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Home : Biography : Historical Figures
BIOGRAPHY : Historical Figures

 

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Jack The Ripper

To most of us Jack the Ripper is an infamous name, associated with brutal murders in the late 1800's. Jack the Ripper's murders appeared in the East End of London during a time a tremendous political and social turmoil (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). the East End had become a symbol of urban poverty (Haggard). the East End of London was filled with prostitutes, drunks, and the poorest people. Jack the Ripper chose prostitutes as his victims (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). the prostitutes he preyed upon were primarily over the age of forty and in a drunken state (Begg 32).

The killings took place in a one mile radius within the districts of Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Aldgate, and the City of London Proper (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). the horrendous killing spree heightened the prejudices of the Victorians against the East End and its population (Haggard). Jack the Ripper fed the flames of class hatred and distrust towards the end of the nineteenth century (Haggard). Jack the Ripper is one of the most studied serial killers because he was the first murderer to be published in newspapers, there is significant evidence about his gruesome murders, and his identity remains a mystery today.

Throughout the time the murders took place the police and newspapers were bombarded with letters from a writer claiming to be Jack the Ripper. the first letter to be signed Jack the Ripper was dated September 25 1888, and it was received September 27, 1888 by a news agency (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). On October 15, 1888, George Lusk, the president of Whitechapel Vigilance committee, received a letter entitled "From Hell" (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). Included in this letter was one half of a human kidney preserved in wine(http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). the letters popularized and greatly increased the killers fame (Haggard).

Jack the Ripper was an exhibitionist, intending to stir up panic by sending letters to the press and police (Abrahamsen 41). His correspondence was a mere cry for attention (Abrahamsen 43). the vast press coverage of the murders made this particular series of murders so popular (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). This was something the world had never known before. His popularity also increased due to the fact that he was the first noted serial killer to appear in such a large metropolis (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm).

The way in which the victims were murdered is far more gruesome than the descriptions given in the letters sent to the police and press. it is generally accepted that Jack the Ripper killed five prostitutes (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). Mary Ann (Polly) Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catharine Eddows, and Mary Jane (Marie Jeanette) Kelly are the five woman believed to have been killed by Jack the Ripper.

Mary Ann (Polly) Nichols was the first to be murdered. She was found dead at Bucks Row on Friday morning August 31, 1888 (Abrahamsen 3). She appeared to have been strangled, her throat was sliced and there was slight mutilation of her abdomen area (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm).

The second woman to be victimized by Jack the Ripper was a woman by the name of Annie Chapman. She was found on the September 8, 1888 at Hanbury Street (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). She was strangled, which prevented any form of screaming, and her throat was sliced almost to the spinal cord in her neck (Begg 59). Her abdomen had been cut open and the severed intestines were draped over her shoulder (Abrahamsen 60).

The next two murders are considered the "double murder," because they occurred on the same date. September 30, 1888 Elizabeth Stride was discovered on Berner's Street (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro/htm). She was strangled and her throat was cut just as the others before her, but there was nothing that could be construed as body mutilation (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). it is speculated that either Ripper was interrupted before he had a chance to completely finish the murder, or that this is not the work of Jack the Ripper (Begg 123). Catharine Eddowes' body was also found on this date. Her body was uncovered at Mitre Square, and again, she had also been strangled. Her throat was cut, and corpse was horribly mutilated in a way unlike the previous victims (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm).

The last of the five murders and the most horrid is that of Mary Jane (Marie Jeanette) Kelly, found on Friday November 9, 1888 (Abrahamsen 17). This was the only murder to have taken place in a room. Because of its complicated, almost surgical style, experts say that it must have taken over two hours to complete (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro/htm).

The body of Kelly was found lying on a bed. Her face was cut almost beyond recognition of her features (Begg 21). Her nose and ears were cut off, and the rest of the skin on her body was shredded enough to see bone (Abrahamsen 17). the surface of her abdomen and thighs were removed and the contents of the abdominal cavity was emptied (Begg 21). the viscera was found in various parts, the uterus and kidneys under the head, the liver between both feet, the intestines on the right side of the body, and the spleen on the left (Begg 24). Upon his arrival, policeman John McMarthy had this to say "it looked more like the work of the Devil than of a man. I had heard a great deal about the Whitechapel murders, but I declare to God I had never expected to see such a sight as this" (Begg 158).

Autopsies of all victims show that they were strangled, and this of course prevented any type of attention getting noise (Abrahamsen 74). Most of the physicians who performed the autopsies agree the killer had to have possessed some anatomical knowledge to perform the murders in the fashion he did (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). With each murder the severity of the mutilations increased (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm).

