Jack The Ripper Essay
Jack the Ripper is one of the most well-known serial killers of the ages. Although everyone knows the name, “Jack the Ripper,” nobody really knows of his true identity. When the murder victims were found the press and the detectives could never put a name with the crime.
Jack the Ripper is a mythic figure comparable with Frankenstein and Dracula. The Rippers first three murdered whores, in 1888, were believed to be by the same person. These murdered victims all seemed to occur around the Parish Church of Saint Mary, also called “the White Chapel.” (Fido…1)
“Jack the Ripper,” was the name given to an unidentified serial killer in the White Chapel district of London in 1888. The name came from a letter left at the crime scene, written by someone claiming to be the killer. The letter was believed to be a joke and thought to be written by a reporter in a deliberate attempt to heighten interest in the investigation.
It was said that Jack the Ripper would leave letters exclaiming him as the murderer. Sometimes the letters were put in poetic form, while others exclaimed in detail what he had done. The letters were neatly crafted and found pleasantly disturbing, but no one knew who they were from. Investigators and many others thought the reason for these letters was to scare or even play with the emotions of the victim’s family and friends. It is said that all the murders had a letter teasing the officers into outrage. (Fido…10)
One of the most famous letters, was the “From Hell,” letter. This letter was received by George Lusk of the White Chapel vigilance committee. The letter included half of a preserved kidney which Jack the Ripper had taken from one of his victims. (“Jack … i)
Jack’s main victims were typically female prostitutes from the slums whose throats were cut before abdominal mutilation. Investigators thought the reason for this was because nobody would really miss them to begin with. Newspaper coverage and widespread, enduring coverage of the Jack the Ripper case were strongly enforced. Even with all the coverage investigators could not connect anyone with the murders.
In 1888, over a time period of 10 weeks, Jack the Ripper walked the streets of East End. This is where he encountered and murdered several prostitutes between the hours of midnight and dawn. The victims’ bodies were thrown around like rag-dolls, laid out, cut throats, and their abdomens had been ripped open. This way of murder was sought to be very repetitive, giving the Ripper an almost instant notification sign. Nobody knows the exact number of women that were killed by Jack the Ripper. Though the investigators believe there were only five victims. Even with the investigators analysis, through the weeding process it is proven that there were only four victims of murder by Jack. (Evans… 21)
It was decided that the local police of the White Chapel area were not capable of catching Jack the Ripper alone. For this...
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Please select a question from the following list. If your question is not answered here, please feel free to email us.
Are there regular conferences held every year where enthusiasts can discuss the Ripper case in person?
Yes! Conferences are held every year in alternate locations - U.K. one year, U.S. the next. The next conference will be held in April 2004 in Baltimore, MD, U.S.A.. It will feature Colin Wilson, Donald Rumbelow, and many other well-known Ripperologists. More information is available at http://www.casebook.org/2004/.
Was Jack the Ripper real, or was it all a myth?
The Jack the Ripper murders did indeed take place between August and November 1888. The Ripper did exist, though over the years a great deal of myth and legend has grown up around the basic facts of the case. These myths have been perpetuated in books and movies for over a century now, to the point where they have all but enveloped the brutal reality of the original crimes. But the answer is yes, the Ripper did exist.
What is Jack the Ripper's real name? Do you have any photographs of him?
"Jack the Ripper" is the pseudonym given to the unknown killer of a number of prostitutes in the East End of London, 1888. Since the killer was never positively identified, we do not know who Jack the Ripper was, nor do we know for sure whether or not a photograph exists of him.
How many women did Jack the Ripper murder?
Since he was never caught, we can never know for sure how many women fell victim to the Ripper. The generally accepted number is five, though it could be as few as three and as many as seven. The canonical five victims are Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. Certain theorists have discarded Stride and Kelly from this list, while others have added to it, contending that Martha Tabram and Alice Mackenzie were likely Ripper victims as well. Other theorists have suggested as many as ten, fourteen or even up to thirty or more victims, but with very flimsy evidence.
Did the Ripper have sex with his victims?
