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The A to Z 2010 : Discussion Thread 1

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  • The A to Z 2010 : Discussion Thread 1

    Not having recieved a copy of the book yet, I will be focusing on the Robert D'Onston Stephenson entry today based on scans provided by Nemo.

    First off, I have taken the liberty of scanning and posting the three page entry on Steohenson from the 1996 version ( I don't believe Mr. Begg will object ) so that we may observe any changes to the scholarship or candidacy of Stephenson in the 14 year interim between editions.

    Before I do, the condition of these three pages is an indication of why people don't let me borrow their books...

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  • #2
    With Mike Covell's and Nemo's help, we'll start cataloguing changes between the editions now. Mike and Nemo, please feel free to step in at any point with your observations. At the completion of the material examination, I will put a list together of all those revisions, so its not a problem if some or any of your add ons appear at any given time.

    On page 486 of the new A to Z, we find D'Onston's entry featuring his photo ( the one from Borderland, in 1896).

    The first significant change appears regarding D'Onston's alleged service to the Giuseppe Garibaldi's campaign(s) of the late 1850's -1860's, which in the 1996 version was simply stated as shown below in the first section of the 1996 scans.
    The authors mention that Garibaldi's expedition ( of 1859 ) was postponed for a year and that Stephenson's name does not appear on the list of excursionists who departed with him.
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    • #3
      Immediately following the reference on Stephenson's alleged service, the authors write, "Melvin Harris says Stephenson stayed with an unnamed old school friend in Islington, in 1860, and did in fact serve with Garibaldi ( no source given).

      Mike Covell just sent the following text from Mr. Harris's 1994 The True Face of Jack the Ripper...
      Page 58 : "I had got my MD," he said, "but was not yet in practice when I learned from a friend of the terrible plight of the medical services of Garibaldi"

      Mike's reply:

      "The Muster Rolls show that Stephenson put his name down to join, but there is no evidence available to show that he travelled to Italy or fought with Garibaldi. On the Muster Rolls, Stephenson claims to have been residing at 4 River Terrace, North Islington, a property that was later associated with Rev. Charles Prest, who was the Reverend of the Waltham-street church, and resided in Storey-street in Hull. [1] Prest was 35 years older than Stephenson, thus making it impossible for them to have been to school together."
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      • #4
        In the same paragraph as the previous reference to Garibaldi, the authors mention the following:

        " Stephenson himself claimed that he served as a medical officer with Garibaldi...and one occasion using magical lore learned from Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton to treat a woman cursed by the Evil Eye ( in Italy).

        The reader may not be aware of the blatant plagiarism on Stephenson's part of an 1836 book written by the same Lytton, entitled, The Last Days of Pompeii which contains a reference to an encounter of a man with a witch in a cave with the malocchia ( evil eye)

        This is a link ( free ebook) to Lytton's 1836 book:

        In time, I will place both the 1896 Stephenson ( In Borderland ) variation of Lytton's story and Lytton's story itself side by side on this thread.

        This discovery was made by Canadian Ripperologist Mark Franzoi
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        • #5
          In the next paragraph, the authors state:

          " The following year, 1862, by his own very precise and circumstantial dating, he met, in Paris, the diplomat Edward Robert Lytton, the son of occultist Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton ( latter first Baron Lytton). Edward Robert Lytton, however, was at the that time based in Copenhagen. Stephenson claimed Edward Robert Lytton introduced him to Bulwer Lytton the following year and that Bulwer Lytton trained him in occult knowledge. The date of the meeting may be wrong as Stephenson's claim to have used occult lore against the Evil Eye in Italy, in 1860, would suggest that if the meeting ever took place, it must have been in 1859."

          This has been and still is a bone of contention on my part regarding Stephenson and his alleged liasing with Lytton Jr. However, I recognize the authors are not declaring with any degree of definitiveness that the date is correct or that the story is true or false.

          The following excerpt is the beginning of Chapter Two of the 1896 article, A Modern Magician, written under the nom de plume, Tautriadelta, for the publication, Borderland :

          "It was in the winter after the publication of the weird " Strange Story " in which the Master attempted to teach the world many new and important truths (under the veil of fiction) that I made the acquaintance at Paris of young Lytton, the son of (the then) Sir Edward. He was at that time, I suppose, about ten years my senior; and though passionately attached to his father, who was both father and mother to him, did not share my intense admiration and enthusiasm for his mystic studies and his profound lore.
          Anyhow, in the spring following, he presented me to his father as an earnest student of occultism. I was then about an years of age,.."

