Literary Conspiracies


So, this is kind of fun.

I’m going to discuss [conspiracy theories] that revolve around the authors of famous books and ones that happen in books themselves. So put your tin foil hat on, we’re diving in.


Yep, I had never heard of this one either, and I read From Hell many times. Is it mentioned in that? It damn well should be, because this is a great conspiracy theory. The idea is that Lewis Carroll (a pen name for Charles Dodgson) sprinkled anagrams throughout his works that admitted his guilt. 

So, I mean, IS this a real, no kidding conspiracy theory that anyone actually, for real, believes? Because wow. Let me google this …

Okay, here. And here. Also here. Lots of posts about this, it turns out. From that last post:

Wallace published his theory in 1996, in his book ‘Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend’. It was, in brief that Dodgson and his Oxford colleague Thomas Vere Bayne, were both responsible for the Whitechapel murders. He based his belief on anagrams he constructed out of Dodgson’s work, which he claimed were hidden confessions of the author’s life of crime in Whitechapel in the autumn of 1888….

The anagrams he presents in his book are not very good, in that they tend to make limited grammatical sense, and Wallace tends to cheat rather by simply leaving out or changing any letters he can’t fit in.

For example he takes this passage from Dodgson’s ‘Nursery Alice’:

‘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’.

and turns it into:

‘She wriggled about so! But at last Dodgson and Bayne 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.’

For anyone who knows Dodgson’s work, and his mastery of all word-games, the idea that he could perpetrate a word-trick as messy as this is almost more unbelievable than the image of him hanging round Whitechapel with a big knife. The structure is barely literate, and Wallace has to substitute three letters (including a very important ‘o’ to ‘i’ in order to construct the word ‘ripper’) in order to make his ‘anagram’ work at all.

Yeah, so that’s what we might consider an awful lot of effort to produce a strained theory. I don’t know that I’d call this a “conspiracy” theory. I mean, I don’t see a postulated conspiracy to conceal this secret truth. This is more just a crazy theory.

More exciting and possibly even crazier theories at the linked post!

Please Feel Free to Share:


1 thought on “Literary Conspiracies”

  1. Yeah… no.

    That sounds like something the author tried to sneak past his thesis advisor as serious research. I mean, quirky idea with potential but it’s not well developed. Would send back for more work and a possible re-think.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top