Twin Peaks and the Whitechapel Murders
Copyright by Karim Ghantous 1999
Just over one hundred years separate the Whitechapel Murders and the TV debut of Twin Peaks. During the latter half of 1888 a man who called himself Jack the Ripper killed five London prostitutes, mutilating four of them. The last of the victims was cut up so badly that her face was unrecognizable. In 1993, a book called The Diary of Jack Ripper presented the theory that an old, handwritten diary discovered only two years before was genuinely that of Jack the Ripper, whose real name was James Maybrick, a Liverpool cotton trader. This diary shows the tension, illness and remorse of a man deeply troubled by internal demons, similar to what Leland Palmer carried with him most of his life. Although the reasons and methods of the murders in each case were different, the torment that both men - one real and one fictional - went through is worth relating, not least because there are some rather startling similarities between the diary and the TV show.
There are two simple leads that able us to link James Maybrick's diary and elements of Twin Peaks. In the first page of the diary, Maybrick writes "I am convinced a dark shadow lays over the house, it is evil." This bares a similarity to the lyrics of Rockin' Back Inside My Heart, a song written by Angelo Badalamenti, sung by Julee Cruise and the lyrics were by David Lynch, the co-creator of the series. The song is being sung live at the Roadhouse one night, with several of the main characters in the audience. At the same time, Leland Palmer is getting ready to kill Madeleine, Laura's cousin. Another song begins and at the Palmer house, with his wife drugged, Leland, completely possessed by BOB begins to beat Maddy to death. Rockin' includes the line, "Shadow in my house, the man he has brown eyes". On the 41st page of the Ripper diary Maybrick wrote
Sir Jim shall,
Am I insane?
Sir Jim with his fancy cane
Will soon strike againNear the end of the so-called European Pilot episode of Twin Peaks, parts of which found their way into later broadcast episodes, are two of the finest and amazing scenes in motion picture history (either TV or feature). The second-last scene shows Sheriff Truman and Special Agent Cooper in the basement of Calhoun Hospital. They are in front of Killer BOB's lair, with twelve candles surrounding a mound of dirt on the floor. BOB is taunting the two lawmen with undecipherable yet utterly engrossing dialogue. His last line before being shot by MIKE, his nemesis, is "You may think I've gone insane, but I promise I will kill again". The similarities could be coincidental, and arguably vague. Yet with these two hooks in mind we can investigate the mind of a possessed killer, and the condition of a town's rotten core.
Twin Peaks, mostly thanks to David Lynch, is not a single genre story. The simplest way to describe it would be a mystery-drama. It's also a complex reomance, spooky and ethereal supernatural exploration, soap opera. potential tragedy depending on interpretation/understanding and a bit of everything else. A lot of the themes are therefore not relevant to the private torment we are allowed to witness in the Ripper diaries. There are similarities not surprisingly, between Lenand Palmer and James Maybrick and there ar connections between the drama of the Riper case and that of the events surrounding the killing of Laura Palmer - and the town of Twin Peaks itself.
Within the first minute of the first episode of Twin Peaks, Laura Palmer's body, wrapped in thick, translucent plastic is discovered by the shore of a lake. Over this and a further 29 episodes, we are not just taken into a world of clues and crim but into the realm of the phantasm, the dream, thte supernatural and the fear and roemores of evil. Therelaughs oddities and homages and reference to other television shows. Yet the centr of the story is the mystery of Laura's murder, and eventually who and what kills her. At the end of it all, we can see a terrible parallel between the pain of Maybrick's and and Leland Palmer's.
