Thomas Power James was a printer, editor, newspaper reporter, publisher and author who lived in Brattleboro, Vermont in the 1870s. James is best known for publishing (and probably writing) a completion of Charles Dickens' The Mystery of Edwin Drood. James claimed it was written by the spirit of Dickens, who he said chose him at a seance on Oak Street. The book was published on Halloween of 1873, and James reported that he sold tens of thousands of copies. We have to take that statement with a grain of salt, though spiritualist newspapers enthusiastically promoted his work, and copies can be found in many libraries across the country.
In the forward of his book, James also claimed that Dickens was dictating new novels to him, including the thoroughly Dickensian sounding, "The Life and Adventures of Bockley Whickleheap," which he serialized in the magazine he published, "The Summerland Messenger".
In her book, "The Annals of Brattleboro," historian Mary Cabot dedicated a section to T.P. James, called "The Tramp Printer."and stated that he rarely stayed in a job for longer than a year. Cabot may have overstated things, but it is true that in his lifetime, James did have a tendency to disappear. He did start newspapers, (he was the co-editor and publisher of The Windham County Reformer, the precursor to Brattleboro Reformer) in at least three other towns and repeatedly left within a relatively short time of doing so. He also married at least four wives, (research indicates he may have had at least one more) and vanished from their lives, not bothering to divorce some of them before marrying anew.
Though James wrote a solution to Dickens' mystery, he unintentionally created other mysteries for researchers to puzzle over. Why did he leave Brattleboro, after becoming the co-editor and co-publisher of the Windham County Reformer? We know he had a falling out with his partner, but what was it about ? What happened to him after he left Brattleboro? Where did he spend his last days? Did he ever write more of his Dickensian novels? Did he ever admit to the hoax?
Audio Producer: Reg Martell
Research & Narration: Rolf Parker-Houghton
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