Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper

Infobox Serial Killer
name=Jack the Ripper

caption="A Suspicious Character," from "The Illustrated London News" for 13 October 1888 carrying the overall caption, "With the Vigilance Committee in the East End".
birthname= Unknown
alias=Saucy JackyStewart Evans and Keith Skinner (2001) "Jack the Ripper: Letters From Hell": 29-44]
victims=5+ ?
country= United Kingdom
apprehended= Not apprehended

Jack the Ripper is an alias given to an unidentified serial killer [http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/jacktheripper.htm FBI's Jack the Ripper web page] ] active in the largely impoverished Whitechapel area and adjacent districts of London, England, in the autumn of 1888. The name originated in a letter sent to the London Central News Agency by someone claiming to be the murderer.

The victims were women allegedly earning income as prostitutes, who were killed in public or semi-public places at night or in the early morning. Each victim's throat was cut, after which her body was mutilated. Theories suggest that the victims first were strangled, in order to silence them, which may explain the reported lack of blood at the crime scenes. The removal of internal organs from three of the victims led some officials at the time of the murders to propose that the killer possessed anatomical or surgical knowledge.Stewart P. Evans & Keith Skinner (2000), "The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Companion" ISBN 0786707682]

Newspapers, whose circulation had been growing during this era,L. Perry Curtis, Jr. (2001)" Jack the Ripper and the London Press" ISBN 0300088728] bestowed widespread and enduring notoriety on the killer because of the attacks' savagery and the police's failure to capture the murderer (they sometimes missed him at the crime scenes by mere minutes).Stewart P. Evans & Donald Rumbelow (2006) "Jack the Ripper: Scotland Yard Investigates" ISBN 0750942282] Philip Sugden (1995) "The Complete History of Jack the Ripper" ISBN 0786702761]

Because the killer's identity has never been confirmed, the legends surrounding the murders have become a combination of genuine historical research, folklore, and pseudohistory. Many authors, historians, and amateur detectives have proposed theories about the identity of the killer and his victims.


In the mid 19th century, England experienced a rapid influx of mainly Irish immigrants, who swelled the populations of both the largely poor English countryside and England's major cities. From 1882, Jewish refugees escaping the pogroms in Tsarist Russia and eastern Europe added to the overcrowding and the already worsening work and housing conditions. London, especially the East End and the civil parish of Whitechapel, became increasingly overcrowded, resulting in the development of a massive economic underclass. [http://booth.lse.ac.uk/ "Life and Labour of the People in London" (London: Macmillan, 1902-1903)] (The Charles Booth on-line archive) accessed 5 August 2008] This endemic poverty drove many women to prostitution. In October 1888, the London Metropolitan Police estimated that there were 1,200 prostitutes "of very low class" resident in Whitechapel and about 62 brothels.Donald Rumbelow (2004) "The Complete Jack the Ripper" ISBN 0140173951] The economic problems were accompanied by a steady rise in social tensions. In 1886–1889, demonstrations by the hungry and unemployed were a regular feature of London policing.

Most murders, and those most often attributed to Jack the Ripper, all occurred in the latter half of 1888, though the series of brutal killings in Whitechapel persisted at least until 1891. A number of the murders involved extremely gruesome acts, such as mutilation and evisceration, which were widely reported in the media. Rumours that the murders were connected intensified in September and October, when a series of media outlets and Scotland Yard received a series of extremely disturbing letters from a writer or writers purporting to take responsibility for some or all of the murders. One letter, received by George Lusk, of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, included a preserved human kidney. Mainly because of the extraordinarily brutal character of the murders, and because of media treatment of the events, the public came increasingly to believe in a single serial killer terrorizing the residents of Whitechapel, nicknamed "Jack the Ripper" after the signature on a postcard received by the Central News Agency. Although the investigation was unable to connect the later killings conclusively to the murders of 1888, the legend of Jack the Ripper solidified.


Metropolitan Police files show that the investigation begun in 1888 eventually came to encompass eleven separate murders, stretching from 3 April 1888 to 13 February 1891, known in the police docket as "the Whitechapel Murders." [http://www.met.police.uk/history/ripper.htm The Metropolitan Police history of Jack the Ripper] ] In addition, authors and historians have connected at least seven other murders and violent attacks with Jack the Ripper. Among the eleven murders actively investigated by the police, five are almost universally agreed upon as the work of a single killer, collectively called the "canonical five" victims:

*Mary Ann Nichols (maiden name, Mary Ann Walker; nickname, "Polly"), born 26 August 1845, killed Friday 31 August 1888. Her body was discovered by a man called Charles Cross at about 3:40 A.M. on the ground in front of a gated stable entrance in Buck's Row (now Durward Street), a back street in Whitechapel 200 yards from the London Hospital. Her throat was severed deeply by two cuts; the lower part of the abdomen was partly ripped open by a deep, jagged wound. There also were several incisions running across the abdomen, and three or four similar cuts on the right side caused by the same knife used violently and downwards. Nichols was described as looking some years younger than her 43 years.

