Hidden Photos at Rowling Websites: Digital Clues and Detective Work, Foto 3


The picture above is from the bottom left corner of J. K. Rowling’s website, most of which image is just out of sight. Using the method described in the two previous ‘Hidden Photos’ HogwartsProfessor posts, there it is. But what is it? What is in this stack of pictures?

The url for the image labels the picture “Report” but that doesn’t quite cover it. There is a a report card for her daughter Mackenzie, but the top of the stack is a brochure called ‘Places around Melrose’ and beneath it there are two items, a ‘Captivating Scents’ brochure and an illustrated book(?). There is also what looks to be a wooden mouse toy in the lower left and a chevron shaped cartoon character (a pin?) on the report card.

The village of Melrose, of course, features in Career of Evil so that is no surprise or mystery.

The report card is a nice touch because it serves as a reminder that J. K. Rowling, writer and philanthropist, is also Joanne Murray, mother and center of the universe to three young people.

The ‘Captivating Scents’ brochure can be read en toto online here. It’s from the Chelsea Physic Garden, the “oldest botanical garden in London” that is home to “more than 5,000 plants.” I’m not sure if this remarkable location is a model for the Herbology classrooms at Hogwarts (check out their “Historic Glasshouses“), a place to expect Cormoran or Robin to visit soon in the Strike mysteries, or both.

I don’t recognize the cartoon figure on the Progress Report, the wooden mouse, or the book cover (?) underneath the pile. Please share your ideas about them or your explanations or interpretations of the visible items by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ in the subject line above and writing out your thoughts!


  1. Louise Freeman says

    Scent gardens are often marketed to blind people— maybe some connection to Della Wynn?

    The report card could lend some support to my hypothesis that the eventually abandoned British educational reforms of 2013 (replacing the British General Certificate of Secondary Education with a more rigorous “English Baccalaureate.”) could figure into the 5th book storyline. Or the high-stakes exams that British students take (comparable to the OWL angst of OotP.
    We really need a peak at that book on the bottom of the stack!

  2. Nick Jeffery says

    The cartoon character is a pokemon. https://www.titancards.co.uk/victini-pin-badge

  3. Nick Jeffery says

    The book is “London’s disused underground stations”. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Londons-Disused-Underground-Stations-Connor/dp/185414250X

  4. Nick, you’re a wonder! How did you possibly figure out that book’s title from the small corners visible under this pile of documents?

    Not that I care how you did it, really. I’m just delighted by the find which I am sure will be meaningful in an upcoming Fantastic Beasts film — a story turn moment calling back to the subway confrontation in the first movie’s climax? — or a Strike mystery — a meeting place for Strike to talk with Jonny Rokeby in guaranteed privacy? Or where Digger Malley tells all before leaving him miles beneath Hogwarts, I mean, ‘London’?

    I’ve ordered a copy and very much look forward to leafing through it. Again, great find and thank you for working your search engine magic!

  5. Beatrice Groves says

    Fantastic find Nick!

    The obvious popular culture link for me is the James Bond film Die Another Day (2002) in which MI6 use a closed Underground station (the fictional Vauxhall Cross station) as a secret base. (This is a nod to the real location of the MI6 Headquarters in London – at Vauxhall Cross – and perhaps the rumour that closed tube stations really were used in this way: no doubt the book will tell us more!).

    But a quick search threw up some other intriguing possibilities – the most interesting being the closed British Museum station. It is reputed to be haunted by the daughter of Amun-Ra and it also forms the the scene of the final showdown in the 1935 film Bulldog Jack:

    ‘one of the film entries in the Bulldog Drummond series, is a good-natured crime-solving adventure in which a fictional closed Tube station (Bloomsbury) is featured as an important part of the staging of the film, being part of an intricate hideaway for the bad guys, who are pulling a heist from the British Museum. The film is full of secret passages and likable characters.’

    In fact it looks like the station was the closed British Museum station, just renamed for the film, and it is ‘reached by a secret tunnel leading from the inside of a sarcophagus in the British Museum. The villain Morelle (Ralph Richardson) is finally cornered and forced into a sword duel on the disused platforms.’ How can Strike resist?


    Excellent find Nick and John – full of possibilities.

  6. If nothing else, the odds of our learning at last about Dumbledore’s scar that is an exact map of the London Underground have to have improved significantly!

  7. Wonderful find Nick! I was struck by the term “Disused” not wrong but I wondered if that was a term deemed more accurate in England than the common term deserted that would be used in the US?

