Halloween is approaching fast, so I thought a darker-than-usual article would be in order. It’s not often that this blog discusses topics that occurred post-18th century, but recently, Jack the Ripper has become a subject of fascination for me, especially since I read Patricia Cornwell’s book on the subject. Cornwell believes Jack can be identified as a renowned artist of the time, Walter Sickert, and she brings the forensics we now have the ability to test into focus, though I myself am skeptical. I doubt that Jack the Ripper’s identity will ever be uncovered. Most if not all forensic evidence we have is tainted after passing through so many hands that had no clue what DNA is. Either way, I’m making this article, not to attempt to crack open the case, but to write down my own thoughts and put the evidence under the microscope for those who have never studied Jack before and maybe give a good scare in the process. So lets see what we have, shall we?
WARNING: BEYOND THIS POINT IS GRAPHIC VIOLENT CONTENT. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
That moniker of Jack the Ripper was only born after a letter was sent to a newspaper office on 27 September 1888, dubbed the “Dear Boss Letter”. Before this date, he had been called either Leather Apron, or simply The Whitechapel Murderer. Five women, called the Canonical Five, are considered to be his victims, though the police file lists up to eleven murders. The Canonical Five all died in 1888 and are listed as follows:
Mary Ann Nichols – died 31 August
Annie Chapman – 8 September
Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes – both died 30 September
Mary Jane Kelly – 9 November.
The Ripper’s signature was to cut his victim’s throats and abdomens, however the attacks increased in terms of mutilation and savagery each time. In some cases, he disemboweled them and in three cases, took pieces of his victims with him (Chapman’s uterus had been removed, Eddowes lost a kidney, and Kelly’s heart was missing) Stride and Eddowes’ deaths are particularly notable because both were killed the same night and found only forty-five minutes apart. There were no mutilations on Stride’s body aside from the slashed throat, which led police to believe Jack was interrupted and sought out Eddowes to satisfy his bloodlust. Kelly, the final victim attributed to the Ripper, was so badly mutilated that the only way that police could identify her was because she was killed in her own home. He left only her hair untouched.
A monster like this doesn’t just stop killing. If Kelly was indeed his final victim, something happened to Jack after her murder in 1888, but what? The only way to stop a madman like that would be his imprisonment or death. Perhaps he even left the country entirely, but of course, it’s up for debate. The case is 130 years old now. We have no witnesses and police investigating at the time was hardly what it is today. There is no way to positively identify Jack at this stage, though the Whitechapel Murders file remains open.
Even looking at the Wikipedia page, the amount of people suspected to be Jack the Ripper is ridiculous. Everyone is listed from Lewis Carroll (author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) to the Duke of Clarence and Queen Victoria’s personal physician. What is for sure is this: Jack had to look average so as to blend in with the people around him; he needed an intimate knowledge of the Whitechapel area, as evidenced by the short timespan between Eddowes and Stride’s murders; he was strong, and we can tell this by the way he slashed his victim’s throats almost to the point of decapitation.
I believe Jack also had a profession that made it easy for him to get around all bloody and not attract attention – either that or he wore a long coat to his crime scenes, removing it during the murders and replacing it when he was done to cover up the blood he would have been covered in. I believe Jack was intelligent, taking advantage of the dark streets and maybe even letting his victims, who knew the streets of Whitechapel well as an occupational hazard, lead him to isolated places where it would be easy to slay them. Whoever he was, Jack will never be caught, even a century later. He proved his words “You never caught me and you never will” to be true.