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A look at the altered document in Uncle Jack (recovered file)

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  • A look at the altered document in Uncle Jack (recovered file)

    dannorder
    27th January 2006, 01:48 AM

    People were asking me for more info on what the other thread here about the book Uncle Jack was all about. Those of you who read the October 2005 issue of Ripper Notes saw Jennifer Pegg's article "Uncle Jack Under the Microscope" and already know, of course. But for the people who are behind on their subscriptions and for the general public and press interested in knowing more, especially in light of the announced upcoming paperback edition of the book, I thought I'd give a quick overview.

    On page 16 of the hardcover edition of Tony Williams and Humphrey Price's book Uncle Jack, a document was printed that was presented as a notebook entry of the eminent Victorian doctor Sir John Williams. It lists one "Mary Anne Nichols" as having been a patient. The authors argued that this is proof that the doctor and Mary Ann Nichols, the prostitute generally accepted as Jack the Ripper's first victim, had met. This, as inconclusive as it was, was pretty much the major piece of evidence offering a potential link between the serial killer and the doctor.

    When Jennifer Pegg was working on an article about problems with the arguments in the book, she noted, as others before had noted, that the line with "Mary Anne Nichols" on it appeared to be in different handwriting from the writing on the rest of the page. It was one of many things she contacted the authors about. Tony Williams replied to that line of thought with the following:

    "And just what does she suggest about the handwriting in the book, held by the National Library of Wales? That it was altered, although it has been in the library's possession since it was left to the library?"

    Upon the suggestion that the document at the library had been altered (and note that this idea was suggested by the author himself), Jennifer had the library send a copy of the document in question. She compared it to the one in the book. Here is what she saw, and what readers of Ripper Notes later saw:

    [ATTACH]32[/ATTACH]

    Several things become immediately obvious here. 1) The two versions of the document do not match. 2) The line in question seen in the document at the library has handwriting that is substantially and obviously different from the doctor's own handwriting. 3) The version printed in the book for some unknown reason is changed so that the writing looks more similar and that the reference code at the end of the line is similar to the ones in the doctor's handwriting. 4) Tony Williams was not asking us if we were suggesting that the version printed in the book had been altered, he was asking us if the version at the library had been altered from the original.

    At the time we made the initial announcement that there was a major discrepancy, we simply asked the authors or the publisher to explain why the image in the book did not match the document at the National Library of Wales. We thought it was a pretty reasonable question.

    The first response was from Tony Williams and printed in the December issue of the electronic journal Ripperologist. He claimed that both himself and Humphrey Price had been at the library and seen the original and that it matched what they printed in Uncle Jack, and that they were "shocked and dismayed" to learn that the copy we printed was different. I sort of got the idea that they were implying it had been somehow altered sometime after they were there, either by the library or by us at Ripper Notes.

    Then the publisher sent a response, also said to be from the authors, to the Casebook: Jack the Ripper site to respond to Jennifer's article (see the other thread note: recovered on new boards (2008) at http://forum.casebook.org/showthread.php?t=79), in which they now said that they were "shocked and dismayed" that "a wrong copy of a document" had been printed in Uncle Jack.

    So now apparently they switched from claiming that the version they printed was the correct version and professing not to know why the original one now looked different to claiming that in some unexplained way there was some alternate copy made somewhere that somehow altered the text to make it appear more like Sir John Williams' real handwriting and that this somehow "found its way" into the book.

    These answers, of course, do not answer anything. Perhaps we need more specific questions then:

    •Why is it that the authors claimed the version of the document in the book was confirmed by them as being the real one and then later admitted that is wasn't?

    •How exactly did a wrong copy get created in the first place?

    •Going back to the original statement that started all this, why did Tony Williams assume Jennifer was asking if the one at the library itself had been altered?

    •To get to the heart of the matter, if the authors now admit that the one printed in the book was altered, and Tony Williams himself suggested that the one at the library was altered even before anyone else saw the original to compare it with what was in the book, what assurances do we have that whoever mysteriously altered the document before it went to press did not also alter the original at the library itself?

    The authors state: "We do, however, object to any suggestion or hint that documents on which we have based our deductions have in any way been deliberately altered by ourselves"... Well, that's kind of ambiguous. We know it was altered, as they now admit as much. Is it that we're supposed to believe it was accidentally modified to look more like the authentic handwriting to help the arguments in the book? Or that someone other than the authors modified it to look more like the authentic handwriting to help the arguments in the book? Or just that they just would rather not have anyone suggest those things even though they don't take the extra step of specifically denying it? All this confusion could be cleared up with more specific answers.

    They also state: "Tony has publicly stated that no-one would be more pleased than he should he be proved to be wrong, as then the reputation of his illustrious ancestor be restored." Of course Tony has also publicly stated that the document in the book was authentic despite what was found at the National Library of Wales. Asking us to accept that he would be happy if people didn't believe the very thing he himself is the only person arguing for (and making money on it in the process!) is, well, frankly asking the impossible.

