Rather than asking what is the Diary’s biggest ‘fault’ (a recent thread) – which inspired a host of opinionated misinformation (my favourite one is the ‘fact’ that the infamous sobriquet was invented by a Fleet Street journalist via the ‘Dear Boss’ letter – here we see the ‘proof’ of one hoax deriving from no more than belief in another hoax, but without a shred of certainty from the known facts) - we ought perhaps to simply be listing the certain, unequivocal factual errors in or about the diary. To date, I cannot recall anyone presenting one, so I would like to ask that someone please now does. Even just the one will do. Personally, I would be delighted to be put out of my misery and know one way or t’other whether or not this diary is the real McCoy. It needs to be an unequivocal fact or error, of course, and one which makes the diary unequivocally, undeniably a forgery. For example, the diarist claims he took Mary Kelly’s key away with him, and I have heard it argued that this could not have been the case, and thus the diary falls on at least that point. But is this unequivocally, demonstrably the case, or is it simply part of Ripper folklore which now – in 2008 – no longer has the concrete evidence to back it up?
The handwriting argument is not unequivocal proof of forgery, despite the obvious temptation – especially if motivated that way – to assume that it is. As implausible as it may be, we have to accept that there is no categorical proof that James Maybrick did not write those words and in that style. Granted, there is no evidence that he did, but equally the existence of his handwriting which looks nothing like the diary’s style simply serves to massively lean us towards belief that we are dealing with a hoax, but does not (and can not) serve to prove beyond any doubt that he did not write those words. Indeed, I suspect that it is the fact that the handwriting looks so little like the known examples of Maybrick’s writing that many people have assumed the diary to be an ‘amateurish fake’. Personally, if I were to write a forged diary, the very first thing I’d do before I gave up my weekend writing it would be to check what the target’s handwriting looked like (otherwise, the effort would be patently wasteful). The lack of correlation makes me think either an utter idiot wrote it (an argument not then backed up by the detail contained within it) or else it was written by Maybrick in a hand not historically on record elsewhere.
The use of ‘Poste House’ is uncomfortable for diary believers but is not in itself unequivocal proof of a hoax. The text does not say which ‘Poste House’ the author is referring to. We simply cannot know for certain that the reference was not to a ‘Poste House’ somewhere other than in Liverpool. Indeed, the context of its use in the diary seems to favour London rather than Liverpool.
The coincidental use of ‘tin match box empty’ is disconcerting, but given its context in both the diary and the police report – that is, a ‘bullet-point’ summary – the similarity of style and phrasing could easily have been exactly that (mere coincidence). Certainly, it is not unequivocal proof of fraud.
The choice of writing material is irrelevant unless in itself it can be dated to a later time than the crimes. The fact that it seems an implausible choice to us means absolutely nothing. It is not unequivocal proof of a hoax. It is strange, and it weakens the diary’s case, but it does not disprove it. It may well have been a company scrapbook which had largely been forgotten about within the office, which Maybrick chose to use when first inspired to write his journal. It may have been 8pm, and WH Smith’s was shut. Perhaps Thomas Lowry wondered where the scrapbook had gone, and had innocently questioned Maybrick about it. This would certainly lend credence to his references to Lowry’s meddling in his affairs, and would provide some motive for ripping out the earlier pages: indeed, is this why the diarist writes somewhat to the effect of ‘Damn him for making me rip’?. We just don’t know, and can’t know, either way.
The reference to Mary Kelly’s breasts being in the wrong place is unfortunate for believers in the diary, but it is not unequivocal evidence of fraud: the most that we can say is that it appears to be evidence that either Maybrick was indeed Jack and that he was confused in his recall (it was, after all, a particularly gory scene to be recalling) or else that the diary is a hoax and the hoaxer got that bit wrong. We cannot prove the case either way, so we cannot say the error is unequivocal evidence of a hoax.