*Annie Chapman (maiden name, Eliza Ann Smith; nickname, "Dark Annie"), born c. September 1841, killed Saturday 8 September 1888. Her body was discovered about 6 A.M., lying on the ground near a doorway in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields. Like Mary Ann Nichols's, her throat was severed by two cuts, one deeper than the other. The abdomen was ripped entirely open and her uterus was removed. She was 47, in poor health, and destitute.

*Elizabeth Stride (maiden name, Elisabeth Gustafsdotter; nickname, "Long Liz"), born 27 November 1843 in Sweden, killed Sunday 30 September 1888. Her body was discovered about 1 A.M., lying on the ground in Dutfield's Yard, off Berner Street (now Henriques Street) in Whitechapel. There was one clear-cut incision on the neck; the cause of death was massive blood loss from the nearly severed main artery on the left side. The cut through the tissues on the right side was more superficial, and tapered off below the right jaw. That there also were no mutilations to the abdomen has left some uncertainty about the identity of Elizabeth's murderer.

*Catherine Eddowes (used the aliases "Kate Conway" and "Mary Ann Kelly," from the surnames of her two common-law husbands, Thomas Conway and John Kelly), born 14 April 1842, killed Sunday 30 September 1888 (the same day as the previous victim, Elizabeth Stride). Her body was found in Mitre Square, in the City of London. The throat was, as in the former two cases, severed by two cuts; the abdomen was ripped open by a long, deep, jagged wound. The left kidney and the major part of the uterus had been removed. She was 46.

*Mary Jane Kelly (called herself "Marie Jeanette Kelly" after a trip to Paris; nickname, "Ginger"); reportedly born c. 1863 in the city of Limerick or in County Limerick, Munster, Ireland; killed Friday 9 November 1888. Her gruesomely mutilated body was discovered shortly after 10:45 A.M., lying on the bed in the single room where she lived at 13 Miller's Court, off Dorset Street, Spitalfields. Her throat had been severed down to the spine, and her abdomen virtually emptied of its organs. Her heart was missing. The crime location is now a service road for offices and an NCP car park. [ [http://www.whitechapelsociety.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=21&Itemid=28 Murder Sites ] ] She was about 25.

.Stewart Evans and Donald Rumbelow (2006) "Jack the Ripper: Scotland Yard Investigates"]

Except Stride, whose attack may have been interrupted, mutilations of the "canonical five" victims became increasingly severe as the series of murders proceeded. Nichols and Stride were not missing any organs; but Chapman's uterus was taken, and Eddowes had her uterus and a kidney carried away and her face mutilated. While only Kelly's heart was missing from her crime scene, many of her internal organs were removed and left in her room.

The "canonical five" murders were generally perpetrated in the dark of night, on or close to a weekend, in a secluded site to which the public could gain access, and on a pattern of dates either at the end of a month or a week or so after. Yet every case differed from this pattern in some manner. Besides the differences already mentioned, Eddowes was the only victim killed within the City of London, though close to the boundary between the City and the metropolis. Nichols was the only victim to be found on an open street, albeit a dark and deserted one. Many sources state that Chapman was killed after the sun had started to rise, though that was not the opinion of the police or the doctors who examined the body.Wolf Vanderlinden, [http://www.casebook.org/dissertations/rn-doubt.html "'Considerable Doubt' and the Death of Annie Chapman"] , "Ripper Notes" #22, ISBN 0975912933] Kelly's murder ended six weeks of inactivity for the murderer. (A week elapsed between the Nichols and Chapman murders; three between Chapman and the "double event".)

The large number of horrific attacks against women during this era adds some uncertainty as to exactly how many victims were killed by the same man. Most experts point to deep throat slashes, abdomenal and genital-area mutilation, removal of internal organs, and progressive facial mutilations as the distinctive features of Jack the Ripper's "modus operandi".

Other victims in the Whitechapel murder file

Six other Whitechapel murders were investigated by the Metropolitan Police at the time, two of which occurred before the "canonical five" and four after. Figures involved in the investigation and later authors have attributed some of these to Jack the Ripper.

