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Willy Clarkson - The Wigmaker of Wellington Street - a New Theory on Jack the Ripper

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  • Willy Clarkson - The Wigmaker of Wellington Street - a New Theory on Jack the Ripper

    Hi all:

    I was researching a different subject and came upon the name Willy Clarkson, a famed British wig-maker of the Victorian era. I followed that path and unexpectedly compiled evidence that demonstrates Clarkson had the motive, expertise and opportunity to commit the Whitechapel Murders. I put this together in a documentary that is about 30 minutes long and proffers that the evidence is sufficient to conclude that Willy Clarkson was the individual known as Jack the Ripper.

    I hope you take the time to watch it, and agree, disagree or spew disdain on me for making it. I enjoyed the process and look forward to all feedback, good and bad, and whether anyone has thoughts as to why Willy Clarkson shouldn't be added to the list of credible suspects, and really the most credible suspect.

    Here is the link.

    Thanks a lot!

    P. William Grimm

  • #2
    Hi all:

    There were some comments on a Facebook page I posted this on which raised some issues and asked some questions. Here are my responses. I hope it piques the interest in some of you to engage in conversation/consideration of this theory. Thanks!

    1. The wig at the Stride crime scene at Elizabeth Stride. This is the piece of evidence that convinced me this theory could be viable. The source for this is The Strange Life of Willy Clarkson, the citation for which can be found in the Selected Bibliography at the end of the film. This book is an intriguing combination of primary and secondary source as it was published in 1934, the year of Clarkson’s death. It was intended to be an autobiography and Clarskon cooperated fully with its writing, but Clarkson died during its writing. His assistant and confidant, Harry Greenwall, completed the book and converted it to biography. What is so intriguing about Greenwall and why I lend credibility to his writing, is that he himself is skeptical of some of Clarkson’s statements, dictated to him. He is not shy about questioning some of Clarkson’s statements as puffery, etc. Yet, in the section of the book about the wig found at the Stride scene, he seems quite confident in Clarkson’s statements. He finds Clarkson a reliable source for this story. If we are to believe that Scotland Yard did not visit Clarkson with a Clarkson wig found at the Stride scene, we’d have to believe Clarkson lied. While there appears to be no evidence in the police records of this visit, it appears to have been considered a dead end, according to Clarkson, so perhaps it is not surprising there is no record. The book is hard to find, but I found a copy at the British Library. There are copies at various libraries in the US (but not on abebooks, dammit!) so if you want to read more on this point, I suggest you start there. Similar details are given in the book The Wig Making Clarksons by Roger Jenkin, also in my Selected Bibliography.

    2. Clarkson’s connections to the East End. I refer again to the Strange Life of Willy Clarkson and The Wigmaking Clarksons books , which discusses Clarkson traveling often to the East End as a messenger and for clothing and fabric, etc., getting to know the area well The latter is more available (on ebay and abebooks) but is not as comprehensive as The Strange Life of Willy Clarkson. His relationship with Marie Lloyd also could have brought him to the East End, and this is memorialized both in The Strange Life book, as well as period newspaper cuttings, one of which I included in the film.

    3. Clarkson’s connection to Hobbs and blackmailing. The source of this is at least two-fold. The secondary source is Gangland in Soho (2012), which explicitly states this. If this is not considered reliable, I also have a newspaper clipping from 1925 in which Hobbs is forced to return money to Clarkson, as some of the cheques from the Maharajah black mail case were written to Clarkson. As Clarkson was not charged, it seems he could not be forced to relinquish his claim to that sum of money. I will post that on the Casebook forum.

    4. Muslin pieces – The source for this is “The Five” by Hallie Rubenhold (2019), in the “A Life in Objects” section, also in my Selected Bibliography in the credits.

    5. Mispronunciation of Glouston/Mitre Square. Sorry, my narrator flubbed it and I’m not the best audio editor, so I didn’t notice it. I don’t see how that changes anything.

