Gull’s From Hell and John’s From Glasgow

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

It’s the late 1880s, and royal party boy Prince Albert “Eddy” Victor – grandson of Queen Victoria and second in line to the throne – has been having all manner of fun. Encountering Annie Clark, a Catholic woman who works behind the till at a sweet shop just across the road from Eddy’s favourite rent boy brothel, he begins an affair with her which culminates in an ill-advised secret marriage and the birth of a child – one who, strictly speaking, would then be in line for the throne.

Queen Victoria will not stand for this, and she uses all the covert influence available to her to make sure that Eddy and Annie are forcibly separated. Among the resources available to her is the power structure of British Freemasonry. With members riddled throughout the British aristocracy and respectable professions, the Masons were a microcosm of the establishment of the time, and a large cross-section of Victoria’s male family members were Masons. Between that and a perennial desire for Royal patronage, it was no surprise that the Brotherhood was willing to do favours for Victoria. In this case, this included enlisting Dr William Henry Gull – Freemason, physician, and mystic – to the task of performing an operation on Annie to profoundly damage her mental capabilities. Even if she could get someone to listen to her story and she were able to coherently tell it through the cognitive fog imposed on her, nobody would give it any credence.

However, Annie’s fate wasn’t unknown to all. Marie Kelly, an East End prostitute and friend of Annie’s, is aware of what happened, and also knows that painter Walter Sickert – who had accompanied Eddy on his visits to the seedier side of town – is aware of what’s happened. When she and a group of her fellow prostitutes are shaken down for protection money they don’t have by a local gang, they hit on a plan of blackmailing Sickert for cash. Alas, they get greedy, ask for more money than Sickert has available, and when he turns to his Royal connections for help word of the matter gets back to Victoria, who dispatches Gull to silence the women, permanent-style.

Alas, Gull’s work is no clean, surgical strike this time around. Having suffered a stroke, Gull has become prone to mystic visions and occult obsessions, and he regards the work to be done in averting Royal embarrassment as a mere pretext for his true goal. The 20th Century is looming, and Gull believes that by conducting the murders in a particular manner and pattern, aligned with the occult geometry of London, he can turn them into a ritual act which will shape the very nature of the coming century. His intention is to make it safe from the rising tide of feminist and other progressive challenges to the status quo, winning the day for what he sees as the inherently masculine force of Apollonian rationality. The actual outcome is, well, the history we got…

From Hell is a big graphic novel about big ideas in a vividly realised Victorian setting. Such a complex structure needs a framework to help give the reader a handle on things. Moore provides this by topping and tailing the piece with a framing story set on a dingy seaside walk on a glum day somewhere in the inter-War years enjoyed by ex-Inspector Fred Abberline and psychic “cold reader” Robert Lees, the men who solved the murder when they weren’t supposed to. This allows Moore to present us with a prologue to set us up for what to expect, and an epilogue to draw a line under things at the end. Strikingly, the prologue has Lees making a direct and frank admission that he faked all of his psychic visions, which is part of what horrifies him about the Ripper matter – that he made everything up, and it came true anyway.

This is about as close as we get to a direct warning from Moore that not only are we in for an unconventional interpretation of the Ripper murders, but it’s also going to be weird even by weird standards. We’re not talking entry-level weirdness here like ouija boards and seances and the like – we’re talking high-octane bizarreness in which mass psychology, geography, architecture, history and society itself are all inextricably interlinked by a mass of interconnections of an exoteric and esoteric nature.

Though the prologue nudges us to pay attention to Abberline, and Abberline’s investigation of the murders does indeed runs through much of the book, in fact it never quite attains the level of centrality or importance that you might have otherwise expected. For one thing, Abberline solves the case more or less by accident – Lees, having been offended by a snarky comment from Gull, decides to cause trouble for Gull by spuriously accusing him, and eventually badgers Abberline into following up on his claims; Gull, quite calmly and matter-of-factly, confesses to Abberline, Lees, and Mrs Gull, creating yet another headache for the Freemasons to cover up. For another, and perhaps more significantly, From Hell doesn’t really go into full police procedural mode, except when doing so allows Moore to introduce some information he needs to inject or to shed a wider light on Victorian society.