These two murders occurred before the "canonical five":

*Emma Elizabeth Smith, born c. 1843, was attacked on Osborn Street, Whitechapel, on 3 April 1888; a blunt object was inserted into her vagina. She survived the attack and walked back to her lodging-house. Friends brought her to a hospital, where she told police that she was attacked by two or three men, one of whom was a teenager. She fell into a coma and died on 5 April 1888. According to Dr. G. H. Hillier, attending surgeon at the London Hospital, the injuries indicated use of great force, causing a rupture of the peritoneum and other internal organs and the penetration of the peritoneum, producing peritonitis, which he deemed the cause of death. [Stewart P. Evans & Keith Skinner, The Ultimate Jack The Ripper Sourcebook, pp. 4-7. (citing report by Inspr. Edmund Read, and articles on the Emma Smith inquest, in the Morning Advertiser 9 April 1888 and Lloyds Weekly 8 April 1888.)]

*Martha Tabram (name sometimes misspelled "Tabran"; maiden name, Martha White; alias, Emma Turner), born c. 7 May 1849, killed 7 August 1888. She had a total of 39 stab wounds. Of the non-canonical Whitechapel murders, Tabram is named most often as another possible Ripper victim, because of the evident lack of obvious motive, the geographic and periodic proximity to the canonical attacks, and the attack's remarkable savagery. The main difficulty in including Tabram is that the killer used a somewhat different method (stabbing, rather than slashing the throat and then cutting); but it is now accepted that a serial killer's method can change, sometimes quite dramatically. Her body was found at George Yard Buildings, George Yard, Whitechapel.

These four murders happened after the "canonical five":

*Rose Mylett (true name probably Catherine Mylett, but was also known as Catherine Millett, Elizabeth "Drunken Lizzie" Davis, "Fair" Alice Downey, or simply "Fair Clara"), born c. 1862 and died on 20 December 1888. She was reportedly strangled "by a cord drawn tightly round the neck," though some investigators believed that she had accidentally suffocated herself on the collar of her dress while in a drunken stupor. Her body was found in Clarke's Yard, High Street, Poplar.
*Alice McKenzie (nicknamed "Clay Pipe" Alice and sometimes used the alias Alice Bryant), a prostitute, born c. 1849 and killed on 17 July 1889. She reportedly died from "severance of the left carotid artery," but several minor bruises and cuts were found on the body. Her body was found in Castle Alley, Whitechapel. Police Commissioner James Monro initially believed this to be a Ripper murder and one of the pathologists examining the body, Doctor Bond, agreed, though later writers have been more circumspect. Evans and Rumbelow suggest that the unknown murderer tried to make it look like a Ripper killing to deflect suspicion from himself.

*"The Pinchin Street Torso" - a headless and legless torso of a woman found under a railway arch in Pinchin Street, Whitechapel on 10 September 1889. The mutilations were similar to the body which was the subject of the "The Whitehall Mystery," though in this case the hands were not severed. It seems probable that the murder had been committed elsewhere and that parts of the dismembered body were dumped at the crime scene. Speculation, at the time, that the remains were of Lydia Hart, a prostitute who had recently disappeared, was disproved when she was soon located in a local infirmary - where she was receiving medical treatment to cure the after effects of a "bit of a spree." The identity of the victim was never established. "The Whitehall Mystery" and "The Pinchin Street Murder" have been suggested to be part of a series of murders, called the "Thames Mysteries" or "Embankment Murders", committed by a single serial killer, dubbed the "Torso Killer." [ [http://www.casebook.org/dissertations/thames-torso-murders.html Gerard Spicer, "The Thames Torso Murders of 1887-89"] ] [ [http://www.casebook.org/ripper_media/book_reviews/non-fiction/castofthousands.elizabeth-jackson.html Jack the Ripper: A Cast of Thousands] ] Whether Jack the Ripper and the "Torso Killer" were the same person or separate serial killers active in the same area has long been debated. [R. Michael Gordon (2002), "The Thames Torso Murders of Victorian London," McFarland & Company ISBN 9780786413485] The Pinchin Street murder prompted a revival of interest in the Ripper - manifested in an illustration from "Puck" showing the Ripper, from behind, looking in a mirror at alternate reflections embodying current speculation as to whom he might be - a doctor, a cleric, a woman, a Jew, a bandit or a policeman.

*Frances Coles (also known as Frances Coleman, Frances Hawkins and nicknamed "Carrotty Nell"), born c. 1865 and killed on 13 February 1891. Minor wounds on the back of the head suggest that she was thrown violently to the ground before her throat was cut. Otherwise there were no mutilations to the body. Her body was found under a railway arch at Swallow Gardens, Whitechapel. A man named James Thomas Sadler, seen earlier with her, was arrested by the police and charged with her murder and was briefly thought to be the Ripper himself. However he was discharged from court due to lack of evidence on 3 March 1891. After this eleventh and last "Whitechapel Murder" the case was closed.

