A brand new Jack the Ripper conference will be held in the U.S. this April after an
Does this sound enticing to you? If you like true crime, Jack the Ripper, Victorian
The base hotel for RipperCon, the Mt Vernon Baltimore Hotel, was originally built as
Here is the schedule for RipperCon, April 8-10 in Baltimore:
Friday, April 8
9:00 am to 12:00 noon. Registration at the Mt Vernon Baltimore Hotel;
thereafter, registration at Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) France Hall.
1:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Talks in France Hall, MdHS –
1:00 pm. Introduction & Welcome by M/C’s Robert Anderson & Ally Ryder
1:05 pm. Martin Fido, “Ripperology and Anti-Semitism”
2:00 pm. David Sterritt, “The Ripper, the Lodger, Hitchcock’s Existential Outsider”
3:00 pm. Mikita Brottman, “The Yorkshire Ripper”
4:00 pm. Bruce Goldfarb, “Nutshell Studies of Unexpected Death“
5:00 pm. Michael Hawley, “Dr. Francis Tumblety - Amongst the Best Suspects”
6:30 pm. Gathering at the Mt Vernon Baltimore Hotel.
Saturday, April 9 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Talks in France Hall, MdHS –9:00 am. Charles Tumosa, ”The Forensic Time Machine: Looking Backward“10:00 am. Panel on Jack the Ripper Suspects featuring Robert Anderson, Michael Hawley, and Martin Fido.
11:00 am. Robert Anderson, “Long Island Serial Killer“
12:00 noon. Lunch in France Hall. Trivia contest including special book prizes.
1:00 pm. Janis Wilson & Chris George, “The Ripper, Sherlock Holmes, and
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”
2:00 pm. Panel discussion on “True Crime versus Fictional Crime” with Robert
Anderson, Mikita Brottman, and David Sterritt, moderated by Janis Wilson
3:00 pm. Discussion with speakers & audience on “The State of Ripperology Today”
4:00 pm. Chris George, “The Last Days of Edgar Allan Poe — Murder or Something Else?”
6:00 pm. Banquet at the Mt Vernon Baltimore Hotel, followed by a performance
of “Poe’s Last Stanza” by C. J. Crowe.
Sunday, April 10
9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Bus tour of Baltimore including sites associated
with Dr. Tumblety, the Pinkertons, and the Booth family. Visit to the
grave of Edgar Allan Poe and the Poe House, including a special visit to “
“Nutshell Studies” in Maryland Coroners’ Office. Space limited. Book soon.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849): The circumstances of his mysterious death in
Baltimore in October 1849 have never been sufficiently explained.
For complete information on RipperCon, go to http://rippercon.com/. DEADLINE TO REGISTER MARCH 31! DON’T MISS OUT!
Marie Belloc Lowndes (1868–1947)
Marie Belloc Lowndes published her first version of The Lodger
Mr and Mrs Bunting suspect that their lodger, Mr Sleuth, is “The Avenger.”
The novel was adapted for the stage as a comedy entitled Who Is He? by
In January 1917, the play was done in New York with Lionel Atwill as
Overall, the critic declared the show to be “highly amusing” and that
Ten years later, the play was brought to the big screen by Alfred Hitchock
Hitchcock’s version of The Lodger was the 1927 silent classic starring Ivor
Hitchcock said, “I had seen a play called Who Is He? based on Mrs. Belloc
Marie Belloc Lowndes, “The Lodger,” in McClure’s Magazine, Volume 36, January 1911, pp. 266–77.
Marie Belloc Lowndes, The Lodger. London: Methuen, 1913.
Mark Whitehead and Miriam Rivett, Jack the Ripper. Harpenden, Hertfordshire: Pocket Essentials, 2006, p. 67
Denis Meikle, Jack the Ripper: The Murders and the Movies. Richmond, Surrey: Reynolds and Hearn Ltd., 2002, pp. 44–49.
Gary Coville and Patrick Lucanio, Jack the Ripper: His Life and Crimes in Popular Entertainment. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1999, p. 24.
“‘The Lodger’ Proves Highly Amusing,” New York Times, January 9, 1917.Ivor Novello in Hitchcock’s silent classic film The Lodger (1927)
The Star, Largest Circulation of Any Evening Paper in the Kingdom.
Revenged on “Jack the Ripper.”
