Jack the Ripper is the pseudonym of a serial killer who is credited with the murders of at least five women in London’s East End in the fall of 1888. The murderer was never caught, and his possible identity is still the subject of speculation today. Thus, numerous people are suspected by criminologists, historians, but also laymen. The events surrounding Jack the Ripper developed into a confusion of scientific and historical research, conspiracy theories and popular tales. Newspapers from all over the world, which had particularly high circulations at the time of the murders, continuously devoted extensive reportage to the suspected perpetrator, the murders, and the investigations and failures of the police.
The name Jack the Ripper comes from the so-called Dear Boss letter delivered to the Central News Agency in London on September 27, 1888, but its authenticity is disputed. The author of the letter posed as the murderer. It has been widely claimed that the name Jack the Ripper was put into the world by the newspapers. In addition to this most famous name, the suspected serial killer was also called Leather Apron and The Whitechapel Murderer.
In England, immigration and a high birth rate led to explosive population growth in the mid-19th century. In London, this led to environmental problems such as the Great Stink in 1858. While many Irish fled to England around 1850 due to the Great Famine in Ireland, large numbers of immigrants from Eastern Europe and Russia began arriving in 1882, settling in the same area of London, the London East End, due to the Jewish pogroms taking place in their homeland. The area around the port, especially what is now the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, was completely overpopulated. Jobs and housing were scarce. Many women earned their living through casual prostitution. Life took place on the streets, in pubs and in poorhouses, so-called common lodging houses. Poverty, alcohol and theft were part of everyday life. In October 1888, the Metropolitan Police Service suspected about 1,200 prostitutes and 62 brothels in Whitechapel alone.
The Whitechapel Murders refer to a series of eleven murders that occurred between April 3, 1888 and February 13, 1891 in Whitechapel and the adjacent neighborhoods of Poplar, Spitalfields, and the City of London. Despite the commonplace nature of crimes against women, they stood out particularly for their cruelty. The victims all lived in poor conditions and earned their living through prostitution and odd jobs. The vast majority of experts and researchers consider five murders, also called the “Canonical Five,” to be the act of a single person. Whether the remaining six people were also victims of this murderer or whether one or more other perpetrators were involved in the murders is disputed.
On the morning of April 3, 1888, Emma Elizabeth Smith returned to her George Street hostel, badly injured, where she was taken to the London Hospital by two acquaintances. Smith had been robbed and raped in Osborn Street, Whitechapel, according to her own account by two or three men, one of them younger. She sustained injuries to her ear and face, and a blunt object had also been thrust into her vagina, tearing her perineum as well. The following morning she died as a result of her injuries.
Martha Tabram was found murdered with 39 stitches at a stairway entrance in George Yard on the morning of August 7, 1888. The stitches were primarily in the torso area, with a focus on the breasts, abdomen, and lower abdomen. The victim’s posture and exposed abdomen indicated sexual activity, but this could not be confirmed by the examining physician. Because of the temporal proximity to the murders of the “Canonical Five” and the brutality of this act, Tabram is often counted among the victims of Jack the Ripper.
The Canonical Five are the Whitechapel murders that occurred between August 31 and November 9, 1888. An overwhelming majority of experts assume that they were committed by the same person.
On August 31, 1888, at about 3:40 a.m., Mary Ann Nichols was found dead on Buck’s Row (now Durward Street) in Whitechapel. Her throat had been cut. Cuts had been made in the groin area to open the abdomen and expose her intestines.
The body of Annie Chapman was discovered in the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields, on September 8, 1888. Her throat was cut with two incisions. The abdomen was completely opened and disemboweled. The intestines were over the right shoulder. It was later discovered that part of the abdominal wall and the entire uterus were missing.
Elizabeth Stride was murdered on September 30, 1888, on the night of the so-called Double Event. Her body was found at 1:00 a.m. in Dutfield’s Yard on Berner Street (now Henriques Street) in Whitechapel. Unlike Mary Ann Nichols and Annie Chapman, Stride was not further mutilated except for the cutting of her throat. Some sources assume that Stride was not one of Jack the Ripper’s victims due to the lack of abdominal opening. However, the time and place as well as the victim’s characteristics are consistent with the other murders. Sources who believe that Jack the Ripper was the killer believe that the killer was disturbed in his crime by the arrival of the waiter of an adjacent inn with a cart.