Other alleged Ripper victims

In addition to the eleven murders officially investigated by the Metropolitan Police as part of the Ripper investigation, various Ripper historians have at times suggested a number of other contemporary attacks as possibly being connected to the same serial killer. In some cases, the records are not clear if the murders had even occurred or if the stories were fabricated later as a part of Ripper lore.

"Fairy Fay," a nickname for an unknown murder victim allegedly found on 26 December 1887 with "a stake thrust through her abdomen." It has been suggested that "Fairy Fay" was a creation of the press based upon confusion of the details of the murder of Emma Elizabeth Smith with a separate non-fatal attack the previous Christmas.Stewart P. Evans & Nicholas Connell (2000), "The Man Who Hunted Jack the Ripper" ISBN 1902791053] The name of "Fairy Fay" was first used for this alleged victim in 1950. ["Reynold's News" 29 October 1950, in which Terrence Robinson dubs her Fairy Fay "for want of a better name"] There were no recorded murders in Whitechapel at or around Christmas 1886 or 1887, and later newspaper reports that included a Christmas 1887 killing conspicuously did not list the Smith murder. Most authors agree that "Fairy Fay" never existed.Paul Begg (2004) "Jack the Ripper: The Facts" 21-25 ISBN 1861056877]

Annie Millwood, born c. 1850, reportedly the victim of an attack on 25 February 1888. She was admitted to hospital with "numerous stabs in the legs and lower part of the body." She was discharged from hospital but died from apparently natural causes on 31 March 1888.

Ada Wilson, reportedly the victim of an attack on 28 March 1888, resulting in two stabs in the neck. She survived the attack.

"The Whitehall Mystery," a term coined for the headless torso of a woman found in the basement of the new Metropolitan Police headquarters being built in Whitehall on 2 October 1888. An arm belonging to the body had previously been discovered floating in the River Thames near Pimlico, and one of the legs was subsequently discovered buried near where the torso was found. The other limbs and head were never recovered and the body never identified.

Annie Farmer, born c. 1848, reportedly was the victim of an attack on 21 November 1888. She survived with only a superficial cut on her throat, apparently caused by a blunt knife. Police suspected that the wound was self-inflicted and did not investigate the case further.

Elizabeth Jackson, a prostitute whose various body parts were collected from the River Thames between 31 May and 25 June 1889. She was reportedly identified by scars she had had prior to her disappearance and apparent murder.

Carrie Brown (nicknamed "Shakespeare", [Her nickname is often, mistakenly given as "Old" Shakespeare, but recent research has shown that it was simply Shakespeare when she was alive, and the "Old" part got tacked on years later in a news report that was not using "old" as part of her nickname but as a general descriptor. Later sources mentioning Old are in error. See [http://www.casebook.org/press_reports/stevens_point_daily_journal/960428.html] ] reportedly for quoting William Shakespeare's sonnets), born c. 1835 and killed 24 April 1891, in Manhattan, New York City. She was strangled with clothing and then mutilated with a knife. Her body was found with a large tear through her groin area and superficial cuts on her legs and back. No organs were removed from the scene, though an ovary was found upon the bed. Whether it was purposely removed or unintentionally dislodged during the mutilation is unknown. At the time, the murder was compared to those in Whitechapel though the Metropolitan Police eventually ruled out any connection. Wolf Vanderlinden, "The New York Affair" "Ripper Notes" part one issue 16 (July 2003); part two #17 (January 2004), part three #19 (July 2004 ISBN 0975912909)]


The surviving Whitechapel Murders police files allow a quite detailed view of investigative procedure in Victorian times. A large team of policemen conducted house-to-house inquiries, lists of suspects were drawn up and many were interviewed, forensic material was collected and examined. A close reading of the investigation shows a basic process of identifying suspects, tracing them and deciding whether to examine them more closely or to cross them off the list. This is still the pattern of a major inquiry today. [David Canter: Criminal Shadows: Inside the Mind of the Serial Killer, p.12-13. ISBN 0 00 255215 9] The investigation was initially conducted by Whitechapel (H) Division C.I.D. headed by Detective Inspector Edmund Reid. After the Nichols murder, Detective Inspectors Frederick Abberline, Henry Moore, and Walter Andrews were sent from Central Office at Scotland Yard to assist. After the Eddowes murder, which occurred within the City of London, the City Police under Detective Inspector James McWilliam were also engaged. However overall direction of the murder enquiries was confused and hampered by the fact that the newly appointed head of the CID, Sir Robert Anderson, was on leave in Switzerland between 7 September and 15 October, during which time Chapman, Stride and Eddowes were killed. This prompted the Chief Commissioner of the Met., Sir Charles Warren, to appoint Superintendent Donald Swanson to co-ordinate the enquiry from Scotland Yard. Swanson's notes on the case survive and are a valuable record of the investigation

Due in part to dissatisfaction with the police effort, a group of volunteer citizens in London's East End called the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee also patrolled the streets of London looking for suspicious characters, petitioned the government to raise a reward for information about the killer, and hired private detectives to question witnesses separate from the police. The committee was led by George Lusk in 1888. Albert Bachert, in 1889, claimed to be in charge of that group or a similar group.