    6. Anne Chapman’s name. The victim known as Annie Chapman was born Eliza Anne Smith, with her last name changed to Chapman when married. She chose to use her middle name, and her friends apparently called her Annie, as do most historians. I am not her friend, nor the friend of any of these victims; didn’t know any of them. So I called them all by the most proper name I could find, as others had nicknames, too. So I refer to her as Anne Chapman. I stand by that.

    7. “Fake pictures.” I’m not aware of any photos of the victims other than post-mortem, and I don’t have any interest in including those photos. The credits at the end make it clear that these are modern portraits by a modern artist, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong or disingenuous about that.

    8. Lily Templeton. I don’t get this reference, but I looked this person up and assume it’s some effort at sarcasm. Ha ha, I guess?
    Attached Files


    • #3
      I'm not going to comment on the theory. What I will say is that Annie Chapman is the only victim for whom there exists a photo of her when she was alive. All the rest are fake. If you want to be taken serious I would suggest removing the photos you have used of the other victims.
      These are not clues, Fred.
      It is not yarn leading us to the dark heart of this place.
      They are half-glimpsed imaginings, tangle of shadows.
      And you and I floundering at them in the ever vainer hope that we might corral them into meaning when we will not.
      We will not.


      • #4
        Thanks for your comment. A couple people have also commented on this issue n Facebook. As for the portraits of the victims in the titles of the various sections, they are line drawings based on what my artist found out in the public domain. I'm aware that other than Anne Chapman there aren't photos of the victims and I had no intention of putting post-mortem photos in the film. In the credits, I note they are portrait drawings by a modern artist, which seems comparable to hiring an actor to portray a victim - they're not going to look like the person they are playing and that doesn't really matter to the story. I may add a comment in the Youtube description to emphasize these are not actual pictures of the actual victims, but I don't see the need to take them down, or that they impact the credibility of the theory at all. It seems to me that the "fake photo" issue is an ongoing issue between Ripperologists, but in this context I don't think it changes the credibility of the story. Thanks again for watching!


        • #5
          I just looked at this. That's time I won't get back.If buts and maybes. Here we go again, Recipe, take a successful Victorian man of the middle class, living in London and pin the ripper murders on him with no evidence at all . Ozzy is right, only Annie Chapman has a photo and you can't even pronounce Marie Lloyd properly its Maaree. Silly season drivel and this heatwave is getting me down.

          Miss Marple


          • #6
            Thanks for watching Miss Marple! My favorite character in Murder by Death is Miss Marbles, so cheers! I am sorry you found the film to be drivel, but I do believe there is a substantial compilation of evidence in the film, which is summarized at the end as to motive, expertise and opportunity. I responded to Ozzy about the photos and again I stand by that, but thanks again for giving it a shot. I do appreciate it. Cheers, PWG.


            • #7
              Broken up because of size:

              Hi again:

              I was asked to provide some book scans to support certain statements made in the documentary film I have recently put on YouTube. I do so here. These are from a book entitled “The Strange Life of Willy Clarkson,” written by Harry J. Greenwall and almost impossible to find. I copied more pages than I am comfortable with because of copyright law, and am only posting a few pages to ensure this remains within fair use parameters. I have some other pages so if you have further questions, please let me know and if there is an answer in this book, I will try to provide the pages.

              I also reiterate that I do find Greenwall credible in his storytelling. I include a page in which Greenwall is very forthright about the challenges with being the biographer for Clarkson, who was not a stranger to puffery and secrecy. Greenwall’s transparency in this regard is unusual for its time, and stands out (to me at least) as a characteristic of credibility. When Greenwall doubts a story that Clarkson has recounted or that he has observed, he explicitly sets forth his doubt; or, as he says in his forward, which I also include, he leaves the story out all together.

              With that in mind, two particular issues raised skepticism of the theory proffered in this documentary, both of which I use the “Strange Life” book as support: (1) that Scotland Yard found a wig at the Elizabeth Stride crime scene; and (2) Clarkson’s connections with the East End. The first one is now supported by at least one other period article from “The People” in 1932, and is consistent with “Strange Life.” I am also attaching the pages in “Strange Life” that detail this recounting.


