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The Most Unusual Alternate History Novels Ever Published

Emily Stamm

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Tired of alternate
history books where the Axis won World War II, or the South won the Civil
War? Luckily for you, there are a ton of allohistories that pick more obscure
and interesting points of divergence. Here are 15 alt-history books (or series)
that break the mold.

Article preview thumbnail
10 Worst Mistakes That Authors of Alternate History Make

The past is another country — but an alternate history is a whole new world. The best alternate…

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Top image: Matthew Buchholz

Just this month, there’s Allen
Steele’s V-S Day , in which the
Nazis and the Allies both develop space rockets in 1941. And Three
Princes by Ramona Wheeler
place in a world where Egypt’s empire still rules, in the 19th century. And
here are 15 other books that forge new directions.

V-S Day: A Novel of Alternate History

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Three Princes

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by Robert Charles


Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century

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What would happen if a chunk of the Earth suddenly
disappeared? And what if it was replaced with a new continent, that followed a
completely different path of evolution? In Robert Charles’ 1998 Prix Award
novel, he explores what that new Earth would be like. The "Miracle" event in
1912 changed the course of history. Years later Guilford Law, an American
photographer, joins an expedition to explore Darwinia. Along the way he begins
dreaming of a "twin" who brings him the message that things aren’t exactly as
they seem. Art by Jim Burns.

1632 by
Eric Flint


1632 (Ring Of Fire)

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This isn’t your run-of-the-mill alternate history book.
Instead of picking a divergent point and speculating on its repercussions, Eric
Flint drops a slice of 2000 into 17th Century Germany. A West Virginia town is
transported to 1631 Germany. The modern-day Americans must deal with the
effects of the 30 Years War, culture shock, and the vast differences in

Peshawar Lancers, by S.M. Stirling


The Peshawar Lancers

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In 1878, a meteor shower caused a massive dust cloud to block
out the sun, causing winter to last for years. The British Empire, and the rest
of the world, were in crisis, and Queen Victoria evacuated the British Isles to
the colonies. The islands were abandoned to cannibalistic savages. But all of
that is in the past during The Peshawar Lancers. The book is set in 2025, when
the Earth is finally starting to stabilize after years of ill effects from the
meteors. The Peshawar Lancers guard the northern border of the Angrezi Raj (the
new name for the British Empire). The book follows their adventures and escapes
as it explores what this very different 21st century is like to experience.

Histories of the World by Matthew Buchholz

Alternate Histories of the World

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Did you ever want more monsters in your history books?
Artist Matthew Buchholz has
the book for you . He’s illustrated scenes from history if they had included
sea monsters, zombies, aliens, and all manner of other strange creatures.

The Aquiliad
by S.P. Somtow


The Aquiliad, Book I : Aquilla in the New World

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Rome never fell, and the Romans rule most of the world.
They’ve taken over the Americas (known to them as Terra Novo) and Caesar has
set his sights on China. General Titus Papinianus and Senator Aquila set
off on an expedition across Terra Novo to find the fabled land of China.
Along the way they encounter all manner of problems including Bigfoot and a
mysterious figure known as the Time Criminal.

Tower by Mark Sumner

Devil's Tower

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There are lots of alternate history novels out there about
the Civil War, but Mark
Sumner’s novel is different . In Devil’s
, the mass deaths of the Civil War have brought about the return of
magic to the world. The events of the book take place about ten years after the
initial return of magic, when the characters are beginning to adjust to this
amazing change in the world. Some people are gifted with "talents" such as
conjuring or speaking in tongues. The magic changes America, and as the blurb
says, "Nothing would ever be the same again."

Matters by Richard Garfinkle


Celestial Matters

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This is alternate history — in space! In Richard
Garfinkle’s book Aristotle was right. The Earth is the center of the universe,
and everything is made up of four elements: earth, air, fire and water. Ptolemaic
astronomy, Aristotelian physics, and Taoist alchemy are all true. The book
follows Aias of Tyre, a scientist who travels on a spaceship carved from the
moon to bring a piece of the sun back to Earth.