At Liverpool yesterday a young man named Bramwell was charged with damaging a wax
Perhaps surprisingly, attacks on waxworks, a popular type of period entertainment,
The incident took place on 16 June 1883 at Allsopp’s Waxworks Exhibition, 51 Lime
At the height of the Ripper murders, there was even a small waxworks exhibition in
East London Observer
The vendors of a doggerel ditty meant at first to describe the details of the
The Irish Times
SCENE AT A WAXWORKS
There is a waxworks show to which admission can be obtained for one penny, in the
Richard Brown presents a most unusual case, for he was not only a seaman but a soldier
The reported facts about Brown’s Jewish religion and reported relationship with Warren
‘. . . a steady, respectable man’
Brown joined the Metropolitan Police on 16 August 1886 as Warrant Number 72041 in E
Brown was let go on Tuesday, and on Friday, three days after being allowed to resign,
The coroner’s inquest into Brown’s death was held at St. George’s Hospital by Mr. John
[Askew] stated that the deceased was guilty of a slight breach of discipline, and with
Askew said the breach of discipline was that the deceased ought to have gone on parade
The Strange Death of Richard Brown
Louis Sidney Torre, of 3, Percy Square, King’s Cross, stated to be the deceased’s second
Torre said his relative ‘seemed rather despondent, but complained of no trouble.’ Brown
William Richards, a pawnbroker’s assistant, of 34 High Holborn, said that Brown came
Harris Bloom, a dealer of 166 Drury Lane, said that the deceased had supper with him on
Police Constable Duncan McKenzie, 593 A, described finding Brown’s body:
[McKenzie] stated that he was on duty outside the Hyde Park Police-station
Map of Hyde Park, 1833, showing paths to the Serpentine
Report of inquest on Richard Brown’s suicide in Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper,
Questions arise about this odd tale. Why did McKenzie say he heard a police whistle and
Mr. F. W. Parker, house surgeon, stated Brown died three hours after his admission; the
A Mixed Army Record
With the help of genealogist Mark Andrew Pardoe, I have now obtained copies of
Brown joined the Royal Artillery as a gunner, regimental no. 4175, in the 11th brigade,
Unlike the 1888 Jewish Chronicle report of Richard Brown’s Jewishness, his religion
Astonishingly, Brown deserted not to quit the army but to join another army unit.
Contrary to the statement made 7 months earlier on joining the artillery in Liverpool in
Within six months, the army learned that ‘Private Brown’ was a deserter from the Royal
Map of Millbank Prison, London, 1862
Brown was released 10 Sept., when he rejoined the Royal Artillery’s 11th brigade and was
Brown apparently stayed an exemplary soldier til the end of his army career in spring
A Decorated Soldier
Brown landed in India in late 1880 and would fight in Afghanistan, being awarded an
The battle followed the overthrow of the the Khedive, the British viceroy in Egypt, by
The Battle of Tel-el-Kebir, 1882
The redoubtable Scottish poet William McGonagall wrote one of his epic poems on the
The Battle of Tel-el-Kebir
Ye sons of Great Britain, come join with me,
Therefore loudly his praises sing
He has gained for himself fame and renown,
With an army about fourteen thousand strong,
Arabi’s army was about seventy thousand in all,
‘Twas on the 13th day of September, in the year of 1882,
He marched upon the enemy with his gallant band
The first shock of the attack was borne by the Second Brigade,
But Major Hart and the 18th Royal Irish, conjoint,
General Sir Archibald Alison led on the Highland Brigade,
With their bagpipes playing, and one ringing cheer,
Oh! it must have been a glorious sight
Then the Egyptians were forced to yield,
Then Arabi the rebel took to flight,
Now since the Egyptian war is at an end,
After Tel-el-Kebir, Brown returned with his Royal Artillery unit to India. During this
Brown remained in India until returning to England on 20 April 1886 and
Where Did Richard Brown Meet Warren?
It is tempting to think that on one of his overseas tours of duty or even in England,
As Jeffrey Bloomfield mentioned in a 2003 article in Ripperologist, ‘The Making of the
Punch cartoon of Sir Charles Warren
Brown was discharged from the Artillery on 19 May 1886 and transferred to the
Questions about Richard Brown’s ‘Australian’ Background
Enquiries made for me by Australian genealogist Andrew Peake in Adelaide records have
What is the real story of Richard Brown? Was there some type of link between Richard
Is it too much to think there may have been a psychological landmark in Brown’s
It might be assumed that our inability to so far to prove his Australian background and
Many thanks to the late Adrian M. Phypers for alerting me to the story of Richard
Jeffrey Bloomfield, ‘The Making of the Commissioner 1886,’ Ripperologist 47, July 2003.
