One of the most infamous unsolved crime waves in history belongs to the individual known as Jack the Ripper. The perpetrator of the killings that occurred in East London in 1888 remains unknown to this day. The manner in which the killer mutilated his victims' bodies suggests that he possessed a significant understanding of human anatomy. Despite various speculations regarding the identity of the perpetrator who killed five women in the Whitechapel region of East London, the mystery remains unsolved and may never be resolved. Nevertheless, many new and compelling theories have been proposed in connection to this infamous case, even in recent times. However, the fundamental question that persists is: The identity of Jack the Ripper remains a puzzle.
The "Jack The Ripper" Murders Case
The Ripper killings took place in London, during 1888, primarily in the impoverished neighborhood of Whitechapel - with one of the murders extending beyond the boundaries into the City, the commercial center of London. The victims of the Ripper were:
1. Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols, Murdered on 31st Aug. 1888
2. Annie Chapman, Murdered on 8th Sept. 1888
3. Elizabeth Stride, Murdered on 30th Sept. 1888
4. Catherine Eddowes, Murdered on 30th Sept. 1888
5. Mary Jane Kelly, Murdered on 9th Nov. 1888
Most of the victims were female sex workers, and their throats had been cut. However, in contrast to the other victims, Mary Jane Kelly was killed inside a building, away from public view, and as such, the mutilations inflicted on her body were much more severe. The only victim who was not mutilated was Elizabeth Stride, and many experts believe that the perpetrator was interrupted during the crime.
The murders occurred at night on crowded streets, and while four of them happened in plain sight, no one saw the killer well enough to identify him or provide a detailed description. There was no apparent motive for the crimes, and the perpetrator was never brought to justice. Many writers throughout the 19th century and today have suggested that the killer had sexual deviance, particularly given that all the victims were sex workers and much of the physical mutilation focused on their abdominal regions.
The murder and mutilation of prostitutes struck a nerve in Victorian society, causing widespread fear in London. This was further fueled by a series of taunting letters sent to the Central News Agency and the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee between the "Double Event" on September 30th and Mary Kelly's death on November 9th, 1888.
One of the letters, referred to as "From Hell," claimed to contain half of the missing kidney of Catherine Eddowes, "The other half I fried and ate, it was very nice." Most of these letters are now believed to be hoaxes created by journalists, including the one in which the killer was given his notorious moniker. At the time, police had examined over 1000 letters, and the most notorious of them are: Dear Boss Letter, Saucy Jack Postcard, From Hell Letter, and Openshaw Letter.
Besides these correspondences, the only evidence left behind by the perpetrator was discovered on the night of the "Double Event," consisting of blood-soaked fragments of Eddowes' apron found in a back alley. It is speculated that the killer used the apron to clean his hands before discarding it. Additionally, an inscription written in chalk above the apron fragments, "The Juwes [presumably, Jews] are the men who will not be blamed for nothing," was also believed to have been written by the killer, but the reason for this is uncertain.
However, the inscription was erased before it could be properly documented, out of fear that it would cause public unrest, and given the prevalent anti-Semitism of the era, it is impossible to determine whether the phrase is specifically related to the Ripper murders
The situation became even more perplexing when the murders (likely) came to an end after the death of Mary Kelly, and the case became dormant. Though there were a few murders that bore similarities to the Ripper's style that briefly reignited fear in the years following, it is widely believed that the killer's mental instability was fully revealed in the Kelly murder and that he either killed himself, passed away naturally, or was institutionalized for other reasons.
Suspects And Theories
There have been numerous far-fetched claims made about the identity of Jack the Ripper, including suggestions that he was a homeless Jewish butcher, various middle-class medical students, or even the Heir to the British Empire. The theory that the killer was actually a woman, specifically a vengeful midwife dressed as a man, has also been proposed.
Another popular theory is that the killer had contracted syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease that causes brain damage in its final stages, and was seeking revenge. Another theory suggests that the five victims were all privy to a highly sensitive secret, possibly held by Kelly, and were killed by mysterious government agents to keep them from revealing it.
A wealthy cotton merchant named James Maybrick was also believed by some to be Jack the Ripper. However, Maybrick himself was murdered, poisoned by his wife using arsenic. In the 1990s, a diary purporting to be written by Maybrick confessed to the Ripper murders, but the author later admitted to having fabricated the diary.
Another highly debated theory, put forth by crime novelist Patricia Cornwell, implicates the well-known British painter Walter Richard Sickert as either the perpetrator of the killings or as being involved in a royal cover-up. Sickert was known for his paintings depicting lower-class Victorian life and was a member of the Camden Town Group of post-Impressionist artists in early 20th-century London. However, Cornwell's theory is widely criticized by Ripper experts as being based on preconceived conclusions rather than evidence.
Was Jack The Ripper An American Traveller?
One of the prevalent theories about the identity of Jack the Ripper is that the killer could have been one of the many American travelers who visited England during the late 1880s. This theory emerged during the time of the murders, and several Americans were suspected of being the Ripper, including:
Richard Mansfield was a prominent American actor, born on May 24th, 1857. He gained fame in 1887 when he took on the lead role in the play "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." In August 1888, he brought the production to London and performed at the renowned Lyceum Theatre in the West End. His portrayal of the dual character was so convincing that some women in the audience fainted and men were reportedly afraid to leave the theater alone.