Just 44 minutes later, the body of Catherine Eddowes was found in Mitre Square, City of London, about a kilometer away. Her body was mutilated similarly to Annie Chapman’s. Half of the uterus and the left kidney were missing from the opened abdomen. Moreover, in addition to the cut throat, the face was also mutilated. After that, the Ripper probably fled back to Whitechapel, because part of Eddowes’ apron was later found in Goulston Street. Assuming that both were killed by one person, the killer may have completed on Catharine Eddowes what he could not perform on Elizabeth Stride because of the disturbance.
On November 9, 1888, at 10:45 a.m., Mary Jane Kelly’s body was discovered in her room at No. 13 Miller’s Court on Dorset Street. As with all of the “Canonical Five,” the throat had been cut. The face was badly mutilated, and the chest and abdomen had been cut open. Many internal organs had been removed and lay scattered about the room. Muscle flesh had been removed from various parts of the body. The heart was missing and either taken by the perpetrator or burned in the oven on site. The murder of Mary Jane Kelly differs from the other victims in that Kelly was much younger and she was murdered in her private quarters rather than in public. For this reason, some experts believe Mary Jane Kelly was not killed by Jack the Ripper. The majority of researchers, on the other hand, definitely see her as the victim of Jack the Ripper. Time and social class fit the picture. The fact that the mutilations got worse from murder to murder also supports this. Because of the extensive news coverage and the investigation by police and vigilantes, the killer may therefore have felt compelled to exercise caution and murder Mary Jane Kelly in a protected space, out of the public eye.
Mary Jane Kelly is generally considered to be the last victim of Jack the Ripper. The sudden end of the murder series is explained by the fact that the killer died, was imprisoned for other reasons, was committed to a mental institution or left the country. However, a few researchers also see the last four of the Whitechapel murders as acts of the Ripper.
On December 20, 1888, the body of Rose Mylett, who had been strangled, was found in a backyard in High Street, Poplar. As there were no signs of a struggle, the police initially assumed that she had self-inflicted her fatal injuries in drunkenness or committed suicide. However, after investigation, they were convinced it was a homicide.
Alice McKenzie, also known as Clay Pipe Alice or Alice Bryant, was killed on July 17, 1889. The cause of death was severing of the carotid artery. Stab wounds were also found in the abdominal wall.
The so-called Pinchin Street torso was discovered on September 10, 1889, in Pinchin Street, Whitechapel, under a railroad bridge. No other body parts were found. The identity of the victim is unknown, age was estimated at 30 to 40 years. There are conflicting assumptions about the cause of death. Police did not believe the cause of death was exsanguination or a throat cut because of the blood that remained in the body. The coroners, on the other hand, spoke of exsanguination as the cause of death because of the absence of blood in the fatty tissue and blood vessels. As early as October 1888, a similarly mutilated torso was found in the government district of Whitehall. The Pinchin Street torso differs from the other Whitechapel murders because of its completely different modus operandi.
On February 13, 1891, a woman’s body was found under a railroad overpass in Whitechapel, later identified as Frances Coles. Other than the slit throat, no other serious injuries were found. In connection with this murder, James Thomas Sadler, who was seen with Frances Coles shortly before the murder, was arrested and questioned a short time later. He was suspected for a while of being Jack the Ripper, but was released on March 3, 1891, for lack of evidence.
More murders and violent attacks
In individual cases, murders and assaults are also attributed to Jack the Ripper, which are not counted among the Whitechapel murders, as they were partly committed at other times and places, sometimes also outside the city of London, or show other circumstances of the crime.
Fairy Fay (Engl. “Fairy Fairy”) is the pseudonym of a supposed corpse found in Whitechapel on December 26, 1887, who allegedly had a stake driven into her abdomen. However, no body discoveries or murders were recorded in the period around Boxing Day of that year, so most experts doubt that Fairy Fay existed at all.