The latter is, of course, Moore’s real purpose – a dissection of late Victorian society, along with ruminations of how much of it is still very much with us, the Ripper murder being a convenient device that permits discussion of poverty, misogyny, feminism, sexuality (both its expression and repression), class, and so on. Yes, you do also get a fat dose of Moore’s occult interests, which in other contexts has led him down creative cul-de-sacs. (For instance, Promethea is a series which very likely won’t retain your interest unless you are either extremely excited to have occultism explained to you by Moore or you already broadly agree with his view on the subject and would enjoy seeing him depicting it in comic format.) But given the upswing in interest in occultism at the era, a snapshot of Victorian society in the 1880s that ignored the subject would feel incomplete, and in general Moore uses his occult content in a way which also supports his other themes, and you don’t need to buy into them to appreciate that.

Similarly, you don’t need to necessarily endorse the Gull-as-Ripper theory to appreciate the book. Moore provides a coda to the story in the form of the appendix entitled Dance of the Gull-Catchers, in which Moore and Campbell take the opportunity to step away from the specific narrative they’d presented and allow themselves a little more levity as they ruminate on the long history of people coming up with theories concerning the Ripper’s identity. In the process Moore suggests that there’s no real prospect of a definitive, widely convincing, objective answer to the mystery ever being discovered – not least because the field has become so hopelessly confused by successive Ripperologists and hoaxers, the latter of whom date back to the flood of supposed letters from the Ripper that flew around at the time of the murders, of which only a tiny fraction at most are remotely credible (and even those aren’t necessarily from the killer himself).

In the absence of a solution which actually solves the mystery, Moore instead chooses a theory which helps illustrate the themes he wants to play with and the direction he wants to take the story in. The Gull theory connects the Ripper to the upper reaches of society and, in particular, to Freemasonry, from which it’s a short jump to sacred architecture, patriarchy, institutional corruption and/or incompetence, and a whole swathe of other things Moore wants to hit on. Yes, it’s got its flaws, but Moore does an excellent job of taking one of the more out-there conspiracy theories on the subject, dialling it up to 11, and then figuring out how it might have actually functioned in a real society with real people, rather than the simplified cartoon of society and human behaviour which conspiracy theorists tend to operate with.

(Though at the same time, he can’t quite paste over all the gaps. For instance, if it was considered fair game to murder the women who were blackmailing Sickert, why go through the expense and complication of doing brain surgery on Annie Crook when they could have just killed her too? And if there needs to be killing done, surely the person at the top of the hit list should be this heir to the throne that Victoria finds so objectionable? Vicky, Vicky, Vicky, you can’t exert tyrannical control over who inherits your Kingdom unless you are willing to go Richard III on a kid from time to time. It’s ugly, but so is the entire concept of monarchial inheritance by birth to begin with. If you’re not willing to act like a bloody-handed medieval warlord, perhaps you shouldn’t be holding offices that harken back to them.)

The theory in question is based largely on Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, a conspiracy theory classic by Stephen Knight (whose most famous other work, The Brotherhood, doubled down on Final Solution’s anti-Masonic spin by purporting to present an extended expose of the organisation). Whereas some purveyors of conspiracy theories come up with these theories themselves, Knight instead operated as a populariser of other people’s allegations, using his admittedly compelling writing style to present the ideas in a manner which captured the public imagination a bit more easily than the sometimes confused, rambling, or evasive presentation by the originators of the theories.

In the case of Final Solution, Knight took as his primary inspiration the claims of one Joseph Gorman, sometimes known as Joseph Sickert, who claimed to be descended from Walter Sickert via a secret relationship between him and the daughter born to Annie Crook and Prince Eddy. As Moore outlines in Dance of the Gull-Catchers, Gorman would tend to retract or reassert his claims following the publication of Final Solution in a way which seemed somewhat self-serving – for instance, he retracted his retraction and started promoting the theory again once he started benefiting financially from sales of Final Solution.

Of course, Gorman’s theory is in and of itself somewhat self-serving, since if you didn’t know the finer details of British succession law you could see it as evidence that Gorman himself was the true King and Queen Elizabeth is an impostor. (There’s a parallel here in how Pierre Plantard, the hoaxer behind the Priory of Sion conspiracy theory as popularised in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, seems to have been trying to construct a spurious claim to the throne of France.) Legally, until 2015 the spouses of Roman Catholics lost their place in the succession, and so no child of Annie and Eddy’s could ever have inherited, and the marriage between them couldn’t have been legal under the law at the time because Eddy had neither obtained Victoria’s permission nor informed the Privy Council of his intention to go ahead anyway.