Wild Cards by
George R.R. Martin, Melinda Snodgrass, et al.


Wild Cards I: Expanded Edition

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Among George R.R. Martin’s numerous non-ASOIAF projects is the Wild
series. Martin edits and contributes to the alternate history
superhero anthology shared universe along with writers such as Roger Zelazny,
Walter Jon Williams, John J. Miller and many others. In the series, an alien
virus is set loose in New York City shortly after WWII. Those who survive the
process become mutated creatures called Jokers, or superheroes called Aces. The
short stories and novels in the series portray historical figures and events
through the lens of wild carders. Mick Jagger is a lycanthropic ace, Fidel
Castro becomes a baseball player in New York, and Buddy Holly doesn’t die in a
plane crash.

in the Bottomlands by Harry Turtledove

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The land shapes history more than most people might think.
In the novella Down in the Bottomlands Harry Turtledove explores a version of
Earth where the Mediterranean basin never refilled. Instead of becoming a
beautiful sea, the Mediterranean becomes a dangerous sunken desert. In this
timeline, Neanderthals never died out, and they have their own nations and
customs. After a tourist is murdered in the Bottomlands, investigators uncover
a plot to set off a nuclear bomb on the Barrier Mountains, which would reflood
the Mediterranean.

Summer by Greg Bear

Dinosaur Summer

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Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost
meets Jurassic Park, and we
get dinosaur circuses. That’s right, circuses. When that idea surprisingly
backfires, Peter and Anthony Belzoni join an expedition to bring the dinosaurs
back to their home, a large plateau in Venezuela. Fun times are had by all!
Especially the reader.


His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire, Book 1)

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Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

The Napoleonic Wars were full of tales of heroism, adventure,
intrigue — and in Naomi Novik’s version, dragons. The intelligent creatures
are used in aerial warfare throughout Europe and Asia. His Majesty’s Dragon has all of your favorite Napoleonic battles,
including The Battle of Trafalgar, with the added excitement of dragons. Let’s
hope this starts a trend.


Anno Dracula
by Kim Newman


Anno Dracula

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Kim Newman’s 1992 novel takes the drama of the Jack the
Ripper Murders and adds vampires into the mix. Conspiracy theories about Jack
the Ripper can be a ton of fun, but add vampires and you’ve got great
entertainment. The book includes historical figures and characters from all
across popular fiction, from ‘Salem’s Lot to The Picture of Dorian Gray. Anno Dracula is only the beginning of
the Anno Dracula series, which currently consists of three books and eleven
shorter pieces of fiction.


Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon


The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel (P.S.)

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In 1940, the United States voted to create a refugee
settlement In Alaska for Jews being persecuted by the Nazis. And after the the
State of Israel is founded and destroyed in only three months during 1948,
Sitka Alaska becomes a vibrant home city that "moves to the music of Yiddish."
The novel follows Detective Meyer Landsman as he investigates his neighbor’s
murder, all the while giving us hints at how their world is different from our

Blood by Steven Barnes

Lion's Blood: A Novel of Slavery and Freedom in an Alternate…

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In Steven Barnes’ Lion’s
, Islamic Africa is the
dominant world power while Europe is considered tribal and backward. The
novel, set in the 19th century, follows Aidan O’Dere, an Irish boy whose
village is attacked by Vikings. Survivors, including his mother and twin
sister, are sold to black slave merchants and shipped to North America. This
alternate history of America explores different cultures and ideas while giving
us a unique look at the horrors of slavery.

Dart by Jacqueline Carey


Kushiel's Dart

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Carey’s fantasy epic takes place in a secondary world, but it’s
basically medieval Europe with one major change (besides magic). Instead of
worshipping Jesus, people in her version of France worship Jesus’ illegitimate
son Elua, who teaches a gospel of love and pleasure. This leads to a world
where sex workers are celebrated and BDSM is an accepted part of life. The book
follows Phèdre nó Delaunay as she is trained as a courtesan and a spy. She
uncovers conspiracies and betrayals that threaten to destroy Terre D’Ange.