Annie Millwood was born around 1850. Reportedly a victim of an attack on February 25, 1888, she was hospitalized for “numerous stabs to the legs and lower part of the body.” She was released from the hospital but died of natural causes on March 31, 1888. Because of the close temporal connection between her injuries and her death, however, it can be assumed, given the medical possibilities of the time, that she succumbed to the consequences of her injuries.
Ada Wilson was reportedly a victim of an attack on March 28, 1888, in which she was stabbed twice in the neck. She survived the attack.
On October 2, 1888, the torso of a woman was found in the government district of Whitehall in the basement of Scotland Yard headquarters. A leg belonging to the body had been buried near the torso, and an arm of the body was also pulled from the Thames in the Pimlico district. Other limbs, as well as the head, were never found and the identity of the body has not been established. The body, known as the Whitehall Mystery, bears similarities to the Pinchin Street torso found in Whitechapel a year later. The majority assumes that this is another perpetrator who murdered at the same time as Jack the Ripper, this is also known in the literature as the Torso Killer.
In Bradford, county of West Yorkshire, on December 29, 1888, the body of seven-year-old John Gill was found. His legs were broken and his abdomen opened, the intestines were exposed. The corpse was also missing an ear and the heart. The boy’s injuries thus bore close resemblance to Mary Jane Kelly’s injuries, leading to the suggestion that Jack the Ripper may have killed John Gill. A person close to the boy was suspected and questioned, but released from custody for lack of evidence. The crime was never solved.
Carrie Brown was nicknamed Old Shakespeare. Supposedly, she had a habit of reciting Shakespeare’s sonnets while drunk. She was born around 1835 and was killed on April 24, 1891 in Manhattan, New York City. Carrie Brown was strangled with clothing and then mutilated with a knife. Her body was found with a large tear in her groin and superficial cuts on her legs and back. An ovary was found on her bed. However, no organs were taken. Whether the ovary was purposefully removed or fell out of the ripped body is unknown. When the murder was compared to the events in Whitechapel during this time, the London police ruled out any connection.
At the time of the Ripper murders, investigative techniques and intelligence were at a significantly lower level than today. Many forensic techniques were unknown or unavailable at that time. The concept and motivations of serial killers were poorly understood and known. Police at the time assumed sexual motivations on the part of the killer and were also unfamiliar with this type of crime. Based on the surviving investigation files, it is easy to understand how the police worked at the time. In the case of the Whitechapel murders, the police searched the houses surrounding the crime scenes in large groups and questioned over 2,000 people; over 300 of these were linked to the murders and 80 were arrested.
Initially, the Whitechapel Police Station was in charge of the investigation. After the murder of Mary Ann Nichols, inspectors from the Metropolitan Police Service headquarters were dispatched, including Frederick Abberline. Since Scotland Yard had no powers in the City of London, officers from the City of London Police were called in after the body of Catharine Eddowes was found. Eventually, Police Commissioner Charles Warren appointed Donald Swanson to head the investigation because the head of the Crime Investigation Division, Robert Anderson, was abroad at the time.
After sections of the East End population became dissatisfied with police work, they formed the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee under the leadership of George Lusk. This went on patrol by itself and hired private investigators to observe suspicious persons, and they also submitted petitions to the government on several occasions to obtain information about the police investigation.
Police initially focused their attention on interrogating and verifying the alibis of butchers, surgeons, and physicians whom they first suspected based on the killer’s actions.
Goulston Street Graffito
Following the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catharine Eddowes, known as the double event, on the night of September 30, 1888, Constable Alfred Long found a bloodstained piece of an apron in a stairwell of the building at 108-119 Goulston Street, located about 500 yards from Mitre Square and 800 yards from Berner Street, respectively. It was later discovered that this piece belonged to the apron worn by Catharine Eddowes on the night of the crime. A graffito had been written in white chalk on the wall above the piece of the apron.