Battle of Tel-el-Kebir at http://www.national-army-museum.ac.uk/pages/sudan.html
British Army Records, PRO, WO 97 2388, Richard Brown, Gunner, Royal Artillery,
Christopher T. George, ‘The Mysterious Life and Death of P.C. Richard Brown,’
“Inquest,” Jewish Chronicle, 23 November 1888.
“Inquests,” The Times, 20 November 1888. A similar report on the coroner’s enquiry into
Jill Stratton, ed. The Biographical Index of South Australians 1836-1885. Adelaide, 1986.
William McGonagall On-Line, “The Battle of Tel-el-Kebir,” available at
Metropolitan Police, Police Orders, 16 August 1886 [‘Joined the force this day.— . . .
Street Directories for Adelaide, South Australia, 1876 and 1878.
George H. Hutt, known as “The Police Poet” was the gaoler of Bishopsgate Police Station within the area patroled by the City of London Police. As such, in the early morning hours of 30 September 1888, he let the shortly to be fourth Jack the Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes out of gaol before she was murdered in Mitre Square, Aldgate.
Hutt is known to have written numerous letters to the press, including one condemning the anti-semitism that grew out of the Ripper crimes, the East End of London at the time having a large immigrant Jewish population, and rumors circulated that the Ripper could have been a Jew. He appears to have been an unusually compassionate man with regard for the dignity of both human beings and animals.
Hutt wrote a poem called “Saved by a Dog” about a dog who saved a woman cook’s life in Leeds in 1893 and another poem about the marriage of Princess Victoria Mary (May) of Teck and George, Duke of York (the future George V) that same year, for which he received an acknowledgement from the Royal family.
Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper
I recently came across another poem by P.C. Hutt which further shows the humaneness of the man:
A HORSE’S LETTER to Ex-Police Constable 365 John Pegg
Your life has been devoted to
Before we had your kindly aid
While drivers in their ignorance
‘Tis you and only such as you
I’ve had the horrid toothache, Pegg,
Again I’ve stood hour after hour
Sometimes a drunkard held the reins,
He loitered, tippling on the way,
But dear old Pegg, you found it out,
Now nearly thirty years you’ve been
Ans though we are but helpless brutes,
So horses, mules, and asses, too,
May those who have the care of us
George H. Hutt
The poem references P.C. John Pegg, “Who, during his 29 years of service in the City of London Police Force obtained 1,300 Convictions for Cruelty to Horses, etc.” The “Sangster” that is mentioned is the veterinarian Thomas Sangster, M.R.C.V.S., who died on November 28, 1893. Following is an excerpt from an article on horse cruelty cases in which both Pegg and Sangster involved, as reported in the Illustrated Police News of September 23, 1882.
It is conceivable that P.C. Hutt may have been partly inspired to write his “Horse’s Letter” by a similar literary effort by Reverend Dr. Thomas De Witt Talmage (1832–1902), the American Presbyterian preacher and social campaigner. For more on Rev. De Witt Talmage see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_De_Witt_Talmage
Thus, it could be as with his poem about the hero dog in Leeds who saved the woman cook’s life, George Hutt was partly thinking of this earlier “Horse’s Letter” in composing his poem. Talmage’s composition also touches on the topic of cruelty to horses.
A Horse’s Letter.
My dear gentlemen and ladies,— I am aware that this is the first time a horse has ever taken upon himself to address any member of the human family. True, a second cousin of our household once addressed Balaam, but his voice for public speaking was so poor that he got unmercifully whacked, and never tried it again. We have endured in silence all the outrages of many thousands of years, but feel it now time to make remonstrance.
Recent attentions have made us aware of our worth. During the epizootic epidemic, we had at our stables innumerable calls from doctors, and judges, and clergymen. Everybody asked about our health. Groomsmen bathed our throats, and sat up with us nights, and furnished us with pocket-handkerchiefs. For the first time in years we had quiet Sundays. We overheard a conversation that made us think that the commerce and the fashion of the world waited the news from the stable. Telegraphs announced our condition across the land and under the sea, and we came to believe that this world was originally made for the horse, and man for his groom.