We know only a little of Leland's childhood - just enoughto give some clues for the mystery. It certainly didn't seem very similar to Maybrick's, who by comparison had a rather normal upbringing. For Maybrick, his real turmoil begins late in adulthood. Leland seemed to have been tormented as early as his unspecified boyhood. Perhaps a glimpse of his life can be imagined through his daughter's, best conveyed to us in The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. We know that Leland did not have the strength of push away what or whom we know as Killer BOB (written this way in Laura's secret diary; also convenient to differentiate him from Bobby Briggs). Becuase of this lack of resisitance to the dark porces of existence, he becaum possess. As host for the Black Lodges inhabitants, he became a tortured soul, despite not being aware of some of his crimes. In his final moents of life, when he is finally free of the spiritual parasite, he knows. Maybrick was always aware of himself and what he was doing. He relishe d in slashing into the bodies of his victims. It gave him some satisfaction, at least for a while. And after seeing his final victim, you understand the contrasting motivations and feelings between the two men. Mary Kelly, the Ripper's fifth and final victim, was attacked so badly her face resembled mince meat. A chunk of her thigh was hacked off, exposing a large section of bone. The result of this frenzied buthchery leaves no doubt as to the different nautres of the crimes. Leland, no doubt on among many hosts for BOB, killed on behalf of the Black Lodge as well as out of anger or grief for his own pain. Maybrick had a single reason - his reage stemmed from his wife's flirtation with a family friend. No psycho-sprititual posession here, despite that he stopped going to church when he was young.
Yet in one sense, there is a comon thread running between the two men's motivation to kill. Chronologically the frist murder that the audience of both FWWM and PT are aware of is that of Teresa Banks. She was an out of town prostitute that Leland saw when he passed through the area. Leland killed her because on day as he went to visit her to try out her firnes, he saw that on of the new girls was mone other than his own daughter. How dare anyone prostitute his daughter, he must have been thinking. It's not wrong to suppose, based on this fact, that he had intended to kill his daughter precisely because of th porstitution (although as stated before, he had no knowledge of his actual crime - or did he?). Maybrick writes in his diary that he is "convinced that God has placed me here to kill all whores". While Maybrick's main purpose was to slaughter prostitures, Leland Palmer was larger in scale as he was an agent of the centre of evil, although at least Teresa Banks because of her desire for unclean things.< /p>
Both Palmer and Maybrick made use of the services of prostitutes. It wasn't until FWWM that we knew of Leland's infidelity, although of course it had been going on a while before the story of TP proper began. James Maybrick too had been seeing prostitutes. Like Palmer, he saw them in the course of business travel, away from home. Instead of taking drugs himself though, Palmer used them on his wife so that she would have no memories of his crimes in his own home. The crimes Maybrick commited in his own house, Battlecrease, were the conception of murder, hitting his wife and feeding his addiction to arsenic.
Police sketches and identikit images make a regular appearance on our TV news broadcasts. So there may seem nothing to make of the fact that in both cases concerned sketches was made of the suspects during their reign of killing. But there is something noteworthy. When compared directly, the police sketches of BOB and the Ripper suspect don't tell us anything much. But while they are not similar to each other (Maybrick is portrayed as a line drawing, three-quarter angle, whereas BOB's face is shaded and faces the viewer) they are strikingly similar to their subjects. Combine that with the fact that effectively neither perpetrator got caught and you have a curious parallel. Writes Maybrick, "can't believe not caught etc". And while Leland is yet to be caught, he indulges in his own little games of dancing behind the lawmen's backs. Perhaps the only reason we can make the connection between the two sketches is because the men Palmer and Maybrick have more substantial similarities in other areas.
Not so shaky is the relationship between the diaries of Maybrick and Palmer's daughter, Laura. True, the most obvious difference is that one is written by a perpetrator and the other by a victim of torment. Yet at least this is a clean opposite. After all, an image in a mirror is the exact opposite of its subject.
Laura had two diaries. One had a lock and this one was most likely used for day to day things. Anything which did not require the utmost secrecy, or was not closest to Laura's heart and mind would be found in this. From the series we know that her main diary had mention of "meeting J tonight" and xxx. Her secret diary, paradoxically the one we know most about and can read it from cover to cover, dealt mostly with events and thoughts that haunted her, that she struggled with most and that she wanted absolutely nobody to find. Either the main diary was a cover for the secret one, or merely the secret one was able to be hidden because nobody would suspect her keeping two.
