There has never been such a case in history more prominent than that of the case of Jack the Ripper. For many years we have told and retold the story, covering it from angle after angle, delivering theory after theory, but still the Rippers identity remains a mystery. Although usually I spend most of my time researching things which are extremely hard to prove, I thought perhaps I would have a look at a case based more on elements we can measure. Still the case of Jack the Ripper, leaves me chasing ghosts once again.
So, what do we know about the case. We know that the Ripper terrorised London’s East End in the years 1888 to 1891, that the task of catching the fearsome killer was entrusted to the officers of Scotland Yard and although they failed they followed all lines of inquiry that they could.
Let us attempt to look at the case from the beginning, perhaps disregarding some of the added dramatics and stories which have clung to the case over the years. The best place to start then is with the victims, which is also where we find our first line of confusion. Which is the blurring between the definable Ripper murders and the Whitechapel murders. However, the eleven Whitechapel murders does include the Ripper murders and at some point each has been connected to the Ripper. Still properly defining the murders which were related to the Ripper, adds clarity to the case.
The Whitechapel Murders
Emma Elizabeth Smith – Tuesday 3rd April 1888 – Osborn Street, Whitechapel
Martha Tabram – Tuesday 7th August 1888 – George Yard Buildings, George Yard, Whitechapel
Mary Ann Nichols – Friday 31st August 1888 – Bucks Row, Whitechapel
Annie Chapman – Saturday 8th September 1888 – Rear Yard at 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields
Elizabeth Stride – Sunday 30th September 1888 – Yard at side of 40 Berner Street, St Georges-in-the-East
Catherine Eddowes – Sunday 30th September 188 – Mitre Square, Aldgate, City of London
Mary Jane Kelly – Friday 9th November 1888 – 13 Miller’s Court, 26 Dorset Street, Spitalfields
Rose Mylett – Thursday 20th December 1888 – Clarke’s Yard, High Street, Poplar
Alice McKenzie – Wednesday 17th July 1889 – Castle Alley, Whitechapel
Unknown Female Torso – Tuesday 10th September 1889 – Found under railway arch in Pinchin Street, Whitechapel
Frances Coles – Friday 13th February 1891 – FOund under railway arch, Swallow Gardens, Whitechapel
Above is a map, courtesy of the internet from http://www.herberthistory.co.uk/cgi-bin/sitewise.pl?act=det&p=303 displaying most of these murders.
Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes, Kelly, McKenzie and Coles had their throats cut. Except for Stride and Mylett there was evidence of abdominal mutilation in all cases. Chapman and Eddowes had their uterus removed and taken away by the killer. Eddowes left kidney was also taken. Evidence also suggests that Kelly’s heart was taken. All horrific murders in a reasonable distance and time frame from each other, its easy to link all of these to one person. After all its harder to believe there is more than one individual capable of such graphic mutilations.
Over the years though, following the input of various Detectives and individuals working on these unsolved murders, the list of murders which were linked to Jack the Ripper was reduced to Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes and Kelly. Tabram has also gained favour as the sixth victim as the opinion of some historians.
Obviously, as Jack was never actually caught this still all remains very much theory with a little supporting evidence. Perhaps he killed more that we just don’t know about yet.
Now we have the numbers of Jack’s murders reduced to five or six, we look at the next piece of evidence. In this case its the letters which were sent to the Police and Press on the Whitechapel murders. Some, if not most of these letters have been regarded as fakes, created by individuals hoping to excite the terror already burdening the city. However, a few of these letters have been given some credibility. These are the ‘Dear Boss’ letter, ‘Saucy Jacky’ postcard and the ‘From Hell’ letter.
Even if the letter is a hoax, it was the first letter written which made reference to the name ‘Jack the Ripper’ and linked it to the Whitechapel murderer. On the 27th September 1888, this letter was received by the Central News Agency and was believed to be a hoax straight away. However, three days later the double murder of Stride and Eddowes soon changed their minds. The defining point being that the in letter ‘Jack’ mentioned that he would ‘clip the lady’s ears off and send them to the police officers just for jolly’ and a portion of Eddowes earlobe was found cut off. All of a sudden the importance of this letter was highlighted by the police when they reproduced it in the newspapers of the time, hoping someone may recognise the handwriting.
On the 1st October 1888 a postcard was received by the Central News Agency, making direct reference to the ‘Dear Boss’ letter and the double murder. It was also believed to be written by the same hand.
As ever the authenticity of this postcard is still questioned by some, stating that the reference to the double murder and ‘Dear Boss’ letter could have been revealed in an early morning paper on the 1st October. I guess without todays high tech forensics its hard to prove!
The final letter was received in slightly more gruesome circumstances, in fact you could easily pull it right out of a horror movie! October 16th saw a George Lusk, the President of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee receive a particularly fearsome item in his mail. A three-inch-square cardboard box containing half a human kidney preserved in wine along with the following letter.
Inconclusive medical reports of the time reported the kidney to be very similar to the one that was removed from Eddowes. The letter, which started with the title ‘From Hell’ was aimed directly at Lusk. It stated that he had sent half the kidney to Lusk, but fried and eaten the other half. Sound familiar? He then added that he would send the bloody knife used to remove it, if Lusk would wait a while longer. It was then sign ‘catch me when you can Mishter Lusk.
All three letters and additional items can be seen as evidence that they were sent by Jack the Ripper, but you could equally argue against their authenticity. Perhaps we will never know, but still an interesting twist to the Ripper story. Perhaps this case will never be solved and given how long ago it occurred, with a lack of evidence from the time surviving its more likely it never will.
When the horrors of Whitechapel came to an end, its likely that the Ripper either became too old to carry on murdering or perhaps he was arrested for something else unrelated to the Ripper murders. Its even possible that he was smart enough to cease his murderous ways to avoid capture. However, the character that shines through in the letters and the pure evil he committed, makes me believe that ‘his work’ would never be quite complete.
Jump forward in time and reports paranormal activity around Whitechapel which are linked to the Ripper case in many ways, including location, sightings of individuals and more. There are many links to the Ripper case which pop up from time to time in the paranormal world. Its easy to understand given the deep emotional circumstances of the murders which could have inprinted on any of the areas. Thats ofcourse if you take in to account the ‘stone tape theory’. Still all in all the original case and related paranormal stories are very interesting apart and together.
Cases like this where the paranormal stories told have a deep impact in a particular location which has a very well known past. The Ripper case is one of those and for that reason will remain of interest to me and probably many others.
All comments are welcome, so please feel free to let me know what you think or even to add a little to what I have written.