          The word "an" which appears at the end of the paragraph is actually a number, D'Onston's age,and should read "22". This is verifiable by way of the manuscript written by Bernard O'
          Donnell, entitled, "This Man Was Jack The Ripper" which of course we have here on The Forums. The O' Donnell manuscript used the text from the 1896 article and it definitely reads "22".
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          • #6
            One body of thought in Ripperology contends that Stephenson may have been referring to the publication in serial form of the eventual novel, A Strange Story, by Lytton which came out prior to 1863.

            My contention is that Stephenson, a prevaricator of the highest order, was referring to the release or publication, if you will, of the novel by Lytton, which again appeared in 1862.

            Stephenson was born on April 20th,1841.
            He would have been 22 in the spring of 1863.
            He states once more that :

            ""It was in the winter after the publication of the weird " Strange Story "
            and then
            "Anyhow, in the spring following, he presented me to his father as an earnest student of occultism. I was then about 22 years of age,.."

            What it means, and it means nothing in terms of his role as a letter writing neophyte Ripperologist, is that if he really meant he met Lytton Jr. in 1863 as I believe he did mean to declare, we would now have to concern ourselves with the fact that Stephenson was in Hull at work at the Customs House in April ( 25th) of 1863. He couldn't be in two places at once.
            Stephenson's catalog ( not just one or two lies) of lies and balderdash are sufficient to reconsider the statement made in the A to Z.

            While the possibility exists that Stephenson meant the publication of the novel in serial form which appeared prior to the novel which was released in late 1862 , even that does not mean for certain that he actually met Lytton.
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            • #7
              The following paragraph in the A to Z concerns the "manifest lies" ( the authors' words and well chosen ones at that..) regarding Stephenson's claims to have been in The Cameroons ( West Africa) and encountering a fearful sorceress (named Sube) who was "very like the dreadful sorceress in H.Rider Haggard's She."

              I may be overlooking something in regard to this last sentence, but I don't recall a sorceress in She. However, I do as many others will, recall a similar sorceress in Haggard's first book, King Solomon's Mines, known as Gagool. If there is a sorceress in She, please provide that name and I'll stand corrected.

              Graham Wilson, an Australian Ripperologist, provided the Forums and the rest of the Message Board community ( at least ) with evidence that Stephenson could not have been in The Cameroons when he claimed to have been. Stephenson's ignorance of Cameroonian geography was also noted by Graham.

              In addition to this and unintentionally overlooked in the A to Z, Mr. Wilson also pointed out another lie by Stephenson regarding a snake allegedly encountered in this imaginary trip ,known as the tic polonga.

              The tic polonga is not a snake found anywhere in Africa . It is endemic to India.
              The previous pro-Stephenson authors (and myself ) overlooked this obvious lie prior to Mr. Wilson's efforts.
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              • #8
                Before I continue, if anyone has any comments to add or criticisms to make, please do so.
                I'll get back to the A to Z shortly.
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                • #9
                  The next paragraph begins with the statement that Stephenson bowed to family pressure and took a post as a clerk with the Customs House in Hull.

                  Mike and I have been trying to locate a source for the statement he bowed to familial pressure, but in the meantime we do know that Stephenson claimed his stint ( 5 years) at Customs House was "almost a sinecure" ( For easy access to this, turn to page 97 of The True Face). It should also be noted that this "sinecure" Stephenson alleges he endured was for only " a few hours duty" daily.

                  The A to Z provides the "Dead or Alive" story found in Review of Reviews in 1892 in this edition of the work. The book then heads into the shooting incident in 1868 involving Stephenson and a wildfowl shooting excursion off Flamborough.

                  The A to Z states that the dating of the 1868 Flamborough shooting incident ( John Savage and Mike Covell have written about this incident here and in Ripperologist Magazine) does not correspond with the previously mentioned "DOA" story. Actually, it does.
                  In the DOA story, Stephenson states that on August 26th,1867, at midnight, he liased with a woman whose name is Louise on a wooden bridge in Hull. They exchange vows to meet every year at the same time, dead or alive.
                  Stephenson then mentions the Flamborough shooting which occurred in July of 1868. Being disabled, he is wheeled to the spot by a servant, where he encounters the apparition of Louise, who according to her family, had died three months prior to this liason in August of 1868.

