The Dark Side of Wonderland: The Scandals of Lewis Carroll

If you’ve seen the new movie, Alice in Wonderland or even read the books (yes, there are more than one), you know that Lewis Carroll (real name, Charles Dodgson) is the author with a very strange imagination.  Carroll was a mathematician, writer, and Anglican deacon who never went on to join the priesthood.  No one knows why.  Speculation has it that he may have had a dark side that Disney doesn’t want you to know about.  Here are five “secrets” that Carroll might have been hiding.

Drug user
As you may have guessed, there are a ton of drug references on Alice’s trip to Wonderland.  The blue caterpillar smoking a hookah, the White Queen turning into a sheep in a shop, and then into a boat (which is very similar to the current Old Spice commercials where the man is riding a horse – backwards).  Also, there are talking animals and soldiers made out of playing cards. The point is that no conclusive evidence has ever come forth that Carroll was a drug user, but opium was a very common drug that was popular at the time of his writing and it is highly possible that if he was writing about its usage, he probably frequented the occasional opium den.

Inability to Relate to Adults
Lewis Carroll suffered from a terrible stutter his entire life.  He also had epilepsy, migraines and a brain disorder called micropsia and macropsia, in which the brain perceives objects to be smaller or larger than they actually are.  Due to his health, Carroll did not feel comfortable around adults.  He shied away from them and was uncomfortable speaking in front of them.  What he did do was gravitate to younger girls.  He never married and he may have been celibate his entire life due to his inability to relate on an adult level.

Jack the Ripper
While Carroll’s involvement wasn’t even questioned in 1888 while the Ripper murders were happening, he became a suspect in 1996, with the release of the book, “Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend”, by Richard Wallace.  According to Wallace, Carroll and his friend, Thomas Bayne, were responsible for the Ripper slayings and that Carroll wrote about them in his books in the form of anagrams.  For example, here is an excerpt from Carroll’s “Nursery Alice”: ‘So she wondered away, through the wood, carrying the ugly little thing with her. And a great job it was to keep hold of it, it wriggled about so. But at last she found out that the proper way was to keep tight hold of itself foot and its right ear’. Switching the letters around and you can decipher this as: ‘She wriggled about so! But at last Dodgson and Bayne found a way to keep hold of the fat little whore. I got a tight hold of her and slit her throat, left ear to right. It was tough, wet, disgusting, too. So weary of it, they threw up – Jack the Ripper.’   While this may seem intriguing – and Carroll was in London at the time of the murders – it is highly unlikely that Lewis Carroll had anything more to do with the crimes than being alive during this time period.

Pedophile
Of all of the rumors of Carroll’s life, the idea that he was a pedophile is perhaps the most widely acknowledged.  While none of this was ever proven, Carroll isn’t really the person you’d want babysitting your daughter.  He shared a very close relationship with Alice Liddell, of which the stories of Wonderland are about and the daughter of the dean – his boss.  The Wonderland stories came about after Carroll took a rowboat ride on the Thames with the three Liddell daughters.  Perhaps the most damning evidence to Carroll’s acts of pedophilia came about in the 1995 book, Lewis Carroll: A Biography, when writer Morton Cohen unearthed four photos that Carroll took of nude girls in the late 1870s.  The girls, ranging in age from 6 to 13, were the daughters of Carroll’s colleagues at Oxford.

 

Missing Diaries and Pages
Perhaps the biggest mystery of Carroll’s life come from the lack of evidence, not actual events.  Carroll was a lifelong diarist and composed some thirteen books.  Of these, four entire volumes and at least seven pages are missing.  It is presumed that his family destroyed these volumes to protect their family name after his death.  Most of the missing material is between 1853 and 1863 when Carroll was 22-32.  One particular missing page is that dated June 27, 1863.  It is on this date that Carroll most likely asked Alice Liddell, then age 11, to marry him.  His estrangement with the Liddell family happened soon after.  However, since the written words are forever lost, Carroll’s hidden life is left to speculation.