The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper- Review

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The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper, James Carnac, Kindle Review

  Pages: 320

  Publisher: Bantam Press (19 Jan 2012)

  Language English

  ISBN-10: 0593068203

  ISBN-13: 978-0593068205

The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper, (TAJTR) it is claimed, was written by a man by the name of James Carnac.  It is claimed that the item was found in the possession of the late Sydney George Hulme Beaman, an artist, actor, and creator of Toytown and Larry the Lamb.  The collection of Hulme Beaman was  donated to Alan Hicken, who discovered the alleged Autobiography. 

The book is a fascinating read and follows the life of Carnac through childhood, teenage years, then as he stalks the “slums of the East End.”  The book doesn’t finish when the Ripper murders conclude though, instead it continues to inform the reader of what happened next, which is just as exciting as the lead up to and carrying out of the murders. 

That said there are several problems with the book. 

James Carnac, in TAJTR, claims to have been born at Tottenham, but searching the British BMD index fails to turn up a James Carnac born in the UK that matches, never mind any born in Tottenham.  James Henry Sproule Carnac [1] is listed but at a much earlier date and in a different district.  The next James Carnac to be registered is James William Carnac [2] but he is born in 1891 and thus after the murders.  In TAJTR Carnac reveals that he was 69 years old shortly before his death.  He also claims that the murders took place between 40 and 42 years previously, thus giving us a birth date of around 1859 and 1861.  Again, there are no births during this period bearing this name.  Another major event in Carnac’s life is the death of his parents who died between 1877 and 1879 when he was nearly 18 years of age, but searching the British Death Registers fails to show any Carnac’s registered in the vicinity of Tottenham during this period. 

Dr. Carnac, it is claimed, was James Carnac’s father and a doctor in the Tottenham district.  Searches of the UK Medical Register failed to turn up any mention of a Carnac in any capacity in the medical profession.  Searches of the UK Census collection failed to turn up any mention of James Carnac or his father.  Searches of the 19th Century British Press failed to turn up any mention of James Carnac or his family.  Searches of the Times Online Archives failed to turn up any mention of James Carnac or his family. 

Dr Styles, it is claimed, ran a school which Carnac was sent to when he was 12 years old.  He was religious and overbearing.  Searching the UK Medical Register failed to turn up any Dr. Styles for the period in question.  The 1899 edition did feature an Australian by the name of Arthur Styles Vallack but this gentleman did not gain his qualifications until 1893. [3]  Searches of the British 19th Century Newspapers, Times Archives, and Historical Trade Directories failed to find a Dr. Styles at a school in Tottenham.

Mr. Pearson, it is claimed, taught Carnac on occasion at Dr. Styles School.

Dr. Sims, it is claimed was a doctor that operated in the same district as Dr. Carnac.  There are numerous entries for “Sims” in the UK Medical Registers, 88 to be precise, but of these 88 several names appear over and over again and not one of them is registered as practicing in the district of Tottenham.  The Times Archive found numerous Dr. Sims, but none working in Tottenham.

Dr. Norcote, it is claimed, was the father of both Julie and John Norcote and a doctor.  Searches of the UK Medical Register fail to turn up any mention of a Norcote or any spelling variation which is odd given that John Norcote, it is claimed, is said to be partners with his father at their family run surgery.

Julie Norcote, it is claimed, met James Carnac in the early stages of 1888,

John Norcote, it is claimed is Dr. Norcote’s son and partner in the family run doctors surgery.  There are no records of a Norcote in the UK Medical Registers.

Norcote family:  Searching the entire United Kingdom Census collection reveals no such family as the Norcote’s.  The Times Archives did reveal Norcote’s but none working in the medical profession.

Dr. Short, it is claimed, gave evidence after the death of James Carnac.  Searching the UK Medical Register failed to find a Dr. Short practicing in the time frame suggested in the book, nor any bearing that name registered in the UK other than two New Zealand doctors … residing in New Zealand.  The Times Archive did reveal a Dr. Short, but none giving evidence at any inquests pertaining to gas leaks and/or fires.

Mrs. Hamlett, it is claimed, was Carnac’s landlady who had a property “not far from Russell Square.”  Searches of the British Death Registers failed to find a Hamlett who had died in the district.  Searches of the Times Archives also failed to find a Mrs. Hamlett.

Minnie Wright, it is claimed, was Mrs. Hamlett’s maid.  A search of the 1911 Census showed several people by the name of Minnie Wright, but none of them in the district suggested, none working for a Hamlett, and none in any property with a Carnac.  Searches of the Times Archive failed to find a Minnie Wright.  

The murders.

Carnac claims that Tabram, or in his case Tabron, is the first true victim of Jack the Ripper.  He describes how he met her and took her life, using the two knives, but the problem here is that he quotes from the press of the period, mentioning the autopsy reports by Drs Killeen and Phillips.  Information that was readily available at the time and after.  It is further claimed that the writer had press cuttings from the events.  With this in mind it reads as though the writer has read the press cuttings and created their own story around them.

