Saturday, October 15, 2005

Jack the Ripper Part 2

Let’s continue our look at the notorious Jack the Ripper…

Over the course of the Ripper murders, the police and newspapers received many thousands of letters regarding the case. Some were from well-intentioned persons offering advice for catching the killer; the vast majority of these were deemed useless and subsequently ignored.
Perhaps more interesting were hundreds of letters which claimed to have been written by the killer ("Jack the Ripper" was a nickname coined by one such writer); however, the vast majority of such letters are considered hoaxes. Many experts contend that none of them are genuine, but of the ones cited as perhaps genuine, either by contemporary or modern authorities, three in particular are prominent:

· The "Dear Boss" letter, dated September 25, postmarked and received September 27, 1888, by the Central News Agency, was forwarded to Scotland Yard on September 29. Initially it was considered a hoax, but when Eddowes was found with one ear severed, the letter's promise to "clip the ladys ears off" gained attention. Police published the letter on October 1, hoping someone would recognise the handwriting, but nothing came of this effort. The name "Jack the Ripper" was first used in this letter and gained worldwide notoriety after its publication. Most of the letters that followed copied the tone of this one. After the murders, police officials contended the letter was a hoax by a local journalist.

· The "Saucy Jack" postcard, postmarked and received October 1, 1888, by the Central News Agency, had handwriting similar to the "Dear Boss" letter. It mentions that two victims—Stride and Eddowes—were killed very close to one another: "double event this time." It has been argued that the letter was mailed before the murders were publicized, making it unlikely that a crank would have such knowledge of the crime, though it was postmarked more than 24 hours after the killings took place, long after details were known by journalists and residents of the area. Police officials later claimed to have identified a specific journalist as the author of both this message and the earlier "Dear Boss" letter.

· The "From Hell" letter, postmarked October 15 and received by George Lusk of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee on October 16, 1888. Lusk opened a small box to discover half a human kidney, later said by a doctor to have been preserved in "spirits of wine" (ethyl alcohol). One of Eddowes' kidneys had been removed by the killer, and a doctor determined the kidney sent to Lusk was "very similar to the one removed from Catherine Eddowes," though his findings were inconclusive. The writer claimed to have "fried and ate" the missing kidney half. There is some disagreement over the kidney: some contend it had belonged to Eddowes; others argue it was "a macabre practical joke, and no more."

Some sources list another letter, dated September 17, 1888, as the first message to use the Jack the Ripper name. Experts believe this was a modern fake inserted into police records in the 20th century long after the killings took place. They note that the letter has neither an official police stamp verifying the date it was received, nor the initials of the investigator who would have examined it if it were ever considered as potential evidence. Neither is it mentioned in any police document of the time, and some who have seen it claim that it was written with a ballpoint pen, which was not invented until some fifty years after the Ripper crimes.
After the "double event" of the early morning of September 30, police searched the area near the crime scenes in an effort to locate a suspect, witnesses or evidence. At about
3:00 a.m., Constable Alfred Long discovered a bloodstained scrap of cloth near a tenement on Goulston Street. The cloth was later confirmed as part of Eddowes' apron.
There was graffiti in white chalk on the wall above where the apron was found. Long reported the message as "The Juwes are the men That Will not be Blamed for nothing." Other police officers recalled a slightly different message: "The Juwes are not The men That Will be Blamed for nothing."
Police Superintendent Thomas Arnold visited the scene and saw the graffiti. He feared that with daybreak and the beginning of the day's business, the message would be widely seen and might worsen the general Anti-Semitic sentiments of the populace. Since the Nichols murder, rumors had been circulating in the
East End that the killings were the work of a Jew dubbed "Leather Apron". Religious tensions were already high, and there had already been many near-riots. Arnold ordered the graffiti erased from the wall.
While the graffiti was found in Metropolitan Police territory, the apron was from a victim killed in the City of
London, which had a separate police force.
Most contemporary police concluded that the graffiti was a semi-literate attack on the area's Jewish population. Author Martin Fido notes that graffiti makes use of double negatives, a common feature of Cockney speech. He suggests that the graffiti might be translated into standard English as "The Jews are men who will not take responsibility for anything" and that the message was written by someone who believed he or she had been wronged by one of the many Jewish merchants or tradesmen in the area.
Before detailing the investigation into the Jack the Ripper crimes, it is important to note that investigative techniques and awareness have progressed greatly since the crimes. Many valuable forensic science techniques taken for granted today were unknown to the Victorian-era Metropolitan Police. The concept and motives of serial killers were poorly understood. Police recognized a sexual motive or element to the attacks, but were otherwise thoroughly unfamiliar with such crimes.
The Ripper murders mark an important watershed in modern British life. While not the first serial killer, Jack the Ripper was the first to create a worldwide media frenzy around his killings. Repeal of the Stamp Act in 1855 had enabled the publication of inexpensive newspapers with wider circulation. These mushroomed later in the Victorian era to include mass-circulation newspapers as cheap as a halfpenny, along with popular magazines such as the Illustrated Police News, making the Ripper the beneficiary of previously unparalleled publicity. This, combined with the fact that no one was ever convicted of the murders, created a haunting mythology that cast a shadow over later serial killers.
Some believe the killer's nickname was invented by newspapermen to make for a more interesting story that could sell more papers. The moniker first appeared in a letter ostensibly written by the murderer which most experts now believe was a hoax by a journalist. This practice then became a standard all over the world with examples such as the Boston Strangler, the Green River Killer, the Axeman of New Orleans, the Beltway Sniper, the Hillside Strangler, and the Zodiac Killer, besides the derivative British Yorkshire Ripper almost a hundred years later, and the unnamed perpetrator of the "Thames Nude Murders" of the 1960s, whom the press dubbed Jack the Stripper.

We will continue and finish our look at the phenomenon that is Jack the Ripper in our final installment tomorrow. 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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