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
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
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
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 interupted 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
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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