Solved: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

11 May 2015

Peter Orford - Drood InquiryThe University of Buckingham has helped to solve The Mystery of Edwin Drood by inviting the public to come up with an ending to Dickens’ unfinished work.

The writer died before finishing the story and for years experts and enthusiasts have argued over the author’s intended ending. Now more than 15,000 members of the public have offered their views on the most likely solution – the most popular ending is that Uncle Jasper murdered Edwin Drood. Details and cartoon pictures of the ending will be featured in a special exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum starting this week.

English Lecturer Peter Orford, who set up the website inviting readers to offer endings, said: “For a century and a half the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood has prompted weird and wonderful responses from enthusiasts pushing to get their views heard in articles and books. The aim of the Drood Inquiry was to reach the wider public who might usually remain quiet on this. Thousands of visitors came to the site, proving that interest in the mystery remains high, and it seems that while the large controversy of Drood reigns on, there is a clear majority for the answer proposed by Dickens’s friends and family: Edwin Drood is dead, murdered by his Uncle Jasper and hidden in Cloisterham Crypt. Interestingly, a large percentage of voters also believed the Princess Puffer would not survive to the book’s close. There was an interesting response to the character of Dick Datchery, a stranger in Cloisterham and long held by several Droodists to be an existing character in disguise: the popular consensus is that this is hokum and he is an entirely new character.

“The most notable surprise is the suggestion that Jasper is innocent, and the murderer none other than the Reverend Crisparkle’s sweet and doting mother, seeking to ensure the marriage of Helena to her son by killing Helena’s brother Neville, only for Neville to escape her clutches and Edwin to die by accident, with the panicking Mrs C then hiding the evidence as swiftly as possible. It is an idea that turns the character and plot entirely on its head, and celebrates the continuing potential of Drood to surprise.”

The ending will be revealed in an exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty St, London, which opens on 13 May, with a comic strip panel depicting the solution. The exhibition is about the legacy of the novel and how its incomplete nature captures the attention of many and has resulted in adaptations and a raft of discourse on the subject.

There will be a number of Drood-related treasures such as the table from the Gad’s Hill chalet where Dickens penned the last lines of the novel and there will be a trail of ‘clues’ relating to the novel. Visitors will be encouraged to find the clue in the room and see the exhibition at the end of their visit. There will be photos and posters from Edwin Drood film and musical adaptations and a show reel playing Drood films and musical performances. Drood Inquiry website: (