Ripper suspect: Lewis Carroll

Remember how the you can basically accuse anyone who was alive in 1888 of having been Jack the Ripper? In 1996, author Richard Wallace decided to make the case for Charles Dodgson – pen name, Lewis Carroll. The man who wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1856 was meant to have murdered multiple women in 1888 … and to have confessed to all of it, if anyone happens to be clever enough to see.

The main point (slash problem) is that these confessions and clues are all in anagram form. Even then, at times Wallace needs to misspell something or otherwise get creative with his interpretations.

Most of these messages, Wallace argues, are from two of Carroll’s books: The Nursery “Alice” and Sylvie and Bruno. Both were first published in 1889, which at least works from a timing standpoint. If Carroll had been Jack the Ripper, he would have had time to commit his murders and then confess to him by the time the books went to press. So, clearly, the various lines of verse can be reworked into confessions and descriptions of the murder scenes.

Well. “Clearly.”

The problem with anagrams is that texts can be reworked to say just about anything, given a “codebreaker” with enough determination. Yes, fine, Carroll’s verse can be translated into murder confessions, but that’s only one possible interpretation … and assumes that Carroll started with his confession and worked everything backward into children’s literature. This is a level of dedication and focus at times seen in fiction, but not exactly documented in real life.

If the anagrams convince you, though, you should probably know a few other details. For example, Carroll was vacationing in East Sussex from August 31 through the end of September 1888. That covers the dates of the murders of Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, and Kate Eddowes. On November 9, when Mary Kelly was murdered, Carroll was in Oxford.

You might point out that Wallace claims Carroll didn’t work alone – apparently this Ripper was in fact a duo and included his friend Thomas Vere Bayne – but Bayne was in Oxford with Carroll in November. Perhaps Carroll might have made multiple trips into London in order to complete these murders (a similar argument is made for suspects such as Walter Sickert and Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, whose schedules likewise seem to leave little room for murder) but that would be an incredible stretch.

Wallace doesn’t rely solely on his anagrams. He also argues that Carroll’s life and childhood set him up as the sort of man who would indeed kill women for his own pleasure. He even argues, as many authors of the 1990s seem to, that Carroll was a victim before he ever made the murdered women his victims. In spite of these claims, though, there’s nothing in Carroll’s life that points to such acts of violence.

This theory argues that the Ripper was the sort of person who would publicize his crimes for all the world to read while laughing behind his hand because people didn’t realize the actual content of the text. True, there were all those Ripper letters that made it seem like the killer wanted to write about his crimes, and yes, Carroll was an author who wrote about many strange things, but … that seems to be the limit.

If you’re a fan of anagrams, you can turn any piece of writing into a confession of murder. Lewis Carroll is an interesting historical figure who has been examined for many reasons in both his public and personal life, but he wasn’t Jack the Ripper … even if he could be anagrammed into saying so.

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