What did we miss? Name your own unconventional alt-histories

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Special Collections and Archives

Jack the Ripper collection

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  • Special Collections and Archives
  • Jack the Ripper collection

Special Collections and Archives

Jack the Ripper collection

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  • Special Collections and Archives
  • Jack the Ripper collection

cover of Jack the Ripper board game

Borowitz Crime Ephemera:
Jack the Ripper Collection, 1888-2006

Finding Aid

Prepared by Cara Gilgenbach, December 17, 2003; updated July 2012
1 record storage box, 2 oversized boxes, 2 document cases, 3.33 cubic feet, 11th
and 12th floors

Scope and Content

This collection contains ephemeral material related to Jack the Ripper and
other “Ripper”-style murderers. The collection has been organized
into series by format or type of publication. Additional material will be added
to the collection as it is acquired. The collection was donated by Albert and
Helen Borowitz and it complements the extensive collection of published works
related to Jack the Ripper. See the Borowitz Collection gateway
page “Books” section for a link to the Jack the Ripper book collection.

Outline of Series

  1. Artifacts
  2. Comics and Graphic Novels
  3. Dime Novels and Storypapers (facsimiles and reprints)]
  4. Films and Related Material
  5. Manuscripts
  6. Maps
  7. Newspapers (contemporaneous accounts)
  8. Periodicals
  9. Playbills and Other Materials Related to Theatrical Productions
  10. Sheet Music
  11. Subject Files (includes newspaper clippings and articles
    on various topics related to the case)
  12. Sutcliffe, Peter (“The Yorkshire Ripper”)
  13. Miscellaneous ephemera
  14. LPs

Artifacts (filed in Oversize Box 1)

  1. Items from Pub World Collectibles:

    • Bar coaster “Jack the Ripper London Bitter”
    • Packaged set (unopened) containing 10 bar coasters and bar towel for
      “Jack the Ripper Real Ale”
    • From the Famous British Pub Sign Collection: small, wooden pub sign
      “Courage, Jack the Ripper”
    • Key chain with bar sign image as described above
  2. Necktie : a tie featuring five knives, to represent
    Jack the Ripper’s five victims, cresting over the year 1888, [no date]

Comics and Graphic Novels (filed in Box 1)

  1. Jack the Ripper, Part 2. Newbury Park, CA: Eternity Comics, January
    1990. Bruce Balfour, writer; Chris Jones, artist; Pat Brosseau, letterer;
    Chris Ulm, editor. 27pp.

  2. Moore, Alan and Eddie Campbell. From hell, being a melodrama in sixteen
    . Northampton, MA: Mad Love Publishing, 1994. 16 chapters in 10 volumes.

  3. Augustyn, Brian, et al. Gotham by Gaslight: An Alternative History of
    the Batman
    . London: DC Comics, 1989. 48pp. [Cover title: “A Tale
    of the Batman”]

Dime Novels and Storypapers (filed in Box 1)

  1. The History of the Whitechapel Murders: A Full and Authentic Narrative
    of the Above Murders, with Sketches.
    New York: Richard K. Fox, 1888. Facsimile,
    [circa 1997].

  2. Hudson, Sam’l E., comp. “Leather Apron;” or the Horrors of
    Whitechapel, London, 1888
    . Philadelphia: Town Printing House, [no date].
    Facsimile, [no date].

  3. Jack the Ripper: The Story of the Whitechapel Murders by a journalist
    who was specially engaged to investigate the crimes at the time they were
    committed. Published in four parts. Famous Crimes Past and Present
    (Police Budget Edition). Edited by Harold Furniss, [photocopy], [no date].

  4. Jack the Ripper; or The Whitechapel Fiend in America by the author of
    “Pat Nolan.”
    Old Cap. Collier Library, No. 338. New York: Munro’s
    Publishing House, February 18, 1889. Facsimile, [circa 1997].

  5. Lawson, W. B. Jack the Ripper in New York; Or, Piping a Terrible Mystery.
    Log Cabin Library, No. 115. New York: Street & Smith, May 21, 1891. Facsimile,
    [circa 1997].

