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My journey from skeptic to believer

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  • My journey from skeptic to believer

    Hello everyone,

    I'm brand new to the forum, but have been following the Maybrick diary saga since the beginning. Before jumping in with my comments on the other threads, I thought it would be best to try and explain where I'm coming from and how I got here, if anyone even cares. I started as a total skeptic, and was one (of lessening intensity) up until last week. Now I have to side with those who view the diary as genuine.

    That being said, characterizing myself as believing in the diary feels very strange and new to me! I have to consciously not refer to it as the alleged "diary."

    My disclaimer is that that I'm around 90% of the belief that the diary is real, and that I'm still trying to be open to other evidence and contrary arguments. And the handwriting is a valid concern. But, I have to admit that the diary has passed all my personal benchmarks for authenticity over two decades, and to continue to operate under the guise of confirmed non-believer or even mostly skeptical would be moving the goalposts.

    So, here we go...

    I was born in 1970, and lived most of my life in the American southeast. Before the diary, my only real exposure to the JTR case was reading one or two library books as a teenager. "JTR: The Final Solution" by Stephen Knight was likely one of them, and I can't quite recall the other. I remember seeing a television documentary on a show like "In Search Of..." and had brief exposures to JTR through popular culture. The 1979 film "Time After Time" was quite enjoyable. But I had no real interest in the Ripper case specifically.

    I checked out Shirley Harrison's first book in hardback from the library in 1994. It was interesting, but hardly convincing. Instead of supporting the diary, the last minute "as we were going to press" addition of the discovery of the watch actually made the case even more implausible in my view. The watch conveniently came along at the same time, but just a tad too late for any real in depth scientific testing and investigation. I didn't know much about the Jack the Ripper case, but I knew that there were many different suspects and serious books claiming one or the other was the real killer. They couldn't all be true. So each book claiming to reveal the true identity of JTR, no matter how seriously presented, would have to be taken with more than a few grains of salt.

    Also, it had been ten years since the Hitler Diaries, and even as a young teenager with little interest in the news, I had been aware of the discovery and the speedy revelation that it was a hoax. According to Wikipedia, the Hitler Diary hoax had been sussed out in less than two weeks. So, when I returned Harrison I to the library, I estimated the time between publication, when my library acquired it, and the time it took to go through the book reservation line (if indeed anyone in my town was interested in reserving it.) Probably a lot longer than two weeks, I supposed. As I returned the book, I thought it was an entertaining story, but time would uncover the truth. In fact, I believed the odds were that it had already been conclusively debunked and I was just not aware of it yet.

    A year went by, and one day while standing in line at the supermarket, I saw the 1995 trade paperback of Harrison I in a rack by the checkout. I hadn't thought about the diary since I had returned the library book, and probably wouldn't have picked up the paperback had it not trumpeted an updated narrative. I decided to buy it and see what a year or two's worth of investigation had produced.

    Again, I found it to be an interesting story, but many issues were still cloudy. I was surprised that the hoax had not been debunked to such a point that Harrison and publishers were not run out of the business all together. I made up my mind to keep an eye out for any further information, fully expecting a hoax to be discovered any time.

    Internally, I was beginning to be accustomed to the idea that maybe the mystery of JTR was never meant to be solved. And even if the identity of the Ripper was truly uncovered, the field of Ripperology is filled with so many self-styled experts whose very livelihoods are wrapped up in either their pet suspect or in the mystery never being solved, and they would never all agree. Who really was going to come up with a definitive answer to JTR that everyone could agree on when a significant segment of the self-proclaimed experts in the field are dead set on denying any proposed solution out of self-interest?

    Two years passed, and while browsing at a bookstore, Paul Feldman's "Jack The Ripper: The Final Chapter" caught my eye. I almost laughed to myself. "Here we go with yet another of the endless line of "Final" answers to JTR," I thought. I picked it up and began browsing through it, completely astounded that it was a Maybrick book. I really can't describe my surprise. I even checked the cover again for the author's name. It wasn't yet another reprint of Harrison's book? Really? It's really new research? I bought it right away and read it with great interest. Not only had the diary not yet been debunked, there was still active research going on by people other than Shirley Harrison.

    After reading Feldman's book, I began to wonder for the first time. "The Final Chapter" is not very well-written and some important issues remained confusing and cloudy, but there was no denying that Feldman and team had done the legwork. While others sit at home behind desks and theorize their way in and out of arguments, Feldman had really gone out on the road and uncovered a lot of information mainly due to sheer diligence.

