purported serial killings began in
the latter half of 1888 and before
long parts of London
along with the adjacent suburb of
began to look like a war zone, someone using the pseudonym
“Jack the Ripper”
appeared to be murdering and mutilating young
women at will. In the face of this remorseless butchery the public’s
perception of both the City
of London Police and the Metropolitan
Police soon became one of
Although some authorities have claimed the Ripper
was to blame for as many as eighteen murders, only five can be
attributed to the killer with any reasonable degree of certainty and
it wasn’t until after what Ripperologists refer to as the “double
event” (two victims were murdered on the same day) that the infamous
designation “Jack the Ripper” supposedly coined by the perpetrator
himself entered into the public domain.
The following is a list of the generally accepted victims, often
referred to as the canonical five:
Ann Nichols was a prostitute born on August 26, 1845, and murdered on
August 31, 1888. Her body was found laying on the pavement, in Buck's
Row, a short distance from London
Hospital, Whitechapel, at approximately 3:45 a.m.
was a prostitute born on September 8, 1841, and murdered on September
1888. Her body was found in the garden of 29 Hanbury Street (a popular
spot for prostitutes and their clients), Spitalfields, at approximately
Elizabeth Stride was a prostitute born on November 27, 1888,
and murdered on September 30, 1888. Her body was found at approximately
1 a.m. in Dutfield’s Yard, Berner Street, Whitechapel. She was the
of the so called “double event.”
Catherine Eddowes, a presumed
prostitute, was born on April 14, 1842, and murdered on September 30,
1888. Her body was found in Mitre Square, City of London. She was the
second of the so called “double event.”
Mary Jane Kelly was a
prostitute born in 1863 month unknown and murdered on November 9,
1888. Her hideously disfigured body was found at 10:50 a.m. in the
boarding house where she lived at 13 Miller’s Court, Dorset Street,
has been previously indicated the investigation
into the purported Jack the Ripper
serial killings was carried out by not one but two police
forces: the City of London Police who were responsible for the
square mile at
the city center, and the
Metropolitan Police (a.k.a. Scotland Yard) responsible for all other
boroughs Whitechapel included. Surprisingly, though
neither force ended up making an arrest, the City of London Police seem
to have been the more competent, taking photographs and
crime scene diagrams. Contention between the forces
arose when a piece of bloody apron, belonging to Eddowes, was found
a doorway above which was written a racist message “The Juwes are the
men That Will not be Blamed for nothing.”  Thinking it might be
City of London Police wanted it photographed
while Superintendent Thomas
(Whitechapel), fearful of
a race riot
come daybreak, wanted it removed. (The public at large
believed a Jewish
boot maker was “Leather Apron” an early name for the Ripper
and anti-Semitic sentiment was rampant.) Metropolitan
Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren sided with Arnold and
at 5:30 a.m. the
graffiti was erased.
Between them the two forces
boggling list of suspects, but due to a lack of
evidence none were ever charged. A few along with later additions, some
quite bizarre, are listed here:
Montague John Druitt was born on
August 15, 1857, and died on December 1, 1888. He was the son of a
physician, educated, a lawyer and assistant schoolmaster at a local
boarding school (he was dismissed just prior to his death). Druitt
disappeared just after the murder of Mary Jane Kelly and was later
found floating in the River Thames. The verdict of the coroner's jury
was suicide by drowning. It was the coincidental time of his death and
the fact that he was misidentified as a doctor that originally brought
him to the police’s attention as a possible killer, but later that
perception changed, Druitt himself becoming viewed as a victim of foul
John Pizer a Polish Jew was born in 1850 and died in 1897.
At the time of the murders he was working in Whitechapel as a boot
maker and was initially thought by the police to be a deviant sociopath
and suspect called “Leather Apron.” He was later exonerated with a
perfect alibi (he was talking to a police officer at the precise time a
murder was taking place).
