James Maybrick is a very good potential Jack the Ripper suspect. To many James Maybrick was just a suspect of circumstances, to others he is Jack the Ripper. James Maybrick came into the limelight when “the diary of Jack the Ripper” surfaced in 1992, before then he was not really considered as a suspect or even a person of interest. Whenever a person chooses a suspect and then tries to prove how he (or she) committed the murders there are many things that need to be assumed and looked over. The largest piece of evidence that we have that Maybrick committed this crime was the diary found, that was supposedly written by Maybrick.
James Maybrick’s life can be divided into four major steps: his life before Florence, meeting Florence and their life together, his addictions and the problems with the marriage, and finally how his death came about. Maybrick was born in 1838 in Liverpool and became a cotton merchant (Russo 109). Maybrick traveled back and forth from America to England; he had set up a branch of his business in the southern states and because of all the damage done by the Civil War, his business flourished (Russo 109). In the year 1877 Maybrick caught malaria in America, in 1877 the way doctors treated this disease was through “chloroquine, in conjunction with other drugs like quinine” (Russo 109) but somehow the correct dosage was not relayed to Maybrick so it did not work for him. He was then prescribed “arsenic and strychnine” (Russo 109), which is how he became addicted to arsenic. In 1880 Maybrick was aboard the SS Baltic and he then met the eighteen year old, southern bell Florence; when the two left the ship they were engaged to wed (Russo 110). Some people do claim that there was a Mrs. Maybrick before Florence, her name was Sarah Ann but no definite evidence of this marriage has surfaced. James Maybrick’s life with Florence was that of deceit: James supposedly had a mistress for many (if not all) of the years he and Florence were together; Florence also supposedly had an affair with James’ younger brother (Russo 110). After James contracted malaria he became addicted to the methods of treating the disease, arsenic. After a person uses a drug they become tolerant of the dosage and they then have to continuously up the dosage every time they try to get high. On May 9th, 1889 James died; many claimed Florence had murdered him and she was then put on trial for his death. Florence was convicted of the murder of her husband and placed into jail until she was proved innocent many years later. It was thought that she had killed him by boiling fly paper and then putting the chemicals from the paper into his food or drinks. It was later determined that he died from his addiction to arsenic, the dosages that he was taking were so lethal it was a wonder he did not die sooner.
In 1991, the “Diary of Jack the Ripper” surfaced and people were certain that the real killer had been found. The diary was supposedly found in the old house where Maybrick and his wife lived at the times of the Jack the Ripper murders, called the Battlecrease House. According to the stories, there was some restoration work going on in the house and after opening up the floor boards a man found the diary. He then hid it from everyone else and told no one about his find. The man who found the book regularly attended a bar; there he made a friend, and before his death he gave a package (all wrapped up) to his new friend. The new owner of the diary was the man who introduced it to the world. This scenario sound familiar? It should, it’s how the book The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes came about. For Lowndes she claims she hear the story from her sister, who hear the story from a man at a party, who received the diary from a man in a bar, who found it in the house of the Ripper. Many people do not believe that the diary is real for a few simple facts. One, it’s written in a photo album not an actual journal or diary. Two, it could easily be a forgery. Third, the way it was surfaced (especially since the other workers inside the room claim they did not see anything there)- a man gives it to someone he hardly knows that he met in a bar. Lastly, much of the evidence in the diary is public knowledge and anyone who is able to do any research could have found the information. However, it is also believed by many people. Many people believe it is real because there are several facts within the diary, that while they are known, they are not widely publicized. There are things mentioned that help explain what certain things about the murders represent: in example, on Catherine Eddowes she has two slits under her eyes, if these two slits are placed side by side then they form the shape of an “M” which would stand for “Maybrick” as the diary describes. Also, there is supposed to be a “F” and a “M” on the wall behind Mary Kelly, and these two letters stand for “Florence Maybrick”.