Then again, the succession laws as they stand were largely written to provide an after the fact justification for kicking the Stuarts out of office; if the Jacobite movement could have persisted for decades based on a refusal to see the succession laws of the realm as legitimate, a man like Gorman could at least get some attention, money and infamy out of persuading people he’s meant to be King, especially since there’s plenty of people who don’t know the law to that level of detail. In The Final Solution Knight points out the issue with the succession laws – this having been raised in previous public discussions of Gorman’s claims – and theorises that the real motive would not be securing the succession but avoiding public scandal. However, this is one of many instances of Knight undertaking a lot of work to patch over a weak spot in Gorman’s claims. Considering how he’s portrayed in Dance of the Gull-Catchers, Moore and Campbell certainly seem to be under the impression that Gorman had royal pretensions.

The weakness of Gorman’s story is much more forgivable in the context of From Hell because Moore isn’t out to propose an objective truth of the matter here – he just wants to tell a good story. Conversely, it’s fatal to The Final Solution because Knight very much does want to present his take on Gorman’s theory (with mild modifications) as, well, the final solution to the problem. Knight hurts his case further when he says things which are so divorced from the truth that you can only conclude that either he was a sloppy researcher or he was being actively disingenuous.

At one point Knight brazenly dismisses the lack of evidence substantiating the Lees legend by claiming that, since a cover-up had happened, the lack of evidence should be expected, which is either incredibly brazen or just plain incompetent when it comes to making a credible case. Similarly, Knight raises Thomas Stowell’s deeply flawed insinuations that Prince Eddy was the Ripper and then makes a really bizarre attempt to argue that Stowell was cryptically accusing Gull. For instance, Stowell claimed that Gull’s papers documented that Eddy – or “S”, as Stowell insisted on pseudonymously referring to Eddy as, had died in 1892 of syphillis – but Gull’s reported date of death was before this. Rather than drawing the obvious conclusion that Stowell was bullshitting, Knight concludes that this was a hint that Gull had not died in 1890 but had been confined to a mental hospital under a false name. Knight fails to answer the question of how, if Gull had been locked up in such a fashion, he was supposed to obtain papers concerning the secret true reasons for Eddy’s death. Surely the authorities would not keep Gull on their dirty secrets mailing list once he was incarcerated.

Whereas you could write off the above as simple incompetence, there’s points where it becomes clear that Knight has a viciously anti-Masonic agenda, one which would culminate in his major work of the 1980s, The Brotherhood. For instance, in constructing his Masonic conspiracy theory, Knight cites the claims of Leo Taxil, and asserts that Taxil was “denounced” as a liar and that his claims were based on fact. It is true that Taxil was denounced as a liar – but the denunciation came from no other mouth than Taxil’s very own when he sensationally declared his revelations of dark secrets of “Palladian” Masonry to have been a hoax. Specifically, Taxil’s stories were a enormous trolling attempt that got out of hand; he freely admitted to have made the whole thing up to make Catholics with anti-Masonic sentiments look like credulous rubes, and was astonished at how gullible his marks turned out to be.

It gets worse. A bit later, Knight directly quotes The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, blandly referring to it as a Masonic document when contextually it’s clearly meant to look like a Jewish document (albeit one which claims that Freemasons are puppets of the Jewish masterminds of the global conspiracy against absolute monarchy). Even more suspect is the way that he only refers to it by its full title in the bibliography – merely calling it the Protocols in the main text and not mentioning its history as an antisemitic tract at all beyond a claim that Hitler distorted the text to use as fodder against Jewish people – a claim that can quickly be dispelled by even brief research of the Protocols’ history before the Nazis started promoting them.

Later conspiracy theorists like Bill Cooper or David Icke would follow Knight’s lead in citing the Protocols and claiming that all the Jewish stuff was a red herring and the text was originally an Illuminati blueprint for world domination. It’s not very convincing when they do it either. It’s like Knight is so excited by this apparent evidence – the origin of which has conclusively been shown to be fictional – that he simply doesn’t want to admit that it’s poisonous garbage.

Moore does not include this or the Taxil material in From Hell at all – whether this means he was a better researcher, better-informed, or just a kinder and less hateful human being than Knight depends whether you believe Knight was being misguided or actively malicious on this score. Moore also parts ways with Knight on the matter of accomplices to the Ripper killings – for whereas in From Hell it’s very much Gull alone who is the true Ripper, in Knight’s theory the Ripper murders were much more of a team effort. For instance, Knight comes up with his own theory – with Gorman eventually endorses – that Walter Sickert himself was coerced into being an unwilling accomplice to the killings, Knight insinuating in particular that Sickert was forced to participate directly in Mary Kelly’s murder as a sort of punishment for attempting to hide her. Moore veers away from this; his portrayal of Sickert is more plausibly flawed and human as a result, and it also allows him to have the Kelly murder be a major ritual setpiece whose purpose and impact would have been subverted had Gull had company in that miserable little room where the deed was done.