According to Constable Long, the text read “The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing”. Constable Daniel Halse of the City of London Police, who later joined them at the site, claims to have read: “The Juwes are not the men that will be blamed for nothing”. A third statement comes from city surveyor William Foster, who stated that the text “The Juws are not the men to be blamed for nothing.” (German “The Juws are not the men to be blamed for nothing.”). The version of Alfred Long, which was passed on to the Home Office by Chief of Police Charles Warren, was decisive for the investigation.
After the murder of Mary Ann Nichols, rumors quickly grew in the East End that the murders were to have been committed by a Jew called Leather Apron, prompting anti-Semitic rallies. Superintendent Thomas Arnold, with Charles Warren’s permission, therefore ordered the graffito removed on the spot to prevent possible riots. It was therefore no longer possible to capture the graffito photographically. In his report of November 9, 1888, Arnold writes:
Whether the graffito was connected to the murders or was there by chance was and is disputed. While the head of the Whitechapel police station, Walter Dew, was convinced that the inscription was irrelevant to the investigation, Robert Anderson and Charles Warren saw it as the work of the murderer. Historian Philip Sugden sees three possibilities:
Author Martin Fido sees a double negative in the inscription and reads the graffito as “The Jews take no responsibility for anything” and concludes that the text was written by a person who may have felt cheated by a Jewish merchant in the area.
Stephen Knight, journalist and author, claims that Juwes is not associated with Jews, but refers to the murderers of Hiram Abif named Jubela, Jubelo, and Jubelum, derived from a Masonic allegory, and that the murderer, who also applied the graffito, acted on behalf of the Masons. However, there is no evidence that the term Juwes was ever associated with the Masonic legendary figures except by Knight. Nevertheless, this hypothesis has been used in various fictional adaptations, such as the graphic novel From Hell.
Another interpretation of the text was published in the Pall Mall Gazette on December 1, 1888. The journalist Robert D’Onston Stephenson concluded from the sentence structure, the incorrect spelling of the term Jews, and the double use of a definite article that it could have been a Frenchman. In his view, Juwes resembled the French juives. Stephenson excluded francophone Belgians and Swiss because, according to him, their peculiarity made such an act impossible, while in France murders of prostitutes had been practiced for a long time.
Finally, the investigator and author Travor Marriott claimed that the piece of the apron was not necessarily left by the murderer, also Catharine Eddowes herself could have torn it off the apron, used it as a sanitary towel and discarded it at the place of discovery. However, this assumption is considered implausible by the majority of researchers and experts.
At the end of October 1888, Robert Anderson, head of the crime investigation department at Scotland Yard, wondered whether the murderer must have had anatomical and surgical skills to be able to expose and remove organs. Therefore, he consulted surgeon Thomas Bond on the matter, who eventually produced the first known profile of the killer at the Canonical Five. Bond’s profile was based on his examination of Mary Jane Kelly’s body and the case files of the other four victims.
Bond further assumes that the killer did not necessarily have knowledge of anatomy and surgery nor knowledge of a butcher. Rather, the killer was a loner with “intermittent outbursts of destructive and sexual mania.” Due to the nature of the mutilations, an abnormal sexual drive could be assumed. Further, Bond said, it is likely that “the destructive drive” developed from a “vindictive or brooding state of mind.” Alternatively, a religious delusion is also conceivable as a trigger.
It cannot be proven that sexual contact between the killer and the victims took place. However, some psychologists assume that stabbing the victims and displaying the mutilated corpses in sexually degrading poses may have given the perpetrator sexual pleasure. Others, however, consider such hypotheses to be untenable speculation.
Profiler John E. Douglas sees Jack the Ripper as a person between the ages of 30 and 40 with an irrationally antisocial or moody demeanor who must have lived in the area surrounding the crime scenes.
