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Saturday, 27 November 2010

The diary of Jack the Ripper

 Perhaps in my tormented mind I wish for someone to find this and understand.

I remember the sensation surrounding this book on its original publication and I was first in the queue to get a copy. That was back in 1993 and it named  James Maybrick as the Ripper - the book was initially believed to be genuine and it received coverage in all the media but, like all good legends, it is today surrounded in controversy though there are still those who believe it is genuine.

A little background to the diary -

The 'diary' was first introduced to the world by Michael Barrett, an unemployed former Liverpool scrap metal dealer, who claimed at the time that it had been given to him by a friend, Tony Devereux, in a pub. It was published as The Diary of Jack the Ripper in 1993 to great controversy.  Some experts immediately dismissed it as a hoax, though some were open to the possibility it might be genuine. Debate was often heated, and one writer notes that the "saga of the Maybrick diary is confusing, complicated and inescapably tortuous."

Tests carried out on the ink used in the diary produced contradictory findings. The first test, using thin layer chromatography (TLC) revealed the ink contained no iron, and was based on a synthetic dye called nigrosine, patented and commercially available in 1867, and in general use in writing inks by the 1870s. The second TLC test found nothing in the ink inconsistent with the date of 1888, and that the ink contained iron and sodium, but no nigrosine. The third TLC test found nothing inconsistent with the Victorian period. A fourth TLC test was attempted, but could not be carried out.

Several tests were carried out to find out whether the ink contained chloroacetamide, a preservative, in an effort to definitively date the ink. According to one source, chloroacetamide was introduced into the Merck Index in 1857, but not used commercially in ink until 1972. In 1995, Dr Earl Morris of the Dow Chemical Company stated that chloroacetamide has been found in preparations as early as 1857. A fourth test, this time using gas chromatography, found chloroacetamide present, at 6.5 parts per million. A fifth TLC test found traces of chloroacetamide, but this was attributed to contamination from the control. The test was carried out again, and no chloroacetamide was found.

Generally, the current consensus is that the diary is a hoax. This conclusion was reached after various investigators noted that the diary contains mistaken notions about the Ripper crimes that were only introduced in the 20th century, as well as some textual anomalies that seem to refer to modern Liverpool landmarks not present (or not known by the name given in the text) in Maybrick's time.

My hand's are cold, my heart I do believe is colder still.

The canonical five victims
An interesting aspect of the diary is that if it is a hoax then the hoax was not carried out by Mike Barret, even though he did claim that he forged it at one point,  but someone else many decades earlier  - most experts seem to agree  that is was created prior to 1920 and yet until 1950 it was believed that the Ripper actually killed seven women and not five. And it was not until 1987 when the Ripper files entered the public domain that it was revealed final victim Mary Kelly's heart had been removed. Whoever wrote this diary knew all these details. Another detail mentioned in the diary and not revealed until 1987 was that an empty tin match box had been left at the scene of Catherine Eddowe's murder.

It shall not be long before I strike again. I am taking more than ever. The bitch can take two, Sir Jim shall have four, a double event. Ha Ha!

Another twist occurred In January 1995, Michael Barrett swore in two separate affidavits that he was in fact "the author of the Manuscript written by my wife Anne Barrett at my dictation which is known as The Jack the Ripper Diary."Adding to the confusion, however, was Barrett's solicitor's subsequent repudiation of his affidavit, then Barrett's withdrawal of the repudiation, stating that he only admitted the book was a hoax because of all the publicity he was getting which was affecting his quality of life. He claimed he was tired of constantly being accused of being a fraudster in the press. Michael Barrett has never been able to convincingly state how he managed the so called 'forgery' which would seem to require the abilities of a Renaissance man even more accomplished than the guy who faked the Turin Shroud.

Is this the grave of the ripper?
"Every bit as mysterious as the Whitechapel murders themselves, the "Ripper Diaries" have intrigued and infuriated both historical researchers and the "Ripperologists" since they first came to light in 1992. Either one of the most sensational finds of the 20th century or one of its most brilliant literary hoaxes, the diary of Jack the Ripper has created its own tangled and tortuous history. It is this history which Keith Skinner, Seth Linder and Caroline Morris disentangle in a work of literary sleuthing which offers a reassessment of the evidence and insight into the personalities involved in Ripper research. "  Sutton Publishing

Is it a fake? All indications seem to suggest so but all the same it is an interesting read and even those that do believe the diary is fake do not believe that Mike Barrett is responsible, despite what he says.

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