The history of Jack the Ripper
Below is a brief history that we have put together for those who aren’t very familiar with the Jack the Ripper story. For more information, go on our tour!
In the early hours of Friday morning, August 31st 1888, a penniless prostitute was slaughtered in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel. Her name was Mary Ann Nichols. Her throat was severed deeply by two cuts, but it wasn’t until her body was taken to the mortuary that it was discovered that the lower part of the abdomen was partly ripped open by a deep, jagged wound.
With the death of this one woman began a reign of terror so horrifying that the world still remembers, it conjures up images of a bygone time, of gas-lit streets, fog ridden alleys and a hunt for a demon whose legend still lingers around the East end today…JACK THE RIPPER.
Just 8 days later he struck again, this time in the backyard of 29 Hanbury street. The victim’s name was Annie Chapman; her mutilated body was discovered at about 6:00 am. As in the case of Mary Ann Nichols, her throat was severed by two cuts. The abdomen was slashed entirely open, the entrails taken out and left on the shoulder of the corpse and it was later discovered that the uterus had been removed.
Panic gripped the east end of London; newspapers told of the ghastly murders and people started to live in fear. Who was this deranged maniac? When would he strike again? What drove his blood thirst rage?
On September 27th the killer was given a name; a letter received by the central news agency boasted of the killings and warned more were soon to follow. The letter was signed JACK THE RIPPER.
Now London had a name to go with the murders, like something out of a horror movie whispers of his name drew fear around the streets and taverns in Whitechapel. The letter proved to be chillingly accurate and within 3 days of the Central news receiving it, the Ripper struck again.
The 30th september 1888 became known as the Double Event, when the ripper struck not once but twice, in the same night. The first victim was a prostitute named Elizabeth Stride. Her body was discovered at about 1:00 am, in Dutfield’s Yard, off Berner Street in Whitechapel. The cause of death was one clear-cut incision which severed the main artery on the left side of the neck. Her clothes pushed up but no mutilations had occurred. It would appear the Ripper had been almost caught in the act and had fled into the night. However his blood lust still raged.
1 Hour later, less than a mile away in Mitre Square, police patrolman PC Edward Watkins entered Mitre Square on his usual beat. He had patrolled the square 15 mins before and all had been well. However, on his return he discovered the body of Catherine Eddowes, lying on her back in the corner of the Square. The throat was severed, and the abdomen was savagely ripped open by a long, deep, jagged wound. The intestines had been cut out and now lay beside the dead woman, her face sliced and cut. The left kidney and the major part of the uterus had been removed. Later one officer described the scene “like she’d been ripped up like a pig in the market.”
The killer left a clue nearby, part of Eddowes apron was found in a doorway of Goulston street and written in chalk above were the words “The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing”. What followed has had researchers puzzled for over a century. The Commissioner of the Metropolitin police Sir Charles Warren ordered the message rubbed out even though it would only take a few hours for enough daylight to photograph the wall. So adamant that the writing be removed, he came all the way down to the east end and rubbed it out himself. Later he voiced his concern that the message would start anti-Semitic riots in London but his actions have led to accusations of a cover up. Did Sir Charles destroy a harmless piece of graffiti unrelated to the crimes, or a genuine clue left by Jack the Ripper. Battered by a storm of criticism, Sir Charles resigned shortly afterwards.
Serious panic gripped the east end.
A large team of policemen conducted house-to-house inquiries throughout Whitechapel. Forensic material was collected and examined. Suspects were identified, traced and either examined more closely or eliminated from the inquiry. Over 2000 people were interviewed, “upwards of 300″ people were investigated, and 80 people were detained.
Volunteer citizens in London’s East End called the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee patrolled the streets looking for suspicious characters, petitioned the government to raise a reward for information about the killer, and hired private detectives to question witnesses independently.
Its chairman, Mr George Lusk received a parcel, inside a hand written letter and a half a human kidney, the letter read as follows.
I send you half the Kidney I took from one women prasarved
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 Mister Lusk
October passed peacefully and some breathed a sigh of relief hoping the Ripper had ceased his killing spree. The relief was short lived.
November 9th 1888 saw the bloodiest of all the Rippers crimes. A young Irish prostitute by the name of Mary Jane Kelly was found, in her own lodgings, lying on her bed. Her mutilations were the most horrific inflicted on any of the victims. The existing photograph really doesn’t show the sheer horror that must have been etched into all the police officers memories upon seeing such a sight. Somebody was later quoted as saying “It appeared to be the work of a devil”.
With Kelly’s death Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror ended as quickly as it had first began. For over 100 years following the events, writers and armchair detectives have struggled to finally put a name to the Whitechapel murderer, with each new year another new suspect gets thrown into the mix. A failed barrister, a polish Jew, a mad doctor, a royal prince, even a Jill the Ripper has been but a few of the ongoing suspects emerging in a never ending game of hunt the Ripper. One thing seems certain, whether Jack the Ripper was a doctor, butcher, slaughterman or barrister, his identity will remain forever hidden in the shadows of the Victorian night.