But things are going back again where they were. Yesterday I was driven fifteen miles, jerked in the mouth, struck on the back, watered when I was too warm, and instead of the six quarts of oats that my driver ordered for me, I got two. Last week I was driven to a wedding, and heard music, and quick feet, and laughter, that made the chandeliers rattle, while I stood unblanketed in the cold. Sometimes the doctor hires me, and I stand at twenty doors waiting for invalids to rehearse all their pains. Then the minister hires me, and I have to stay till Mrs Tittle-Tattle has time to tell the dominie all the disagreeable things of the parish.
The other night, after our owner had gone home, and the ostlers were asleep, we held an indignation meeting in our livery-stable. “Old Sorrel” presided, and there was a long line of vice-presidents and secretaries, mottled bays, and dappled grays, and chestnuts, and Shetland, and Arabian ponies. “Charlie,” one of the old inhabitants of the stable, began a speech, amid great stamping on the part of the audience. But he soon broke down for lack of wind. For five years he had been suffering with the “heaves.” Then “Pompey,” a venerable nag, took his place, and though he had nothing to say, he held out his spavined leg, which dramatic posture excited the utmost enthusiasm of the audience. “Fanny Shetland,” the property of a lady, tried to damage the meeting by saying that horses had no wrongs. She said: “Just look at my embroidered blanket. I never go out when the weather is bad. Everybody who comes near pats me on the shoulder. What can be more beautiful than going out in a sunshiny afternoon to make an excursion through the park, amid the clatter of the hoofs of the stallions? I walk, or pace, or canter, or gallop, as I choose. Think of the beautiful life we lead, with the prospect, after our easy work is done, of going up and joining Elijah’s horses of fire.”
Next I took the floor, and said that I was born in a warm, snug Pennsylvania barn; was on my father’s side, descended from Bucephalus; on my mother’s side, from a steed that Queen Elizabeth rode in a steeple-chase. My youth was passed in clover pastures, and under trusses of sweet-smelling hay. I flung my heels in glee at the farmer when he came to catch me. But on a dark day I was overdriven, and my joints stiffened, and my fortunes went down, and my whole family was sold. My brother, with head down and sprung in the knees, pulls the street-car. My sister makes her living on the towpath, hearing the canal boys swear. My aunt died of the epizootic. My uncle — blind, and afflicted, with the bots, the ring-bone, and the spring-halt — wanders about the common, trying to persuade someone to shoot him. And here I stand, old and sick, to cry out against the wrongs of horses — the saddles that gall, the spurs that prick, the snaffles that pinch, the loads that kill.
At this, a vicious-looking nag, with mane half pulled out, and a “watch-eye,” and feet “interfering,” and a tail from which had been subtracted enough hair to make six “waterfalls,” squealed out the suggestion that it was time for a rebellion, and she moved that we take the field, and that all those that could kick should kick, and that all those that could bite should bite, and that all those who could bolt should bolt, and all those who could run away should run away; and that thus we fill the land with broken waggons, and smashed heads, and teach our oppressors that the day of retribution has come, and that our down-trodden race will no more be trifled with.
When this resolution was put to the vote, not one said “Aye,” but all cried “Nay! nay!” and for the space of half an hour kept on neighing. Instead of this harsh measure, it was voted that, by the hand of Henry Bergh, President of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, I whould write this letter of remonstrance.
My dear gentlemen and ladies, remember that we, like yourselves, have moods, and cannot always be frisky and cheerful. You do not slap your grandmother in the face because, this morning, she does not feel so well as usual; why then do you slash us? Before you pound us, ask whether we have been up late the night before, or had our meals at irregular hours, or whether our spirits have been depressed by being kicked by a drunken ostler. We have only about ten or twelve years in which to enjoy ourselves, and then we go out to be shot into nothingness. Take care of us while you may. Job’s horse was “clothed with thunder,” but all we ask is a plain blanket. When we are sick, put us in a horsepital. Do not strike us when we stumble or scare. Suppose you were in the harness and I were in the waggon, I had the whip and you the traces, what an ardent advocate you would be for kindness to the irrational creation! Do not let the blacksmith, drive the nail into the quick when he shoes me, or burn my fetlocks with a hot file. Do not mistake the “dead-eye” that nature put on my foreleg for a wart to be exterminated. Do not cut off my tail short in fly-time. Keep the North wind out of our stables. Care for us at some other time than during the epizoptics, so that we may see your kindness is not selfish. My dear friends, our interests are mutual. I am a silent partner in your business. Under my sound hoof is the diamond of national prosperity. Beyond my nostril the world’s progress may not go. With thrift, and wealth, and comfort, I daily race neck and neck. Be kind to me, if you want me to be useful to you. And near be the day when the red horse of war shall be hocked and impotent, and the pale horse of death shall be hurled back on his haunches, but the white horse of peace, and joy, and triumph shall pass on, its rider with face like the sun, all nations following!