Writing on the wall

After the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes during the night of 30 September, police searched the area near the crime scenes in an effort to locate a suspect, witnesses or evidence. At about 3:00 a.m., Constable Alfred Long discovered a bloodstained piece of an apron in the stairwell of a tenement on Goulston Street. The cloth was later confirmed as being a part of the apron worn by Catherine Eddowes. There was writing in white chalk on the wall (or, in some accounts, the door jamb) above where the apron was found. Long reported that it read:

"The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing."
The writing is referred to by a number of authors as the "Goulston Street Graffito".L. Perry Curtis, Jr. (2001)" Jack the Ripper and the London Press" ISBN 0300088728] [John Douglas, Mark Olshaker (2000), "The Cases That Haunt Us" ISBN 0743212398] Detective Daniel Halse (City of London Police), arriving a short time later, took down the following version: "The Juwes are not the men that Will be Blamed for nothing." A 'copy' (according with Long's version) of the message was taken down and attached to a report from Chief Commissioner Sir Charles Warren to the Home Office. Police Superintendent Thomas Arnold visited the scene and saw the writing. Later, in his report of 6 November to the Home Office, he claimed, that with the strong feeling against the Jews already existing, the message might have become the means of causing a riot:

"I beg to report that on the morning of the 30th of September, last my attention was called to some writing on the wall of the entrance to some dwellings No. 108 Goulston Street, Whitechapel which consisted of the following words: 'The Juews are not [the word 'not' being deleted] the men that will not be blamed for nothing,' and knowing in consequence of suspicion having fallen upon a Jew named John Pizer alias 'Leather Apron,' having committed a murder in Hanbury Street a short time previously, a strong feeling existed against the Jews generally, and as the building upon which the writing was found was situated in the midst of a locality inhabited principally by that sect, I was apprehensive that if the writing were left it would be the means of causing a riot and therefore considered it desirable that it should be removed having in view the fact that it was in such a position that it would have been rubbed by persons passing in & out of the building." [Stewart P. Evans & Keith Skinner: The Ultimate Jack The Ripper Sourcebook, p. 213]

Since the Nichols murder, rumours had been circulating in the East End that the killings were the work of a Jew dubbed "Leather Apron." Religious tensions were already high, and there had already been many near-riots. Arnold ordered a man to be standing by with a sponge to erase the writing, while he consulted Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren. Covering it in order to allow time for a photographer to arrive was considered, but Arnold and Warren (who personally attended the scene) considered this to be too dangerous, and Warren later stated he "considered it desirable to obliterate the writing at once."

While the Goulston Street Graffito was found in Metropolitan Police territory, the apron piece was from a victim killed in the City of London, which has a separate police force. Some officers disagreed with Arnold and Warren's decision, especially those representing the City of London Police, who thought the writing constituted part of a crime scene and should at least be photographed before being erased, but it was wiped from the wall at approximately 5:30 a.m. Most contemporary police concluded that the text was a semi-literate attack on the area's Jewish population. Several possible explanations have been suggested as to the importance of this possible clue:

*According to historian Philip Sugden there are at least three permissible interpretations of this particular clue: "All three are feasible, not one capable of proof." The first is that the writing was not the work of the murderer at all. The apron piece was dropped by the writing, either by accident or design. The second would be to "take the murderer at his word" — a Jew incriminating himself and his people. The third interpretation was, according to Sugden, the one most favoured at the Scotland Yard and by "Old Jewry": The chalk message was a deliberate subterfuge, designed to incriminate the Jews and throw the police off the track of the real murderer. [Philip Sugden, "The Complete History of Jack The Ripper", p. 255]

"But suppose the killer happened to throw the apron, quite fortuitously, down by the existing piece of graffiti? In such a case we would be utterly wrong in according to the writing any significance whatsoever. Walter Dew was inclined to endorse this approach to the problem. (...) Constable Halse, on the other hand, saw it and thought it looked recent. And Chief Inspector Henry Moore and Sir Robert Anderson are both on record as having explicitly stated their belief that the message was written by the murderer." [Philip Sugden, "The Complete History of Jack The Ripper", p. 254]

*Author Martin Fido notes that the writing included a double negative, a common feature of Cockney speech. He suggests that the writing might be translated into standard English as "The Jews are men who will not take responsibility for anything" and that the message was written by someone who believed he or she had been wronged by one of the many Jewish merchants or tradesmen in the area.