                  After Andy Aliffe's original discovery of the Bridlington Quay Observer article on the Flamborough article some 17 years ago, John Savage has found other articles on the same incident.

                  The DOA story, however, is a retelling of the Lovers of Porthangwartha, an old West of England ghost story.
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                  • #10
                    The next paragraph of the A to Z addresses another (one of my particularly favorite) aspect of the Donston saga. That being that Stephenson, according to both the authors of pro-Donston books and specific references found in the works each published, that Stephenson cavorted with prostitutes and had a venereal disease based on the Customs House records. There is no other way they could have come to this conclusion but from reading those specific documents. It provided one author with the motive and entire foundation for his theory of D'Onston being the Ripper....

                    In fact, the two authors did not share the text from the CH in their books which both could have easily done...instead, demanding that their word be accepted as some sort of etched in stone fact.
                    John Savage was the first to publish an article, again found in the seminal research tool, Ripperologist Magazine, on the CH records...15 years after they should have been available to all interested parties.

                    Stephenson,according to the CH records, had been stated as suffering from brain fever, which is a form of meningitis, not v.d.. The court, which conducted inquiries into his frequent absences from work ( Well...he did say he worked only a few hours a day), made a note of commenting on him living an immoral life. This does not, obviously,indicate that he was guilty of drinking excessively,running around with a fast crowd, hanging with known criminals, liasing with prostitutes, or tarnishing his family's name. It may have been any of these things but it does not specify which or by what act he was deemed immoral. He was axed in late 1868.

                    It is very important to know that the claims made by both authors ( one of whom sadly can not counter the charges being leveled here ) on this faulty and shoddy sort of research will never be challenged. The one who can counter them won't.
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                    • #11
                      The following paragraph in the A to Z discusses another bombastic tale Stephenson cranked out on a regular basis. This time he discusses his trip to America and participation in a Gold Rush on the West Coast. The A to Z suggests the year 1869 as the year the trip theoretically occurred, all the while not claiming that it did occur one bit.

                      The fact is, is that by Stephenson's own accounting, he spent 15 months in the United States tracking down a man who interfered with the progess in a previous relationship between his cousin and a woman and upon finding him dispatching him...dipping his handkerchief into the man's blood in an act of revenge....and calmly handing it over to the cousin. Needless to say, if Stephenson was fired on December 31st, 1868 from the Customs House and appears in some records as a free lance journalist in London in 1869....then we have a somewhat serious problem with the chronology or Stephenson's story. I opt for the latter.
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                      • #12
                        In the next paragraph, we find reference to the 1871 census ( Originally provided to the late Mr. Harris by Peter R.A.Birchwood ) which demonstrates not only where Stephenson was in 1871, but reveals another typical prevarication as to his current "occupation".

                        The A to Z thankfully lists census listings for Stephenson throughout the entry. I wanted to mention that here with thanks before I forgot.

                        His occupation ( 29 going on 30 years of age) is as a Lieutenant in HMS Coast Guard....yet another important and easy to provide fact which is not found in any pro-D'Onston book despite it being known and available in 1994 and 2002, the last two years the authors had their efforts published.
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                        • #13
                          The next paragraph mentions his marriage to Anne Deary in 1876.
                          Deary had appeared at the Customs House "trial" of Stephenson back when he worked there as a witness in his defense.

                          Material also found in the 1896 article, Borderland, is also found within this same paragraph. Stephenson, in that 1896 article, weaves a tall tale of "amazing black magic feats" he witnesses in India, ostensibly a guest of Bulwer Lytton's son, who by this time was the or a Viceroy in India.

                          The A to Z mentions an 1897 correspondence from a man who allegedly was present when Turkish Jew gem dealer Alex Jacob,a.k.a. Ali Yacoub,a.k.a. Mr Jacob of Simla performed these wonderous feats of magic such as putting a sword completely through D'Onston's torso.

