Lewis Carroll did it. Duh.

Kathleen Hughes

Professor L. Towell

First Seminar JTR

Final Paper

April 2008


Brilliant Killer

“Madness in great ones must not unwatch’d go” -Shakespeare


Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, also known as Lewis Carroll, was a successful author, inventor, photographer, mathematician, Anglican clergyman, and logician.  But is it possible that this writer of the famous ‘Through the Looking Glass: Alice in Wonderland’ stories was also a ruthless murderer?  Carroll’s own writing produces evidence that he was not only a murderer, but the famous Jack the Ripper, who slaughtered at least five women in London England between 1888 and 1890.  This paper will focus first on Carroll’s life, then evidence against him in this murder case, including numerology, anagrams, and psychological profiling.

Carroll was born on January 27, 1832, in Cheshire England to a middle class family (Britton).  He was the first son for his parents, Reverend Charles Dodgson, and Francis Jane, who had been married less than four years but already had two daughters.  After Carroll was born, three brothers and five sisters came and he became the oldest boy of the couple’s eleven children (Britton).  Carroll had a relatively unremarkable childhood and was schooled at home, where he and at least two of his siblings developed stammers.  It was obvious he was an intellectual, and at age twelve he was sent to a private school in Richmond.  It was here that he sent his first anagram to his brother back at home (Wallace, 77).  Carroll liked Richmond, but for some reason transferred two years later to Rugby School.  Years after leaving Rugby, Carroll wrote

‘I cannot say… that any earthy considerations would induce me to go through my three years again… I can honestly say that if I could have been… secure from annoyance at night, the hardships of the daily life would have been comparative trifles to bear’

This seems to imply that Carroll endured some form of sexual abuse at night, which may have led to his apparent psychotic break as an adult.  He left this school in November of 1849, and a year later went to Oxford, where he befriended a young man named Thomas Vere Bayne (Cohen).  According to Morton Cohen, who wrote a biography on Carroll, Carroll’s mother died from meningitis when he a teenager, and shortly thereafter he developed whooping cough.  He did not change much physically into his adulthood; he was around six foot tall, with a soft face and curly brown hair.  His eyes were either blue or grey, and although he was attractive, he often obsessed over his stammer, or as he called it, his ‘hesitation’.  As an adult, Carroll’s obsession with prepubescent girls was so obvious that stories are still prevalent today.  One of the most famous stories is about Carroll’s fascination with Alice Liddell, who he would take around outside of town to Godstow or Nuneham for picnics (Leach).  On one of these outings, Alice inspired the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ books, which were published in 1865.  Rumor has it that Carroll even proposed to the young Alice.  It is known that he often photographed girls and young women in scandalous positions, often nude (Cohen).  In a the previously mentioned biography by Cohen, the author states

“It is a portrait of a Victorian clergyman, shy and prim, and locked to some degree in perpetual childhood… a man who ‘had no life’, who lived apart from the world and apart from normal human contact, who was monkish and chaste, and died a virgin.” 

After Carroll died of pneumonia on January 14, 1898, (Leach) his family destroyed many of his writings and diaries, and even over a century later refuse to show anything to the public.  Could these papers be hiding something important?

Carroll was a mathematician (he even taught various math classes for nearly thirty years) and often included numbers into his poetry.  In many of his stories, including Hunting of the Snark, the ‘rule 42 of the code’ and ‘rule of 3’ are mentioned.  The numbers 3 and 42 appear throughout a total of six writings in either poems or diaries (Wallace).  To everyone else, these phrases may seem random and irrelevant, but to Carroll they were important enough to mention in several writings, could the numbers have been significant enough to base murders upon?  On page 228 of ‘Light-hearted friend’, Richard Wallace examined how these two numbers were so prominent to the murders of several prostitutes.  For example, exactly 42 years after entering Rugby, where he was sexually abused, the White Chapel murders started.  Perhaps this caused a psychotic breakdown in Carroll and caused him to lose all control.  The victims’ ages seem relevant as well.  Emma Smith was 42 and Mary Ann Nichols was less than a week shy of being 42.  Martha Tabram was 39 years old, which is 3 subtracted from 42 and Elizabeth Stride was 45, which is 42 plus 3.  Not only that, but Mary Kelly was 24, which is 42 reversed.  When looking for the numbers, more occurrences appeared, such as the fact that Martha Tabram was stabbed 39 times, (which as earlier mentioned is 3 subtracted from 42).  If that is not enough, Mary Ann Nichols was killed 24, (which is 42 reversed), days after Tabram.  Are all of these numbers simply coincidences, or was Carroll’s numerology obsession exerting itself in a violent way?

