Friday, October 14, 2005

Jack the Ripper Part 1

Today we begin a 3 part look at one of the most famous Serial Killers of all time, Jack the Ripper. Here is what i know...
Jack the Ripper
is by far the most notorious murder of all times. Jack the Ripper is the nom de plume given to the most infamous serial killer in history. The Ripper terrorized the Whitechapel district on the East side of London, England in 1888. This frightening period is often referred to as the "Autumn of Terror." The known murders took place from between August 31 to November 9, all in the same area. Jack was responsible for the deaths of at least five women, all of them prostitutes. Jack the Ripper was the first serial killer to gain high-profile media attention. He was never caught. Over 100 years later, people are still intrigued by his heinous crimes and are still offering suspects and theories as to who committed these ghastly murders. Although many have advanced theories claiming to have discovered the killer’s identity, Jack the Ripper’s identity may never be known.

Some one wrote that “The legends surrounding the Ripper murders have become a complex muddle of genuine historical research, freewheeling conspiracy theory and dubious folklore.” I whole heartedly agree. Not knowing who the killer was has allowed subsequent commentators, historians and amateur Ripperologists to point their fingers at a wide variety of candidates. Newspapers of the day, helped gain the killer widespread and enduring notoriety due to the savagery of the murders and the failure of police to solve the cimes.

Victims were women earning their living as prostitutes. Ripper murders were carried out in a public or semi-public locals; the victim's throat was always cut and the remains were subjected to abdominal and sometimes other mutilations. Investigators now believe that the victims were first strangled in order to silence them. Due to the nature of the wounds on some Ripper victims, it has been suggested that the killer had a degree of surgical or medical skill, or may even have been a butcher, although this point, like most of the beliefs about the killer and facts in the case, are in dispute.

The number and names of the Ripper's victims are the subject of much debate, but the most accepted list is referred to as the "canonical five." It includes the following five prostitutes in the East End of London:

  • Mary Ann Nichols, (maiden name Mary Ann Walker, nicknamed "Polly"), born on August 26, 1845, and killed on Friday, August 31, 1888.
  • Annie Chapman, (maiden name Eliza Ann Smith, nicknamed "Dark Annie"), born in September 1841 and killed on Saturday, September 8, 1888.
  • Elizabeth Stride, (maiden name Elisabeth Gustafsdotter, nicknamed "Long Liz"), born in Sweden on November 27, 1843, and killed on Sunday, September 30, 1888.
  • Catherine Eddowes, (used the aliases "Kate Conway" and "Mary Ann Kelly," from the surnames of her two common-law husbands Thomas Conway and John Kelly), born on April 14, 1842, and killed on Sunday, September 30, 1888.
  • Mary Jane Kelly, (called herself "Marie Jeanette Kelly" after a trip to Paris, nicknamed "Ginger") reportedly born in either the city of Limerick or County Limerick, Munster, Ireland ca. 1863 and killed on Friday, November 9, 1888.

The authenticity of this canonical list rests not only on a number of researchers' opinions, but also on notes made privately in 1894 by Sir Melville Macnaghten as Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police Service Criminal Investigation Department, papers which came to light in 1959. Macnaghten's papers in turn reflected only contemporary police opinions, while Macnaghten himself did not join the force until the year after the murders, and his papers contained errors of fact about possible suspects. For this and other reasons, some Ripperologists prefer to remove one or more names from this list of canonical victims: typically Stride (who had no mutilations beyond a cut throat and, if one witness can be believed, was attacked in public), and/or Kelly (who was younger than other victims, murdered indoors, and whose mutilations were far more extensive than the others). Others prefer to expand the list by citing Martha Tabram and others as possible victims.

Except for Stride, mutilations became continuously more severe as the series of murders proceeded. Nichols and Stride were not missing any organs, but Chapman's uterus was taken, and Eddowes had her uterus and a kidney carried away and was left with facial mutilations. While only Kelly's heart was missing from the crime scene, many of her internal organs were removed and left in her room.

The five canonical murders were generally perpetrated in darkness, within the small hours of the morning, on or close to a weekend, in a secluded site to which the public could gain access, within the borough of Whitechapel, and on a pattern of dates either at the end of a month or a week or so after. Yet every case differed from this pattern in some manner. Besides the differences already mentioned, Eddowes was the only victim killed within the City of London, though close to the boundary of Whitechapel. Nichols was the only victim to be found on an open street, however, dark and deserted. Chapman, found in a back yard, was alone in being killed almost certainly in daylight.

A major difficulty in identifying who was and was not a Ripper victim is the large number of horrific attacks against women during this era. Most experts point to deep throat slashes, mutilations to the victim's abdomen and genital area, removal of internal organs and progressive facial mutilations as the distinctive features of Jack the Ripper.

