Throughout history there have been a lot of murderers. However, to me, the name of one murderer stands out. The name of one of the most infamous killers in history. Infamous because no one knows who he really was. Infamous for the brutality of his kills. Infamous for disappearing without a trace.
Over the next couple of months, I wish to share with you what I know about this mysterious killer, starting today with an introduction to the case and an overview of what it is that makes people curious when they read up on it.
It was 1888, in the London district of Whitechapel. On the 31st August, the news of the first killing came. The killing of Mary Ann Nichols. By the time the police got to the scene, the killer had already disappeared and they were left with no idea of who it was. On the 8th of September, another woman was killed. This time it was Annie Chapman. Again, the police were left with no idea of who they were facing. Instead the killer left only Annie’s mutilated corpse – throat slit, body cut by a knife and head and neck swollen.
Then, on the 27th of September, the ‘Dear Boss’ letter was given to the Central News Agency of London. Though now this letter is widely believed to have been a hoax, the receiving of this letter was the moment when this legendary man was given a name. Jack the Ripper.
Three days later, there came two more killings. That of Elizabeth Stride was less brutal than the others. However the person who had the misfortune to discover the corpse of Catherine Eddowes possibly never slept again. Her killing was the most brutal of the four, up to the 30th September. The killer tore her apart, leaving her innards lying across the road.
After that, there seemed to be hope for Whitechapel. The killer stopped killing, disappearing again into the shadows. However, it was during this time that the chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, Mr George Lusk, received a small parcel through the post. This parcel contained half a kidney and the ‘From Hell’ letter. This letter is, at least to ripperologists, the most famous of all of the Ripper’s letters.
The hope that the people were starting to feel was ripped from them on the 9th of November. In the early hours of the morning, the body of Mary Kelly was found torn apart in her bed. More brutal than the death of Eddowes, and therefore the most brutal of the Whitechapel Murders, this killing signalled the last of Jack the Ripper, as after that, he disappeared forever.
I first came across this case when I was studying GCSE History, three years ago. To this day, it remains to be one of the most fascinating things I have ever studied. I hope you can see why. There are not many cases of history post 1500 that we know absolutely nothing about. That is precisely what we know about Jack. Nothing. We can speculate (and many people have), and some may claim that they can make an intelligent guess, but in the end there just isn’t enough evidence to know.
As has already been written, Jack is infamous because he left no evidence at the crime scenes. This makes him a better criminal than most modern killers. So many other questions surround him as well. Who was he? Where did he come from? Where did he go? Why did he kill those five women? How could he escape after killing as brutally as he did?
One thing is for certain. Never before have I seen someone instil so much curiosity into people. Type Jack the Ripper into the Internet Movie Database. There are thirty-five hits from all over the globe. That is only IMDb. Try YouTube. Eight thousand, four hundred and forty hits. Historians still try to figure out who he was. The police are still asked how he got away. He inspires authors and filmmakers alike to imagine the truth behind the legend and put it down on paper or on screen, only for that action to increase the obscurity of the story.
Personally, I don’t get why historians still try to figure out just who Jack the Ripper was. Can’t they see what they mystery is doing? Jack’s story has become one of the best in history, leaving people everywhere wanting to know what actually happened. Why can it not just be a story? Don’t you think that, at least in terms of what he has achieved in giving the world something to think about, that is the least Jack deserves?
So – what do I want you to take from my next eBook, ‘Without A Trace’? The more subtle meanings I hope you discover for yourself, but I sincerely hope that the book inspires you to go and find the sources on this legend and look at them. I hope you can ask your own questions. I hope you can form your own opinion on what actually happened and who Jack the Ripper really was. I hope you can feel the same rush of curiosity that I feel when I look at this case.
I hope you will join me for my second ‘JTR’ blog on the 15th April to learn more about who the main suspects in this case were.
NB: This is an internet source that I found incredibly useful when I was researching for Without A Trace. It is a full database of information on the Whitechapel Murders.