Hidden Photos at Rowling Websites: Digital Clues and Detective Work #1

If you are surfing the internet and wind up at J. K. Rowling’s home website, that’s JKRowling.com, odds are good you’re not seeing all there is to see on the front page. Some of the best material is just out of sight on the page’s margins and what is there seems to be cut off so there may seem to be nothing but a page corner that is showing. It can be seen, however, via a simple trick. Evan Willis at the University of Dallas taught me the trick; using Google Chrome, right clicking on the image and then ‘Open Image in New Tab’ brings up the full picture no matter how much or little is evident on the home page.

We’ve already learned a lot from this trick. Prof Beatrice Groves’ four part series on Rowling and Scotland was inspired at least in part by her learning this trick and trying to figure out the badge photo near the top of the page. Rowling’s internet minions have changed the foto used for the ipad screen consequent to her latest re-tweet of a Pottermore message about the Times Square event (so right-clicking on the badge only brings up the iPad), but early last month it brought up the picture to your right. Prof Groves with a little help from her friends recognized it as the Murray Clan broach and the rest is history.

This week I hope to post several pictures here from JKRowling.com and Robert-Galbraith.com to challenge you to figure out what they are, why it might be on the home page, or just what it means. Today’s mystery image is from the upper right hand corner of the homepage and almost completely covered by the iPad with Rowling’s current twitter page on it. The url for the isolated picture tells us it is a ‘Smiths’ record album and it seems to be an inner sleeve. Click on that link to see the isolated picture full size.

Anyone care to guess which album it is or why she chose it for her homepage? The Smiths were one of Rowling’s favorite rock bands at UExeter, but they didn’t make her list of Desert Island Discs; how do they rate this just barely visible picture on the front page of the world’s best selling author? The closest match I could find for it was this one from ‘The World Won’t Listen.’ If you own the double LP album, let us know what it’s about in the comment boxes below!


  1. Hi John, I spent several hours investigating Jo website (and Galbraith’s, and even Pottermore!), so I can tell you some tricks.

    If you are in Chrome, press F12. That will open the Developers Toolbar. That’s something we use (web developers) to debug websites we are working on. Anyway, once it is open, go to Network tab (on that tool), and check “Img” (by default it should be “All”). Then reload the page – all the images that the website loaded will appear there (you can “Right click” and open in new tab).

    For exampe, the Murray Clan broach will appear as badge.png – and you would be able to save it as a transparent image if you want.

    Good luck discovering more secrets!

  2. Louise Freeman says

    I’m not familiar with the band, but my first thought is Smiths lyrics forming the basis for Cormoran Strike 5, like Blue Oyster Cult did for Career of Evil?

    I found a website with the lyrics for all the songs on the album. At least three different means of death are mentioned: being bludgeoned in your bed, being burned alive or being smashed by a double-decker bus.

    Maybe we’ll meet a deranged Stan Shunpike homolog in the next Cormoran Strike novel.

  3. Please share the link to the Smiths lyrics site! What a great find!

    There is a Blue Oyster Cult album cover on a Rowling site as well. More about that in coming days, but we’ve already had Evan’s revelations about the Tarot cards on another BOC cover, one with links to white horses.

  4. While not my favorite entry in the Strike novels, one of the side benefits of “Career of Evil” is that in comes with a built in playlist. Thanks to that work I’ve had the enjoyable opportunity of broadening m knowledge of Blue Oyster Cult’s musical catalogue. The one that sticks out best might be “Dance on Stilts”, and “Spy in the House of the Night”.

    Sad to say that getting the acquaintance of the Smiths’ “The World Won’t Listen” was a bit less entertaining. It starts out more or less fine, then quickly devolves into the kind of complaining self-absorption that Strike get bombarded with by the showbiz society of “Cuckoo’s Calling”. In fact the album put me a lot in mind of Evan Duffield, a gloomier, morose, and self-destructive version of the character. After a while it just went on and on like that. The net result was like getting stuck on an airplane next to the passenger from hell. If Duffield were half as bad as the content of the Smiths’ album, he’d have been insufferable.

    Despite this, I did come away with what “could be” a find. It’s one of the songs on the album. It has the eyebrow raising title of “Shakespeare’s Sister”.

    “The title refers to a section of Virginia Woolf’s feminist essay A Room of One’s Own in which she argues that if William Shakespeare had had a sister of equal genius, as a woman she would not have had the opportunity to make use of it.[1][2] Sean O’Hagan says that the essay was “one of the many feminist texts Morrissey embraced as a sexually confused, politically awakened adolescent.”


    The big takeaway is that it makes me wonder if Rowling has it in mind to introduce an academic female academic student facing a certain amount of sexism while trying to pursue a degree. Then it occurred to me to wonder if this means we could catch up with Ciara Porter, who stated in “Cuckoo” that she was planning on earning a degree. Maybe Strike can catch up with her and she can help him out with the fifth case?

  5. Patricio Tarantino says

    About that last comment, Ciara Porter is mentioned in Lethal White.

  6. Great find, ChrisC! Can we get the lyrics to’Shakespeare’s Sister’?

    HP1 and HP5 were almost mirror images of one another as Joyce Odell, the legendary Red Hen, noted in 2003. If the Strike series is really the tongue-in-cheek self-referencing analogue by Rowling/Galbraith that we have come to think is a sure thing here, there will have to be echoes of Strike1 in Strike5 akin to those between Stone and Phoenix. A Ciara Porter reappearance “reading English at Cambridge” would be a delightful one.