                          Behold !...from the April 1896 Borderland article :
                          HOW IT FEELS TO BE THRUST THROUGH.
                          I then described the performances of different fakirs whom I had seen, especially the only one which puzzled me-the transfixion of the body with a tulwar. Mr. Jacob smiled and said, "Oh, that's nothing. Stand up." I did so, and he, taking down a superbly mounted and damascened yataghan from Persia, which formed part of a trophy of arms on the wall, drew it from its scabbard and held the point to my breast, saying only "Shall I?" I had absolute confidence in him, so simply said "Certainly." He dropped the point to about two inches below the sternum (breast-bone) and pushed slowly but forcibly. I distinctly felt the passage of the blade, but it was entirely painless, though I experienced a curious icy feeling, as though I had drunk some very cold water. The point came out of my back and penetrated into the wood panelling behind, which, if I remember rightly, was of cedar wood. He left no of the weapon and laughingly remarked that I looked like a butterfly pinned on a cork. Several jokes at my expense were made by the others ; and, after a minute or two, he released me. I looked rather ruefully at the slit the broad blade had made in my clothes, but Jacob said, "Never mind them ; they'll be all right by-and-bye." He began to show us another wonder, and I forgot all about it. But about an hour afterward there was no trace whatever of any damage to the clothes.

                          Evidently, this correspondent who vouched for Stephenson's alleged trip to India witnessed the above as well.
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                          • #14
                            Well, I don't know how you go about researching and writing a book, but if I was writing about Stephenson I would pass it by Mike

                            Everybody knows Mike is the expert on RDS and he's a friendly guy so I'm sure he would have loved to comment on or correct the entry before publication

                            I'm sure he has plenty of information post-1904

                            There's no need to mention Harris so much when discussing the interesting aspects of Stephenson, such as his being in the area, his occult interests, and his fantastic stories and anecdotes, together with his approaching the police himself with his Ripper theory, his association with Stead, his GSG theory etc etc etc

                            When talking to Mike or Howard about each individual point made by Harris and others, the whole case for him being the Ripper falls like a house of cards

                            I can't really mention Stephenson's candidacy to anybody without referring to his theories about using the uterus from a book by Eliphas Levi, something which is omitted in the new A-Z

                            Donston should be given at least a token nod of respect in coming up with a unique use for the uterus - in a Black Magic Ritual, rather than to sell or eat or make candles, as well as a unique linguistic analysis of the GSG, coming to the conclusion that the Ripper was a Frenchman who had been in the East End for some time

                            In the "old" A-Z it mentioned Donston searching for a means of invisibility, ritual intentions are not included in the 2010 edition

                            I don't agree with the invisibility being the purpose of any ritual he hinted at, I think he was summoning Lucifer himself, who may in turn have conferred invisibility on his minion I suppose

                            Also, writing the Patristic Gospels does not mean that he abandoned the occult. His study of very early and pure religious literature could be seen as an extension of occult study

                            I haven't compared the two entries in detail Howard but will do later today

                            Overall, the new entry wasn't too bad as it managed to mention most of the important events and stories in a limited space and I've only got some minor gripes with it which are mostly subjective opinion (so far)

                            The obvious difference is that the old A-Z makes much more of the bloody ties theory and their connection with Crowley etc


                            • #15
                              In the next paragraph, the A to Z mentions the 1881 census ( which the pro-authors did find room to put into their tomes) which states that Stephenson was living at 10 Hollingsworth Street North as a "non-practicing m.d. and scientific writer" with wife Anne.

                              It is stated that he applied unsuccessfully in July of 1886 for a position at the Metropolitan and City Police Orphanage which has appeared in the works on Stephenson in the past.

                              Thinking out loud here, I'm wondering whether Mike or anyone else has access or possession of that applicants' list to provide for this thread.

                              It is mentioned that Harris and Edwards speculated that D'Onston murdered his wife in 1887 ...a belief or position enabled by the fact that up until recently no one was certain what had happened to her prior to the year 1888. for the two pro-authors, it was easy for them to push this idea.

                              David Knott recently located Mrs. Stephenson in the 1911 UK census. She died in 1929.

                              In the paragraph, Nina Brown is mentioned discovering an article in the Daily News from November 1896 which had been suggested as being an authentic account of Anne's death. Usually always right, believe it or not, for once my wife was wrong.
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