Authors: James Carnac
Copyright Â© 2013 by James Carnac
Cover and internal design Â© 2013 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover design by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover illustration by Rafael Sarmento/Shannon Associates
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Published by Sourcebooks, Inc.
P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410
Fax: (630) 961-2168
Originally published in Great Britain in 2012 by Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data is on file with the publisher.
For the last twenty years, I have owned and run Montacute TV, Radio and Toy Museum, which houses a vast collection of radios and TVs as well as thousands of items of memorabilia related to radio and TV programs. I often receive phone calls asking if I'm interested in items people are throwing out, or someone stops by the museum on his or her way to the junkyard to try to make one last donation. I frequently find a gem in someone else's castoffs. But nobody could predict the astonishing discovery I was about to make one wintry day in December.
In 2007, just before Christmas, I received a letter addressed to Montacute TV, Radio and Toy Museum. Nowadays, it is unusual for me to receive letters aside from junk mail, bills, or Christmas and birthday cards; I'm more likely to be bombarded with emails or telephone calls. I opened up the letter; it was from a Mrs. Jean Caldwell, asking if I would like to purchase a collection of memorabilia from her late uncle, S. G. Hulme Beaman, the creator of the incredibly popular Toytown children's plays, and Toytown's most famous inhabitant, Larry the Lamb. She had listed the contents as follows:
Eight large original paintings of Toytown characters and scenes
Original carved and painted wooden figures of soldier musicians
Seventeen publishers' proofs of colored illustrations of Toytown
Black and white photographs of preparing Toytown figures for filming
Six large original paintings of Faust
Nine original hand carved and painted wooden figures of Faust
Tales of Toytown
first edition book, 1928
first edition book, 1924
Sinbad the Sailor
first edition book, 1926
Jekyll and Hyde
Various other first edition books, paintings, and photographs
An unpublished original manuscript of Jack the Ripper titled
The Autobiography of James Carnac
As we are a TV, radio, and toy museum, I thought that I would be interested in having this collection.
As soon as the holidays were over I contacted Jean to arrange to discuss this in person. During my subsequent meeting with this very charming, and I'm sure she won't mind me saying, older lady, we discussed the letter she had sent to me just before Christmas. I asked her how she had found out about our museum, and she explained that she had contacted an auction house in the area where she lived, near Chester, in order to auction off the collection. However, Jean wanted her uncle's collection to stay together, so the auction house suggested selling it to a relevant museum as a complete collection. They recommended our museum for its connection with TV and radio memorabilia.
After our meeting, I phoned her to tell her that I was interested and asked how much she would accept for the collection. Jean said she would consult with the auction house that had advised her originally, and came back with a price from the auctioneers that she would not budge from, despite my normal haggling attempts. Initially, I had my doubts over the price, as I was pretty much buying blind, which is unusual. I like to see what I am buying before parting with the money. But eager to acquire these original items from the creator of Larry the Lamb, and certain they would look great in the museum, I acquiesced. Jean immediately packed everything into one large box, which arrived the following day while I was having breakfast. Not a bad service.
I eagerly unpacked the parcel and was pleasantly surprised with what I found. The paintings and pastels were as bright and vivid as the day they were created, nearly one hundred years ago. The figures were intricately carved and painted. So far, so good. Some of the books looked well read and loved, and a couple had S. G. Hulme Beaman's handwritten remarks inside:
Tales of Toytown
was “dedicated to Betty and Geoffrey” (his children), and
was dedicated “To Ma and Pa with love from Sydney.”
Then I came across a very old-looking unpublished manuscript tucked away among the other contents, titled
The Autobiography of James Carnac
Intrigued, I picked it up and, for the first time, noticed the hand crafted textured cover, which depicted a pool of blood that trickled onto a gray cobbled street. I knew almost instantly what I was about to read was something special. As I turned over the first few pages, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. After some explanatory remarks by, I assume, Sydney Hulme Beaman, I found myself reading an autobiography by James Willoughby Carnac, a man who claimed to be the world's most notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper himself!
It was absolutely spine chilling. I could not put the manuscript down. To think that I was possibly the first person to read this in over eighty years, and that it had just been sitting somewhere in storage! I stayed up till the early hours of the morning until I had read every single page. I wouldn't have been able to sleep knowing that it was sitting in my living room half-read. Plus, all of the pages were typewritten and bound by pieces of yellow and green twine, with occasional pencil marks throughout, so I had to handle them slowly and with great care. I went to bed absolutely exhausted but satisfied and excited that I had completed the whole of this stunning document.
When I woke up, I knew I would have to get in contact with Jean to find out what she knew about the manuscript. Jean was as endearing as ever and sounded pleased to hear from me. She said how delighted she was that her late Uncle Sydney's collection had gone to the museum, where it was going to be appreciated and where other people could see what a talented man he was. I thanked her and quickly came to the purpose of my call. Initially, I asked her if she had read the manuscript. She said she had glanced at it but had not read it, as the subject matter seemed a bit too sinister for her liking.
Then I asked her about its authenticity. She told me that her cousin Betty (S. G. Hulme Beaman's daughter) believed it to be a true account. Unfortunately, Betty was to die a few months later, so there is no one living now who can prove or expand upon what she had told Jean. I thanked Jean for her help and mentioned the possibility of getting the manuscript published. She simply wished me the best of luck and every success in this endeavor.
At that, I put the phone down feeling confident that this could be a true account of Jack the Ripper and that I would have to make an attempt to get this startling manuscript published. But where to start? I needed a second opinion on the manuscript, so I gave it to my daughter, Emma, to read. Like me, she was blown away by the chilling autobiography of the most infamous serial killer of all time. Captivated, we both thought that we had something remarkable in our hands.