  6. Robinson, Tom. The Whitechapel Horrors. Being an Authentic Account of
    Jack the Ripper Murders
    . Manchester: Daisy Bank Publishing, [no date].
    Daisy Bank reprint.

  7. The Whitechapel Murders: Or, On the Track of the Fiend by Detective Warren.
    Old Cap. Collier Library, No. 333. New York: Munro’s Publishing House, December
    31, 1888. Facsimile, [1998].

Films and Related Materials (filed in Box 2; Oversize Box 1; 12th floor map case)

Note: The films in this collection are for research viewing purposes only. Duplications will not be made.

  1. Film: Deadly Advice. Starring Jane Horrocks. Directed by Mandie Fletcher. DVD release by Tango Entertainment, 2006. [Originally released in 1994.]
  2. Film: The Diary of Jack the Ripper. Presented by Michael Winner. DVD release by Image Entertainment, 1999. [Originally released in 1993.]
  3. Film: Drôle de drame. Directed by Marcel Carné. DVD release,
    Home Vision Entertainment, 2003. [Originally released in 1937; based
    on the novel His First Offence by J. Storer Clouston.]
  4. Film: From Hell by Albert and Allen Hughes. DVD single-disc release,
    Fox Home Entertainment, 2002. [Originally released in 2001.]
  5. Film: Jack the Ripper [4 Tales of the Supernatural]. Hosted by and starring Boris Karloff. Directed by David MacDonald. DVD release by Rhino Home Video, 2001. [Originally released in 1958.]
  6. Film: Jack the Ripper. Directed by Robert Baker. DVD release, Incredibly
    Strange Filmworks. [Variant original release dates of 1958, 1959, 1960.]
  7. Film: The Lodger. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Videocassette release, Timeless
    Video, 1994. [Originally released in 1926.]
  8. Film: Man in the Attic. Starring Jack Palance. Directed by Hugo Fregonese. DVD release by Alpha Home Entertainment, 2006. [Originally released in 1953.]
  9. Film: Murder by Decree. Directed by Bob Clark. Cover: “Can the Genius
    of Sherlock Holmes Stop the Terror of Jack the Ripper?” DVD release,
    Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2003 [includes special features and booklet with
    original movie poster reproduced in centerfold.] [Originally released
    in 1979.]
  10. Film: Pandora’s Box. Directed by G. W. Pabst.
    Starring Louise Brooks. Videocassette release, 1986. [Originally released in 1928 by
    Nero Films.] [Jack the Ripper appears in late scenes
    representing an evil greater than the film’s primary villain “Lulu.”]
  11. Film: Time After Time. Directed by Nicholas Meyer. DVD release, Warner Home
    Video, 2002. [Originally released in 1979 by Warner Bros.]
  12. Lobby card : Jack the Ripper, [1960]
    [one card, color] (filed in Oversize Box 1.)
  13. Window card: The Lodger, [1944 version of the film; directed by
    John Brahm] (filed in 12th floor map case.)

Manuscripts (filed in Box 1)

  1. 1894, Feb. 23. Macnaghten, M[elville] L. Memorandum [autograph document,
    signed (photocopy)]. 7p. [Written in response to The Sun’s reporting
    on the Cutbush case.]

  2. [1907?], Feb. 11. Macnaghten, M[elville] L. To [George] Sims. [autograph
    letter, signed]. 2 p. [on note paper with embossed stamp of Metropolitan Police
    Office]. Provides times, places, and descriptions of five murders attributed
    to Jack the Ripper.
    Click here for images and transcription of this letter.

Maps (filed in 12th floor map case)

  1. Sullivan, Daryl and Andrew Cockell. Jack’s London: A unique 1880’s map
    with period drawings which take you into the dark world of fog, gaslamps,
    alehouses, prostitution and….murder in Jack the Ripper’s London
    . Surrey,
    England: Historic Maps by Geonex, 1993. “Map extract reproduced from original
    G.W. Bacon & Co. Map of London. Circa 1870.”

Newspapers (contemporary accounts; filed in 12th floor map case and Oversize Box 2)

  1. The Times [London]. Monday, Sept. 10, 1888. Full issue, 16pp.
    Page 6 contains the article “Another Murder at the East-End” which
    describes the second Ripper murder (Mary Ann Nichols).