Your most obedient, servant, Charley Bucephalus.
Heartbreaking stuff! We can readily see how caring people at the time such as the policemen George Hutt and John Pegg could become disturbed at such mistreatment of horses, who literally carried the burden of the economic and social life of people in the late Victorian period.It is emblematic of P.C. George Hutt that he seems to have cared equally for the poor of the East End, for the Jews who lived in the neighborhood, and for the working horses of the capital.For more on P.C. Hutt, read the excellent article by Neil Bell and Rob Clack that appeared in Ripperologist 110, January 2010. You might consider taking out a subscription, too.
I am teaching a short course on the case this Fall in the Kaleidoscope program at Roland Park Country School in Baltimore.
THE MYSTERY OF JACK THE RIPPER
The Whitechapel Murders that occurred in the Autumn of 1888 in the East End of London continue to fascinate new generations. Although the crimes constitute the classic “cold case,” it seems that annually new suspects and theories are proposed. Yet, no one has yet managed definitely to identify the anonymous murderer known as Jack the Ripper.
On Evening One, I will evaluate the known facts of the murders. On Evening Two, I will examine the different theories and theorists. On Evening Three the class will discuss the enduring legacy of the Ripper murders and the portrayals of the crimes in novels, movies and stage plays, and try to come to some conclusions about what the murders were and were not. Who was Jack the Ripper? Warning: not for the squeamish. Powerpoint images will be projected that will show the murder scenes and the corpses of the women killed, and the mutilations caused by the killer will be discussed in detail.
Three Sessions $75
Complete course catalog available at http://www.rpcs.org/Kaleidoscope/pdfs/Fall_2011_Catalog.pdf
Roland Park Country School
Researcher Chris Scott, a contributor Ripperologist magazine and author of Jack the Ripper: A Cast of Thousands (Apropos Books, August 2004) has long been delving into the mysterious background of fifth Canonical victim Mary Jane Kelly, who was killed and mutilated in 13 Miller’s Court, Spitalfields, on the morning of 9 November 1888. Chris has recently found what he describes as the “fullest account of the Kelly funeral that I have read.” As students of the Ripper case will know, Kelly was the most grievously mutilated of all of the Whitechapel Murders victims. Her face was literally hacked away, which made identification of her difficult, to the point that some have doubted that the body in Miller’s Court was in fact the woman that locals and friends knew as Mary Jane Kelly. The famous crime scene photograph remains stomach churning for researchers such as myself who have seen it many times before.<br>At the inquest on Kelly, her long-time lover, Joseph Barnett, testified, “I have seen the body of the deceased, and I identify it by the hair and eyes. I am positive that the deceased was the woman with whom I lived, and that her name was Marie.” (Illustrated Police News, 17 November 1888).
THE WHITECHAPEL MURDER.
On another front in Mary Jane Kelly research, a Welsh researcher, Jon Horlor, has been delving into genealogical records in Cwmavon, Monmouthshire to try to find out if he can verify Mary Jane Kelly’s husband may have been killed in a mine explosion as the account by Barnett suggests. He has identified a man named James Davies, age 18 who died in explosion at Risca New Pit, Cwmavon, on 16 July 1880. Holor has established that Cwmavon had a number of Irish immigrant families at this period. Joe Barnett testified that he thought the husband was killed in Carnarvonshire or Carmarthenshire.
Both Mr. Holor and Welsh Ripperologist Gareth Williams think that Kelly may have said that “Cwmavon” might have been misheard by Barnett as “Carnarvon” or “Carmarthen.”