              • #8
                I am also including a short section from the book that support the second point, re: Clarkson and the East End. There are several other references to the East End, but I am trying to keep the number of pages I post to a minimum, and this one is the most telling. It relates to the woman who was engaged for a time to Jennie Glover, who the book refers to as Jenny, but I have a 1877 letter from her to Clarkson that she signs “Jennie.” The book relates that, after the engagement broke off, which would have been around 1887 or so, Clarkson would lurk around Liverpool Station and watch her as she would come in and out of Liverpool Station, in the East End – an 11 minute walk to Mitre Square. I actually walked it today after going to the library – Google Maps says its 8 minutes but I guess I’m old and slow. There is also a full chapter on Clarkson’s time with Marie Lloyd, called “Music-Hall Memories” which includes several references to the East End, but I am not including it here because I think that begins to run afoul of fair use limits.

                What’s also notable in this excerpt is an observation that Clarkson was very cruel to animals (other than fish, oddly enough). Again, my assertion is that Clarkson killed for business reasons, not from base psychosis, but there were a couple of questions raised about whether a mere blackmailer could be capable of grisly murders. I do not claim to be a psychologist expert, and so I did not include this in the documentary, but I am familiar with many “serial killers” who started off their tragic destiny through cruelty to animals.


                • #9
                  Again, none of this is definitive, but it is evidence. Let me end by responding to a few people who claim the film offers no “evidence.” I do not believe this is true, and (as a trial lawyer for over 20 years), I think it’s important to define “evidence.” People today seem to consider only forensic or eyewitness evidence to be credible, but this is a very new perspective, and one which I do not, from a legal perspective disagree. I have found that the most compelling evidentiary bases for an assertion arises from circumstantial evidence, and through creating a mosaic of this evidence, a picture is created that makes one particular argument far more likely than others. Eyewitnesses are often flat wrong, lying or are biased. Forensic evidence is compelling but can be misleading. Blood found at a murder scene is compelling if it matches the DNA of a suspect, but if the circumstances prove that suspect was a hundred miles away at the time, that forensic evidence is somehow misleading you and you have to figure out why. I have tried to build a circumstantial case that Willy Clarkson could be responsible for the Whitechapel Murders. I believe the documentary creates the mosaic I describe, and I am most interested in hearing perspectives from those of those in the Ripperology community that can offer facts or circumstances that renders this articulation of this theory unlikely or impossible. I haven’t seen that yet, but rather, as I respond to these queries, all of which have been made to me in good faith, the circumstantial evidence becomes stronger, not weaker.

                  Finally, I received substantial negative feedback on the title portraits, which I commissioned based on the facts and photos available in the public domain, although I knew that there were no actual photos of the victims, other than Ann Chapman. I simply wanted to include a face to a story, without any intent to deceive or suggest these were actual likenesses. The Ripperology community is clearly uniformly against this methodology. I have thought on this and respect it; and as a result, in the next and final draft of this documentary, I will remove the title portraits. Animated art used as re-enactments will remain because there is no real way anyone could confuse these with actual likenesses, and such art is typically used in modern documentaries.

                  Please do let me know if you have questions, criticisms, skepticism, disdain, additional facts, or pheraps even agreement or intrigue.


                  • #10
                    Here is the dropbox link to the chapter in question. These were too big to include as attachments here


                    • #11
                      East End connection:
                      Credibility of author Greenwall:


                      • #12
                        That's it! Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!


                        • #13
                          24:33 on the video. It's a myth that body parts were strewn across the room, and none of them strayed further than the bed or the bedside table.

                          Nice choice of the Courante from Bach's 1st Cello Suite as the background music to that section, by the way
                          Kind regards, Sam Flynn

                          "Suche Nullen" (Nietzsche, Götzendämmerung, 1888)


                          • #14
                            Sam: Thanks so much for that! I will look into that and perhaps change the script a bit as I have to correct a couple of mispronunciations I did not catch in the audio edit anyways. Thanks so much for watching. I hope you found it interesting!


                            • #15
                              It's refreshing to see a new name and theory being put forward, but I do not believe that your man is Jack the Ripper. He's way too busy and successful.