Here is book that purports to reveal Jack's actual diary. According to the writer, Shirley Harrison, Jack the Ripper was in fact a cotton merchant from Liverpool by the name of James Maybrick. No, I am not giving away the ending, that much is revealed on the very first page. He supposedly travelled to London by train, murdered and mutilated his victims, and calmly returned home to Liverpool to torment his young wife.
James Maybrick was unquestionably a very interesting man. He travelled to Norfolk, Virginia on cotton and tobacco business. and on the boat journey home, met and fell in love with an American beauty by the name of Florence Chandler. She was 18. He was 41. Lucky man!
It would appear now that both parties imagined the other to be far wealthier than they actually were.
Florence was destined to become the first American woman to be tried in an English court, and as the grave charge was one of murdering her husband, it was a case that entranced the nation. This book argues that the true reason for the sudden end to the Ripper killings was simply because Maybrick was now dead.
The mysterious diary that came to light at the end of the nineteen-eighties is reproduced almost in full. I will leave you to make up your mind as to its authenticity. As for the book itself, I found it an interesting read, and I certainly learned much that I did not know before. It may contain glaring anomalies, but you might like to get hold of a copy for yourself and make up your own mind.
There is a vaguely interesting personal footnote to this story.
Among the photographs in the book is a picture of Knowsley Buildings in Old Hall Street, Liverpool. This is the building where James Maybrick maintained his offices.
It was an old block with Dickensian outside metal staircases, almost a cross between a workhouse and a prison.
As a young man I knew it well for I too worked in the Liverpool Cotton Exchange a couple of doors away up Old Hall Street.
There is a photograph in the book of Knowsley Buildings and within the basement, clearly visible, is, or was, an ancient gents' hairdressing salon. I knew that well too. It was close to the original Boyle's Oyster Bar. I well remember sitting in that actual salon back in the sixties, though we called it a barbers shop back then, waiting for a trim, as a teenage office boy, clutching my newly released Sergeant Pepper album.
The salon was ancient and was dismantled when the building was knocked down in 1970. The thought occurs to me that could it possibly have been that James Maybrick, who maintained an office just upstairs, had his locks trimmed in that very same salon? He was a neat dapper chap after all, his photographs tells us that. It would seem very likely he would pop downstairs for a cut whenever the feeling took him.
Could it possibly have been that I sat in the chair that was sat in by Jack the Ripper himself, as he thought and planned his most hideous business?
Now there's a thought to leave you with!
And here's another off-the-wall thought too. I have just noticed that this book was published on April 1st - All Fools' Day. (Coincidentally my birthday, I kid you not!) Could it possibly be that this entire book is, or was, one gigantic April Fool's joke? Could be. You never know. I will leave that final thought with you too. Make up your own mind.
Either way, I enjoyed the book a lot.
It brought back many memories from more than fifty years ago, and most of them were very good ones too.
The Diary of Jack the Ripper
By Shirley Harrison