The style overall is not proof of the hoax. The fact that there are people who believe that a 13 year old could have written the diary serves only to remind us that a body of people (probably far fewer in number) equally believe that it is simply ridiculous to even make such a suggestion (I count myself amongst the latter number). The diary – whether you take the view that it is a hoax and even a hoax concocted by a 13 year old – could well have been primarily constructed from just one good book on the Maybrick case and one good book on the Ripper case; but the diary does unequivocally also contain references to things which can be ‘evidenced’ in the public record and whose fact requires more than a typical 13 year old’s grasp of history, or is to be found in either Ripper or Maybrick books. Our hoaxer – 13 or not – was either extraordinarily fortunate in their doggerel and pseudopsychotic ramblings or else they went to considerable effort to add subtle touches of researchable material in the text. For example (not exhaustive):
1) The reference to Gladys being unwell ‘again’
2) The knowledge that the 1889 Grand National could well have been the fastest James Maybrick had ever seen
3) The reference to Maybrick bring away at Christmas 1888
4) The knowledge of when his brother Thomas was and was not in America
5) The constant references to Michael being in London when he could have been elsewhere
6) The use of ‘Sir Jim’
7) The reference to Maybrick as ‘May’
There may well be an argument that the diary has too great an appearance of forgery about it (the handwriting, the style, the choice of material, the provenance); however, you can equally make the case that the hoaxer – if hoax it be – carried with them into the project extraordinary luck. Chief, for me, amongst these, include:
1) A Whitechapel in both Liverpool and London
2) V marks on Catharine Eddowes (‘left my mark’)
3) The FM on the wall of MK’s room
4) Florence’s comment in a letter to Brierley (‘The tale he told me …’)
5) The remarkable ‘photofit’ of Oct 6 which looked so much like Maybrick
6) The ‘Who is Jim?’ newspaper article
7) Maybrick’s established addiction to arsenic
8) Maybrick’s known presence in Whitechapel
9) The spelling of Jack from Maybrick’s name
10) The convenience of Juwes appearing much like James
11) The Diego Laurenz letter
12) The extravagant swirl at the end of a sentence (see Feldman, ‘The Final Chapter’)
For me, as I have noted several times over the years on this site, the ‘FM’ on Mary Kelly’s wall are fundamental to Maybrick’s candidature for the killer. I know that the common argument against this is that the letters are simply not there (I’ve seen the Frosty the Snowman stuff – very funny actually), and I accept that even my wife couldn’t see them even when I traced them for her. Personally, I suspect it’s a bit like the Magic Eye experience – until you finally see it, you remain convinced (as I originally was) that it is all simply a worldwide joke played by those who know the joke on those who don’t. Nevertheless, sufficient people can see the letters to convince me that they can be seen. Without doubt, for me, the ‘M’ is crystal clear in every version I have seen of the infamous picture. It has a clear rising second half, and it is the very ‘M’ the author uses throughout the diary. Either our hoaxer spotted the ‘M’ before anyone else did (I know letters had been spoken about in 1988 or so) and based their diary ‘M’ on this, and was just plain fortunate that next to it was a discernible enough ‘F’ to inspire the ‘an initial here …’ line in the diary; or else our diarist had actually been in that room (at the time of Kelly’s death or not) and placed that ‘M’ there along with a probable ‘F’, because they clearly knew about its existence when the diary was written. So our hoaxer finds a plausible ‘FM’ on Mary Kelly’s wall just by chance and nothing to do with James Maybrick. What are the chances of that happening?
The letter from Florence to Brierley is so fortunate for our hoaxer as to be little short of miraculous. She writes ‘The tale he told me was pure fabrication and only designed to scare the truth out of me’ (apologies for any errors, I’m writing this from memory) – and this in a letter designed to prevent Brierley fleeing the country. She doesn’t go into detail about the ‘tale’ so we can assume that Brierley knows which tale she is referring to; and she is very clear that it was a tale he told rather than, say, a threat he made. He didn’t make a threat. He told her a tale. Extraordinary! The diary wants us to believe that Maybrick confessed all to Florence, and at that very same point in the timeline of their lives, she writes to her lover of a tale designed to frighten her. What possible tale could it have been if the diary is a forgery? What could he possibly have told her to inspire potential fear in her and Brierley? I can’t think of anything, though – in 1889 - saying that he was Jack the Ripper would seem a good candidate. Whatever he said, he certainly said something, and right at the time that our diarist wants us to believe he has confessed all to dear old Bunny. What are the chances of that happening?
The third aspect of the Ripper case which niggles away at me is the letter to the Liverpool Echo published on October 10 in which the author refutes that the Ripper letters published the day before the letter was written are genuine. He signs off ‘Jack the Ripper’ and adds ‘(Genuine)’ – the only time to my knowledge a Ripper letter had such a sign-off. As if wishing to then add greater credence to the veracity of his status as the true Ripper, the author writes ‘DIEGO LAURENZ’ as some sort of clue. Paul Feldman didn’t work it out. Shirley Harrison explained that Diego is the highly obscure Spanish equivalent of James. Recently, whilst trawling around the internet, I came across an explanation for the Laurenz part (sorry, author unknown): it was suggested that Laurenz was simply a crude rhyme of ‘Florence’. Certainly, it is true that nothing else seems to rhyme with Florence. DIEGO FIRENZE would have been good, but DIEGO LAURENZ is certainly good enough. This letter, of course, does not support James Maybrick as our infamous killer (any more than Walter Sickert’s Ripper letters detailed in Cornwall’s misguided tome prove that he was the Ripper); however, the use of ‘(Genuine)’ in a letter strongly associated with Maybrick seems terribly unlikely if he was not actively involved in the crimes themselves. What are the chances of that happening?