Contemporary medical examinations on the Ripper's canonical victims reported that there was no evidence of "recent connexion" (a Victorian euphemism for sexual intercourse). Arguments have been made, however, that prostitutes commonly practised extra-vaginal sex as a means of birth control, and it is not quite clear whether 19th century medical examiners would have looked for evidence of such activity. So although we can not be absolutely certain that no sex of any kind took place, there is no absolutely no evidence to show that it did. In all likelihood the Ripper did not have sexual relations with his victims.
How did Jack the Ripper murder his victims?
The Ripper seemed to follow a fairly regimented modus operandi when dispatching his victims. In many cases there seems to be evidence of strangulation, followed by the severance of the carotid artery, which caused near-immediate death. Then he performed various abdominal/genital/facial mutilations, to varying degrees. On some victims there were only a few cuts and stab wounds, while others were mutilated beyond recognition.
None of his victims showed evidence of rape or sexual connexion, as the Victorians termed it.
Was the killer ever caught? Why or why not?
The Whitechapel murderer was never brought to justice. Some theories suggest that he was indeed captured by the police and thrown, anonymously, into an insane asylum. This would seem unlikely.
The truth is, Jack the Ripper was never caught or identified. The police at the time were ill-equipped to deal with a serial killer investigation. Prevailing opinion at the time suggested that only a raving maniac, someone literally foaming at the mouth, could have committed such bestial murders and so that became the focus of the investigation. Lunatics from all corners of London were rounded up and examined, but to no avail.
Judging from modern cases, we now know that serial killers tend to be outwardly normal, even personable, and they attract very little attention to themselves. Jack the Ripper could very well have held regular employment, and even had a wife and children. In all likelihood the true murderer was never suspected by friends, family or coworkers, because he did not fit the profile of the Victorian raving lunatic.
Police investigative procedures in 1888 did not include fingerprinting, blood-typing, fiber analysis, or any of the high-tech methods modern detectives have at their disposal. The detection of murder generally involved eyewitness accounts and dumb luck in many cases, if the killer wasnt caught red-handed at the scene of the crime, there was no way to connect him with the victim.
Was there a pattern to the victims?
There are several consistent patterns to be found among the Rippers victims. Most of them were between the ages of 39 and 47. They were locally resident in the East End, and most, if not all of them engaged in prostitution. Many of them were habitual drunks. They were all estranged from their husbands and families.
There are patterns as well in the dates and times of the murders. Every murder from Tabram to Kelly was commited on either a weekend or a holiday a strong indication that the killer held regular employment. The murders were committed between midnight and 6am, all in the general area surrounding Whitechapel. And the modus operandi was similar in all cases except Tabram and Stride.
Did the victims know each other?
Some theorists have suggested that the victims knew one another, though there is no evidence to support this idea. Although many of the victims did have lodgings, at various times, in the same small area of Whitechapel, it must be remembered that this district was wildly overcrowded with common lodgers literally hundreds would huddle together in a single house, two, three or four to a bed. The possibility of course exists that two or more of the victims knew each other, but we have no reason to suspect they did.
What was the killers motive?
Serial killers generally dont have a motive in the usual sense. They do not murder out of jealousy, revenge, or greed. They murder because they have an innate desire to do so. They get a thrill, oftentimes sexual, out of the act of murder or mutilation.
Can the study of modern-day serial killers offer any insight into the type of person Jack the Ripper might have been?
Profiling has fast become the buzz-word of the criminal detection industry. Some, like John Douglas, believe it is a reliable means of investigation. Others dispute this, however, claiming that such profiles rely too heavily on highly impractical generalizations.
If for the moment we assume that profiling is applicable to this case, then what might we learn about the killer?
He may have been locally resident in the Whitechapel area. Modern-day serial killers tend to hunt their victims on familiar ground. Often a killers first victim will be found closest to the assailants home or place of work a place where he felt comfortable and knew numerous routes for escape. All the Rippers victims were found either in Whitechapel, or within a short distance from the district within a range of approximately one square mile. This was the Rippers comfort zone.