George Chapman was born Seweryn
Klosowski, December 14, 1860, in Nagorna, Poland. He immigrated to
Britain in the late 1880s and moved to London. Unable to qualify as a
doctor, though trained as a surgeon in his native land, he was forced
seek alternate employment and became a barber. For a time Chapman was a
bigamist with one wife in England and another in Poland, following the
end of these relationships there were a number of mistresses, three of
whom he poisoned with the compound tartar-emetic. A trial resulted in
conviction and he was hanged April 7, 1903, at Wandsworth Prison.
Chapman who also used the alias “Ludwig Schloski” was known as an
extremely violent individual and is considered by many to be a prime
contender for “Jack the Ripper.”
Francis Thompson was born on
December 18, 1859. In 1878 after failing the priesthood, he placed his
name on the register of the Manchester Royal Infirmary where he studied
surgery for the next 6 years. In 1885 after failing his medical exams
for the third time, Thompson left for London, where addicted to opium
courtesy of the lung infection to which he would eventually succumb he
lived as a vagrant for several years.
The evidence pointing to
Thompson as a possible Ripper candidate seems to be entirely
circumstantial: In initial reports the Whitechapel murderer wore a
leather apron during his homeless years, so purportedly did Thompson.
Thompson lived with a prostitute, later she disappeared; disappearing
prostitutes were a fact of life in 19th century London.
Thompson wore a necktie, alleged by some to be the Rippers weapon of
choice; neckties were as common in the 1880s as they are now.
aspiring writer he submitted work to the periodical "Merrie England,"
publishers sought him out and helped with the publication of his first
book entitled “Poems.” More poetry and a short story followed with an
essay “Shelly” being published after his death.
Some of his
work was considered disturbing by his peers. In “The Ballad of The
Witch Babies” a knight hunts down women in the fog then disembowels
them and in the “Finis Coronat Opus” young women are graphically
sacrificed in a pagan temple. As a counterbalance other pieces such as
the famous cricket poem “At Lords” or his most well-known verse “The
Hound of Heaven” are both reflective and inspirational.
died November 13, 1907, of tuberculosis and is buried in Kensal Green
Cemetery, London. The epitaph on his grave “Look for me in the
Nurseries of Heaven” is taken from his poem entitled “To My
Prince Albert Victor was born second in
line to the British throne on January 8, 1864. As a young man he toured
the Empire, he and his brother serving as naval cadets on a British
warship. After returning to England he attended Trinity College,
Cambridge, before eventually joining the army in 1885.
the Metropolitan Police discovered a male brothel operating on
Cleveland Street in the heart of London, several members of the
aristocracy including the Prince were implicated and a cover-up began.
The Prince was sent to British India while things cooled down but
there too rumours began to circulate this time of infidelity and
married women. Albert Victor returned to England and a Royal Family
determined to keep him on the straight and narrow. On May 24, 1890, the
Prince became His Royal Highness Duke of Clarence and Avondale and on
December 3, 1891, was engaged to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck. It was
all for naught, however, on January 14, 1892, at the age of 28 he died
In the mid-twentieth century conspiracy theorists
began to advance alternatives to what had been the accepted version of
Albert’s death: he died of Syphilis, he died of a morphine overdose, he
was secretly incarcerated in an asylum and didn’t actually die until
1920 the original reports of his death a hoax designed to remove him
from the line of succession and in what is perhaps the most
conspiracy theory of all, that His Royal Highness
Duke of Clarence and Avondale was responsible either directly or
indirectly for the Jack the Ripper murders. The reason given, an
indiscretion with a Whitechapel prostitute had resulted in an
illegitimate child and the carnage was part of a well orchestrated and
sweeping cover up.
Throughout the Ripper investigation the
police were inundated with hundreds of taunting letters from people
claiming to be the killer, but only three were viewed as having any
The “Dear Boss” letter dated September 25, 1888, was received by the
Central News Agency on September 27 and
forwarded to Scotland Yard two days later (it was in this letter that
the pseudonym “Jack the Ripper” was first used).
keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just
yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on
the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am
down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled.
Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can
they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will
soon hear of me with my funny little games. I
saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the
last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it.
Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha. The next job I do I shall clip the
ladys ears off and send to the police just for jolly wouldn’t you. Keep
this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight.
My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get
a chance. Good luck.
Jack the Ripper
Don’t mind me giving my
Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my
hands curse it No luck yet. They say I’m a doctor now. ha ha
The “Saucy Jack” postcard was postmarked and received by the Central
News Agency on October 1.
was not coddling dear old Boss when I gave you the tip, you’ll hear
about Saucy Jacky’s work tomorrow double event this time number one
squeeked a bit couldn’t finish straight off. Had not got time to get
ears off for police thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to
Jack the Ripper
The “From Hell”
letter was received by George Akin Lusk, a Freemason (later excluded
for non-payment of dues) and Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance
Committee. It was accompanied by a small box within which was half of a
human kidney pickled in wine. The letter was postmarked October 15,
and delivered October 16.
send you half the Kidne I took from one woman and preserved it for you
tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the
bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer
Catch me when you can
the query is who was Jack the Ripper, then there are lots of suspects
but unfortunately no Sherlock Holmes  to gaze knowingly at
evidence curved pipe in hand before answering in a droll and
deliberate voice “It’s elementary, my dear Watson
But what if it was all a hoax, what if there was no Whitechapel
serial killer or at least not one using the persona “Jack the Ripper”?
original consensus concerning the afore mentioned three letters was
that they stood the greatest chance of being genuine out of the
hundreds received, but many experts deem that they too were fraudulent.
Some think that the epithet “Jack the Ripper” was invented by the media
to boost interest in the subject matter, the sole object to sell more
As the investigation progressed, the police in
particular, came to believe that the “Dear Boss” letter along with the
“Saucy Jack” postcard was a deception perpetrated by a local reporter.
If this is true then obviously the killer’s self-professed moniker is
The “From Hell” letter stands the best chance
of being genuine, at least insofar as it came from the killer of
Catherine Eddowes. The letter is different from the others in a number
of ways: it was delivered to the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee not
the Central News Agency, the author appears to be less literate, it was
received in conjunction with the preserved half of a human kidney
(Eddowes was missing half a kidney) and it was not signed with the
murderer’s infamous nickname. The possibility exists that it came from
a copycat killer responsible for only one murder, that of Eddowes.
Other factors that need to be taken into consideration are the time and
location of the alleged serial killings:
techniques were extremely primitive in the latter half of the 19th
century, limited to eyewitness accounts, the taking of photographs and
subjective examination of evidence. The ability to analyze DNA
(profiling) was a century in the future and even fingerprinting was in
a suburb of London, was in the late 1880s a warren of narrow winding
streets filthy and dangerous. It was home to breweries, foundries,
tanneries, slaughterhouses and other similar businesses unwelcome in
neighboring boroughs, and a haven for the very poorest and most vulnerable
in Victorian society: outcasts
and immigrants desperately trying to eke
out a living. Women augmented meager (sometimes non-existant) wages by
turning to prostitution, many murdered, victims of predators in
search of easy prey.
is the truth, did a serial killer using Jack the Ripper as an alias
really exist and if so who was he/she or were the murders merely
isolated events committed by shadowy figures at a time and in a place
where life was cheap and the taking of life a common almost everyday
To quote Holmes once again “It is quite a three pipe problem. . . .”
The writing as reported by constable Alfred Long of the Metropolitan
Police (other sources reported it differently and both the exact
location, spelling and order of words are still a matter of contention).
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes creator, did offer a theory in which he
hypothesized that the elusive killer was a man who disguised himself as
a woman in order to confuse the police and/or ingratiate himself with
 There were dozens of reported murders in Whitechapel and the
surrounding boroughs during the year 1888.
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