If you have ever tried to get a book published, then you would know what a frustrating, hard, thankless job it is. You keep heading up blind alleys and cul-de-sacs, no one wants to know, doors keep getting shut in your face like you have a contagious disease no one else wants. You need a lucky break, and mine came when I did a Halloween event at the museum at the end of October 2009. I contacted our local BBC news program to advertise our event and thought that I would use the manuscript to publicize it. I was surprised at the great response I received from the BBC: they sent their chief reporter, Clinton Rogers, to film the event but mainly to do a piece especially on the manuscript. They also asked Paul Begg, a well-known Ripperologist, to cast his opinion on the manuscript. As he was only given a couple of excerpts to read from the manuscript, he simply said that it was a very “important piece of âRipperature,'” as it was one of the first on the subject of Jack the Ripper.
This news item was put out in various regions around the country. Consequently, I was contacted by Ripperologists who wanted more information, which I was not quite prepared to give. One Ripperologist sounded keener than the others and asked if he could visit and discuss the manuscript. His name was Stuart Evans, and he has written a few books on the Whitechapel murders as well as appeared on TV and radio to share his expert knowledge on Jack the Ripper. I readily agreed to let him examine the manuscript, and after his visit, he left saying that he would mention me to his literary agent, Robert Smith, who has an office near Kings Cross, London. Within a week, I had a phone call from Robert asking if I would like to have a meeting with him at his office. At last, something was happening; that lucky break was taking shape.
At the time I first read the manuscript, I had no real knowledge of Jack the Ripper. I had never read a book on the subject; I only knew what the average man on the street knew, that he was a horrific killer from Victorian times. After reading the manuscript, I amassed a collection of Jack the Ripper books. (In fact, Stuart Evans gave me three signed copies on the subject when he visited.) And though I do not claim to be an authority on the subject, I have learned a lot about Jack. As far as my knowledge stretches, I do not think there has been an account that includes his early boyhood and his final yearsâuntil now. Most of the books I have read are all facts and figures, which were readily available in newspapers and other sources at the time, and all seem to repeat themselves. What makes this particular manuscript so intriguing is that regardless of what anyone thinks, it cannot be denied that it is from the 1920s, or possibly earlier. (See Appendix 1 for further analysis and information on this from Paul Begg.) In that case, it is one of the first books ever written on the subject, which makes it a valuable historical piece of period writing no modern author would be able to imitate today.
Then we come down to who really wrote this manuscript, which perhaps we will never know, for I believe James Carnac to be a pseudonym: for whom, I do not know. Whoever wrote the manuscript also had knowledge that was not in the public domain at the time, which makes the manuscript even more fascinating and intriguing than ever before. The manuscript describes James Carnac's groundings from an early age and how he was to grow up to become a serial killer; these follow what we know about serial killer characteristics today. Essentially, serial killers kill for the love of it. This is clearly a characteristic of James Carnac, unlike the other prime suspects of the Whitechapel murders of 1888, all of whom could be assigned various reasons or motives for why they killed. From modern criminal profiling, we have now learned that most serial killers are simply unreasonable. Interestingly, criminal profiling had not been invented or thought about in the 1920s, when the manuscript was writtenâit wasn't created until the 1970s, when the FBI closely studied criminal behavior. So neither James Carnac nor whoever else may have written this could have been aware of this tendency of serial killers, and therefore would have had to have written that part genuinely. In my opinion, this is the closest we will ever get to revealing the identity of Jack the Ripper.
I arranged a meeting with Robert Smith for November 26, 2009. It was about two o'clock when I arrived at Robert's office and about seven o'clock when I left. I knew that with Robert's help, we would get the manuscript published because it was obvious he thought the book was as exciting a find as I did.
I left feeling very confident, but things are never that easy, as publisher after publisher shied away from the manuscript. I think they thought of the old adage that if something is too good to be true, then it probably is. But in this case, it was true. In the end, it was only Transworld publishers in the UKâand then Sourcebooks in the United Statesâthat were brave enough to take it on, but only after they had it analyzed by Paul Begg. This time, Paul read the entire manuscript and wrote an in-depth analysis. His opinion had altered entirely from his initial thoughts when he'd only seen a couple of excerpts; he was now very intrigued and stated that there is a possibility that it could be the work of Jack the Ripper himself. According to Paul, the manuscript “was written with pin-point accuracy of the geography, shows a credible motive and appears to show knowledge of the case not in public arena at the time it was written.” With this and the managing editor at Transworld, Judith Welsh, believing in and championing the manuscript, we were on the right track.
I'm overwhelmed by what an absolutely amazing find this manuscript is, and what an incredible journey it has had. It moved from a dark unknown to S.G Hulme Beaman's studio in Golders Green, surrounded by books and figures of the residents of Toytown, in 1920s foggy London town. From there, it migrated to family relatives in the historic city of Chester in the industrial north. And it has finally settled in the quintessential English village of Montacute in South Somerset. But its journey has not finished yet, as the subsequent publications of this are spreading across the world, from the United Kingdom and the United States to South America, Australia and New Zealand, Asia, Canada, and Europe. The silence of the lamb is beginning to roar like a lion.
Special thanks must go to Robert Smith, Paul Begg, and Judith Welsh for helping to bring this discovery to fruition, and of course, we cannot forget Jean Caldwell for her initial contact with me, as without this, I doubt the manuscript would have ever been published. Now this secret can be shared with the world.
Montacute TV, Radio and Toy Museum