She said she was born in Limerick [Ireland] but went to Wales when very young, and came to London about four years ago. Her father’s name, she told me, was John Kelly, a “gaffer” at an ironworks in Wales - Carnarvonshire or Carmarthenshire. She also said she had a sister, who was a respectable woman, and that she had seven brothers, six of them at home and one in the Army. I never saw any of these brothers to my knowledge. She said she was married when very young in Wales. . . . Her husband was a collier named David (sic) or Davies, and she lived with him until he was killed in an explosion. I cannot say how long the accident was after the marriage. She said she was about 16 when she married. After her husband’s death she went to Cardiff to meet a cousin, and stayed there a long time, being in the infirmary there for eight or nine months. She was living a bad life with her cousin, who was the cause of her downfall.
Mr. Holor has said that he believes that the man he has identified, James Davies, who died in the explosion at Risca New Pit, Cwmavon, in July 1880, was the “right name, right age, right area (for me!) and right time frame for MJK according to Barnett.” (See discussion threads at http://www.jtrforums.com/search.php?searchid=1062293.) It will be interesting to see if this interesting lead on Mary Jane Kelly’s mysterious background might finally help us to know more about this Whitechapel murder victim’s elusive life history.
On the Yo Liverpool forum, some genealogically minded people have found a number of women named Mary Jane Kelly in Liverpool and have wondered if Kelly might have been from there. Of course, Liverpool historically has had a large Irish population so the names “Kelly” and even “Mary Jane Kelly” are relatively common.
In 1910, the poor Jews of London’s East End began to collect funds to erect the Edward VII Memorial Drinking Fountain in Whitechapel Road in honor of the reigning monarch, the son of Queen Victoria. At around the same time, Sir Robert Anderson, former head of Metropolitan Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at the time of the murders, claimed in his memoirs that it was a “definitely ascertained fact” that the Whitechapel Murderer was a poor Polish Jew, and he indicated that the suspect’s family had protected the man from “Gentile justice”. The man Anderson apparently meant, according to a marginal notation left by retired Detective Superintendent Donald S. Swanson was Aaron Kosminski, a deranged Polish-born Jewish barber. Other police officials maintained that “Jack the Ripper” was never positively identified, and Anderson’s claim remains controversial to this day. Some Ripperologists believe Anderson held the answer to the mystery that has persisted for the last 123 years. But, did he?
Edward VII Memorial Drinking Fountain, Whitechapel Road, funded by subscriptions raised by poor East End Jews. Photograph courtesy of John Bennett.
What are the true facts? Is it possible that a Jew could have been the killer? Could Jews really have protected the killer and refused to identify the man as the killer as Anderson claimed? A number of East End Jews were suspects who were taken in to be questioned but were later released. An early suspect in the murders was a man named “Leather Apron” who was allegedly terrorizing local prostitutes. In September 1888, a Jew named John Pizer was arrested on suspicion of being Leather Apron, but he had to be let go when it was proved that he had a solid alibi for the times of two of the murders.
Thousands of Jewish homes were visited during house-to-house enquiries in October 1888. A number of Jews were witnesses at the inquests into the murder victims, particularly in the cases of second canonical victim Annie Chapman, killed and disembowelled in the squalid back yard at 29 Hanbury Street on 8 September, and that of third canonical victim Elizabeth Stride, her throat in Dutfield’s Yard beside a mostly Jewish socialist club in Berner Street early on 30 September. Although Liz Stride had her throat cut from ear to ear in the same manner as the other canonical victims she was otherwise not mutilated, the traditional explanation being that the killer was disturbed by the arrival of a Jewish man who arrived with pony and cart.
Could the man who so cruelly despatched those women—the prostitutes or “unfortunates” of the East End, the man known by the infamous name of Jack the Ripper, have been a Jew? And even if the killer was not a Jew, what was the exact role of the Jews in the case?
In early medieval times, Jews lived in the area now known as London’s East End. The street called “Old Jewry” is a reminder of this presence of Jews in the vicinity until their expulsion from England in 1290 during the reign of Edward I. With the return of Jews to Britain in the seventeenth century, Dutch and German Ashkenazi Jews established synagogues outside the gates of the City of London. Sephardic Jews established the Bevis Mark Synagogue off Bury Street, and it remains to this day an architectural gem well worth a visit.
Bevis Marks Synagogue, Whitechapel. Photograph courtesy of John Bennett.
The Great Synagogue in Duke Street, Aldgate, was founded in 1690. Heavily damaged in 1940 by the German bombing during the Second World War, the building was subsequently demolished. The Great Synagogue plays a part in our story because fourth canonical victim Catherine Eddowes was murdered in the early morning hours of 30 September 1888 in Mitre Square behind this Jewish house of worship.