From a young age (the earliest recorded is twelve), Lewis Carroll liked to play with words, using anagrams and different languages.  He even made his pseudonym, Lewis Carroll, by translating his first two names, Charles Lutwidge, into Latin, Carolus Lodovicus, then anglicizing and reversing there order.  Wallace has looked through many of Carroll’s writings and has found several interesting phrases.  For example, in a line mentioning that ‘Rule 42’ in Hunting of the Snark’, if you remove two of the letters (there were 44 letters, remove two to equal 42, the ‘optimum’ number), it says “Rugby turned a keen Dodgson child into a demon king”.  Another passage, this one from ‘Nursery Alice’ saying

‘So she wondered away, through the wood, carrying the ugly little thing with her. And a great job it was to keep hold of it, it wriggled about so. But at last she found out that the proper way was to keep tight hold of itself foot and its right ear’.

can have the letters changed around to say:

‘She wriggled about so! But at last Dodgson… found a way to keep hold of the fat little whore. I got a tight hold of her and slit her throat, left ear to right. It was tough, wet, disgusting, too. So weary of it, they threw up – Jack the Ripper.’ 

Another passage from ‘Sylvie and Bruno’ can be changed to say ‘He had to key to a whore- Marie Kelly’s door, opened it through a window.  He dug a fist in and feasted as a dog- a leech- really a Satan, at her mutilated body.’  Is it really that all of these lines from stories and poems, written by Lewis Carroll, by Charles Dodgson himself, can be twisted around so violently by coincidence?  Carroll loved anagrams and logic problems, and it has been shown over and over that serial killers often ‘brag’ about their accomplishments.  Perhaps the mathematician Carroll used his own writings, supposedly harmless children’s stories about nonsense, to confess his sins.

Ronald and Stephen Holmes, authors of Profiling Violent Crimes, have compiled a list of serial killer characteristics after John Douglas from the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed thirty six random incarcerated criminals.  Many of these characteristics match Carroll.  The interviewed were all males, predominantly white with pleasant appearances, and usually the eldest son.  These all match Carroll.  The majority of the criminals were of average or above average intelligence and began life in two-parent homes.  Many of the criminals felt as if they were loners, with low social attachment.  It is hard to argue that Carroll, who never married and lived alone most of his life, was an intelligent and independent man.  The criminals Douglas interviewed felt that the world was unjust, and fantasy is often reality.  If believing an eleven year old girl would willingly marry a middle age man is not fantasy, what is? Carroll became famous based on one of the most bizarre children’s stories ever written, which he often told as truth (Cohen).  Perhaps he felt judged because of his promiscuous photography and connection with young women and dealt with his anger in an aggressive manner. 

Carroll’s diary seems to provide a few interesting clues about the murders as well.  As previously mentioned, Carroll’s family destroyed much of his diary entries which may have held important clues.  However, even the few entries remaining seem to show things.  For instance, he wrote in purple ink every day but on the days of the White Chapel murders would write in black ink (Wallace).  He even mentions Jack the Ripper on August 28, 1891, saying that he spoke with an acquaintance about ‘his very ingenious theory about Jack the Ripper’ (Wallace).  Even though it is unknown that theory he was referring to, it is suspicious that he would even mention a murderer in his diary.  Another writing of Carroll’s that is questionable is a line in a poem in his diary saying “They sought it with thimbles… they pursued it with forks and with hope…they charmed it with smiles and soap.”  According to Casebook.com, all of the victims had at least one of these items (a thimble, utensil, or soap) on them at the time of their death.  Some, like Catherine Eddowes, had all three items, and even Mary Jane Kelly, who was killed in her house, was wearing a thimble.  If Carroll’s own writings are not believable, let us turn to that of the true Jack the Ripper, who sent letters to the White Chapel police.  One letter is as followed: “I’m not a butcher, I’m not a Yid, Nor a foreign skipper, But I’m your own light-hearted friend, Your’s truly Jack the Ripper”.  If Carroll did indeed write this letter, he could have made it no clearer who he was.  He says he is not a butcher, Jew, or sailor, all of which were being investigated.  He then says he is the ‘light-hearted friend’.  In all of his biographies, people described him as an ‘eternal child’, of course one would have to be to concoct such stories as ‘Alice in Wonderland’!

It has already been discussed that Lewis Carroll, Charles Dodgson, was a brilliant man.  After seeing all of the clues Carroll left behind confessing, how is it possible people still deny him as a suspect?  He seemed to use the three occupations he was known for, mathematician, logician, and writer, to show numerology, anagrams, and hints to plead guilty to these crimes.  Perhaps Carroll will never be known as Jack the Ripper by anyone except his family, who will continue hiding his secret writing forever.



Work Cited


Cohen, Morton. 1995. Lewis Carroll: A Biography. London:



Holmes, Ronald, & Holmes, Stephen. 2002. Profiling Violent

Crimes: An investigative tool (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks,

CA: Sage.


Leach, Karoline.  “Lewis Carroll”.  1996.  20 April 2008.



Wallace, Richard.  1996.  Jack the Ripper: Light-hearted Friend.

USA: Gemini.






2 Responses to “Lewis Carroll did it. Duh.”

  1. […] ”Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, also known as Lewis Carroll, was a successful author, inventor, photographer, mathematician, Anglican clergyman, and logician. But is it possible that this writer of the famous ‘Through the Looking Glass: Alice in Wonderland’ stories was also a ruthless murderer? Carroll’s own writing produces evidence that he was not only a murderer, but the famous Jack the Ripper, who slaughtered at least five women in London England between 1888 and 1890.” […]

  2. […] a young age (the earliest recorded is twelve), Lewis Carroll liked to play with words, using anagrams and different […]

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