In fact, little is known about the perpetrator. It was widely assumed that he had a detailed knowledge regarding the anatomy of the human body. However, on closer examination of his deeds, this was not a necessary prerequisite. Repeatedly, the Ripper was referred to as a Jew or a foreigner. Due to the fact that the neighborhoods in which the murders were committed were inhabited by a large number of immigrants and people of Jewish faith, this is a possibility, but it is much more likely that suspicions in this regard are based on prejudice, since strong anti-Jewish and racist tendencies were present in the population (see The Goulston Street Graffito). Christian Heermann wrote in his book “Der Würger von Notting Hill – Große Londoner Kriminalfälle”:
On the basis of contemporary witness statements, experts from the Metropolitan Police drew up a composite sketch of Jack the Ripper and a personal description in 2006. According to this, he was about 25-35 years old, wore a mustache and had a relatively high hairline. He would have been about 1.65-1.70 m tall.
The police files concerning the suspects are incomplete, almost the complete file inventory on this is lost. However, three suspects are known by name through the internal police Macnaghten memorandum, written by Melville Macnaghten on February 23, 1894, and another through a surviving correspondence between a police officer and a journalist. None of them were ever charged with the East End murders:
Aaron Kosminski was a Polish immigrant who lived in Whitechapel. Kosminski was mentally ill and was eventually committed to a mental institution; he has been considered one of the prime suspects for the Ripper murders since the late 19th century. On September 7, 2014, author Russell Edwards published in the British Daily Mail the results of a genetic analysis conducted by Jari Louhelainen. According to his interpretation, the genetic material he had obtained from sperm and blood traces of a neckerchief, a neckerchief that had been linked to the murder of Catherine Eddowes, had matched genetic samples taken from the maternal side of direct descendants of Catherine Eddowes and Aaron Kosminski. However, several DNA experts, including the father of genetic fingerprinting, Alec John Jeffreys, expressed serious doubts about the validity of these genetic analyses. Jari Louhelainen himself also admitted to having made methodological errors. There was also criticism that the findings were not published in a scientific journal, but in a daily newspaper. In March 2019, Jari Louhelainen finally also published his findings in a scientific journal and again argued that the DNA traces can be linked to Kosminski. In a commentary article in the journal Science, however, DNA experts immediately renewed criticism of the study’s methodology. According to them, the comparison of DNA samples based on the sequencing of mitochondrial DNA is only suitable for excluding the relationship of two persons, but not for proving kinship.
Montague John Druitt was a 31-year-old lawyer and teacher. He was considered homosexual, which largely rules him out as a suspect. He committed suicide in December 1888. His body was found in the Thames.
Michael Ostrog was a Russian doctor and former convict. In London, he was active as a thief and a peasant trapper, appearing under a variety of pseudonyms. He is believed to have been 55 years old in 1888. He was committed to a psychiatric hospital several times for attempted manslaughter.
Francis Tumblety, a 56-year-old Irishman, worked as a quack. While in London in November 1888, he was charged with obscene acts and imprisoned. After paying a large bail for his release, he fled England for the United States that same month and went into hiding. Here he was apparently wanted by the English police because of the Ripper murders. Tumblety was initially only one of many suspects at the time of the murders, but was favored by Chief Inspector John George Littlechild. Littlechild mentioned his suspicions in this regard in a September 23, 1913 letter to crime journalist and writer George R. Sims.
Another suspect was George Chapman, alias Severin Antonovich Kłosowski, who had emigrated from Poland to Great Britain. Chapman was sentenced to death in 1903 for one of three poison murders he committed and executed in Wandsworth prison.
Since the 1970s, people have repeatedly hypothesized that the German-born painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper. In 2002, the well-known U.S. crime writer Patricia Cornwell published an extensive book in which she tried to prove that Sickert was responsible for the serial murders in Whitechapel and many other murders. She based her claims on, among other things, comparisons of mitochondrial DNA and interpretations of Sickert’s paintings and sketches. However, the Sickert theory is rejected by most experts as well as by Scotland Yard.
Due to an obviously forged diary, the name of a James Maybrick from Liverpool came into discussion in 1993; in the meantime, experts regard the thesis that Maybrick was the Ripper as untenable, especially due to an analysis of the chemical composition of the ink used, which turned out to be modern. Subsequently, the “finder” of the diary admitted under oath that he had written it himself. However, he later recanted this statement.
