LONDON: Workers repairing Guildford Castle have discovered an actual razor used by William of Occam — only not for the purposes he is widely known for.
The rusty folding razor was unearthed in a pit below a collapsed floor, amidst a grisly heap of severed skulls and other skeletal body parts. An engraving on the wooden handle reads, “William O.” An Oxford archaeologist tending the find, Malcolm Spencer, says we must assume that William of Occam was the Surrey Slasher, a serial killer contemporary with the famed 14th-century theologian.
The never identified Slasher terrified the province for three decades, killing priests, nuns, prostitutes, beggars, dogs, cats, rats and even harmless hedgehogs with his signature throat slitting. The bodies were often found disemboweled, with missing heads and hands.
“I’m quite reluctant to draw this conclusion,” said professor Spencer, “but using ‘Occam’s razor,’ if I may be so droll, I am compelled to say it — William of Occam was the Jeffrey Dahmer of his day.”
The medieval philospher is famous for his principle stating that, among competing hypotheses, the simplest solution is usually the best. But Mr. Spencer suggests this now appears to be rather self-serving: “That the killer could have been a man of the cloth, a Franciscan friar, was too complex of a thought for the medieval mind to entertain. Most believed the murders were simply acts of the Devil — a tidy assumption that William reinforced with his parsimonious principle. That he called it a ‘razor’ is one of those grim jokes that serial killers are noted for. He’s surely laughing in the grave that we’re all still using it today.”
Spencer’s Oxford colleague, physics professor Henry Symington, is thrilled with the discovery. “It’s about time we dethroned that bloody medieval crackpot,” he said. “Every day we’re discovering the natural world is more complex than we ever dreamed. For the most part, the simplest solution is for simpletons.”