  2. The Times [London]. Tuesday, Sept. 11, 1888. Full issue, 16p.
    Page 6 contains an article on “The Whitechapel Murders” and a report
    on an inquest into the death of Annie Chapman who had been found murdered
    on Saturday morning. There is also a letter to the editor in relation to the

  3. Illustrated London News. Sept. 22, 1888, pp. 351-352. 1 leaf.
    Page 351 contains four illustrations of “The London Poor: Sketches in
    a Common Lodging-House in Spitalfields.” The four sketches are of “A
    Deputy of the Lodging-House Keeper,” “A Professional Beggar,”
    “A Regular Customer,” and “Widowed and Fatherless.” Page
    352 contains a large illustration entitled “Sketches with the Police
    at the East End.” Text below illustration comments on public fear as
    police continue to investigate the Whitechapel murders and conditions in London’s
    East-End area.

  4. Illustrated London News. Oct. 13, 1888, pp. 421-422. 1 leaf.
    Page 421 contains three illustrations captioned “Outcasts sleeping in
    sheds in Whitechapel,” “Homeless,” and “A Suspicious Character.”
    Page 422 contains an article entitled “Outcasts at the East-End”
    related to the Ripper murders.

  5. The Globe. Special Edition, February 14, 1891. “The Murders.
    The Police Believe ‘Jack’ Caught. Special Details. Inquest To-Day. To-Day’s
    Football.” News kiosk headline announcement. Printed in large type across
    pages 3 and 6. 1 leaf, 18.8″ X 28.88,” framed. (This item is filed in Oversize Box 2.)

Periodicals (filed in Room 1214)

  1. Ripperana: The Journal of Ripperology

  2. Ripperologist (Note: first issue-“pilot issue”-is called
    Cloak and Dagger Club Newsletter)

Playbills and Other Materials Related to Theatrical Productions (filed in Box 1)

  1. Jack’s Holiday (Mark St. Germain, book and Randy Courts, music).
    • Annotated in-progress script, 11/18/1994
    • Announcement postcard, 1995
    • Clippings, 1994-95
    • French’s Musical Library Script, 1997
    • Music CD of songs from the musical, 1997
    • Playbills, 1995
  2. Jack the Ripper: A New Musical. (Book and lyrics by Ron Pember and
    Denis De Marne, music by Ron Pember).

    • Announcement flyer (for Watford Operatic Society production), 1997
    • Playbill, Ambassadors Theater, September, 1974.
    • Vocal score published by Samuel French (1976)
  3. Lulu. The Metropolitan Opera. Playbill. April, 1985.
  4. Lulu. The Metropolitan Opera. 2001.
    • Playbill. April 21, 2001. [two
    • Review of opera in New Criterion, June 2001.

  5. No Way to Treat a Lady [Ripper-inspired musical]. Playbill. The York
    Theater Company, January 1997.

  6. Redhead (Albert Hague, music and Dorothy Fields, lyrics)
    • Playbill, June 1, 1959
    • Program with information on the production, cast, and photographs of
      scenes from the musical
    • Script, published by MTI, [no date]
    • Vocal book, published by MTI, [no date]
    • Vocal score, published by Chappel & Co, [1959?]

Sheet Music (filed in Box 1)

    GREAT COCKNEY SONGS VOL. 1. Horace Phlange and James Home (w) — Thornton
    G. Roper (m). Southern Music Publishing Co., 1974. 2 pp.

  2. Redhead [This is a stage musical featuring a variant of Jack the
    Ripper: a serial killer who preys on redheaded women. The Jack the Ripper
    collection includes a libretto and score from Redhead as well.]

