite.  The diary is now proven to be a modern forgery.  The inclusion by the diarist of the twentieth century expression "one off instance" is an undeniably incontrovertible fact which has not been controverted.  The challenge issued by Mitchell on 30th August 2008 to identify one incontrovertible, unequivocal, undeniable fact which refutes the diary has been met. 


Put it this way, if one off instance isn't an incontrovertible fact which refutes the diary, what sort of fact could possibly do so to Mitchell's satisfaction?   


In terms of diary content, Mitchell has offered three examples of the type of the thing that would satisfy him.  The first of the these examples was an unmitigated disaster because he said that if the diarist had mentioned Liverpool Football Club (founded in 1892) he would have accepted the diary to be a fake.  The problem there, however, is that there was a Liverpool Football Club in existence in 1888, being a rugby football club.  So the very thing that Mitchell claimed would prove the diary to have been a fake would not have done so, and Mitchell would have been the first to point to the existence of the rugby club as showing that the diary had survived the attack.  


His second example involved the diarist mentioning "those two proud Liver Birds – Bertie and Bella – stood on top of the Liver Building"  (a building opened in 1911).    Even here, there might have been wriggle room because there were Liver birds on a number of other Liverpool buildings during the 19th century, including one on the St John's Market building of 1822.  Aside from the fact that one doesn't find specific details about anything anywhere in the diary, so it would hardly have been framed in the specific way Mitchell frames it, how would one prove that there wasn't another building colloquially known to Victorians during the 1880s as "the Liver Building", which name is now lost to history (just like "the Poste House"), which temporarily had two Liver birds on them called Bertie and Bella?   How does one prove a negative of this kind?  If Tom said he thought it was possible, how would one respond?  

In this respect, it's interesting that when putting forward this example, he said, "Let's see him [Lord Orsam] find an 1889 or earlier reference to those plump beauties which would permit of James Maybrick casting his eyes over them".  We see here that Tom's suggestion was that if I couldn't find an 1889 or earlier reference to "those plump beauties" then the diary, if it had mentioned them, would be a proven and incontrovertible fake. Yet he takes a very different approach with "one off instance" where, despite having failed himself to find a single1889 or earlier reference to "one off" to mean unique or unrepeatable, Mitchell nevertheless refuses to admit that THIS proves the diary to be a fake!


Mitchell's third example, rather like his second, was ad absurdum.  He would, he said, accept the diary was fake, if it mentioned the diarist watching Coronation Street on television.   The thing is, with the diary, we are discussing a disputed document.  A disputed document, by definition, is one for which the authenticity is uncertain.  If a diary purporting to be a nineteenth century diary mentioned the diarist watching a television programme, it would instantly have been dismissed as a fake by the first person who read it.  So it would never have reached the status of a disputed document. 


Let me put it another way, it's rather like Mitchell demanding that someone find him a clear and obvious error in the diary and then saying that, if there is no clear and obvious error, the diary cannot be said to be a fake.  But, of course, there can't possibly be a clear and obvious error in a diary produced and published over 30 years ago. If there was a clear and obvious error in the diary, it would have been spotted instantly because it was clear and obvious.  So, any error, by definition, is going to be difficult to find and will not be clear and obvious. 


Notwithstanding this, a clear and obvious error WAS spotted by a language expert prior to the diary's publication.  A lecturer in Victorian and modern English Literature at Oxford University, Dr Kate Flint, noticed it contained the expression "one off instance" unknown in the nineteenth century and not recorded in any dictionary as having been in use prior to the 1930s.  To an expert in language, I guess this was the equivalent to a normal person of the diarist saying that he had just watched Coronation Street on the telly. 

Given that Dr Flint spotted the problem, which was revealed in the Sunday Times, as early as 1993, how did the diary 'survive'?  Simple. By Shirley Harrison falsely claiming that she had located an example of "one off" to mean unique from the 1860s.  In fact, no such example existed and it transpired that she had never seen such an example.  Yet this magic trick by Harrison sufficiently duped everyone including Feldman, and thus Feldman's principal disciple, Mitchell himself, for more than 20 years until I exposed the "one off" hoax in 2016.


