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5 Questions With : PART 2: Chris Scott

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  • 5 Questions With : PART 2: Chris Scott

    Again, we thank Mr. Scott for the time and effort.

    7. You mentioned a sense of liberation in that you don't have a particular suspect to promote when you author books or share newspaper articles on individuals who may have been suggested in the past.
    Do you think that had the articles which you have found related to these persons and still find would have changed the nature of Ripperology back in the days when digitized articles weren't so easily accessible (in many cases not at all ) and many Ripperologists depended almost entirely on phone calls, letter exchanges, and personal meetings which seem to have formed a large part of their opinions and were the primary factors in those authors' promotion of suspects without the advantage of the newspapers that surfaced with the advent of digitization ?
    Any period of research can only be judged on its own terms and it is exceedingly difficult - if not impossible - to extrapolate backwards to try and imagine the impact current knowledge would have had on research in the past. Which is a polite and long-winded way of saying I don't know!
    On a purely personal note, however, I have to say that, although the modern era of digital databases and text searchable images is undoubtedly more productive and efficient than previous eras, it has had the effect in some ways of making research a more solitary and isolated activity. I have fond memories of spending hours in various obscure libraries in London, finding unexpected help from frequently charming and often eccentric librarians - the Internet is undoubtedly more productive in terms of bare results but can be soulless and impersonal.
    That is why, in my opinion, sites such as Casebook and JTR Forums are so important in that they reinstate the elements of personal contact and companionship.
    8. On occasion we've read posts on message boards or even commentary from the civilian world which insinuate or directly state that Ripperology might be better with some sort of set of guidelines in presenting suspects or researching in general.
    What are some of the positives you see in the efforts of individual researchers, virtually all unpaid and certainly not recipients of grants, such as those that other disciplines bestow on devotees of a variety of fields... ? Their determination ? Their imagination ? What, if any, positive trends or activities do you see and please list as many as possible.
    I would personally abhor any such list of "guidelines" in researching or presenting findings. One of the joys of this field is the presence of certain outspoken, even abrasive personalities, some of whom border on the eccentric. You may strongly disagree with their interpretations or their theories, but thank God for them, say I!
    In a world that has become stiflingly over regulated, over sensitive, afraid to offend anyone, tediously homogenised, packaged and obsessed with image and appearance - let us preserve at least one small corner where substance and individuality are still valued and nurtured - I feel better for that!
    The positives from this band of unpaid, highly skilled and selfless researchers would include:
    1) The willingness to share giving access to sources the individual might not have
    2) Sharing of knowledge acquired by years or even decades of study. The modern trend is for instant gratification and instant pundits - serious study of a field does not work that way.
    3) Sharing the contents of private collections or JTR related material that would otherwise be impossible to access
    4) The message boards give one access to a whole gamut of opinion and research which would otherwise be impossible to access
    5) The simple act of exchanging opinion and arguing one's corner can in itself be both fruitful and enjoyable
    9. What would Chris Scott like to see in terms of a Ripper documentary ? What exactly would it focus on ?
    Quite simple - one that actually followed at least the basic facts of the case. I find it amazing that makers of both documentaries and dramas based on the case seem incapable of getting even basic facts right. This is not a case of sitting there waiting for errors and triumphantly pointing out the faults - it is more that if the makers cannot get even the basic facts right then it undermines one's confidence in the whole production.
    If there is one case that does not need "hyping up" or over dramatised, then surely it is that of the Whitechapel murders. My ideal documentary would be sober, low key even, and clearly differentiating between fact and speculation, which some productions signally fail to do.
    10. What is the one piece of research work that you have spent the most time on ( other than A Cast of Thousands, Will The Real Mary Kelly... ?...or the Ripper In Ramsgate ) ? It could be a newspaper trawl on a certain aspect,individual, or event.
    Irrespective of the book, I have to say that I have spent more time on looking into the story of Mary Jane Kelly than any other person or thread of the story. This is not because I have some kind of obsession with her as a character but rather it was the pull of a mystery within a mystery. Although the Ripper case abounds with unanswered questions, the background and, to some extent, the personalities of the first four canonical victims can be at least partially retrieved. Neal Shelden has done amazing research in this area and his book on the first four victims is an essential read. Kelly was a challenge - and it was that puzzle that led to the book and has kept me interested in her ever since.
    11. What has been your general perception of how the British police force handled the Whitechapel Murders ?
    Whenever I see this question, I am reminded of the saying that everyone can be wise with hindsight.
    I think it is easy to underestimate how much policing and the tools available to the police have changed and grown since 1888. I was, of course, aware that Victorian police had no access to DNA and fingerprinting, but I was amazed when I first read that police at the time of the Whitechapel killings not only could not classify blood by group (A,O, etc.) but could not even definitively identify blood as human or animal.
    I am sure mistakes were made, and I am sure that the internal wrangles of Warren, Munro etc. did not help, but I do not subscribe to the theory that the way the police handled the case was an unmitigated disaster. Various police chiefs at the time castigated the London police and boasted that they would have done better, but some, when a similar case landed in their own backyard, such as the Carrie Brown case, fared little better.
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  • #2
    Originally posted by Chris Scott
    In a world that has become stiflingly over regulated, over sensitive, afraid to offend anyone, tediously homogenised, packaged and obsessed with image and appearance - let us preserve at least one small corner where substance and individuality are still valued and nurtured - I feel better for that!
    Hi Chris, I completely agree. But didn't you just bail the Casebook over a remark you found offensive? Had that party been more 'afraid to offend anyone' or if you'd chosen to be less sensitive over the matter, surely the mess wouldn't have gotten so ugly? I admire that you could so recently have been offended yourself but still defend the right of people to speak their minds.