By 1888, the East End was home to many immigrant groups including Irish, Germans, and Eastern European Jews. The largest influx of Jews would occur with a surge of immigration of Eastern European Jews in the late nineteenth century. While wealthier “Anglicised” Jews moved to the prosperous suburbs, Yiddish-speaking poor Jews, some 150,000 of them, flooded into the East End of London during 1881–1914 after many of them fled Eastern Europe following Tsarist progroms in Russia and Poland. While some of the newcomers only stayed a short time before moving on to other countries, particularly to the United States, thousands remained in the area. The Yiddish speakers crowded into local tenements and caused concerns to the authorities, both the British Government and local authorities as well as to the Jewish Board of Guardians because of the fear of rising disease and crime rates.
Indeed, the influx of poor new Jews panicked as well as helped mobilise the Anglo-Jewish establishment of the day, largely made up of the descendants of Jews who had settled in Britain since the seventeenth century. The Jewish establishment wanted to solve the problem. This was, it might be said, partly a self-protective gesture, since in the face of Gentile prejudice and Government pressure, the richer Jews did not want to be seen as part of the problem but wanted to be reactive to it. Lord Rothschild, one of richest British Jews of the day, wrote: “We have now a new Poland on our hands in East London. Our first business is to humanise our Jewish immigrants and then to Anglicise them. . . .” One part of the solution, facilitated by Lord Rothschild, was the founding of the Poor Jews Temporary Shelter at 84 Leman Street to help provide shelter, clothe, and educate the new immigrants, find them housing, and, in some instances, move them on to other countries.
It was in the immigrant working class streets of the largely Jewish East End in an area that constituted barely a square mile that at least five women, or—if you can believe the press of the day—some eleven women were slaughtered by the same hand—that of the mysterious murderer known as “Jack the Ripper”.
Particularly on the night of the so-called “Double Event”, 30 September 1888, with the murders of the third and fourth canonical victims, Stride and Eddowes, aspects of the case converged to create a series of Jewish links to the murders. Do these links indicate a real connection between the crimes and the Jews of the East End or are they only coincidental links that remain intriguing even if they tell us nothing about the reason for the murders? Jim Leen has written:
The third canonical victim, Stride, was murdered at around 12:55 AM on 30 September 1888 in Dutfield’s Yard, in Berner Street, at the side of a socialist club frequented by Jewish men. Was the killer making a statement of some kind by killing Ms. Stride at that location? Stride was a Gentile born in Sweden as Elizabeth Gustafsdotter who happened to speak Yiddish. Her ability to speak Yiddish might indicate that some of her clients were Jewish, and could also explain her presence close to the club.
A Hungarian Jew named Israel Schwartz said he saw a man to accost her (either Jack the Ripper or another man before the fatal murderous attack). A man shouted out to him, “Lipski!” and Schwartz fled the scene. It appears that the term “Lipski” was a common pejorative term used in the area for semitic looking people, the slur coming from the name of Israel Lipski, an umbrella maker who lived in nearby Batty Street in 1887 and who had poisoned his landlady Miriam Angel, a crime for which he was hanged after much controversy in the press and as well as mob scenes on the streets of the East End.
About an hour and a half after the Berner Street murder a second murder occurred, this time in Mitre Square, Aldgate. The victim was Catherine Eddowes, yet another prostitute or “unfortunate”. The murder occurred not far from a then notorious location—St. Botolphe’s Church, where prostitutes traditionally circled the church touting for business.
Eddowes was killed behind the Great Synagogue. She was last seen alive talking to a man in a passage leading to the square. This according to the testimony of three Jewish men who were leaving the Imperial Club, a Jewish men’s club, at 16–17 Duke’s Place at around 1:30 AM in the morning.
The three men, Joseph Lawende, Joseph Hyam Levy, and Harry Harris, saw the couple at the entrance to covered Church Passage that ran down the east side of the synagogue and led to the secluded square. Questions linger as to whether the men told the police all they knew about the man they saw and whether any one of the three recognized him. Lawende is thought to have been asked by the police later to identify a suspect at the Seaside Home in the scenario described by Sir Robert Anderson and may have refused to do so, if we believe the story told by Anderson.
Soon after the Eddowes murder, at around 2:55 A.M., a chalk inscription was found in a doorway in Goulston Street by Metropolitan Police Constable Alfred Long 254A. The inscription was on the painted brickwork inside a doorway leading to Wentworth Model Dwellings, a tenement known to be home to immigrant Jews.