In 2006, Australian scientists used the so-called Cell Track ID method to examine DNA samples taken in particular from the gummed backs of letters submitted to the police and newspapers and concluded, among other things, that the killer may have been a woman. During the time of the murders, the investigating police officer, Inspector Frederick Abberline, suspected Mary Pearcey, who killed her lover’s wife in a similar manner shortly after Jack the Ripper’s murders and was hanged for it. In 2012, Ripper researcher and former lawyer John Morris again took up the theory that the killer was a woman. Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Ann Williams allegedly committed the murders out of anger over her own infertility. As evidence of this, Morris lists that none of the victims were sexually assaulted and that three buttons from a woman’s boot were found in the pool of Catherine Eddowes’ blood. Further, a newspaper report stated that the personal belongings of the second victim, Annie Chapman, had been placed at the feet of the body “in a typically feminine manner.” The most important clue, however, was that Mary Jane Kelly was said to have been expecting a child by Lizzie’s husband. The series of murders also ended with her death in November 1888. Lizzie had suffered a nervous breakdown shortly thereafter. However, she was never questioned by the police until her death in 1912.
In addition to these official suspects on the part of the London police, a large number of other people were suspected by writers, historians and amateurs. Among these were prominent people such as Sir William Gull, Prince Albert Victor, the mathematician and poet Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), the physician and philanthropist Thomas John Barnardo, and other contemporary celebrities. Joseph Carey Merrick, known as the Elephant Man, was also baselessly accused by the popular mind. However, due to his disabilities, he could be ruled out as the perpetrator; he would not have been physically capable of the acts. There are also some conspiracy theories: The most popular is the one weaving a saga around a secret child of Queen Victoria’s grandson and the Freemasons. The presumptive heir to the throne, Prince Albert Victor, eldest son of the future King Edward VII and Duke of Clarence, has indeed been suspected for some time by Scotland Yard as the perpetrator, among other things because he was known as a regular brothel-goer.
On April 9, 2016, the ZDF-Info channel broadcast a documentary entitled Jack the Ripper – Myth on Trial, in which Swedish journalist Christer Holmgren argued that the perpetrator had to be a certain Charles Allen Lechmere (1849-1920), who also called himself Charles Allen Cross. Holmgren had been researching the Ripper case for more than 30 years. He argued that Lechmere lived in the area of the murders and that the crime scenes were either on his direct route to work at a slaughterhouse on Broad Street or near his mother’s house, which he visited occasionally; his occupation as a meat salesman had also served as a plausible explanation for bloodstains on his clothing. When Mary Ann Nichols’ body was found, Lechmere was the first person present, according to police records, under the name Charles Cross. According to Holmgren, however, he was alone at the scene with the victim for about nine minutes beforehand, during which time he committed the crime. He was then surprised by a passerby, whom he informed that he had just discovered the dead woman. At the time of the crime in 1888, Lechmere had never been considered a suspect.
During the course of the Ripper murders, police and newspapers received thousands of letters related to the case. Some were from people who, with good intentions, wanted to give advice on how to catch the killer. The majority of these were deemed useless.
Probably more interesting were hundreds of confessional letters claiming to have been written by the killer himself. The vast majority of these letters were considered hoaxes. Many experts believe that none of them were written by the Ripper himself. Using a new method of determining DNA samples, Australian scientists succeeded in proving that most of the letters were forgeries. Some of the letters considered possibly genuine by police at the time or today are the following three known ones:
The Dear Boss letter (German: Lieber oder sehr geehrter Chef)
The postcard Saucy Jacky (German cheeky or impudent jack) was postmarked October 1, 1888 and received by the Central News Agency the same day. It was handwritten and had similarities to the Dear Boss letter. With the phrase: “double event this time,” the author acknowledged the double murder of Stride and Eddowes on September 30, coining the term double event for the murders, which has endured in this setting to this day. There is a suggestion that the killer sent the postcard before he committed the crime, although it is believed that it was unlikely that anyone could have already had the relevant knowledge regarding the new crimes. Police officials later claimed they had identified a journalist as the sender of that postcard and the earlier Dear Boss letter, but his name was never released. Because Scotland Yard, the press, and others received many false reports, the authenticity of this letter is also strongly doubted. However, it contained information urgent enough to lead investigators to release a facsimile of the communication in the hope that someone might identify the handwriting.