Other evidentiary evidence supports this conclusion. On the night of 30 September 1888, the Ripper murdered Catherine Eddowes just inside the City of London boundary in Mitre Square, an area south-west of the Whitechapel district. Along with her kidney, he took with him a portion of his victims apron, which he apparently used to wipe his hands clean. The apron was discarded some time shortly after in Goulston Street, an area north-east of Mitre Square, indicating that after the crime the killer had traveled back into Whitechapel not away from it. If we assume that the killer was traveling back to his lodgings, or safe-area, then it is very likely that he lived in or around the Whitechapel district.
He was likely a white male between the ages of 20 and 35.. Modern serial killers usually fall into this age-range, and they are predominantly white males. Although witness accounts differ, the majority of the reports place suspected individuals in this general age-range.
He likely had regular employment. Because all the Rippers murders occurred on weekends and holidays, it seems likely that the Ripper had some form of regular employment which kept him off the streets on workdays.
He was likely soft-spoken and personable, and he drew very little attention to himself. One of the reasons serial killers are so difficult to catch is that they usually appear outwardly normal, even charismatic. Interviews with friends and neighbors of modern-day serial killers often result in similar responses: He was just a regular guy I would never have thought him capable of something like this Its this outwardly normal appearance that makes them so successful in their hunt for more victims. If the Ripper followed this pattern of outward normality, he was likely never suspected by his neighbors or by the police.
Were the murders ritualistic?
Some theorists have suggested that the Ripper murders indicate a sort of ritualistic behavior, perhaps indicative of an interest in black magic or the occult. Although anything is possible, there does not seem to be any ritualized pattern in the murders they were all most likely the result of chance and opportunity.
Stories have circulated about items rings, farthings, etc. being placed ritually at the feet of Annie Chapman, but this was an invention of the press. No rings and no farthings were found at the scene of the crime, only a piece of envelope, some muslin, and a broken comb.
Did Jack the Ripper have medical knowledge?
The idea that the Ripper may have had some level of medical knowledge is derived from the fact that, in some cases, certain organs were removed from the bodies of his victims. Some doctors believed they detected medical precision in his cuts others claimed he had no training whatsoever, not even that of a butcher.
There is no standard answer to this question, unfortunately. It would seem likely that the killer had at least some rudimentary understanding of anatomy, to have been able to remove both the uterus and a kidney in near pitch-black conditions. Whether that understanding came from a medical background, or from experience as a butcher, it is difficult to say for sure.
Did Jack the Ripper write taunting letters to the press and police?
One of the interesting phenomena of this case is the copious correspondence received by the press, police and even private citizens, from authors claiming to be Jack the Ripper. The name Jack the Ripper itself was derived from the signature on a letter sent to the Central News Agency, in which the author threatened to clip the ladys ears off during his next murder. When part of a victims earlobe was sliced through only three days later, the police had no choice but to consider the possibility that the letter was from the true killer.
Police officials later stated categorically that this letter termed the Dear Boss letter was a hoax perpetrated by an overzealous newspaper reporter, and most researchers tend to agree with that analysis. The letter was, however, published in every major newspaper in the early days of October 1888, and it began a veritable storm of hoax letters. In all, over six hundred letters were received by the press and police from people claiming to be The Ripper. Several individuals, including two women, were arrested and charged for hoaxing Ripper letters.
One letter, however, is more difficult to discard. It was received on 16 October 1888 by George Akin Lusk, president of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. The letter contained many spelling and grammatical errors, and was not signed Jack the Ripper. It was sent in a small, paper box, along with a portion of a human kidney. The most recent victim at that time was Catherine Eddowes, killed on 30 September and one of her kidneys was removed by the killer. Whether the kidney received by Lusk was indeed the one taken from Eddowes is impossible to tell. Some consider this letter to be from the true killer. Others contend that it was a prank pulled by a morbid medical student.
All in all the jury is still out on whether any of the Ripper letters were truly penned by the killer. The consensus among modern researchers is that the vast majority of the Ripper letters are hoaxes. Most consider all of them to be hoaxes.