    I still wasn't convinced by the diary at that point, but for the first time I really started to feel that the ball was moving toward the other court. Feldman had done the legwork and the research, and called out the Diary opponents by name. He raised what I felt were some legitimate questions, and now I wanted to hear the diary opponents make their case against the authenticity of the diary with a similar level of detail. I was sure they could make a strong case against the diary. After all, it was much more likely that the diary was a hoax than not.

    So, for the next few years I would grab any new JTR book off the shelf, immediately turn to the index, and look up either "Maybrick" or "diary." Most contained no reference to the diary at all. The ones that did almost always dismissed it as a hoax in a few short sentences with no accompanying explanation as to exactly how it was determined to be a hoax. There was not even a fraction of the detail that was in Harrison's book, much less Feldman's. I was puzzled why no scientific tests had yet conclusively debunked the diary or the watch, or why no absolute conflict with Maybrick's location at the time of any one of the five murders had been discovered.

    I picked up Harrison II, but quite honestly didn't do much more than page through it. The addition of an American angle to the Maybrick murder spree seemed extremely far-fetched to me, and smelled of a cash-in. (I had the same reaction reading Harrison III and realizing the American connection had been conveniently forgotten. It just didn't smell right.) I bought Harrison II, but felt it was a waste of money. It seemed like a hoax and felt like a hoax, and I was frustrated, wondering why the diary critics had not yet answered back in any substantial way.

    The most cogent argument I could find against the diary was a few authors pointing out the anachronistic use of certain terms like "one-off." To me, a scientific test regarding the paper, ink, or watch that conflicts with the Ripper murders, or a conflict with Maybrick's whereabouts, is far more conclusive and convincing than linguistic abnormalities. I remember thinking to myself that if the diary critics were still debating linguistics (instead of science and alibis) in ten years, I would be forced to conclude that they really had no solid evidence against the diary.

    In 2003 I bought "Ripper Diary: The Inside Story" by Linder, Morris, and Skinner. Despite the detail, "The Inside Story" surprisingly didn't definitively answer whether or not the diary was real, and if it is a hoax, who wrote it, when, and why? There was still no definitive debunking. I also purchased "The Last Victim" by Graham and Emmas, "The Ultimate JTR Companion" by Evans and Skinner, and Harrison III. There stands my current JTR library. I was still a skeptic, but definitely puzzled as to why I couldn't seem to find any sort of substantial argument against the diary. Quite honestly, issues raised in Harrison III argue toward skepticism better than any diary critic has so far been able to articulate! When Shirley Harrison is arguing the case against the diary better than any true diary critic, I believe the diary critics have a serious problem.

    That brings us to last week. The recent DNA match to Aaron Kosminski identifying the killer inspired me to check in again on the diary. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I was quickly led to the Casebook. The Casebook appears to be the oldest and most authoritative JTR website on the internet.

    I was amazed to see James Maybrick at the top of the suspects list here at casebook. I was even more surprised to know he was at the top of the list considering most of the Casebook articles on the diary seem to be written by the number one diary critic, Melvin Harris. The number one spot was even more impressive after browsing through the surviving Maybrick threads in the forum, where the diary opposition is vociferous and overwhelming. And adding the number of casual Ripper observers who have heard that Mike Barrett confessed to forging the diary and accepted that confession as proof without any further thought, the fact that Maybrick holds the #1 spot seems even more impressive.

    Of course, a poll doesn't prove anything. It is not evidence. But, while individuals can be stupid, collectively we are a genius. "You can't fool all the people all the time" and all that noise. Maybrick holding the number one suspect spot over many years despite what I believe is wide-spread and long-standing anti-diary bias in the media, the Casebook main, and here in the Casebook forums, is a noteworthy fact.

    http://forum.casebook.org/showthread.php?t=1274

    Still, I came into the forums a week ago as a skeptic. Then I clicked on "One Incontrovertible, Unequivocal, Undeniable Fact Which Refutes the Diary." I started reading the tread, ffully expecting to see that one undeniable fact in the first post. Finally, after all these years, someone has driven a stake through the heart of the diary! It was about time!

    It turns out that the thread was ASKING for that one fact instead of proposing it. After spending five days reading through all 142 pages, I had to finally admit to myself that no critic has yet made a substantial argument against the diary, and that no one fact has emerged that has conclusively debunked it.