Aside from remaining famous for brutal murders, Jack the Ripper is a fascinating mystery for many simply because his identity is still unknown (Abrahmasen 20). Throughout the years there have been many proposed theories on the true identity of Jack the Ripper. the two most popular theories that still exist today are either, the killer was a religious fanatic intent on ridding the world of prostitution, or that he was a medical doctor (Haggard). the doctor is more widely accepted, simply because the method he chose to kill his victims resembles skills similar to that of a surgeon (Haggard).

In 1894 Sir Melville Macnaghten, the Chief Constable, comprised a list of the three most likely of suspects (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). the first suspect to be named by Macnaghten was Mr. M.J. Druitt (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/htm). Druitt was forty-one years of age and said to be a doctor and of a good family. it was later uncovered that he was on thirty-one years old and not a doctor. He killed himself nearly one month after the last murder (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). This theory is not one supported by any other police officer, and the information later gathered on Druitt lends to the belief that he is not the likeliest of suspects (http:/ripper./wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm).

Aaron Kosminiski is the name of the second suspect. He was a Polish Jew and a resident of Whitechapel (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). it was known that Kosminski held a strong hatred for women, especially prostitutes. This at first seemed the end of the case, but after careful research and further developments this was found inconclusive (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro/htm). Kosminski was found to be in an insane asylum with a docile personality. He was a harmless lunatic who heard voices in his head telling him to eat only food in the gutters (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm).

The last suspect on Macnaghten's list was a Russian doctor, Michael Ostrog (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). He was a convict, who afterward was detained in a mental institution. To many he appeared to be a possible suspect, and as police investigated, his whereabouts during the murders could never be determined with any degree of accuracy (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm).

The case investigation on Jack the Ripper officially closed in 1892, however in the last ten years new information has been discovered (http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). the latest suspect, which only became known to students of Jack the Ripper murders in 1993, is an American named Francis Tumblety (http;//ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm). Francis Tumblety was a homeopathic physician, born in Rochester, New York. He was a frequent visitor to London and passed himself off as a doctor in the United States as well as in Europe (Keens ).

He spent the year of 1888 in London, the same year as the murders (Keens 85). In November of 1888 he was charged with several accounts of sexual crime acts, including threatening and using violence against a prostitute (Keens 85). Many of Tumblety's American acquaintances described him as having a strong hatred of women (Keens 85). Gainey found two startling facts about Tumblety, "Someone referred to his wife as a prostitute, which probably explained why he loathed prostitutes. Later, there was talk about an anatomical collection of wombs he kept at his house" (Keens 85). Unfortunately after his arrest Tumblety jumped bail and fled to France and then the United States (Keens 85). After he left England there were no more murders that resembled those of Jack the Ripper's (Keens 85).

Jack the Ripper is one of the most famous criminals of all time. it is not that he was the first serial killer, but that he was the first to be made known to the general public. the letters sent to the police and newspapers, the grisly manner in which he killed his victims, and the still pending mystery of his true identity make him one of the most studied serial killers of all time. He was one of the first and one of the greatest serial killers. He is in more ways a romantic figure, like a character in a story. We hold on to his mystery and keep looking for the answers. Many say that the case will never be solved, but that just adds to its mystery.

 

Works Cited

Abrahamsen, David. Murder and Madness: the Secret Life of Jack the Ripper. New York: Donald I. Fine, 1992.

This particular source provided information on the victims, the case investigation, and insight into the mind of a criminal such as Jack the Ripper. There was detailed descriptions of each victim. Each of the five victims were described in detail. This book contained extensive information on possible suspects and theories.

Begg, Paul. Jack the Ripper: the Uncensored Facts. London, Eng. : British Library Cataloguing in Publishing Data, 1988.

This book gave considerable and specific information on the victims and the details of their murders. There was extreme detail in the personal lives of the five women. Each crime scene was described in depth. There was also information on the case itself, and the methods of police to name suspects.

Haggard, Robert F. "http://www.lib.virginia.edu/journals/EH/Eh35/haggard1/html" n.pag. World Wide Web 28 Feb 1997.

This source not only provided background information on Jack the Ripper, but on the society of the East End of London also. There are accounts of the conditions of the city and the population during the time of Jack the Ripper. There were three suspects named and information given on each.

"http://ripper.wildnet.co.uk/ripintro.htm"  n.pag. World Wide Web. 9 Mar 1997.

This Web site had much to offer about Jack the Ripper. I was able to get a six page introduction and summary of the entire case. I was also able to gather information on letters written be Jack the Ripper and Macnaghten's police reports, as well as a post mortem report on Mary Jane Kelly.

Keens, Lets, Cynthia Sanz. "Yankee Ripper." People Magazine 6 Nov 1995. 83+.

This magazine article from People Magazine goes into detail about a popular suspect, an American, Francis Tumblety. There is significant evidence to link him to the murders in 1888 London. He is a relatively new suspect in the Jack the Ripper case.



 

 



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