More than 30 years since the emergence of the diary, we now have access to multiple digital databases of documents from the nineteenth century, as well as multiple dictionaries and phrase books whose job is to record the dates of origin of words and expressions, and not a single example of "one off instance" or any similar expression, or any usage of "one off" to mean a unique, singular or unrepeatable instance has been located from the nineteenth century.   The earliest documented appearance of "one off job" is from 1912, while the earliest documented reference of "one off" to mean something or someone unique, other than a job (or pattern or casting), and thus used in a metaphorical sense, is from 1946, some 58 years after Maybrick is supposed to have used it in 1888. The earliest known written use of the expression "one off instance" is, strangely enough, as late as 1981.  Is it in any way realistic that James Maybrick wrote down the expression "one off instance" and then no one used the expression "one off" in a similar way, to refer to a unique occasion, event, instance or person, for almost 60 years, with no one currently known to have used that exact expression again for more than 90 years?


Of course not.  Yet the extraordinary thing is that "one off instance" does not stand on its own.  There are three other expressions whereby Maybrick is the first person known to have put them in writing.


  • No documented written example of "bumbling buffoon" has so far been located before 1949.  No written use of 'bumbling' in this way to mean incompetent, or similar, has been located before 1909.


  • No documented written example of "spreads mayhem" has so far been located before 1979, albeit that "mayhem spreads" has been found in 1976, "spread mayhem" has been found in 1969 and "spreading mayhem" has been found in 1946 (and the earliest known use of "mayhem" to mean a commotion goes back 1933).


  • No documented written example of "top myself" has so far been located before 1929  ("top himself" has been found in 1877 and "topped himself" in 1912 but there is no known first person written example of the exact expression "top myself" prior to 1929).


What the diary defenders want us to believe is that James Maybrick is the very first known person to have put all these four expressions into writing and, in some cases, no one else did so again, as far as is known, for the number of years specified, being more than 50 years for "one off", more than 60 hears for 'bumbling buffoon', more than 90 years for "spreads mayhem" and more than 40 years for "top myself".


How gullible would one have to be to think that this is even remotely credible?   It's ludicrous!


With one off instance alone, the diary is disproved.  With one off instance and bumbling buffoon the diary is doubly disproved.  With all four examples of Maybrick's apparent Shakespearian invention of expressions, no one could possibly accept the diary as genuine, yet they don't even stand alone.   We have multiple factual mistakes in the diary, the most egregious of which being that the purported James Maybrick didn't know that Countess de Gabriac was his wife's godmother!


In circumstances where not one scientific test is able to confirm that the ink was placed on the paper of the diary in 1888/89, and where an experienced expert forensic document examiner has concluded on the basis of a solubility test, and for other reasons, that the diary is a fake, it is absolutely certain and utterly incontrovertible that James Maybrick did not write the diary.  No sensible reason has been put forward to even begin to undermine this conclusion. 

For anyone interested in detailed discussions of the expressions "one off instance" and "bumbling buffoon" respectively see One Off Article and Bumbling About.


30 January 2024


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Feb 06

The lack of self-awareness that Tom Mitchell exhibits in the line "Please don't just rinse and repeat the unproven stuff" really quite astonishing considering that Tom's own defense of the Maybrick Hoax is just an uncritical, credulous repetition of the debunked arguments made by Paul Feldman over a quarter of a century ago.

Lord Orsam
Feb 06
Replying to

I've always had a picture in my mind of a goggle-eyed young-ish Tom Mitchell turning the pages of Feldman's book with growing excitement as he becomes convinced he's discovered the identity of Jack the Ripper. Probably nothing since in his life has matched that level of sheer excitement and adrenaline rush, so he just can't let it go. He certainly can't admit that Feldman was writing unmitigated nonsense lest it render his greatest memory as meaningless. It's a very sad story.


Jan 30
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I’ve often thought what I’d do if I was the owner of the diary and I wanted to defend it as authentic from those that claimed that it wasn’t and I always arrive at the same simple course of action. I’d ask the opinion of an Etymologist. How better to help the cause if an expert in the origin of words stepped up and said “actually the phrase ‘one of instance’ used in the same way as in the diary could have been used in 1888.’ Over the years we have had varying ‘suggestions’ none of which has stood up to any kind of scrutiny. The fact that no expert has been consulted speaks of a complete lack of confidence…

Lord Orsam
Jan 30
Replying to

Yes, as I wrote in my article of 27 October 2019 about Smith's second edition, in which he repeated the false prison-based explanation:

"Astonishingly, Smith still relies on Jonathon Green's 'Dictionary of Jargon' to claim that the expression 'one off duty' was used in nineteenth century prisons.  I debunked this nonsense in my September 2017 article.  As I said then, Green's 'Dictionary of Jargon' says nothing about it being a nineteenth century expression (and the book is dedicated to contemporary jargon from the 1980s), while the full expression is 'one off, one on' (or vice versa), relating to the handing over of a prisoner from one (modern) prison guard to another, which bears a completely different meaning to the 'one off' of the Diary. "

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