Many theories about the identity of Jack the Ripper have been advanced. None is entirely persuasive, and some can hardly be taken seriously at all. Following is a somewhat comprehensive list…
The following suspects were named by one or more police officials or ripperologists as possibly being Jack the Ripper, this list is by no means complete and I have only listed several of the suspects that I find most interesting.
- Montague John Druitt - Having received a degree as a lawyer, he occasionally practiced his occupation while he was more permanently employed as a private school teacher from 1881 until
November 21, 1888. He was also known as a sportsman and was an amateur cricket player. Under unknown circumstances, he last attended the school in Blackheath on November 19, 1888, and was officially dismissed two days later. His body was found floating in the River Thames on December 31, 1888. The examination suggested his body was kept at the bottom of the river for several weeks by stones placed in his pockets. The police concluded that he committed suicide by drowning under a state of depression, although he was known as a good swimmer. His disappearance and death shortly after the fifth and last canonical murder led some of the investigators of the time to suggest he was the Ripper, putting an end to the series of murders. More recently some have expressed doubts if he committed suicide or was himself murdered. Recent research shows that between the Kelly murder and his death he had been involved as legal representation in a court case and, according to the judge, argued his side well. Some people suggest that this counters the notion that Druitt had broken down mentally after the Kelly murder.
- "Dr." Francis Tumblety - Seemingly uneducated or self-educated American, he earned a small fortune posing as an expert doctor throughout the
and USA and occasionally traveling across Canada Europeas well. Perceived as a misogynist, he was connected to the deaths of some of his patients, though it is uncertain if this was deliberate or not. Francis was in in 1888. He was arrested on England November 7, 1888, "on charges of gross indecency", apparently for engaging in homosexual practices. He was released on bail on November 16, 1888. Awaiting trial, he instead fled the country for on France November 24, 1888. It has been suggested that he could have been released in time for the murder of Mary Jane Kelly (on November 9) and be arrested again after it. Notorious in the for his scams, news of his arrest led some to suggest he was the Ripper. Whether he was a killer or an eccentric regarded with unjust suspicion is a matter of debate. United States
- William Henry Bury - Having recently relocated to
from Scotland , he murdered his wife Ellen Elliot, a former prostitute, on London February 10, 1889. He first strangled his wife and then inflicted deep wounds to the abdomen of her deceased body. Some people believe these wounds were similar to ones inflicted upon Martha Tabram and Mary Ann Nichols. Reporting the murder to the local police, Bury failed to convince them that he was innocent of the crime and had only found the body. He was hanged in , for the murder of his wife. Dundee, Scotland
- Dr. Thomas Neill Cream – A Doctor secretly specializing in abortions. He was born in
, educated in Scotland , active in London and later in Canada . In 1881 he was found to be responsible for the death, by poisoning, of several of his patients of both sexes. Originally there was no suspicion of murder in these cases, but Thomas himself demanded an examination of the bodies. This was apparently an attempt to draw attention to himself. Imprisoned in the Illinois State Penitentiary, located in Chicago, Illinois, USA , he was released on Joliet, Illinois July 31, 1891, on good behavior. Relocating to , he resumed his murderous activities and was arrested. He was hanged on London November 15, 1892. According to some sources, his last words were reported as being "I am Jack...", interpreted to mean Jack the Ripper, but the words were muffled by a hood. Experts note that this whole incident may be nothing more than a story invented at a later date, as police officials who attended the execution made no mention of this alleged interrupted confession. He was reportedly still imprisoned at the time of the murders, but some authors have suggested that he could have bribed officials and left the prison before his official release, or that he left a look-alike to serve the prison term in his place. Neither notion is seen as very likely by most authorities.
- Dr. Robert D´Onston Stephenson - Known to be interested in the occult and black magic, he took an early and strong interest in the case. He is the author of many articles and letters concerning the case. His interest was enough at the time for him to be added to the list of suspects. Although he was examined as such, today he tends to be seen as the first amateur Ripperologist.
- Joseph Barnett - a one-time fish porter. He was victim Mary Jane Kelly's lover from
April 8, 1887, to October 30, 1888, when they quarreled and broke up. He visited her daily afterwards, reportedly trying to reconcile. There are suspicions that he was denied. He was proposed as a suspect for her murder as a scorned lover, although some people attribute the other murders to him as well. His accounts about what Kelly is said to have told him about her life constitute most of what is known of her. The validity of both her statements and his reports have been questioned.