Similarly, whereas Moore portrays the coachman John Netley as, whilst a bit of a social climber, ultimately horrified by Gull’s actions but too terrified to disentangle himself, Knight follows Gorman/Sickert in presenting him as an unalloyed villain who was a much more active participant in the murders, and when they were done tried to curry favour by assassinating Eddie and Anne Crook’s daughter. Knight also claims that high-ranking police officer Sir Robert Anderson was the third man in the Ripper killings, riding with Gull and helping him carry out the murders; Moore does not go down this route, I suspect again because having a single Ripper rather than a team is better for storytelling purposes. It also means he doesn’t have to answer the question that Knight inadvertently leaves open – namely, why wasn’t Anderson punished by the Masons for going above and beyond the call of duty in the way that Gull supposedly was?

Neither Moore nor Knight give a convincing explanation as to why the murders should, if the Masonic theory was right, be based on the punishments threatened by Freemasons upon fellow Freemasons in their initiation oaths for spilling Masonic secrets. The Masonic initiation oath has the initiate specifically saying that the punishments should be inflicted upon them if they betray Masonic confidences. The women in question would not have been orthodox Masons, since regular Freemasonry does not admit women and did not at the time, so there’s no reason for the Grand Lodge-regulated Masons that Knight points the finger at to inflict those specific punishments on them. That isn’t to say that a conspiracy of murderous Freemasons would hold off on murdering some women simply because they weren’t Masons – but they absolutely would not inflict upon them punishments intended for Freemasons because that would imply that the women were Freemasons, flying in the face of Masonic doctrine and protocol.

The basic problem of Knight’s book is that he’s committing a classic blunder – he’s starting from a proposed answer and then working to cherrypick evidence that supports it and ignore or find some reason to dismiss evidence that contradicts it, rather than taking the evidence, assessing its reliability, and then working from the reliable material to arrive at a theory. In particular, his book relies so much on Gorman’s story that if you choose not to believe Gorman – and there’s many reasons to do so – it all rather falls apart.

By contrast, for From Hell Moore takes in a broad range of sources, ranging from the unimpeachably authoritative right down to the outright disreputable, with extensive notes in the appendix to alert the reader to where Moore has invented things and why, and where he’s working from a source and which source he’s using; you can accuse Moore of many things, but giving the reader a clear steer on where he’s relying on standard references and widely-accepted information and where he’s going out on a limb for the sake of the story shows intellectual honesty. At the wilder end of the spectrum The Origin of Consciousness In the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind briefly rears its head (as it does in Snow Crash when called on to support similar theories.

The closest precedent to Gull’s hijacking of sacred geometry and mystical architecture for the sake of shaping the mass consciousness of humanity, however, is found in the remarkable work of James Shelby Downard, one of the most ornately grandiose of all modern conspiracy theorists. Alex Jones and David Icke may be more famous, but Jones and Icke don’t actually come up with that much original material of their own – they just snatch shiny theories up from across the conspiracy scene to line their nests like especially paranoid magpies, and then vaguely wave their hand at the pile of tat that results like they’ve sussed out the connections between them. Francis E. Dec’s theories are certainly colourful and exciting, but – like with Time Cube – it’s a little too evident that they are the product of mental illness, the repetitive, disorganised language being an obvious giveaway.

Downard, though… that’s another matter. Unlike Dec, Downard lays out his ideas lucidly, if a bit obliquely. And in contrast to Icke, the ideas in question are strikingly original. Downard’s theories posit that major events, ranging from the Moon landings to the Kennedy assassination, are performed in a ritual manner as part of extensive psychological operations against the masses, in order to render us too terrified to resist the Masonic agenda. As laid out in essays such as Sorcery, Sex, Assassination (the condensed version of which, King Kill/33, lent its name to a Marilyn Manson song) and The Call to Chaos, Downard presents an absolutely absurdly grandiose conspiracy theory.

Perhaps the most endearing feature of his often grumpy, sometimes outright hateful prose is that he seems to acknowledge how absurd this is: you get the impression that Downard believes that all this esoteric Masonic symbolism and occult doctrine is just a big pile of absolutely ridiculous nonsense, but unfortunately it’s nonsense which the Masonic powers that be believe in wholeheartedly. This makes his theories interesting to read in a world where our leaders seem to be pursuing absurd agendas which can’t possibly be based on reality or work out the way they intend.