The Letter From Hell, also known as the Lusk Letter, was postmarked October 15, 1888, and received by George Lusk, president of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, on October 16, 1888. The letter contained a box containing half a human kidney preserved in alcohol. An examination determined that the kidney must have come from someone who had suffered from Bright’s disease. The sender claimed to have fried and eaten the missing half of the kidney. In response to the letter, by the end of October, police had interviewed more than 2,000 people, opened more than 300 investigations, and made 80 arrests.
It is estimated that the police processed more than 1000 letters during this period, of which From Hell is one of the few that has been seriously checked for authenticity, however, the authenticity is still doubted because, among other things, the style and handwriting of Dear Boss and Saucy Jacky differ.
Some sources mention another letter dated September 17, 1888, which used the name Jack the Ripper as the first message. Experts believe that this is a modern forgery, inserted into police records in the 20th century, long after the murders. Reasons given for a forgery were that the letter did not bear an official police stamp with the date of receipt, nor the initials of the investigator, who must have examined the letter for its potential evidential value. Moreover, the letter was not mentioned in any police records during that time. In addition, some of those who have seen the letter claim that it was written with a ballpoint pen, which was not invented until 50 years after the Ripper murders.
The Ripper murders mark a crucial turning point in modern British life. Jack the Ripper was not the first serial killer, but he was the first around whose killings the media sparked a worldwide media frenzy.
Legislative reforms in 1855 made it possible to print inexpensive newspapers in large numbers. Popular magazines such as the Illustrated Police News gave the Ripper unprecedented publicity. The Whitechapel murders were also widely reported internationally.
Due to the media and the fact that no one was ever charged for the murders, a legendary hunt for the perpetrator was organized. Even in later times, serial killers were influenced by the widely known legends of Jack the Ripper. Conversely, the extreme mediatization of the Ripper case also influenced (supposed) knowledge about the perpetrator and the crime.
Some believe the killer’s nickname was invented by newspaper salesmen to make the story more interesting and sell more newspapers. This later became a common practice in the media, as illustrated by the examples of the Boston Strangler, Green River Killer, Axeman of New Orleans, Beltway Sniper, Hillside Stranglers, and the Zodiac Killer, as well as the British almost 100 years later examples of the Yorkshire Ripper and the unnamed perpetrator of the Thames Nude Murders in the 1960s. The perpetrator of the “Thames Nude Murders” was even dubbed Jack the Stripper by the press.
The poor in Eastend of London had long been ignored by the affluent society. However, the murders focused public attention on the living conditions of the victims and the lower class in general. Because of this increased attention, the social reformers of the time were now able to get the upper classes to listen and act.
The popularity and mystification of the case and the unsolved identity of Jack the Ripper led to a fictional treatment of the material in various media in the following years and decades. In the 1965 film Sherlock Holmes’ Greatest Case, in 1979’s Murder on the Thames, Michael Caine played Inspector Frederick Abberline in the 1988 Golden Globe Award-winning miniseries Jack the Ripper – The Monster of London. A horror film is Jack the Ripper – The Harlot Murderer of London from 1976, in which Klaus Kinski plays the fictional doctor Dennis Orlof, who turns into Jack the Ripper at night, as well as Ripper – Letters from Hell from 2001. From Hell (2001) with Johnny Depp as Abberline, on the other hand, is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore. In the DC universe, the immortal supervillain Vandal Savage was Jack the Ripper.