    While the Hitler Diaries couldn't survive scrutiny for two weeks, the Maybrick diary has survived for 22 years.

    I remember thinking to myself ten years previous that if the diary critics were still harping on linguistics rather than a rock solid alibi or definitive scientific test, then I would have to conclude that their case against the diary was insubstantial. In the "One Incontrovertible..." thread, there are very serious people very seriously analyzing and debating the probability that someone in the 1880's would use the term "spread mayhem", and a long tangent exploring and debating the meaning of the word "mayhem."

    If the diary critics don't have something better than that, I have to say then the probability of the diary being genuine is very high. They've had 22 years to take whacks at it, and it still hasn't fallen. And I must note that a few of the diary critics here claim the diary to be an obvious and blatant fake. They say that they believe a 13 year old teenager could have written it over a weekend. They claim the fakery is plain to see, and the writing is not only immature but infantile. Yet they cannot explain who wrote it or when, even with two available routes to find the forgers (from the diary as well as the watch.)

    In my opinion, anyone who says that the diary is poorly written and easily researched is automatically red-flagging themselves as someone not to be taken seriously.

    The fact that it hasn't conclusively been knocked down 22 years speaks volumes. At any time in the last 22 years, the following could have happened:

    1. Material in the paper discovered to be incompatible with the 1880's
    2. Material in the ink discovered to be incompatible with the 1880's
    3. Testing on the watch dates the scratches to post 1889
    4. Maybrick found to be in a distant location at the time of one of the murders
    5. Researchers discover the true forger(s)
    6. The true forger(s) come forward on their own

    The above 6 are not small points. Other hoaxes have been debunked on the paper and ink alone.

    The watch gives another opportunity for science to deduct deception, and in this case the watch coming from a separate source gives investigators a second possible path back to the forgers. The significance of these points must be highlighted and shouldn't be ignored.

    Additionally, with two decades of scrutiny, Maybrick's whereabouts have not been discovered to conflict with any of the murders. From what I remember, Maybrick was visiting his Liverpool doctors hundreds of times. Adding that to his other travels, it would seem (from my totally unscientific and unreliable supposition) that roughly 3 out of every 5 days of the year, Maybrick had a possible conflict. Yet no alibi has emerged after 22 years of investigation.

    The fact that, as energized as the diary critics are, and how obviously amateurish they believe the diary hoax is, the critics haven't made a single step toward positively identifying the hoaxers in two decades. That also says a lot.

    Significantly, considering that the diary is popularly believed to be a hoax by the general populace, no modern day forgers have come forward to cash in by revealing how they fooled the world. That seems to me to be the final resort available for any living forgers wishing to cash in on their work.

    I could go on and on, and have a lot more I'd love to rattle on about, but this post is getting a bit unwieldy now and other tasks must be attended to today. Hopefully I will engage in the other threads (I'd like to post in all of them someday!) and address other issues.

    Part of me will always be skeptical of the diary. I dislike those who reject information because it doesn't line up with their established beliefs, so I hope to keep open to any new information or persuasive argument. And I admit there are still unanswered questions. I can not claim to know every answer (and am suspicious of those who do claim to know all!), and I fully acknowledge there are some unresolved issues.

    All I can say is I hope I am not roasted too badly. Remember, doubters, I used to be one of you!

    Kind regards,

    DB

  • #2
    Let the roasting begin (and welcome).
    ---------------------------------------------------
    JtR3D.com JtR 3D Blog
    ---------------------------------------------------
    HHAP

    Comment


    • #3
      I know a bit about this diary business I know mike Barrett met him loads over the years but untill we know where he got it from and will we never now where he got it from a we have nothing .
      Three things in life that don't stay hidden for to long ones the sun ones the moon and the other is the truth

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Dictionary Brown View Post
        The fact that it hasn't conclusively been knocked down 22 years speaks volumes. At any time in the last 22 years, the following could have happened:

        1. Material in the paper discovered to be incompatible with the 1880's
        2. Material in the ink discovered to be incompatible with the 1880's
        3. Testing on the watch dates the scratches to post 1889
        4. Maybrick found to be in a distant location at the time of one of the murders
        5. Researchers discover the true forger(s)
        6. The true forger(s) come forward on their own
        Good work, DB. I jumped to this part but I'll go back and read the whole post.