    • #3
      Hi Tom
      The particular comments in question were not only deeply personal and offensive but referred to an incident some years ago that caused me a lot of personal distress.
      Not only did I resent this being referred to when it had nothing whatever to do with my activities on Casebook but I still have no idea how the person in question found out about this.
      The messages that caused me to take some time away from Casebook had nothing whatever to do with research, theories, suspects or indeed any aspect of the JTR case.


      • #4
        Hi Chris,

        I used this opportunity to review some of the twelve (12) PAGES of threads you started on Casebook. Those are interesting items, some obviously requiring intensive transcription and interpetation.

        It is researchers llike yourself who make coming to the boards exciting and fun. I look forward to your next post, at your own convenience, whether it be here at Howie's shop or back over there.

        Your ob serv,



        • #5
          I neglected to suggest that if anyone has a question for Mr. Scott, then please present one which covers Ripper or research related matters.

          Thanks in advance.
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          • #6
            Hi Chris, thanks for that very candid reply. I haven't been online since Friday, so just now getting a chance to respond. Regarding your book, 'Will the Real Mary Kelly...?', do you feel that enough fresh information has come to light since its publication to warrant a second edition, or do see that occurring at some point in the future?


            • #7
              Hi Tom
              Thanks for the message
              I think the major item that would warrant an updated edition would be the detailed notes on the mental condition of Joseph Fleming/James Evans
              There is other material which I would like to incorporate and, if things work out as I hope, I should be able to. This relates to additional information about "Kelly's" family.
              All the best


              • #8
                It would be great to see all the various viable (and possible) Kelly stuff come together. I was thumbing through your book the other day and really enjoyed it. I hadn't read it since I first received it when it was new. I'm certain I'll be referencing it when I get to my (much dreaded!) Kelly chapter.


                • #9
                  Question for the Good Senor...

                  Briefly...or unless you care to elaborate...please provide a few examples of previously held beliefs (or a position that you once maintained) in regard to either a event....or an aspect of the Case that you do not adhere to now in 2010. As many as you see fit to reply to,Chris.

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                  • #10
                    Briefly...or unless you care to elaborate...please provide a few examples of previously held beliefs (or a position that you once maintained) in regard to either a event....or an aspect of the Case that you do not adhere to now in 2010. As many as you see fit to reply to,Chris.
                    As my interest in the case is evidence based and not suspect based, I actually have very few if any "beliefs" in the case.
                    However, there are inevitably some areas of interpretation that seem to greatly exercise some people but which I personally do not get that entrenched about.
                    Some areas are notoriously controversial such as exactly who WAS Anderson's witness, what is the provenance and significance of the September 17th letter... and what about the Diary?
                    To say that I do not have a "belief" does not mean that I do not have an opinion. That may sound like a contradiction but what I mean is that on some matters I hold an opinion based on current knowledge but that could well change in the light of new discoveries coming to light. Opinions work of the basis of the balance of probability in the light of currently available information, belief implies a deeply held conviction that may not be entirely based on evidence.
                    As an example, when the then available details of the Diary became available it was my opinion that the balance of probability suggested that the item was a modern (i.e. post 1988) production. I have not seen or read anything since which has caused me to change that opinion.
                    Sometimes an item of information comes to light that can clarify or eliminate a line of inquiry. An example of this would be the imprisonment of Ostrog in France in 1888. This does not preclude anyone, including me, wanting to study the man and why he was cited as a possible suspect but of course it is a mortal blow to his status as a serious suspect.
                    Hope this helps


                    • #11
                      Thanks very much Chris.
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                      • #12
                        Hello, Chris. I find Mary Kelly as intriguing as Jack the Ripper and I was wondering how you sort through the witness testimony.