The murders of Nichols and Chapman follow, and Carnac claims that Chapman had a pet canary that was eaten by a cat.  Nothing of this has ever been discussed before but I find it highly unlikely that she could afford a bird.  Of Elizabeth Stride it is claimed that Carnac bought grapes from Matthew Packer.  The issue of grapes has been debated for some years and will continue to be debated.  The problem here is that Carnac gives a description of himself early in the book, and we know historically that Packer gave a description of the alleged murderer, but this doesn’t fit in with Carnac’s self description.  Carnac then describes how he killed her, and how he was disturbed. 

Eddowes is tackled next and again the known eyewitness statements do not match the events described.  It does mention that the couple went into “a cul de sac” but other than that it does not match the known eyewitness accounts, and statements made by the police of the period who were patrolling the streets that night.

When Carnac tackles the murder of Mary Kelly is where a lot of falsehoods are discovered.  Carnac claims that the room in the house where Mary Kelly resided was at the front of the property, but this is wrong.  Millers Court was at the rear, not the front.  He then claims that Kelly was flashy, her clothes were flashy and that she had face powder on.  These descriptions do not match descriptions that were given at the time of Mary Kelly’s death.  Carnac then claims that as he entered Kelly’s room, at the front, he noticed that the window was covered by a thin muslin curtain.  We know from contemporary reports and photographs that Mary’s room had two windows, one of which was covered by an old coat, and the other appears to have a thick curtain hanging on the left hand side. [4] Carnac then claims that Kelly had a lamp which was lit but again we know of no lamp in the room, certainly none were mentioned in the reports of the period with the press discussing the fire and a penny candle as the only means of light available.  Carnac also draws attention to the bed and claims that it was metal, but contemporary crime scene photos show the bed to be wooden in appearance, not metal with contemporary press reports backing this up.  Carnac also claims that Mary Kelly had a mirror in her room, a fact that is not backed up by contemporary descriptions.  A search of the British 19th Century press failed to turn up any mention of such a mirror.  As did a search of the Times Archives.  A search of the Casebook Press Reports also fails to turn up any mention of a mirror in Millers Court.


All in all as a piece of detective fiction it is a cracking read.  It gives us an idea of the mentality of a murderer and suggests motives and themes for why the crimes was committed.  As a genuine confession/autobiography it fails to connect tangible primary sources with the information it is trying to put across as the truth.


1 Born 1846, Lymington, Vol 8, Page 175

2 Born 1891, Windsor, Vol 2c, Page 442

3 1893 UK Medical Directory, Page 1756

4 See here

7 Responses to “The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper- Review”

  1. Christopher T. George Says:

    Thanks for writing this, Mike.

  2. Christopher T. George Says:

    Mike, I think you will like the discussion of the book by John Bennett coming out in Ripperologist 124. While as you say there seems to be no proof of the existence of the ostensible author of the “Autobiography” John brings up a number of intriguing possibilities for how the book might have come into being.

  3. S Smith Says:

    The name Carnac/Karnac is a Hindi name. If you check the background of the Beaman family you will find an India connection. I believe parts of the story to be true except the name Jame W Carnac - I think the killer started his manuscript and shocked his family - I think his father was indeed a doctor (George Beaman) and that his son George Hulme Robin Beaman was the killer and left his son Sidney the manuscript. I believe the doctor would have left his son his scapel, etc as per the book. I think also that Sidney wrote the end chapter and it is fictional. An Sidney was born in Tottenham - maybe his father was too. Another link is the fact the mother was a Eleanor Nicols, and the first victim of JR was Mary Ann Walker whom married William Nicols and probably after their separation 1881 things went awry and the good old GHR Beaman killed and continued killing. If we had access to accidents during that time where a man lost his leg, perhaps we could prove or disprove that this too was a tale. I think the father did not wish to hurt his family - but wanted his secret known and was feeling that he must tell someone before his death around 1929. George Hulme Robins Beaman also had a brother who could be a suspect to, but with Nicol connection, I think it was he. Perhaps wishing he had been a doctor like his dad and siblings - who were in India but also were in London in 1888. I think he wrote part truths and part tales to embellish his manuscript and that his son upon seeing it was shocked tore out or rewrote parts but certainly wrote the last chapter… would be interesting to see if there was a fire and who actually died in that fire and if it is true the court held an inquest and said it was James Carnac, it would be interesting to know if G H R Beaman died at the same time frame. Interesting book.

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  5. IGLU Says:

    You’re so cool! I don’t think I have read something like this before. So good to find another person with some genuine thoughts on this issue. Really.. thank you for starting this up. This website is one thing that’s needed on the internet, someone with a little originality!

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  7. Spencer Says:

    I am a bit of a Johnny-come-lately to this particular subject however I think I might have noticed something which I do not think anybody else has. The author keeps making reference to Edgar Allen Poe throughout the book and it triggered something in my head but I could not place it. I started going through some Poe books and it did not take me long to discover that the name ‘Carnac’ appears in ‘The Raven’. I am certain that trying to trace the name of James Carnac in the census etc will prove fruitless as it would seemed that the author lifted the name from a book by his favourite writer. ‘The Raven’ is also a fairly similar story in so much as it deals with the slow descent into madness of a man not unlike we read in ‘Carnac’s autobiography’.
    For me it is a piece of fiction by a fan of Poe as the stories are too similar, the unusual name can be found in the original and Poe is referenced numerous times in the book.

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