    I confess that I was wondering how JKR would fashion the place that all mythical heroes eventually have to visit–the underworld land of the dead–Hades–or as in Dumbledore and Harry journey in ‘Half-Blood Prince’ leading to their underworld deep lake cave swarming with the Inferi.

    Since the journey of all mythical heros must include a trip to the underground land of the dead, I thought when Strike made his own journey it might take the form of revisiting Cornwall and involve an ocean cave–but that would be a bit too close to Harry’s ‘Hades’. The ‘Disused’ Tube Stations actually seem more appropriate. The hero who lives in one of the world’s most populated cities–finds himself still in that city, but deep in a deserted underground that is actually home to those operating in a type of Terra Incognita ‘Hades’.

    So maybe not until book 6?

  8. Kelly Loomis says

    The NYC subway station featured in Fantastic Beasts – the City Hall Station – is no longer in use. As John mentioned above, maybe JKR will use a disused station as a mirror in that series especially given the fact the NYC Ststion is disused these days.

  9. Here is a link to more information on the Pokémon figure, Victini.
    I believe this particular figure was given out in Japan to celebrate the release of a new movie. I haven’t had a chance yet to sort through all the possibilities of meaning in JKR’s use of it.

  10. Dr. Freeman, Prof. Groves, Mr. Granger,

    Somehow the Chelsea Physic Garden made me recall Agatha Christie’s disappearance stunt from a while back. I somehow got into to my head to wonder if that was the place she hid away at, so I typed both her name and the Gardens into the search engine. Turns out I got he wrong place, except I didn’t, at least not in one sense.

    Ms. Christie has a surprisingly intimate connection with Chelsea Physic. “Agatha Christie was a trained apothecary, and using her knowledge of the plants that could kill or cure, she took inspiration for the poisons used in many of her murder mysteries.

    Christie lived near the Garden in the 1930s and 1940s and it is very likely that she was in fact a visitor. So, it seems only fitting that a discussion of her works and the use of poisons as the murder weapon should take place at the Physic Garden (web)”.


    There is also a society that links Christie to the Gardens, as well. It is called The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. “During the course of the 17th century the Society of Apothecaries established its Hall within the precinct of the former Black Friars Priory, founded the Physic Garden at Chelsea, commissioned a ceremonial barge, and took its place as 58th in the order of precedence of the City livery companies (web)”. “The Apothecaries’ Act also gave the Society responsibility for examining Apothecaries’ Assistants or Dispensers, the majority of whom were women. Among those sitting this examination at the Hall in 1917 was Agatha Christie, then working in the Dispensary of the Red Cross Hospital, Torquay, where she drafted her first detective novel. Her knowledge of drugs, especially poisons, was to serve her well in her subsequent career (ibid)”.


    I’ve been able to find at least two other sources detailing Christie’s connections to the Gardens in ways that both tend to overlap in their information.

    Source 1 (featuring a mention of Val McDermid):


    Source 2:


    The overlap between the differing blogs comes from the fact that each points to Kathryn Harkup’s “A is for Arsenic” as the go-to source for Christie’s knowledge of poisons and chemistry.

    Prof. Harkup herself has written a brief prologue to her book, in which she links AC’s chemical knowledge with both “Pale Horse”, as well as “The Mysterious Affair at Styles”. It can be read here:


    Prof. Harkup’s book can be found here:


    A review of “A is for Arsenic can be found here:

    It contains the following passage: “As she quotes Paracelsus: “Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.”

    It would therefore make a kind of natural sense for poison to be the murder weapon in Book 5, and for Strike and Robin to visit both the Chelsea Physic Garden, and its Christie related Society of Apothecaries in order to seek help in finding out whodunit. As of right now, it’s starting to look like this could be the most AC influenced book Rowling will have penned to date. My only concern with the current release of all these sorts of clues is that she takes care not to over-pack her novel. At the same time, it sure looks like perhaps the richest project she undertaken so far.

    The real curious part in all this for me has been that it really is beginning to sound like JKR might have based Professor Sprout on Ms. Christie, strange as that may seem. It definitely puts the character in a more eccentric light, that’s for sure.



    I tend to think that a Cornwall Cave setting is technically still a possibility (until prover otherwise, of course). There seems no intrinsic reason the underworld of Book 5 can’t be an abandoned Underground railway. Nor that such a journey can’t be echoed by a cave on the Cornish coast for the finale of the 7th novel. Just one idea, anyway.

  11. Brian Basore says

    Free association thoughts about the wooden mouse: Agatha Christie’s play The Mouse Trap; and, in PS, Professor McGonagall turning her desk into a pig, and back again.