* A contemporaneous explanation was offered by Robert Donston Stephenson (20 April 1841 – 9 October 1916), a journalist and writer known to be interested in the occult and black magic. In an article (signed 'One Who Thinks He Knows') in the "Pall Mall Gazette" of 1 December 1888, Stephenson concluded from the overall sentence construction, the double negative, the double designation "the Juwes are the men," and the highly unusual misspelling that the Ripper most probably was of French-speaking origin. ["Pall Mall Gazette", 1 December 1888 ( [http://www.casebook.org/press_reports/pall_mall_gazette/18881201.html Casebook Press Project copy] ).] This claim was disputed by a native French speaker in a letter to the editor of that same publication that ran on 6 December. ["Pall Mall Gazette", 6 December 1888 ( [http://www.casebook.org/press_reports/pall_mall_gazette/18881206.html Casebook Press Project copy] ).]

* Author Stephen Knight suggested that "Juwes" referred not to "Jews," but to Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum, the three killers of Hiram Abiff, a semi-legendary figure in Freemasonry, and furthermore, that the message was written by the killer (or killers) as part of a Masonic plot.Stephen Knight (1976)" Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution"] There is, however, no evidence that anyone prior to Knight had ever referred to those three figures by the term "Juwes."

An early instance of criminal profiling

After the acquittal of Daniel M'Naghten in 1843, and the establishment of the M'Naghten rules, physicians became increasingly involved in determining whether defendants in murder cases were suffering from 'mental illness'. And the growing importance of the medical sciences during the same period also led to an increasing involvement by pathologists in the investigative process. Their work further encompassed the treating of the perpetrators of crimes who were regarded as mad rather than bad - it is therefore not surprising that by the 1880s, medical officers thought it appropriate to offer opinions about the characteristics of an offender; the earliest of such opinions for which a copy still exists is that offered by the police surgeon Dr. Thomas Bond, in November, 1888, in a letter to Dr. Robert Anderson, head of the London CID, concerning the character of the "Whitechapel murderer". [David Canter: Criminal Shadows: Inside the Mind of the Serial Killer, p. 5-6. ISBN 0 00 255215 9] After the murder of Catherine Eddowes, Anderson requested Bond to give his opinion, as significant uncertainty had arisen about the amount of surgical skill and knowledge possessed by the murderer (or murderers). According to investigative psychologist David Canter Dr. Bond's proposals would probably be accepted as thoughtful and intelligent by police forces today. [David Canter: Criminal Shadows: Inside the Mind of the Serial Killer, p. 6. ISBN 0 00 255215 9] Bond based his assessment on his own examination of the most extensively mutilated victim and the post mortem notes from the four previous murders.

Dr. Bond was strongly opposed to the idea that the murderer would possess any kind of scientific or anatomical knowledge, or even the technical knowledge of a butcher or horse slaughterer. In Bond's opinion he must have been a man of solitary habits, subject to "periodical attacks of homicidal and erotic mania"; the character of the mutilations possibly indicating 'satyriasis'. Dr. Bond also stated that "the homicidal impulse may have developed from a revengeful or brooding condition of the mind, or that religious mania may have been the original disease".

Letters to the police

Over the course of the Ripper murders, the police and newspapers received many thousands of letters regarding the case. Some were from well-intentioned persons offering advice for catching the killer. The vast majority of these were deemed useless and subsequently ignored.Stewart Evans and Keith Skinner (2001) "Jack the Ripper: Letters from Hell"]

Perhaps more interesting were hundreds of letters which claimed to have been written by the killer himself. The vast majority of such letters are considered hoaxes. Many experts contend that none of them are genuine, but of the ones cited as perhaps genuine, either by period or modern authorities, three in particular are prominent:

* The "Dear Boss" letter, dated 25 September, postmarked and received 27 September 1888, by the Central News Agency, was forwarded to Scotland Yard on 29 September. Initially it was considered a hoax, but when Eddowes was found three days after the letter's postmark with one ear partially cut off, the letter's promise to "clip the ladys ["sic"] ears off" gained attention. Police published the letter on 1 October, hoping someone would recognise the handwriting, but nothing came of this effort. The name "Jack the Ripper" was first used in this letter and gained worldwide notoriety after its publication. Most of the letters that followed copied the tone of this one. After the murders, police officials contended the letter had been a hoax by a local journalist.