        To the above 6, I would add:

        7. The real Ripper would be found.
        8. A fatal flaw in the text would be found.

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi Dic, I have a shawl to sell you. Odds are Maybrick's mtDNA is somewhere on it.

          Yours truly,

          Tom Wescott

          Comment


          • #6
            Number 6 has happened.

            6. The true forger(s) come forward on their own
            This happened. Barrett confessed it was a hoax. You can find a transcription of the affidavit here on the site.

            So given that, will you now go back to being a skeptic?

            Cheers!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Boris Godunov View Post
              This happened. Barrett confessed it was a hoax. You can find a transcription of the affidavit here on the site.

              So given that, will you now go back to being a skeptic?

              Cheers!
              And then he retracted his confession! Check with Pinkmoon on this if you need to.

              Graham
              We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture and hypothesis. - Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of Silver Blaze

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Boris Godunov
                6. The true forger(s) come forward on their own
                Good luck ever squeezing that out of Simon.

                Yours truly,

                Tom Wescott

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Graham View Post
                  And then he retracted his confession! Check with Pinkmoon on this if you need to.

                  Graham
                  Why would he give such a detailed confession in the first place if it wasn't true? There is no logical explanation I can think of for why he would falsely confess to forging it. But I can think of a few reasons why he would hastily recant a genuine confession, the first of which would be facing legal action on behalf of the party to which he sold the diary.

                  It also must be noted that he gave completely contradictory stories about how he came by the diary. That alone is sufficient reason to be extremely skeptical of its genuineness.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Boris,

                    I grant it your Hoax position, although no longer widely accepted, at least provides for one of DB's points having happened in the last two decades, i.e. Point 6: the forger coming forward.

                    Unfortunately, you won't find many, if any, supporters among your 'fellow' Hoax believers. They all go for unknown modern forger or unknown old forger.

                    Would you be willing to say it was Michael Barrett who forged it or no one?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'd say he either forged it or assisted in forging it. Again, why make a full, detailed confession of a forgery if it wasn't true? What possible reason would he have to do such a thing? False confessions obtained under duress from police interrogation are one thing, but he was in no such situation. Again, it's much easier to logically explain the recanting of the confession as being that which is false.

                      Why did the story of how he came to possess the diary completely change? One simply cannot reconcile them: either the first explanation is a lie, or the second is, or both are. And if we include his confession, that's three distinct origins of the diary! Given that, anything he claims is completely and utterly unreliable. There is zero provenance for the diary prior to his possessing it. There is zero evidence prior to the diary linking Maybrick to the murders. If the diary hadn't suddenly appeared out of thin air, Maybrick wouldn't be associated with the Ripper killings whatsoever.
                      Last edited by Boris Godunov; 09-14-2014, 09:27 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dictionary Brown View Post

                        The fact that it hasn't conclusively been knocked down 22 years speaks volumes. At any time in the last 22 years, the following could have happened:

                        Every religious book has survived much longer, and that also speaks volumes. People will believe in something no matter how insane it may be because it was in a book.

                        Mike
                        huh?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The religious analogy is a good one, Good Mike.

                          I always thought of anti-Diarists as Bible critics with nothing to do!

                          But I agree with pinkmoon: until you are satisfied with one provenance, you have nothing. In my opinion, that applies to anti-Diarists.

                          If you believe in Skinner, then wait for him.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Boris Godunov View Post
                            If the diary hadn't suddenly appeared out of thin air, Maybrick wouldn't be associated with the Ripper killings whatsoever.
                            It wouldn't have been associated with the Ripper case by the early 90s but, after the Google era, the name Maybrick would certainly have cropped up in Ripperology by now. He was already associated with a famous murder case-- his own.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Boris Godunov View Post
                              I'd say he either forged it or assisted in forging it. Again, why make a full, detailed confession of a forgery if it wasn't true? What possible reason would he have to do such a thing? False confessions obtained under duress from police interrogation are one thing, but he was in no such situation. Again, it's much easier to logically explain the recanting of the confession as being that which is false.
                              None of the details in his 'detailed confession' stood up to any scrutiny. He was suffering from alcohol induced confabulation and paranoia and believed Feldman and the Diary were making him lose control of his life, and more specifically, his wife.
                              He did everything he could to sabotage the Diary, but unfortunately for him, his confessions were nonsense.

                              Comment

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