                        Which statements about Kelly's life are you more likely to use or to find more useful in the search for Mary in the census records?

                        Do you give any one clue more status than another based on believability or helpfulness in the search? (e.g. father named John vs seven brothers, colliery vs. Davies)

                        I personally think she could have exaggerated about the brothers for self-protection.


                        • #13
                          Hello Chris,

                          You may strongly disagree with their interpretations or their theories, but thank God for them, say I!
                          In a world that has become stiflingly over regulated, over sensitive, afraid to offend anyone, tediously homogenised, packaged and obsessed with image and appearance - let us preserve at least one small corner where substance and individuality are still valued and nurtured - I feel better for that!
                          Hello Chris,

                          In reference to this, do I gather you applaud expansion within the field of Ripperology as the "stifled-ness and over regulated-ness" as you so aptly put it, seems to disfavour the more adventurous?

                          best wishes as always.

                          (and MANY thanks for all you encouragement and help every time I contact you!)

                          from was written in the stars


                          • #14
                            Hello Chris,

                            Sorry for the duplication, edited herewith

                            best wishes

                            from was written in the stars


                            • #15
                              Hi Guys and thanks for the messages.
                              the statements about Kelly are almost all problematic to some degree
                              I usually divide statements about her into two broad groups:
                              1) Those which give allegedly impartial info about her and situation e.g. the name by which she was known, her relationship with Barnett, receipt of letters etc. i.e. data that would be learned by seeing and not being told
                              2) Those statements which derive, directly or indirectly, from stories told by Kelly herself. Obviously almost all family details would come from this type.
                              However, some alleged facts are not as clearly placed. For example, Barnett says that Kelly's father came looking for her (presumably from Wales) when she was living in or near Pennington Street. As Barnett did not know Kelly at that time, this allegation obviously comes from material that Kelly had told to Barnett. However, he also alleged that one of her brothers visited her on at least one occasion but it is not clear if Kelly had told him about this or if this had happened after Barnett came to know her.
                              This may sound like nit picking but, in my opinion, is important for one to assess the possible usefulness of any given statement.
                              The bottom line, unfortunately, is that any statement that derives ultimately from alleged facts related by Kelly herself has to be viewed with great caution.
                              By far the longest and most coherent account of Kelly and her background come, not surprisingly, from Barnett as her live-in partner. Some aspects of this which bear on Kelly are stated in unequivocal terms. He says, for example, that Kelly was her maiden name and she was legally married at or about the age of 16. However, in other aspects of his testimony he sounds much less certain. In three successive statements, he gives the surname of her alleged husband as:
                              Davis or Davies
                              He cannot remember
                              Definitely Davies
                              Lastly, in Barnett's defence, one has to bear in mind the following points:
                              If, like me, you believe that Barnett had no hand in Kelly's death, his mental state, in view of the horrific state of the murder and the press circus attending it, can only be guessed at
                              It seems apparent that Barnett was mercilessly hounded by the press for he gave a number of interviews. A number of articles begin, effectively, with "we tracked Barnett down..." or "we found Barnett in a public house..."
                              He must have had to recount the Kelly story over and over again to the police, press and queries from neighbours and friends. I think a number of errors and inconsistencies in existing versions are understandable.
                              In terms purely of census searches, the only really useful allegations are those on the name of parents and siblings and the alleged number of family members and their place of origin. However, all these have so far led nowhere.
                              Superficially, the most useful SHOULD be those for which an official record should exist e.g. her legal marriage. Again this has drawn a blank. Unfortunately, the number of possible explanations for this are multiple:
                              Kelly never married
                              Kelly and Davies were "common law" partners and never underwent a marriage ceremony
                              Her husband was not named Davies, Davis or any permutation thereof
                              Her name was not Mary Jane Kelly
                              We must also remember one other assertion about which Barnett was adamant, which has not been extensively researched. The more "fancy" version of her name - "Marie Jeanette" - is often explained as an affectation possibly adopted when she went to France. But Barnett is adamant in more than one place that this is the REAL form of her name and it is indeed the form of the name given on her death certificate. Why did the coroner and/or registrar accept this as the "real" form of her name when all other witnesses refer to her as the plainer Mary Jane?
                              Phil, I neither favour nor disapprove of any type of research per se but am of the opinion that any direction of investigation can only be judged by its results and the evidence on which those are based. Unfortunately we work within a field which has seen more than a few flights of fantasy, sensation seeking and even cases of outright invention and myth making. These do not make life any easier but place even more requirements upon the quality of the work of researchers.
                              Thanks for you kind comments, Phil.
                              Chris Scott