*The "Saucy Jacky" postcard, postmarked and received 1 October 1888, by the Central News Agency, had handwriting similar to the "Dear Boss" letter. It mentions that two victims — Stride and Eddowes — were killed very close to one another: "double event this time". It has been argued that the letter was mailed before the murders were publicised, making it unlikely that a crank would have such knowledge of the crime, though it was postmarked more than 24 hours after the killings took place, long after details were known by journalists and residents of the area. Police officials later claimed to have identified a specific journalist as the author of both this message and the earlier "Dear Boss" letter.

*The "From Hell" letter, also known as the "Lusk letter," postmarked 15 October and received by George Lusk of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee on 16 October 1888. Lusk opened a small box to discover half a human kidney, later said by a doctor to have been preserved in "spirits of wine" (ethanol). One of Eddowes' kidneys had been removed by the killer. The writer claimed that he had "fried and ate" the missing kidney half. There is some disagreement over the kidney: some contend it had belonged to Eddowes, while others argue it was "a macabre practical joke, and no more."cite journal |last= DiGrazia |first= Christopher-Michael |title= Another Look at the Lusk Kidney |journal= Ripper Notes |volume= |issue= |pages= |month= March | year = 2000 |url = http://www.casebook.org/dissertations/dst-cmdlusk.html |accessdate = 2008-09-16 ]

Some sources list another letter, dated 17 September 1888, as the first message to use the Jack the Ripper name. Most experts believe this was a modern fake inserted into police records in the 20th century, long after the killings took place. They note that the letter has neither an official police stamp verifying the date it was received nor the initials of the investigator who would have examined it if it were ever considered as potential evidence. It is also not mentioned in any surviving police document of the time.

Ongoing DNA tests on the still existing letters have yet to yield conclusive results. [http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,19165774-13762,00.html "Was it Jill the Ripper?" at News.com.au] ]


The Ripper murders mark an important watershed in modern British life. While not the first serial killer, Jack the Ripper's case was the first to create a worldwide media frenzy. Reforms to the Stamp Act in 1855 had enabled the publication of inexpensive newspapers with wider circulation. These mushroomed later in the Victorian era to include mass-circulation newspapers as cheap as a halfpenny, along with popular magazines such as the "Illustrated Police News", making the Ripper the beneficiary of previously unparalleled publicity. This, combined with the fact that no one was ever convicted of the murders, created a legend that cast a shadow over later serial killers.

Some believe that the killer's nickname was invented by newspapermen to make for a more interesting story that could sell more papers. This became standard media practice with examples such as the Boston Strangler, the Green River Killer, the Axeman of New Orleans, the Beltway Sniper, and the Hillside Strangler, besides the derivative Yorkshire Ripper almost a hundred years later and the unnamed perpetrator of the "Thames Nude Murders" of the 1960s, whom the press dubbed Jack the Stripper.

The poor of the East End had long been ignored by affluent society, but the nature of the murders and of the victims forcibly drew attention to their living conditions. This attention enabled social reformers of the time to finally gain the support of the "respectable classes." A letter from George Bernard Shaw to the "Star" newspaper commented sarcastically on these sudden concerns of the press:Stephen P. Ryder, "Public Reactions to Jack the Ripper: Letters to the Editor August - December 1888" (2006) ISBN 0975912976]


Many theories about the identity and profession of Jack the Ripper have been advanced. None have been entirely persuasive.

Jack the Ripper in popular culture

Jack the Ripper features in hundreds of works of fiction and non-fiction and works which straddle the boundaries between both fact and fiction: shading into legend. These latter include the Ripper letters, a purported Diary of the Ripper and specimens of poetry alleged to be from the Ripper's own hand. (The Diary has been discredited by experts, including Kenneth Rendell, who, in his analysis, pointed to factual contradictions, handwriting inconsistences, and anachronistic style.) [Kenneth W. Rendell. Forging History: The Detection of Fake Letters and Documents] The Ripper has appeared in novels, short stories, poetry, comic books, video games, songs, plays, films. He even has an 'heroic baritone' singing part in an opera: Lulu by Alban Berg. However, one prominent omission is that, unlike murderers of lesser fame, there is no waxwork figure of him in London's Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussauds, in accordance with Marie Tussaud's original policy of not modelling persons whose likeness is unknown. [Pauline Chapman (1984) "Madame Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors". London, Constable: 96]