Was Jack the Ripper part of a Royal conspiracy?
One of the most popular books ever written on the Ripper crimes was Stephen Knights Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution. It has gone through several editions, and is still in print today even though the basic premise of the book has been thoroughly invalidated by modern research. Knight suggested that the Ripper murders were part of a Freemasonic plot to intimidate and eliminate a group of East End women who were intent on blackmailing Prince Eddy, grandson of Queen Victoria and heir apparent to the throne. These women knew that Eddy had married a common Catholic girl, secretly, and had sired a child by her. If news of this unsanctioned marriage were to spread to the general public, the line of succession would have been jeopardized and anarchy would rule the day. So, the theory goes, the Queens physician, Sir William Gull, hatched a plot to ritually slaughter each of these East End women according to the ancient rites of Freemasonry in order to save the monarchy.
Of course, not a word of this is true.
Prince Eddy was in all likelihood a homosexual, who would have had little interest in marrying a Catholic girl. Sir William Gull, on the other hand, was 72 at the time and had recently suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed down one side of his body. There is no evidence to suggest a royal marriage, let alone a child, nor do the mutilations performed by the Ripper adhere to any specific Freemasonic code.
In all likelihood, there was no Royal conspiracy involved in the Jack the Ripper murders.
Was Jack the Ripper a member of the Royal family?
Soon after the Royal conspiracy theory began making the rounds, other authors began to wonder if Prince Eddy himself might have been the Ripper. These theories also have no evidence to support them indeed, there is ample evidence that proves Eddy was in various other parts of the United Kingdom on the nights of several of the Ripper murders.
Less-publicized theories suggest that the Prince of Wales might have been the killer, but again, there is no evidence to support this.
Is the Diary of Jack the Ripper real?
In the early 1990s, a diary surfaced which was signed Jack the Ripper. Internal evidence showed that the diarys author was obviously James Maybrick, a Liverpool cotton merchant, and himself the subject of a famous 1889 murder trial. Although three books have been written about the diary, supporting Maybrick as the Ripper, the vast majority of serious researchers dismiss the whole thing as a patent hoax. Michael Barrett, who first brought the diary to light in 1993, has since confessed on numerous occasions to having forged it. These confessions were later retracted, but the fact remains that there are serious problems in the provenance of the document. Whether it is a modern hoax, or an old hoax that was only recently brought to light, remains unclear but no, in all probability, the diary is not real.
Did Patricia Cornwell solve the case? Was Walter Sickert really Jack the Ripper?
Without a doubt the most highly-publicized Ripper book to come out in recent years has been Patricia Cornwells Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed. Cornwell claims to have found DNA evidence linking Walter Sickert to a small number of Ripper letters. Her book rapidly climbed the best-seller lists and was the subject of numerous radio and television programmes around the world.
Unfortunately, as we mentioned above, the Ripper correspondence is almost certainly not from Jack the Ripper. Although a handful of letters the Dear Boss and From Hell letters, for example are believed by some researchers to have been real, no DNA matches were found to these items. Instead, DNA matches or, more appropriately, similar mtDNA sequences were found on lesser-known Ripper letters which were never considered by the police to be from the true killer.
In the end, Cornwell may have found evidence to suggest that Walter Sickert hoaxed one or more Ripper letters but the fact remains that Sickert was in France on the nights of at least four of the five canonical Ripper murders. He was not Jack the Ripper.
More information on Cornwell's research and findings can be found in our article, Patricia Cornwell and Walter Sickert: A Primer.
How many books have been published on the subject of Jack the Ripper?
As of the current date of writing, there are 114 non-fiction books written entirely on the subject of Jack the Ripper. This number grows by at least a half-dozen new titles each year. The vast majority of these books were published since 1970. There are hundreds of other fictional treatments that either involve the Ripper, or are based on the Ripper crimes.
Which books do you recommend for someone new to the case?