There are many details within the diary that compel many people to believe that it is real, that James Maybrick did in fact write it, and that James Maybrick is Jack the Ripper. There are details within the diary that are so straight forward and are so accurate that the question of “Is this really the diary of Jack the Ripper?” has to be asked. When comparing the signature of Jack the Ripper from the “Dear Boss” letter, the signature of James Maybrick from an official document, and the signature of the writer of the diary (Feldman) all signatures are very similar and virtually identical. Which leads many Ripperologists to believe that James Maybrick did in deed write the diary and that he is Jack the Ripper (which would also prove that Jack that Ripper did in deed write letters to the police during the investigation). While testing on the ink and paper has been inconclusive that really does not prove anything. Just because a test does not come back positive or negative about the date or age of either does not disprove or prove the diary true or false. Also, the “Juwes” that was written on the wall at the scene of the crime is said to be actually “James” not “Juwes” according to the diary. In believing the diary persons have to over look many things, such as all of this evidence could just be circumstantial, or the fact that no one definitively knows whether or not James Maybrick wrote the diary; and even if he did, it does not prove that he truly committed the murders. The diary should be believed as fact though because all of the truths within the diary and because of all the explanations that are given within it, such as the slits below Catherine Eddowes eyes and the “Juwes”.
James Maybrick fits as the Ripper for many reasons: he physically fits some descriptions, mentally James fits, and he also has the motive. According to Isreal Schwartz the man who held down the victim was about 30 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall, fair skin, dark hair, and a moustache. The second man was about 35 years old, 5 feet 11 inches tall, with light brown hair (casebook). James Maybrick was in his forties/ fifties when the murders took place, was about 5 feet 5 inches tall, he was fair skinned with darker hair and he had a moustache. Mentally James was unstable; he was fueled my his addiction to arsenic and any drug addiction can effect a person and make them do things that they normally would not do. Many people commit crimes while they are under the influence of drugs, so it would be to no surprise that James Maybrick would do something illegal (like kill someone) after he used the arsenic. The fact that he was addicted to this drug would also explain why the murders kept continuing. Maybrick also had motive for the murders; in the diary it is said that Maybrick/ Jack the Ripper kills because it is revenge on his wife for sleeping with another man. Maybrick’s wife did cheat on him and many men have committed “crimes of passion” and if the murders were acts of revenge then they would have been concluded as “crimes of passion”. If Maybrick would have killed his wife, then he would have been suspect number one; yet if he killed random prostitutes then no one would have suspected him.
Many find it hard to believe that Maybrick could have killed the prostitutes and not have been noticed because he would have been a higher class man in a lower class area. If a movie star would have walked into a diner then everyone in the diner would be able to recognize that they did not belong there; the same goes for a wealthy man in the Whitechappel area. James Maybrick had the motive because of his rage against his wife, and it makes sense that he would have killed prostitutes because his wife was sleeping around with someone else. The physical description of Jack the Ripper matched the description of James Maybrick: light skinned, dark hair, mustache, etcetera; James was also fueled by his addiction to drugs. Yes, the diary could be a hoax but the overwhelming circumstantial evidence that is found in the diary is hard to forget about and hard to push aside. Not only does the diary say why Maybrick killed the prostitutes, but it explains what some things like the misspelling of the word “Jews”. Yes, the diary could be a hoax but to find and convince anyone of any suspect in the Jack the Ripper case a person has to dismiss some evidence (like how did Maybrick go from Whitechappel back to his home without being suspected), and a person also has to assume other things (an example would be that “yes, Maybrick did write the diary and yes, he is the Ripper). Assuming the diary is not a fake and that it is one hundred percent real, then James Maybrick is Jack the Ripper. Bibliography
Feldman, Paul H.. Jack the Ripper: The Final Chapter. London: Virgin Publishing Ltd., 1999.
Lowndes, Marie Belloc. The Lodger. Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers, 1988.
Russo, Stan. The Jack the Ripper Suspects: Persons Cited by Investigators and Theorists. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2004.
Ryder, Stephen P., and Johnno. Casebook: Jack the Ripper. 1996-2009. 6 April 2009 .