Downard is perhaps the one conspiracy theorist who comes closest to arriving at the same conclusions as Umberto Eco in Foucault’s Pendulum in that respect. In Downard’s idiom, even the community of conspiracy theorists are all playing their parts in the plan – Downard asserts that the revelation of hidden things is part of the ritual process, part of the process of reshaping our worldview and assaulting our certainties. From a Downardian perspective, even Downard’s own work may be part of the plan… or a book like From Hell.

One point Downard does not address: is the “revelation of hidden things” still an effective magical/psychological technique if the hidden thing in question is fictionalised? By selecting the Gorman theory to fictionalise, Moore ensures its further transmission, and since the theory directly attacks the very basis of the present Queen’s claim to legitimacy Moore thereby gives the comic a deeply subversive agenda. It would not in the least surprise me to learn that it was partly intended as a counter-ritual to that which he depicts Gull as attempting, an attempt to encourage a flowering of progressive and feminist thinking even on the troubling issues raised here and to undermine the establishment’s hold on power. The advantage this agenda has is that the existence of misogyny, patriarchy, and entrenched power structures is not in question, so there’s a windmill for Moore to tilt at even if Gull was innocent and Eddy never married or had a child with Annie Crook.

From Hell also has some nuance to its concerns raised about Freemasonry. Specifically, whilst terrible deeds on the part of Freemasons are depicted, and whilst some of those are accomplished by leveraging the power structure of the Freemasonry, it is far from clear that the actual intended purpose of Freemasonry is to enable or endorse this sort of nightmare. It’s an entirely valid reading that the structure of Freemasonry has been hijacked, abused, and generally corrupted by the likes of Gull (who shamelessly exploits Masonic codes of mutual assistance and silence to force people to co-operate with his grand design) or Queen Victoria (who, though not a Mason herself, understands exactly how badly the Masons want her patronage and treats them like her private, unaccountable secret police). In other words, whilst anti-Masons may ascribe all sorts of sinisterness to this whole Jahbulon business, it’s also entirely possible to see Masonry as presented here as being a formerly legitimate occult society that has gradually become grubby and sordid as it’s become entangled with worldly power and authority.

This leads us in turn to the sort of conspiracy theory which is a bit more defensible. The idea that the whole institution of Freemasonry has a grand agenda it pursues monolithically takes us down the James Shelby Downard rabbit hole. On the other hand, the idea that Freemasonry provided through its lodges an opportunity for networking and collaboration between like-minded parties is undeniable, as is the fact that during the late 19th and early 20th centuries Freemasonry was widespread enough in British society that if you passed up the networking opportunity presented you’d likely end up disadvantaging yourself, particularly in Mason-heavy professions, just as a science fiction author disadvantages themselves if they don’t go to the major cons to network and so on.

That being the case, it’s entirely likely that at least a portion of the networking that’s taken place within Freemasonry over the years has been of a criminal or corrupt nature; Masonic institutions may protest that this is against their rules, but members of institutions fall short of the standards those institutions expect of them all the time. It’s also far from unlikely that such criminal endeavours hatched between folk who met through Freemasonry might attempt to exploit Masonic ethics of silence and mutual assistance, and that some Masons may have felt peer pressured into going along with that.

So, From Hell is stuffed with fun ideas to explore and interesting characters, but it’s by no means perfect. The art style by Eddie Campbell is a very love-it-or-hate it sort of thing; I happen to dig it, but I advise potential readers to take a little flip through the book to consider the art style themselves because the idea of slogging through hundreds of pages in that idiom may be a deal-breaker for some.

Equally, it’s Alan Moore, and his perennial habit of using rape for shock value does irk me a little here and there. Yes, arguably it was a grim reality of the era and, in particular, the world that the Ripper’s victims inhabited, and in that sense it’s less jarring than it might be. Early on Moore decides to portray Annie Crook as having had some sort of incestuous thing going on with her own father (into adulthood and quite likely before), mostly because the idea of there being rampant sexual abuse behind closed doors in working-class Victorian London fits his cynical view of human nature.