    • LOOK WHO’S IN LOVE. Dorothy Fields (w) — Albert Hague (m). Chappell
      Co., Inc., 5221-3. New York: 1959. 3 pp. Cover text: Robert Fryer and
      Lawrence Carr present Gwen Verdon in Redhead, a musical comedy.
    • MY GIRL IS JUST ENOUGH WOMAN FOR ME. Dorothy Fields (w) — Albert Hague
      (m). Chappell Co., Inc., New York: 1958. 5 pp. Photocopy.
    • MY GIRL IS JUST ENOUGH WOMAN FOR ME. Dorothy Fields (w) — Albert Hague
      (m). Chappell Co., Inc., 5207-5. New York: 1959. 5 pp.
    • THE RIGHT FINGER OF MY LEFT HAND. Dorothy Fields (w) — Albert Hague
      (m). Chappell Co., Inc., 5256-3. New York: 1959. 3 pp.
    • TWO FACES IN THE DARK. Dorothy Fields (w) — Albert Hague (m). Chappell
      Co., Inc., 5208-3. New York: 1959. 3 pp.
    • TWO FACES IN THE DARK. Dorothy Fields (w) — Albert Hague (m). Chappell
      Co., Inc., 5208-3. New York: 1959. 3 pp.

Subject Files (filed in Box 1)

  1. Centennial of Ripper murders, 1988
  2. Clarence, Duke of (Prince “Eddy”) [Ripper suspect]
  3. Cloak and Dagger Club [publisher of Ripperologist]
  4. Cornwell, Patricia. Portrait of a Killer, 2002. [see also Sickert,
    Walter file]
  5. From Hell [motion picture], 2001
  6. Jack the Ripper, general articles
  7. Jack the Ripper [ITV television show; factual account of the murders
    of 1888 starring Michael Caine as Inspector Abberline, investigating the case],
  8. Kazuck, Deborah [attempted murder with hatchet; claimed she was “the
    mother of Jack the Ripper”], 1990
  9. Kosminski, Aaron [Ripper suspect]
  10. Maybrick, James [Ripper suspect]
  11. Maybrick, Michael (alias “Stephen Adams”) [composer, brother of
    Ripper suspect James Maybrick]
  12. “Polish-Jew Theory” [Ripper suspect]
  13. Ripper literature [book reviews]
  14. Ripper suspects [in general]
  15. Ripperologists
  16. Scotland Yard case files
  17. “Secret Diaries” of Jack the Ripper [hoax]
  18. Sickert, Walter [actor, artist, Ripper suspect]
  19. Stephenson, Robert Donstun [occultist, surgeon, Ripper suspect]

Sutcliffe, Peter (“The Yorkshire Ripper”) (filed in Box 3)

  1. Press clippings on Peter Sutcliffe assembled into five volumes, 1981

Miscellaneous (filed in Box 1 and Oversize Box 1)

  1. Board game: Jack the Ripper: The Mystery Game of the Whitechapel Murders
    of 1888, A Game for Two Players
    . New York, NY: Aulic Council Publishing,
    1983. [Includes: “The Map,” “The Advantage Cards,” “The
    Suspect Cards,” “The Ripper Playing Pieces,” “The Police
    Playing Pieces,” “Corpse Counters,” a six-sided die, and other
    counters used in connection with various cards. Errata slip and game catalog
    flyer of publisher also included]. (Filed in Oversize Box 1)
  2. Brochure: “Jack the Ripper.” Ripping Yarns Ltd touring company,
    [no date].
  3. Brochure: “Jack the Ripper, Thames Terror Cruise, & Dinner with
    Sherlock Holmes.” Premium Tours, [2004?]
  4. Brochure: “On the Trail of Jack the Ripper.” “London’s premier
    Jack the Ripper Walking Tour Experience, 1993.
  5. Dealer catalogs: Clifford Elmer Books. “Jack the Ripper,” 88/4.
  6. Dealer catalogs: Grey House Books. Catalogs with Ripper books, 1994-98.
  7. Dealer catalogs: Rupert Books, no. 31, 35.

LPs (filed in Box 4)

  1. Lulu, Orchestre del L’Opera de Paris,
  2. Lulu, Vienna State Opera, [undated].
  3. Lulu, The Hamburg State Opera, 1968.
  4. Jack the Ripper, Original Soundtrack, 1959.
  5. Redhead, Original Cast Recording, (Features a
    Strangler character), 1959.

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