  7. Mr. Granger,

    The lyrics for the song go as follows:

    Shakespeare’s Sister by the Smiths:

    Young bones groan, and the rocks below say
    “Throw your skinny body down, son”
    But I’m going to meet the one I love
    So please don’t stand in my way
    Because I’m going to meet the one I love
    No, mama, let me go
    Young bones groan and the rocks below say
    “Throw your white body down”
    But I’m going to meet the one I love
    At last, at last, at last!
    I’m going to meet the one I love
    La-de-da, la-de-da
    No, mama, let me go
    No, no, no, no, no, no
    I thought that if you had an acoustic guitar
    Then it meant that you were
    A protest singer
    Oh, I can smile about it now
    But at the time it was terrible
    No, mama, let me go
    No, no, no, no, no, no

    The whole song seems to be, this is just my reading, about true love surmounting all the odds. The Shakespearean angle makes it sound like an alternate reality version of Romeo and Juliet, one where they manage to shakes off both their families and live happily ever after. Don’t know what the line about the protest singer means, unless it refers to the titular Sister being an artist like her more famous brother, albeit less appreciated.

    The curious part is that Shakespeare is said to be the third of eight children, so the song could be a play on that conceit. After all, we know very little about Shakespeare’s family life, so the rest of his family always exists in the shadows.

  8. I agree with Louise that this Smith album “The World Won’t Listen” lyrics could very well serve the purpose of providing epigraphs for Strike 5–there’s certainly enough violence and sketchy inferences contained in the lyrics. (I’m afraid I also have to agree with ChrisC’s assessment of the Smith’s music.)

    If Ciara is involved in the fifth Strike book and it’s set at an University–then there would be 3 dropouts returning since: Cormoran, Robin and Ciara all dropped out before getting their degrees. I think Cormoran dropped out in his second year but not sure when Robin or Ciara left.

  9. Joanne,

    After giving it some further thought, I’m starting to wonder if another part of the textual significance of the Smiths’ album is that maybe it really did serve as the breading ground for at least two characters and a setting.

    I’m starting to wonder if maybe the whole album is responsible for where Duffield, the celebrity society, and, ironically, Ciara might have come from. This just a guess, however.

  10. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    ‘Young bones groan, and the rocks below say
    “Throw your skinny body down, son”
    But I’m going to meet the one I love’

    make me think of ‘Full Fathom Five’ in The Tempest, though it is only thereafter – if soon – that Ferdinand meets the one he is going to love (with Prospero in effect later warning him to live with her as ‘brother and sister’ till “All sanctimonious ceremonies may / With full and holy rite be minist’red” and he roundly undertaking that).

  11. Turns out that the Smiths album “The World Won’t Listen” is the British title and the US title is “Louder Than Bombs” (interesting change of title from the world not listening to being louder than bombs?!) Anyway the album was a compilation of singles and B-side songs post 1984.

    I’m still holding out hope that book 5 will finally give us some answers to Cormoran’s own past and to some (even if only very small) revelations about Leda’s murder. At the very least clarify some of the few “facts” that we have about those two back stories. I’m still curious why we are going to be seeing Al Rokeby again but still no Jonny??

  12. D.L. Dodds,

    The idea of a “Tempest” analogue might just be an even better catch than mine. It does raise the question of what it would mean for Book 5 if that play were to have either a thematic or structural relation with its plot.

    The best insight I’ve found about Shakespeare’s last play comes from Charles Williams’ “The English Poetic Mind”. For Williams, “The Tempest” represents something like the crowning moment for Shakespeare because it represented the achievement of a certain kind of wholeness not just in his art but in his life. Williams’ saw it as the culmination and resolution of a personal crisis that first began with the writing of “King John” way back when, and which began to resolve itself from “Antony and Cleopatra” onward. In that sense, every play afterward, starting with “A&C” all took part in the Red or Rubedo Stage of his career.

    Applying this logic to the middle of the Strike series can be tricky. I think it was American author Peter S. Beagle who stated the issue best. “A happy cannot come in the middle of a story”. If the “Tempest” is all about closure, then how can a Great Red Text inform what is supposed to be the Black Text of the series? “Curiouser and curiouser”.

  13. Why not Al and his father? I’m still hopeful for a Jonny cameo in Strike5.

  14. David Llewellyn Dodds says


    I don’t know anything to speak of about the Strike books, and so can’t speak to any possible detailed interplay with The Tempest. But, thinking out loud, anything of the sort could conceivably be spaced or syncopated so that one does not encounter an inordinately early ‘happy ending’. My take on The Tempest is that, for all Prospero’s elaborate manipulation throughout, he cannot certainly produce the eucatasrophe he strives for – he has to let go, and hope for the best, in the face of others’ free wills. If that’s true, perhaps something like that might be relevant. (I think it is with Dumbledore, in HP.)

    I am glad you mention C.W.’s English Poetic Mind – I think the treatment of Shakespeare’s works (and life and thought) there is very powerful and persuasive – and good for anyone to try, for its assorted riches and to see if one finds it persuasive. Williams being now largely out of copyright in most of the world, we are in the happy position of having scans of it and Reason and Beauty – and, for that matter, Poetry at Present and He came Down from Heaven – in the Internet Archive, and various of his books, including Witchcraft and The Figure of Beatrice, transcribed at fadedpage.com

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