In addition to the film adaptation of the material, Jack the Ripper has also been referenced in two television series. In Whitechapel from 2009, a serial killer imitates Jack the Ripper’s modus operandi; among other things, the bodies are found in the familiar locations. In the series Ripper Street, which began airing in 2012, the plot picks up six months after the murders of the Canonical Five, when prostitutes are suddenly found dead once again. The murders bear the signature of Jack the Ripper. In addition to these series, Jack the Ripper is also addressed in individual episodes of other series, such as Starship Enterprise, Babylon 5, The Simpsons, Smallville, Vampire Diaries, Grimm or Forever. Various documentaries by the History Channel, the BBC and other production companies also deal with the subject. In the Japanese manga series Black Butler, Jack the Ripper also plays a major role, the last victim (in the series) was named Mary Kelly, as in reality. Also in the anime
Jack the Ripper can also be found on the theater stage, so there are several musicals, as well as an appearance at the end of the play The Pandora’s Box by Frank Wedekind and the opera Lulu by Alban Berg based on it. Well-known music groups such as Die Ärzte, Motörhead, Judas Priest, Iced Earth or singer Nick Cave dedicated one of their songs to Jack the Ripper, the deathcore
In addition to the graphic novel From Hell, various works appeared in the field of fiction. In addition to the pseudo-documentary book Who Was Jack the Ripper – Portrait of a Killer by Patricia Cornwell, Jack the Ripper was also discussed in the novels The Bloodline by Cody McFadyen and Horus by Wolfgang Hohlbein. Félix J. Palma embedded the murders in the plot of his 2010 novel The Map of Time.
Among the radio plays, the 1996 Südwestfunk production Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Murders deserves special mention. In the 2001 radio play Jack the Ripper – The Story of a Murderer, published by Lübbe-Audio, the story takes place from the point of view of the Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick, alias Jack the Ripper. The return of Jack the Ripper to the present is the subject of two radio plays in the Ghost Hunters John Sinclair series. The mystery audio drama series Die Schwarze Sonne by Günter Merlau also ties Jack the Ripper’s murders into one of its storylines. In the radio play Revelation 23 episode 21, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself is suspected of having been Jack the Ripper.
In addition, the character was also taken up in various computer games. The popularity of the serial killer seems to have inspired the developers of a C64 game as early as 1986 for the jokey title Jack the Nipper, which was even followed by a sequel a year later with Jack the Nipper II – Coconut Capers. In 1992, the adventure game Waxworks (Amiga
- Jack the Ripper
- Jack the Ripper
- Anne J. Kershen. The Immigrant Community of Whitechapel at the Time of the Jack the Ripper Murders, in Werner, S. 65–97; Laura Vaughan. Mapping the East End Labyrinth, in Werner, S. 225.
- Polizeibericht vom 25. Oktober 1888, MEPO 3/141. Zitiert u. a. bei Evans und Skinner, Sourcebook Seite 283 und Rumbelow Seite 12.
- ‘The Five’ by Hallie Rubenhold-a Rippercast Roundtable Review. 22. März 2020, abgerufen am 30. Dezember 2020 (englisch).
- Begg, Jack the Ripper: The Facts
- Kershen, Anne J., The Immigrant Community of Whitechapel at the Time of the Jack the Ripper Murders w: Werner, s. 65–97; Vaughan, Laura, Mapping the East End Labyrinth w: Werner, s. 225.
- Evans i Skinner, Jack the Ripper: Letters from Hell, s. 1; policyjny raport z 25 października 1888, MEPO 3/141 ff. 158–163, cytowany w Evans i Skinner, The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook, s. 283; Fido, s. 82; Rumbelow, s. 12.
- Begg, Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History, s. 131–149; Evans i Rumbelow, s. 38–42; Rumbelow, s. 21–22
- Marriott, John, The Imaginative Geography of the Whitechapel murders w: Werner, s. 31–63.
- Serial Killers: True Crime ISBN 978-0-7835-0001-0 p. 93
- Kershen, Anne J., “The Immigrant Community of Whitechapel at the Time of the Jack the Ripper Murders”, Werner, pp. 65–97; Vaughan, Laura, “Mapping the East End Labyrinth”, Werner, p. 225
- Evans e Skinner, Jack the Ripper: Letters from Hell, p. 1; Os relatórios da polícia são de 25 de outubro de 1888, MEPO 3/141 ff. 158–163, citado em Evans e Skinner, The Ultimate Jack the Ripper Sourcebook, p. 283; Fido, p. 82; Rumbelow, p. 12
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- (en) « the Whitechapel murderer had 5 victims—& 5 victims only »