A fourth aspect of the case bothers me immensely also. On July 4, 2008, Channel Five (UK) broadcast a documentary titled ‘Jack The Ripper – The First Serial Killer’ (the BBC News website suggests that it was first shown on Tuesday, November 21, 2006). From the BBC News website:
‘Head of analysis for Scotland Yard's Violent Crime Command Laura Richards, who has studied serial killer Fred West and Soham murderer Ian Huntley, revisited the case using modern police techniques. She brought together a team of experts, including pathologists, historians and a geographical profiler, to find out if the case could ever be solved.’
The physical profile (including an e-fit of the killer’s face) bore only the most tenuous similarity to James Maybrick, and much of the proposed social profile of the killer did not match his known profile either. Other evidence did point to the killer being a resident of Whitechapel, and a geographical profile was created to determine the most likely sites for his base.
The geographical profile was produced by Kim Russo (from the programme, “His geoprofiling system has been used by police forces around the world to track and catch serial offenders”). The programme stated that Mr Russo’s analysis was based upon the scenes of crime themselves (presumably, then, excluding the killer’s likely presence in Goulston Street in the early hours of Sunday, September 30, 1888). Using the information about the fives crime scenes, Mr Russo built up both 2D and 3D representations of where in Whitechapel the killer would most likely have lived. I took some crude photographs of these 2D and 3D maps taken directly from the programme, and would be happy to email anyone a copy if they wish it (please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
As you would see if you either saw the photographs or the programme itself, the programme identified the highest peak of probability as being Flower and Dean Street, and therefore the inference was made that this was his most likely location throughout the time of the crimes. Presumably for reasons of impact, no other locations were discussed. In reality, there was one other strong locus for the killer’s base – and one whose probability could only have been marginally less than that for Flower and Dean Street: it was one single street in the whole of Whitechapel, and that street was Middlesex Street. It is my belief that had the Goulston Street data been incorporated also, Middlesex Street would have emerged as the street with the highest probability of being the killer’s base. What are the chances of that happening?
As an aside, I first watched this programme just before a two week holiday from which I returned recently. At the time of watching the programme, I did not pay much attention to the geoprofiling data. Whilst away from home, I mulled this data over, and realised that if geoprofiling was any kind of reliable science at all, and if James Maybrick was indeed Jack, and if he did indeed base himself out of a room in Middlesex Street as the journal claims, then Middlesex Street must be evident in the geoprofiling data. As a firm believer in the authenticity of the Maybrick journal, I returned from my holiday absolutely certain that the journal would once again be supported by the ‘evidence’. As I had expected, I was not disappointed. This journal does not appear to want to be ‘shaken’, regardless of the criticism and derision it receives. It just keeps standing up to everything that gets thrown at it.
I personally look forward to clarification around the unequivocal fact or facts which consign the diary to the wastepaper basket, if these facts are available. There is such a torrent of either abuse or smug derision on this site for anyone even vaguely sounding supportive of the diary that I would politely ask that the fact or facts which are provided (assuming that any are) follow a few simple guidelines:
1) The ‘fact’ ought to be beyond any other interpretation: thus, it is not a fact which disproves the diary’s claims if some other plausible (if perhaps unlikely) case can be made which supports the diary’s claims (e.g., the issue about the ‘Poste House’, and the handwriting differences)
2) Further to the above, the fact needs to avoid using the possibility of coincidence as hard evidence for a fraud (best example is ‘tin match box, empty’)
3) The fact needs to be verifiable, not simply based upon gut instinct (e.g., the choice of writing materials)
I appreciate that the examples I have cited rely on anecdote and coincidence in more or less equal measure – but I am intending them in that context; I am not seeking to prove the authenticity of the diary by citing them – merely to offer a little bit of balance to what has been a seriously imbalanced debate. Following the same logic, I would love to know what evidence exists which kills the diary stone dead but is not built upon anecdote or coincidence.
A good example of exactly the sort of fact or error which would unequivocally destroy the diary’s claims to authenticity might be, say, a reference to something which did not exist when the book was written. The ‘Poste House’ won’t do, for reasons already discussed. Ideally, it would be a monumental gaff such as referring to the Fenian outrages of that age as being committed by the IRA. Or mentioning Everton or Liverpool FC (as one Casebooker did recently) when only the former existed in 1888 or 1889. Something of that magnitude of error would be perfect.
If we are left without a single, undeniable, unequivocal example in the diary which destroys its own case, and if the debate about ink and materials remain unresolved, then we must conclude that we cannot discount the possibility that it is not a fraud at all, and we should speak of it in somewhat more reverential terms than currently most of us do. After all, it represents hard evidence against a plausible enough candidate for the murderer, and not many other candidates can claim that, and yet they do not appear to suffer the insults that this journal suffers. It seems that you can name anyone and his dog as the criminal and be treated respectfully by the Casebook community, but mention the diary, and the knives instantly come out.
Sixteen years have passed since first it came to light. Experts remain divided on its authenticity. The 13 year old who wrote this diary one wet weekend probably had no idea that he or she would probably never again in their lifetime write such a spectacularly complex work, and one so complex and so brilliant that it would be called both infantile and genius in equal measure.