Interestingly, the opening of the play coincided with the beginning of the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. A few days after the first performance, on August 7th, 1888, the body of Martha Tabram was discovered in Whitechapel's George Yard buildings. Though she is not considered one of the canonical five Ripper victims, she is thought to be a likely candidate.
As the investigation progressed, the police and public believed that the killer must have been a seemingly normal individual who transformed into a monster at night. The fact that the Ripper also mutilated his victims led many to believe that he had a medical background. The similarities between the fictional character of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the elusive Jack the Ripper were striking, and soon suspicions began to fall on Mansfield as fitting the profile of the killer. However, there was never enough evidence to prove that he was the actual perpetrator.
Doctor Francis J. Tumblety
Another infamous American suspect in the Jack the Ripper case was Doctor Francis J. Tumblety. He was a fraudulent physician from New York who made a living selling fake Indian herbal remedies and tonics. He had a reputation for being a pathological liar and an egomaniac. It was alleged that he held a deep-seated hatred towards women, particularly sex workers, and his whereabouts were often difficult to determine.
Tumblety's arrival in London from the United States coincided with the start of the Whitechapel murders, and he was arrested for committing acts of gross indecency. He was also believed to be a prime suspect in the Ripper killings. However, shortly after the final Ripper murder in November 1888, Tumblety fled the country and returned to America and was never seen again.
In recent years, H.H. Holmes, an American serial killer, has been proposed as a potential candidate for the identity of Jack the Ripper. Dr. Henry Howard Holmes is considered to be America's first serial killer, as he confessed to murdering over 27 people in his infamous "murder castle" hotel in Illinois during the late 19th century. Holmes used his hotel as a killing ground, filling it with traps and torture devices, where he would skin and dissect his victims.
Despite the apparent differences between Holmes and Jack the Ripper, both were cold and calculated in their approach, and almost methodical in their methods. Additionally, there is a similarity in the victims of the two killers. The final victim of Jack the Ripper, Mary Jane Kelly, was murdered and mutilated not on the streets, but in her own home, which suggests an escalation in the Ripper's motives, from a street killer to someone who targeted victims behind closed doors.
If Holmes was indeed the Ripper, the murder of Mary Kelly may have inspired him to take the next step and create his murder castle in Chicago, where he could continue his gruesome work uninterrupted. In 2018, Holmes' great-grandson discovered circumstantial evidence that could link his relative to the Jack the Ripper letters and it is possible that Holmes was in London at the right time to be the Whitechapel Ripper. If this is true, then it would put Holmes in a strong position as a potential candidate for the identity of Jack the Ripper.
Was Jack The Ripper A Slaughterman?
Many theories have been proposed about the identity of "Jack the Ripper". Due to the accuracy of his knife-wielding and the precise removal of certain organs, some believe he had surgical expertise. But, a recent analysis of a sketch of one of his victims has uncovered incisional methods that are not consistent with professional surgical training.
Inconsistencies can also be found in the language used in the only letter from Jack that is considered likely to be genuine. However, the methods he used to kill his victims and extract their organs are in line with those used in the slaughterhouses of that time.
During the 1880s, East London had a significant number of small-scale slaughterhouses with harsh conditions for both animals and workers. Contemporary sociological studies have shown a correlation between violence inflicted on animals and that inflicted on humans, as well as a higher likelihood of violent crimes in communities near slaughterhouses. Therefore, it is not improbable that "Jack the Ripper" could have been a slaughterhouse worker. Some believe he could be a Jewish slaughterman living in the vicinity of the murders.
Was There Any Connection Between The Whitechapel Ripper And The Lambeth Poisoner?
Dr. Thomas Neill Cream, also known as the Lambeth Poisoner, was a Scottish-Canadian serial killer who killed his victims by poisoning. He committed his first proven murders in the United States and the rest in Great Britain, and possibly others in Canada. On November 15, 1892, at his execution by hanging, his final words were "I am Jack the...", leading to speculation that he might have been the true identity of Jack the Ripper. However, official records indicate that he was in prison in Illinois during the time of the Ripper killings.
Jack The Ripper Was A Polish Barber!
A team of British scientists has proposed that the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper might have been a 23-year-old Polish barber named Aaron Kosminsky who was institutionalized at the same time the murders ceased. The researchers employed advanced DNA tests to connect Polish-born Aaron Kosminsky to a blood-stained shawl of one of the Ripper's victims. They assert that it is a "likely probability" that Kosminsky brutally murdered at least five women in the Whitechapel district.
Over a century has passed since the Whitechapel serial killings occurred in England in the late 19th century. Throughout this prolonged period, crime investigation techniques have progressed from handwriting analysis to footprints to fingerprints to DNA testing, yet the many speculations and theories about Jack the Ripper have cast this case into an unending abyss. It is possible that the case will never be resolved and the identity of Jack the Ripper will remain an unsolved mystery permanently.