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    spryder
    27th January 2006, 03:37 AM

    Thanks for posting that overlay image - really says it all, doesn't it? The crux of this problem has nothing to do with handwriting, it has to do with the fact that there appear to be two distinct versions of this document - one version reproduced in Uncle Jack, and another held at the Nat'l Library of Wales. If that's the case, how did two versions come about? Which is the original? Why do they match each other 100% except for the line about Mary Ann Nichols?

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    tardis_girl74
    10th May 2007, 06:51 PM

    I'm confused? Are these notes supposed to have been written by Dr. Williams? Why would the signature on the note #1 (Uncle Jack) be different from the signature on note #2 (journal)? I see the top part of the notes are the same, well they look like it to me, but two sets of signatures? What's to be gained? Would this be Dr. Williams signature or the patient? If it is the patients, maybe its a different Mary Nichols that the one killed by JTR.


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    supe
    10th May 2007, 08:12 PM

    Tardis_Girl,

    Read Dan Norder's post that accompanies the the illustrations as it explains all and answers your questions.

    Don.


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    Magpie
    11th May 2007, 01:24 AM

    Did the National Library of Wales not announce their intention to launch an inquiry into the possible vandalism of the Williams' documents at one point?

    Has anyone heard whether such an investigation has happened, or is still planned?


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    monty
    11th May 2007, 08:09 AM

    Dan,

    And the book is still in my local bookshop.

    If you have any comeback on this Dan, please let us know.

    Though I suspect I know the answer, one other spefic question I would add is why, if its all all innocent, was the line altered at all?

    Monty



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    dannorder
    14th May 2007, 12:41 AM

    Sorry, I had missed these posts as they were put up.

    To clear up tardis_girl74's confusion, there is no signature line on either document. The notebook was used by Sir John Williams to record patients of different types he had dealt with in his practice. Nobody would sign that at the bottom, it should all be in the same handwriting. The fact that the disputed line is not in Sir John's handwriting in either version of the document strongly indicates that neither one was written by the doctor.

    What appears to have happened is that someone at a later date added the line to the original. But, as we can see, the handwriting looks nothing like it's supposed to and the code number seen at the end is all wrong for the records on that page.

    Then Uncle Jack came out and someone somehow connected with this book erased the line with the poor handwriting and replaced it with a new line that looked more similar to that handwriting and that had a different code number that more fit in with the others on the page.

    Everyone seems to have been beating around the bush on this, but it is my belief that Tony Williams, alone or with participation of others, is the one who modified the text. Why do I say this? Well, because when he was originally asked if the line was in the same handwriting he did not suggest that some doctor filled in for Sir John Williams on that line, or that something had happened wrong when the book was published, he right away asked if he was being accused of modifying the original document. Up to that point nobody had even entertained the idea that that is what had happened. But, yeah, after he brought that possibility up it sure sounded like the best explanation. And then what could have happened is that, when he saw what a poor job of faking that line in the original he had done, he took a second try and came up with a better forgery for use in the book. It really seems to me to be the only explanation that fits with all the facts as we know them. If the authors or the publisher would like to be more forthcoming and explain their side, I'm sure we'd all be interested in some straight answers from them for a change.

    I suspect the National Library of Wales isn't too keen to get involved in a process that highlights the fact that someone had gotten away with modifying historical records in their collection. Sales of the paperback version of Uncle Jack (which ran the version of he document at the library instead of the one shown in the hardcover, but with no explanation in the book about the difference) appear to have fizzled, and the authors seem to be keeping a low profile. Journalists I've talked to don't see it as particularly newsworthy right now... though many of them are aware of it, and should Tony Williams or his theory show up in the news again they will be ready to give this the attention it deserves.


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    tardis_girl74
    15th May 2007, 06:36 AM

    "To clear up tardis_girl74's confusion, there is no signature line on either document. The notebook was used by Sir John Williams to record patients of different types he had dealt with in his practice. Nobody would sign that at the bottom, it should all be in the same handwriting. The fact that the disputed line is not in Sir John's handwriting in either version of the document strongly indicates that neither one was written by the doctor.

    What appears to have happened is that someone at a later date added the line to the original. But, as we can see, the handwriting looks nothing like it's supposed to and the code number seen at the end is all wrong for the records on that page.

    Then Uncle Jack came out and someone somehow connected with this book erased the line with the poor handwriting and replaced it with a new line that looked more similar to that handwriting and that had a different code number that more fit in with the others on the page."

    ok, thank you for clearing this up, I understand fully now.

    Dan Norder
    Ripper Notes: The International Journal for Ripper Studies
    Web site: www.RipperNotes.com - Email: dannorder@gmail.com
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