We always recommend Sugden's The Complete History of Jack the Ripper as the single best book yet written on the case. It is, however, quite sizeable, and someone looking for a "lighter" read might do well with either Rumbelow's The Complete Jack the Ripper or Paul Begg's Jack the Ripper: The Uncensored Facts. For a more complete listing of Ripper-related books, see our Book Reviews section.
I'm doing a school report on Jack the Ripper, please send me everything you have on him. Oh, and please hurry, its due tomorrow!
We always encourage students of all levels to come to us with questions about the case, but please, be specific! We will not write your paper for you, but if there is a specific aspect of the case which is troubling you, please feel free to ask. Apart from that, you should find plenty of information on the Casebook itself, and there are always people willing to help on our message boards.
Is there a Casebook mailing list? Is it free? How do I join?
Yes, we maintain a regular mailing list, through which we make announcements on the latest Ripper news, additions to the site, new book/television releases, etc. It is absolutely fee. You can sign up here.
I have written an article, poem, or short story based on the Jack the Ripper case. Can I have it published on the Casebook?
Absolutely! We are always looking for new material to add to the site, particularly on the Dissertations and Original Ripper Fiction pages. E-mail Stephen P. Ryder for more information.
I've heard there are a number of periodicals devoted to the Ripper case. Which one(s) do you recommend and where do I write for more information?
There are currently four publications devoted to the Ripper case; Ripperana, Ripperologist, Ripperoo and Ripper Notes. Our highest recommendation (though each publication has much to offer) goes to Ripperologist, the newsletter of the Cloak and Dagger Club. You can write to the following addresses for further information:
The Cloak & Dagger Club
c/o Coral Kelly
71 Penwortham Road
Greenford, Middlesex UB6 8RJ
Casebook Productions, Inc.
ATTN: Ripper Notes
c/o Christopher T. George
3800 Canterbury Rd, Apt 3E
Baltimore, MD 21218
The Australian Cloak & Dagger Club
P.O. Box 823
I am interested in taking one of the "Ripper Walks" offered in London. Which ones do you recommend and where do I write for more information?
We do not recommend any specific Ripper Walks (the most rewarding walk, in our opinion, is the one you do yourself with a copy of The Jack the Ripper A to Z in hand!), but the Cloak and Dagger Club have set up a useful list of many of the available companies, along with contact information.
I'm working on an article and am interested in using materials found on your website. Is this a problem? How do I credit the Casebook properly?
We heartily encourage you to use the Casebook as a source for your work. We ask only that you provide the proper citation(s) in the following form:
Ryder, Stephen P. (Ed.). "Page Title in Quotes." Casebook: Jack the Ripper.
Accessed: 13 March 2003. <http://www.casebook.org>
Individual citations may be found by clicking the "info" (magnifying glass) button at the top right of each page.
Why did you create a site which glamorizes a serial killer? You sicken me.
The Casebook does not intend to glamorize these murders. Our intention is to provide a complete and accurate historical look at the reality behind the myth, and to provide useful resources for those who wish to perform serious research on the case. Please read our mission statement for a more detailed explanation of our philosophy.
Exactly how large is Casebook: Jack the Ripper?
The largest Ripper book ever published weighs in at around 800 pages total, with less than two dozen illustrations. Casebook: Jack the Ripper, if published in book form, would currently fill more than 8,900 pages of text, not including our more than 450 photographs and illustrations.
Was Mary Kelly pregnant at the time of her death?
No. Some contemporary press reports speculated that Mary Kelly might have been pregnant when she was murdered, and this canard was picked up by 20th century authors in the 1960s and onwards. When a series of documents, including Mary Kelly's official post-mortem, were returned anonymously to Scotland Yard in 1988, there was no mention whatsoever of any pregnancy, and its not a detail that would have been overlooked. So we can put this one to rest - Mary Kelly was not pregnant when she was murdered by Jack the Ripper.
How common was murder in Whitechapel?
Some researchers have claimed that murder was a fairly uncommon occurence in Whitechapel, but statistically-speaking, this may not be entirely accurate. You can read more about the statistics of murder in Whitechapel in Alex Chisholm's article Statistical Shortfalls: Loane's 1887 Report in Review.