However, sometimes Moore is just crass. In an aside about Boudica and the thick layer of ash left behind in the geological strata of London after she and the Iceni burned the town to the ground, Moore talks about how in his experience when men lose their temper the most they leave behind is a dent in the fridge, which suggests that he was either quite naive about the realities of domestic violence (an idea which sits awkwardly with his cynicism about domestic sexual abuse) or he chose not to integrate that knowledge into his worldview.

From Hell, then, is a flawed gem. It absolutely shouldn’t be uncritically adored, it has its problems, but it’s still undeniably a major work and its prominence in the field isn’t entirely undeserved. As is so often the case with Moore’s work, it finds an equivalent in the work of Grant Morrison, the second most famous occultist in British comics writing, in the form of Bible John: A Forensic Meditation – which is not so much a flawed gem as it is a curate’s egg, and whose obscurity is unfortunate but perhaps understandable.

Illustrated in a delightfully atmospheric collage style by Daniel Vallely (who subsequently dropped out of comics altogether), Bible John was originally serialised in Crisis, a comic put out by Fleetway (the then-current publishers of 2000 AD) as an experiment in just how much appetite there was for mature, artistically creative, politically aware comics in Britain at the time. Maybe there was, maybe there wasn’t – but I am not sure there’s much appetite for such things delivered in serialised magazine format, when the trade paperback graphic novel format feels like a better delivery mechanism for ideas built up over a great number of pages.

Bible John, however, would never see trade paperback release, or reprint in any form aside from pirated images floating around the Internet. The work’s descent into obscurity is perhaps mirrored by the insubstantiality of its central character. Like Jack the Ripper, nobody’s ever for certain identified Bible John, the Scripture-quoting serial killer who picked up women fitting a rather specific profile from the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow and strangled them with their own hosiery in the late 1960s. Unlike Jack the Ripper, Bible John never quite seared himself into the British imagination the way that, say, the Moors Murderers or the Yorkshire Ripper did.

From Hell’s can be summed up in one word: “erudition”. In keeping with the differences between Moore’s approach to magic and Morrison’s, Bible John’s approach can also be summed up in one word: “intuition”. After briskly laying down the facts, Morrison just sort of makes bold statements concerning his feelings about the locales the killings took place in as he goes to visit them and spends a lot of time pointing to little synchronicities and raising his eyebrows without really enunciating what he thinks this all means. (At one point Morrison makes much of the fact that the three murder sites form a triangle pointing at a nearby nuclear base – not really getting the idea that any three arbitrary points on a plane are going to describe a triangle, and any triangle is going to point in at least three different directions, and odds are there’s going to be something interesting in one of those directions.)

In a climactic sequence, a ouija board seance is conducted to see if the spirit world will help, since Morrison and his unnamed co-investigators otherwise seem to be stuck. (It is worth noting that they seem to have done literally no detective work beyond visiting the crime scenes, like an attempt at psychic questing that fell flat due to nobody piping up with any readings from the locations.) After this, Bible John doesn’t reach a conclusion so much as it just sort of stops. Morrison breathlessly tries to imply that the seance yielded some form of useful information, but ends up attaching the name plucked out of thin air in the seance to someone who Morrison admits could not have possibly been Bible John, having been inconveniently incarcerated at the time of the killings. The investigation comes to a dead end and Morrison and Vallely just sort of give up, without really managing to have said anything of interest but at least Vallely gets some pretty artwork out of the whole business.

By a chilling coincidence – one which a chaos magician like Morrison might be inclined to say isn’t a coincidence at all – this 1991 “forensic meditation” ended up coinciding with two of the murders committed by one Peter Tobin (one happened the month before the series began, one happened in August, as the series wrapped up). These murders would not be connected to Torbin until the mid-2000s, after his conviction for the 2006 murder of Polish student Angelika Kluk; they would be followed by a brutal rape and attempted murder in 1993, and followed a string of marriages in which his wives were subjected to horrendously violent physical abuse.

He’d met his first wife in 1969 at the Barrowland Ballroom, around the time the Bible John murders came to an end… and whilst there’s never been sufficient evidence built up to charge him with those killings, there’s enough parallels to raise the genuine possibility that Tobin was Bible John. To my knowledge, Morrison has not commented on Tobin; chaos magicians like Morrison could be inclined to wonder whether the “forensic meditation” had some sort of effect on Tobin, driving him out of hiding and prompting him to once more direct his violence outward towards strangers rather than the domestic partners who had bore the brunt of his viciousness in the 1970s and 1980s. That, however, ascribes a bit more impact to Bible John than the comic actually delivers.

4 thoughts on “Gull’s From Hell and John’s From Glasgow

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