Robert James Lees was born in 1849. He claimed that his first psychic experience occurred when he was three, and that he had a spirt companion who would often sit by his side in childhood. In 1861 he claimed that he had gone unto a trance following the death of Queen Victoria's
husband, Albert, and that he was able to deliver messages between the Queen and her consort. He further claimed that he had been kept in Buckingham Palace for a short period of time at the behest of the queen, who wanted to keep him close to allow communication with Albert. There is no evidence for this claim or any of his others, and the only evidence that exists of his communication with the royal family is a letter sent to him in 1899 thanking him for the free gift of one of his books made to the queen.
In 1871 Lees married Sarah Ann Bishop, a childhood sweetheart. Together they had sixteen children, six of whom died in infancy. In 1876 he moved he family to Manchester where he took work as a journalist for the Manchester Guardian
. They remained there for only two years, before in 1878 he moved the family to London
where he took work as a journalist for a number of London-based publications. As well as his journalistic pursuits, Lees published several books despite his lack of education, the most famous of these being The Mists Trilogy
, a series of three books which he wrote between 1898 and 1931. In 1902 he moved his family to Ilfracombe, where he remained until 1928 before returning to his childhood home of Leicester. He died there in 1931 at the age of 81.
Major Story Arcs
Jack the Ripper
Lees is now almost only remembered for the fact that he claimed to know the identity of the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper
, who was active in Whitechapel
in 1888. Lees lived in London at the time, and his diaries record that he went to both the City of London Police and Scotland Yard
in October of 1888 to offer his services in the hunt for the killer. Both agencies rejected his offer. In 1805 an oft-repeated report first appeared in April in the Chicago Herald
. This report stated that Lees had been troubled by visions of the Ripper committing his crimes, and that his visions had invariably come true. Allegedly he and his wife had been travelling on an omnibus when he indicated a man and told his wife that the man was Jack the Ripper. His wife scoffed, but he followed the man off of he bus and located a police officer. The police officer didn't believe him either, however several murders later, Lees was able to convince the police to follow him to a fashionable house that was owned by a noted physician. This physician, who had been incriminated in some fashion not detailed, was then given a mock burial and committed to an asylum under the name Thomas Mason.
This theory came to prominence again in 1970, when Dr Thomas Stowell wrote an article about his theory regarding Jack the Ripper, and in it reported that his mentor's wife, Caroline Gull
, had told him a story about a police inspector and a man claiming to be a medium who came to her father, William Gull's
home. This story, if true matches up with Lees' claim that that he confronted the murderous doctor in his home. This theory also ties in with Stephen Knight's 1976 book Jack the Ripper: the Final Solution
, which posits a royal or masonic conspiracy. Both of these theories have been widely discredited, and most Ripperologists dismiss both Lees' claims and the claims of those based on his.
In Other Media
Lees' appearances in other media have been limited to his association with the Ripper case. The most well known is perhaps in Eddie Campbell
and Alan Moore's From Hell
, where he is depicted as a charlatan who, interestingly, always makes correct predictions. He is instrumental in leading Inspector Abberline
to the home of William Gull, the Ripper. The book suggests that the pair remained friends after the murders, and also implies that they were paid to remain silent about the identity of the murderer.
He also appears in the 1979 film Murder By Decree
, where he was played by Donald Sutherland, and in the 1988 television miniseries Jack the Ripper
where he was played by Ken Bones.