Victims of other contemporary and somewhat similar attacks and/or murders have also been suggested as additions to the list. Those victims are generally poorly documented. They include:

  • "Fairy Fay", reportedly a nickname for an unnamed murder victim found on December 26, 1887. The cause of death was given as "a stake thrust through her abdomen." It has been suggested that "Fairy Fay" was a creation of the press based upon confusion of the details of the murder of Emma Smith (see below) with the claims of a friend of Emma Elizabeth Smith (see below), interviewed after that murder, that she had been attacked the prior Christmas. The term "Fairy Fay" does not appear until many years after the murders, and it seems to have been taken from a verse of a popular song called "Polly Wolly Doodle" that starts "Fare thee well my fairy fay"
  • Annie Millwood, born ca. 1850 (approximate date), reportedly the victim of an attack on February 25, 1888, resulting in her hospitalisation for "numerous stabs in the legs and lower part of the body." She was released from hospital but died from apparently natural causes on March 31, 1888.
  • Ada Wilson, reportedly the victim of an attack on March 28, 1888, resulting in two stabs in the neck. She survived the attack.
  • Emma Elizabeth Smith, born ca. 1843 (approximate year). She was attacked on April 3, 1888, and a blunt object was inserted into her vagina, rupturing her perineum. She survived the attack and managed to walk back to her lodging house with the injuries. Friends brought her to a hospital where she told police that she was attacked by a gang of two or three, one of whom was a teenager. She fell into a coma and died on April 5, 1888.
  • Martha Tabram, (maiden name Martha White, name sometimes misspelled as Martha Tabran, used the alias Emma Turner), born on May 10, 1849, and killed on August 7, 1888. She had a total of 39 stab wounds. Of the non-canonical Whitechapel murders, Tabram is named most often as another possible Ripper victim.
  • "The Whitehall Mystery," term coined for the headless torso of a woman found in the basement of the new Metropolitan Police headquarters being built in Whitehall on October 2, 1888. An arm belonging to the body had previously been discovered floating in the Thames near Pimlico, and one of the legs was subsequently discovered buried near the spot where the torso was found. The other limbs and head were never recovered and the body never identified.
  • Annie Farmer, born in 1848, reportedly was the victim of an attack on November 21, 1888. She survived with only a light, though bleeding, cut on her throat. The wound was superficial and apparently caused by a blunt knife. Police suspected that the wound was self-inflicted and ceased to investigate her case.
  • Rose Mylett, (true name probably Catherine Mylett, but was also known as Catherine Millett, Elizabeth "Drunken Lizzie" Davis, "Fair" Alice Downey or simply "Fair Clara"), born in 1862 and died on December 20, 1888. She was reportedly strangled "by a cord drawn tightly round the neck," though some investigators believed that she had accidentally suffocated herself on the collar of her dress while in a drunken stupor.
  • Elizabeth Jackson, a prostitute whose various body parts were collected from the River Thames between May 31 and June 25 of 1889. She was reportedly identified by scars she had had previous to her disappearance and apparent murder.
  • Alice McKenzie (nick-named "Clay Pipe" Alice and used the alias Alice Bryant), born ca. 1849 and killed on July 17, 1889. The reason of death was reportedly the "severance of the left carotid artery" but several minor bruises and cuts were found on the body.
  • "The Pinchin Street Murder", a term coined after the finding of a torso similar in condition to "The Whitehall Mystery", though the hands were not severed, on September 10, 1889. An unconfirmed speculation of the time was that the body belonged to Lydia Hart, a prostitute who had disappeared. "The Whitehall Mystery" and "The Pinchin Street Murder" have often be suggested to be the works of the same killer, a serial killer. The nick-names "Torso Killer" or "Torso Murderer" has been suggested. Whether Jack the Ripper and the "Torso Killer" were the same person or separate serial killers of uncertain connection to each other (but active in the same area) has long been debated by Ripperologists. Elizabeth Jackson has also been suggested as another victim of the "Torso Killer".
  • Frances Coles, (also known as Frances Coleman, Frances Hawkins and nicknamed "Carrotty Nell"), born in 1865 and killed on February 13, 1891. Minor wounds on the back of the head suggest that she was thrown violently to the ground, and then her throat was cut. Otherwise there were no mutilations to the body.
  • Carrie Brown, (nicknamed "Shakespeare," allegedly because of her habit of reciting sonnets by William Shakespeare while drunk), born ca. 1835 and killed on April 24, 1891, in Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA. She was strangled with clothing and then mutilated with a knife. Her body was found with a large tear through her groin area and superficial cuts on her legs and back. No organs were taken, though an ovary was found upon the bed. Whether it was purposefully removed or fell out of the gap is unknown. At the time, the murder was compared to those that happened in Whitechapel, though apparently, London police eventually ruled out any connection.

See you tomorrow for part 2 of our look at this infamous serial killer. Jack the Ripper is just another in a long line of reasons that I invite you to keep an open mind and to keep walking in this big weird world of ours!

I’m Average Joe


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