- David Cohen - A Polish Jew whose incarceration at Colney Hatch asylum roughly coincided with the end of the murders. Described as violently antisocial, the poor
East Endlocal has been suggested as a suspect by author and Ripperologist Martin Fido in his book The Crimes, Detection and Death of Jack the Ripper (1987). Fido claims that the name 'David Cohen' was used at the time to refer to immigrant Jews who either could not be positively identified or whose names were too difficult for police to spell, in the same fashion that 'John Doe' is used today. This has been disputed by other authors. Fido speculated that Cohen's true identity was Nathan Kaminsky, a bootmaker living in Whitechapel who had been treated at one time for syphilis and who allegedly vanished at the same time that Cohen was admitted. Fido and others believe that police officials confused the name Kaminsky with Kosminski, resulting in the wrong man coming under suspicion (see Aaron Kosminski above). While at the asylum, Cohen exhibited violent, destructive tendencies that would today likely be linked to schizophrenia, and had to be restrained. He died at the asylum in October of 1889. Former FBI criminal profiler John Douglas, in his book The Cases That Haunt Us (2000), has asserted that behavioral clues gathered from the murders as well as linguistic hints from the "From Hell" letter (the only one he considers authentic) all point to Cohen, "or someone very much like him."
- Lewis Carroll (pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) - Named as a suspect based upon anagrams author Richard Wallace devised for his book Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend, which is not generally taken seriously by other scholars.
- Sir William Withey Gull - Physician-in-extraordinary to Queen
. He was named as the Ripper as part of the evolution of the widely disputed Royal Conspiracy theory. Thanks to the popularity of this theory among fiction writers for its dramatic nature, Gull shows up as the Ripper in a number of books and movies. Victoria
- James Kelly (no known relation to the Ripper victim). Having murdered his wife in 1883 by stabbing her in the neck, he was convicted of the crime. Considered insane, he was transferred to a mental asylum, from which he escaped in 1888. The police searched for him unsuccessfully during the period of the murders, but he had apparently disappeared with no trace. He unexpectedly re-appeared in 1927, turning himself in. He died in 1929. His whereabouts and activities at the time of the murders remain unknown.
- Dr. Alexander Pedachenko - Supposedly an agent of the Secret Police of Imperial Russia, he was sent to commit the murders in order to discredit the English authorities. Later unable to stop himself from committing further murders, he was arrested and ended his days in a mental asylum. Evidence of his connection to the Ripper case was then uncovered. At least that is one account for this suspect found in 1928. There is no confirmed evidence that Pedachenko ever existed
- James Kenneth Stephen – A poet and tutor to Prince Albert Victor ("Eddy"), Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Perceived as a misogynist, he suffered from serious physical and mental problems after an accident occurring during the winter of 1886/1887. His poems are seen as having a sense of morbidity in them, but there is nothing to indicate that this came from personal experience as a murderer. He was brought to the attention of Ripperologists mainly through his connection to Prince Eddy.
- Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence (known to friends and family as Eddy). He has been named in a number of books as either the killer or the person whom others killed for as part of a cover up for his alleged misdeeds. These theories are considered preposterous by reputable historians and discounted by most Ripperologists.
- Sir John Williams, a friend of Queen Victoria and obstetrician to her daughter Princess Beatrice, was accused of the Ripper crimes in a 2005 book, Uncle Jack, written by one of the surgeon's descendants, Tony Williams. The author claims to have records, including parts of a diary, showing that the victims all knew the doctor personally and were killed and mutilated in an attempt to research the causes of infertility.
Perhaps one of the craziest theories put forth was that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. He advanced theories involving a female murderer dubbed Jill the Ripper. Supporters of this theory believe that the female murderer worked or posed as a midwife. She could be seen with bloody clothes without attracting unwanted attention and suspicion, and would be more easily trusted by the victims than a man. A suspect suggested as fitting this profile was Mary Pearcey, who in October 1890, killed her lover's wife and child, though there is no indication she was ever a midwife.
One thing about Jack the Ripper is sure, whoever he (or she) was their acts and infamous nom de plume have become a part of modern culture. The Ripper often pops up in books, TV Shows, theater and films. In fact, Jack the Ripper has been featured in a number of works of fiction, either as the central character or in a more peripheral role. Among the films which take him as a subject are A Study in Terror (1965) and Murder By Decree (1978), both of which feature Sherlock Holmes attempting to find the murderer; Monty Berman and Robert S. Baker's Jack the Ripper (1959), loosely based on Leonard Matters' theory that the Ripper was an avenging doctor; the Hammer Horror Hands of the Ripper (1971), in which the Ripper's daughter grows up to become a murderer after she sees her father murder her mother; From Hell and Time After Time, in which the author H. G. Wells builds an actual time machine that the Ripper uses to continue his killing spree in a future San Francisco while being pursued by Wells. 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 Joeemail: OurWeirdWorld@gmail.com