  12. The talk of gardens and the plants that can be used for good or ill (poison) brought back to my mind two scenes–one each in two Strike books. The first scene is located in book 2: The Silkworm (chapter 28, page 241-242):

    “Maybe Quine was born four hundred years too late,” said Strike, still eating shortbread, “Elizabeth Tassel told me there’s a Jacobean revenge play featuring a poison skeleton disguised as a woman. Presumably someone shags it and dies. Not a million miles away from Phallus Impudicus getting ready to…”
    “Don’t,” said Robin, with a half laugh and a shudder.
    Strike had not broken off because of her protest, or because of any sense of repugnance. Something had flickered deep in his subconscious as he spoke. Somebody had told him…someone had said…but the memory was gone in a flash of tantalizing silver, like a minnow vanishing in pondweed.

    “A poisoned skeleton,” Strike muttered, trying to capture the elusive memory, but it was gone.’

    The second scene is in book 4: Lethal White (chapter 3—the second chapter 3 after the “One Year Later” page, on page 48):

    [Robin} ‘On the point of doubling back towards the main road, her eye was caught by the opening in a brick wall, which was flanked by gateposts topped with the strangest finials she had ever seen.

    A pair of gigantic, crumbling stone skulls sat on the top of carved bones on gateposts, beyond which a tall square tower rose…Peering through the opening, Robin saw a church and mossy tombs lying amid an empty rose garden in full bloom.’

    She had wandered upon the ground of St Nicholas in Deptford:


    A look at the Memento Mori gateposts at the entrance of the St Nicholas graveyard makes it easy to see, not only the final resting place of skeletons, but the Skull and Bones symbol for Poison in the finials topping the gateposts. (To Robin “the empty black eye sockets” looked to be “garnishing the front of a pirate mansion in some fantasy film”) Pirates are the other ones who use the Skull and Crossbones to warn of danger and death.

    Skeletons, Poison and Garden—all three in one location.

    I have long wondered about the event that is alluded to in The Silkworm’s poisoned skeleton memory that merely lets Strike know it’s there refusing to come close enough to be seen. This too deeply buried poisoned skeleton memory is definitely one of the most fascinating of Strike’s childhood mysteries that I hope we will soon be given some of the pieces necessary to solve.

    Side Note: In keeping with the series epigrams and the English Renaissance Revenge Tragedies used for book 2—it turns out that Elizabethan poet, playwright, and spy Christopher Marlowe is supposedly buried in St. Nicholas’s graveyard.

  13. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    For the sake of thoroughness, re. “there’s a Jacobean revenge play featuring a poison skeleton disguised as a woman. Presumably someone shags it and dies”: presumably The Revenger’s Tragedy, Act III, scene iv (q.v.), though it’s a matter of skull and kissing “like a slobbering Dutchman” and not skeleton and shagging – there are, e.g., scans of various editions in the Internet Archive (I think all attributed to Cyril Tourneur, though Wikipedia, quoting David Gunby, tells us “there now … appears to be an overwhelming case for the authorship of Thomas Middleton”). ‘Galbraithians’ might profitably review the scene in ways the rest of us cannot – e.g., does the title, The Silkworm, include a reference to that scene, where among things said to the skull are, “Does the silkworm expend her yellow labours / for thee? For thee does she undo herself?”

  14. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Do ‘we’ know if JKR is a fan of the late Richard Carpenter’s Catweazle? In the second series and his novelization of it as Catweazle and the Magic Zodiac, that herb-wise wizard lives in an abandoned railway station (albeit branch, not underground)…

  15. Hi David,

    Yes, it looks like in Act 3, Scene 5 of The Revenger’s Tragedy–that it really is a dressed up skull, rather than an entire skeleton, that is dressed up to look like a lady and the Duke proceeds to kiss (as hard as that is to believe). The believable part is that he recoils in shock when the reality hits–but the man who put him up to giving her a kiss–turns out to be her finance and since the Duke had killed her with poison–he now suffers the same horrible death from the same poison from the kiss. A rough justice although not plausible.

    In the case of what Strike says in the scene from The Silkworm, Liz Tassel gave him her version or he gave it his own edit–but the part that made me pay attention to it was how the term “poisoned skeleton” triggers a deep memory that he catches a glimpse of from his own past–and it disappears back down out of reach before he can pull it into his conscious mind and see it in the cold light of day.

    I think it will prove to be a clue from his past that will lead him to find the connection to Leda Strike’s killer.

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