To date more than 200 works of non-fiction have been published which deal exclusively with the Jack the Ripper murders, [ [http://www.casebook.org/ripper_media/book_reviews/non-fiction/ Casebook: Jack the Ripper's list of Ripper-specific non-fiction books] ] making it one of the most written-about true-crime subjects of the past century. Six periodicals about Jack the Ripper have been introduced since the early 1990s: "Ripperana" (1992-present), "Ripperologist" (1994-present, electronic format only since 2005), the "Whitechapel Journal" (1997–2000), "Ripper Notes" (1999-present), "Ripperoo" (2000–2003), and the "The Whitechapel Society 1888 Journal" (2005-present). [ [http://www.casebook.org/ripper_media/book_reviews/periodicals/ Casebook: Jack the Ripper list of Ripper periodicals] ]

At the time of the murders, a theatrical version of Robert Louis Stevenson's book "Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" was being performed. The subject matter of horrific murder in the London streets drew much attention, even leading the star of the show to be accused by some members of the public of being the Ripper himself, although this theory was never taken seriously by the police.Martin A. Danahay & Alex Chisholm, "Jekyll and Hyde Dramatized" (2005) ISBN 0786418702]

One of the more recent films in which the Ripper is a major antagonist is "From Hell" (2001) based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell and directed by the Hughes Brothers. The film's plot turns on Stephen Knight's theory that the murders were part of a conspiracy to conceal the birth of an illegitimate royal baby fathered by Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, offering Sir William Gull as the murderer.

The legend of the Ripper is still promoted in the East End of London with many guided tours of the murder sites.Donald Rumbelow (2004) "The Complete Jack the Ripper" ISBN 0140173951] The Ten Bells, a Victorian pub in Commercial Street that had been frequented by Jack the Ripper's victims, was the focus of such tours for many years. To capitalise on this business, the owners changed its name to the "Jack the Ripper" in the 1960s, but, following protests by feminists and others, the pub returned to its old name.William Taylor (2000) "This Bright Field: a Travel Book in One Place": 83-92]

In 2006, Jack the Ripper was selected by the "BBC History Magazine" and its readers as the worst Briton in history. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4663280.stm "Jack the Ripper is 'worst Briton'" at BBC News] ]

ee also

* Serial killer
* Peter Kürten (The Düsseldorf Ripper)
* Jack the Stripper
* Dennis Nilsen
* Joseph Vacher (The French Ripper)
* Yorkshire Ripper (Peter Sutcliffe)
* The Blackout Ripper (Gordon Cummins)
* Béla Kiss
* Servant Girl Annihilator
* List of serial killers by number of victims


Additional reading

* Begg, Paul. "Jack the Ripper: The Facts". Anova Books, 2006. ISBN 1-86105-687-7.
* Begg, Paul, Martin Fido and Keith Skinner. "The Jack the Ripper A-Z". Headline Book Publishing, 1996. ISBN 0-7472-5522-9.
* Curtis, Lewis Perry. "Jack The Ripper & The London Press". Yale University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-300-08872-8.
* Evans, Stewart P. and Donald Rumbelow. "Jack the Ripper: Scotland Yard Investigates". Sutton Publishing, Limited, 2006. ISBN 0-7509-4228-2.
* Evans, Stewart P. and Keith Skinner. "Jack the Ripper: Letters from Hell". Sutton, 2001. ISBN 0-7509-2549-3.
* Evans, Stewart P. and Keith Skinner. "The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook". Robinson, 2002. ISBN 0-7867-0768-2.
* Jakubowski, Maxim and Nathan Braund, editors. "The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper". Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1999. ISBN 0-7867-0626-0.
* Odell, Robin. "Ripperology". Kent State University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-87338-861-5.
* Rumbelow, Donald. "The Complete Jack the Ripper". Berkley Pub Group (Mm), (Revised edition 2005). ISBN 0-425-11869-X.
* Sugden, Philip. "The Complete History of Jack the Ripper". Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2002. ISBN 0-7867-0276-1.

External links

* [http://www.casebook.org/index.html Casebook: Jack the Ripper] has an extensive collection of contemporary newspaper reports related to the murders as well as articles by modern authors.
* [http://www.met.police.uk/history/ripper.htm The Metropolitan Police history of Jack the Ripper] discusses the investigation into the killings.
* [http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/site/podcasts/podcasts.php The History Channel Wesbite] has a two-part video podcast which forms a guided tour of the scenes of Jack the Ripper's crime, placing them in historical context. They are free to download or watch as streaming video.
* [http://www.museumindocklands.org.uk/English/EventsExhibitions/Special/JTR/ Information on the "Jack the Ripper and the East End" exhibit] at London's Museum in Docklands that runs 15 May - 2 November 2008.
* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/museum/item.asp?item_id=39 The National Archives - Jack the Ripper] holds images and transcripts of letters claiming to be from Jack the Ripper.
* [http://www.jack-the-ripper.org/ Jack the Ripper History] A site that looks at the history of the murders and puts them into the social context of the era in which they occurred.

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