Although we cannot be certain that the so-called Goulston Street Graffito was written by the murderer, a bloodied piece of white apron that had belonged to Eddowes was found below the writing, which has strongly suggested to many students of the case that the inscription was also left by the killer. Nonetheless, the graffito remains one of the most controversial and exasperating parts of the puzzle known as the Whitechapel Murders.
First and foremost, the wording, written in one-inch high lettering in five lines with odd and unconventional capitalisation, was ambiguously worded:
The writing presents us with a conundrum. Was the writer somehow blaming the Jews for the murders? Or was he saying that the Jews should not be blamed? It’s the double negative that is to be blamed, my friends. And a double negative, we might note, is typical of Cockney speech. Such a phrase or grammatical tick, if you will, would not be a typical speech pattern, one should think, for a recent Polish or other Eastern European Jewish immigrant whose English language skills and knowledge of Cockney dialect might be limited.
Famously, exponents of the Royal or Masonic conspiracy theory such as Stephen Knight in his Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution (1976) have argued by contrast that the reference was not to the Jews at all but to the “Juwes” (builders of Solomon’s Temple, supposedly something that in 1888 was a part of masonic tradition known to practising English freemasons. According to the Royal Conspiracy advocates, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren, being, as some writers claim, a high and active freemason immediately recognized the masonic reference to “Juwes” and ordered the graffito removed for that reason. This theory seems a bit too convenient for the theorists, and may be less persuasive than that the writing, written in a Jewish neighborhood, really did refer to the Jews.
Let’s put our cards on the table here, friends. The idea that the Ripper was a madman—whether a Jewish lunatic or not—is rather an old-fashioned notion, even if it was one favored by the police who were doing their best to apprehend the killer. We now know that serial killers are cold and calculating and usually don’t outwardly appear mad. American serial killers Ted Bundy, Dennis L. Rader (the BTK Killer), and Gary L. Ridgway (the Green River Killer), were respectively, a suave and handsome much-travelled lover (killing as he went), an efficient if coldly officious community enforcer who enjoyed mentally torturing the good citizens around Wichita, Kansas, and a seemingly innocuous working class house painter in the rainy Pacific northwest. All three men, seemingly respectable by day, led secret lives as vicious sexual serial killers but no one knew it except the men themselves and, ultimately, their victims. They each operated for years, slaughtering women seemingly at will. None of the three could remotely be viewed as a foaming-at-the-mouth killer, and yet the latter, from the writings left by the police of 1888, appears to be what the police of the day were seeking.
This rhyme, with its anti-Semitic reference at the end of the opening line, was evidently written in a now-lost “Jack the Ripper” letter. It is cited by former Scotland Yard Chief Constable Sir Melville Macnaghten in his autobiography The Days of My Years (1914). In this memoir, Macnaghten told his readers that information came into his hands years after the Autumn of Terror to showing that the killer was an unbalanced “doctor”. He was referring to Montague John Druitt. The man was a barrister and part-time schoolteacher at a boys’ school in Blackheath. He was the son of a Dorset surgeon but not himself a trained doctor. Druitt committed suicide by drowning himself in the Thames. Although Macnaghten is correct that Druitt died after the murder and mutilation of Mary Jane Kelly on 9 November 1888, the suicide was not until the end of November, three weeks after the Kelly murder.
What is the real answer to the identity of Jack the Ripper? Was Sir Robert Anderson correct that the Ripper was a Jew or did Sir Melville Macnaghten have the answer that the killer was a Gentile and the son of a doctor? While a local Jew would have the knowledge of back streets to enable him to escape the police dragnet, there is no compelling evidence that we know about today that the killer was in fact a Jew.
It has been suggested by some that the murderer could have been either a shochet, i,e., a Jewish ritual slaughterman, or a Jewish butcher. It amuses me that people in such professions—whether Jews or not—are put forward as candidates for Jack the Ripper. Where’s the thrill to murder and mutilate if your day job is to cut up corpses? The same thing might be said of doctors. The saving grace though for the Jews of 1888 is that there were not many Jewish doctors in Victorian England. No, a better candidate might be, say, a Jewish shoemaker or leather worker, who while he cuts up leather, might be hankering all day to cut into real live warm flesh.
The puzzle of whether the Whitechapel Murderer was a Jew yields no ready answer.