Maybrick's diary shares one interesting aspect with Laura Palmer's. They both have pages torn out of them. Maybrick may have used his diary as something else before he planned his killings. It was in fact a scrapbook, not a diary. When examined closely the book shows evidence of having photographs attached to its pages. Missing pages in Maybrick's diary, however they got that way, mean something quite different than those in Laura's diary. Those were a handful of pages ripped out from several places by Killer BOB. Although BOB's motivation is not our concern here, we can at least be sure of one thing: if Leland was so concerned about keeping his 'identity' a secret he would have taken the whole diary and destroyed it. The only alternative to why he tore the pages out is that he wanted to warn his daughter not to get too close. Those pages offended him and he didn't destroy the diary because his feelings were best expressed by ripping out the pages and leaving the bulk of the diary behind. Sort of like not killing his daughter and instead occassionaly raping her. What meaning this similarity between the two diaries has is not great, but neither is a single piece of wood, nor a lone brick. And although the similarity is much more interesting than the police sketches, this link mainly helps us put the whole set of ideas closer together.
After BOB killed his victims he placed a letter under their fingernails. Teresa Banks had a 'T' placed under one of her nails, while Laura had an 'R'. In the stark and enchanting scene shown in full in the so-called European Pilot, BOB states that each letter was to spell 'Robert', his "proper name". After Leland kills Maddy, we see him perform this quick, morbid ritual, which seems anticlimactic compared to the terrible events just before. David Lynch had a fascination with letters from early on, before his film career really got started, which can be seen in The Alphabet. Whatever his motives, one can't help but draw a strong connection between BOB's letters (all taken no doubt from Fleshworld) and the initials of James Maybrick that he left behind at three of his murders.
The most infamous murder - the last one - of Jack the Ripper's was the most brutal and frightening. The photograph was taken in a very cramped room. Just visible behind the badly mutilated corpse are the initials 'FM', written in blood on the wall. These initals stand for Florence Maybrick, the young American girl who was James's wife. The reason why is that the victim, Mary Kelly was a very pretty girl and she reminded Maybrick of his wife, of whom he was resentful because of her supposed infidelities. He started killing in the first place because of her, and this strong obsession is most gruesomely displayed at this final murder scene.
But that wasn't the first time that he left this sort of clue. He left the letter 'M' written on a torn piece of an envelope found with the body of his second victim, Annie Chapman. The diary refers to this at least implicitly:
Letter M it's true
Along with M ha ha
Will catch clever JimAnd on the face of his fourth victim he slashed two inverted 'V's below her eyes. Join these together and turn them upside down and you get the letter 'M'. Three of the five victims of Jack the Ripper, all female, were in one way or another left with at least one initial from Maybrick's name.
There are a significant number of similarities between the characters and events of Twin Peaks and the Whitechapel Murders. A major characteristic of the TV series is its supernatural or spiritual element. The Ripper case certainly is a terrible one, and because of the psychological aspects of it we can also be horrified. Maybrick's diary is a little creepy at times but the closest it gets to the spirituality of TP is the mention of the dark shadow. Still, the similarities are worth examining because they are too close to be merely coincidences. They help relate the psychology of two disturbed men to each other, and give us a revelation about the patterns that such disturbed and haunted men follow in dealing with events surrounding and controlling their lives. Both James Maybrick and Leland Palmer were obsessed; one was ruled by the vicious cycle of drug addiction, the other was ruled by agents of darkness. While it is true that anyone can think himself "insane" or feel a "dark shadow" ar ound or in their homes, the circumstances and contexts of the two stories when compared show us many deep things in the human psyche.
There are thus three possible conclusions we can make:
The connection between the Ripper diary and the script and song lyrics from Twin Peaks is a coincidence albeit a suitable one
The diary was made by a person who was influenced by Twin Peaks
Mark Frost, because he could not have seen the diary before he wrote Twin Peaks if the diary was genuine, must have knowledge that proves the diary to be a hoax
As you've seen, Twin Peaks deals with themes common with and influenced by the Jack the Ripper case, RL Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde and others. It is not surprising then that a hoaxer would be tempted to adapt almost directly one or two lines of verse or prose which he or she may have found particularly strong or noteworthy or merely catchy. But he would be taking a risk. It may apper to be a small one, worth taking to add an extra edge to the diary. Or those lines could have been put there on purpose. Either way, we can never be fully certain whether the diary is genuine.