Saravjevo’s take on JTR

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I was surprised to see this little article from Sarajevo regarding Jack the Ripper, which appeared on the Sarajevo Net. It’s a brief introduction to the case and well written, even with a few mistakes it stands head and shoulders above some of the guff written! The article, published on 21-02-2010 07:00 AM states,

The Mystery of Jack the Ripper

In a book dedicated to history’s Greatest Unsolved Mysteries, some mysteries are perforce greater than others, and this one may be the topper, the paragon, the ne plus ultra – the most famous and infamous cold case of all time. Who was the serial killer active in the down-and-dirty Whitechapel district of London in the latter half of 1888? He gruesomely murdered prostitutes – maybe five of them, maybe more – and thereby gained a lasting if anonymous fame usually reserved for conquerors or kings. It would be impossible to estimate the number of trees that have been felled to supply paper for the treatises and tomes that have been written about Jack the Ripper in the past quarter century.

The writing began early, in London’s then blossoming and already florid tabloid industry, and established Jack’s eternal notoriety from the first. Reporters – and their rapt readers – were particularly interested in the savagery of the killings: Throats were being slit, bodies mutilated, organs removed. Responding to the public fascination and indeed furor, Scotland Yard was frantic in its pursuit of the perp. Frantic but unsuccessful.

In a precursor of the behavior that would be exhibited by 20th century American criminals like the Zodiac killer and the Son of Sam, the Ripper – or someone – began sending letters to the press and even the authorities concerning the crimes. One shipment, to George Lusk of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, included half of a human kidney, along with the claim that the sender had “fried and ate” the other half. A post received on September 27, 1888, by the Central News Agency was the first that bore the name Jack the Ripper, and in it the correspondent said he would “clip the ladys [sic] ear off.” Three days later, the body of Catherine Eddowes was found in Mitre Square in the City of London. The removal of a portion of one of her ears was the least of the mutilations visited upon her tragic corpse.

Jack was nothing if not theatrical, using blood-red ink in this missive to the press. Since evisceration was a hallmark of the murders, the constabulatory wondered if the murderer was a medical man or someone else with sufficient sophistication to execute such surgery; a spicy aspect of the Ripper story has always been that many of the suspects in the case were of the upper rather than the lower crust. This was Victorian England, and the notion that an aristocrat was, in the darkest part of night and in the city’s darkest precinct, preying upon prostitutes… Well, that was an impossibly intoxicating narrative, better than the best of Dickens or Austen.

There were patterns to the killings – certain dates, certain days of the week – and this only made the puzzle more intriguing. Eventually, there were more than a hundred cited suspects. A Russian physician and convicted thief named Michael Ostrog… another doctor named Montague John Druitt… an unstable individual named Aaron Kosminski – they were only the first three mentioned in the initial report of police commissioner Sir Neville Macnaughten. Scores of candidates were put forth later, and their names are still mentioned today. A recent book on Jack the Ripper, published in early 2010, Jack the Ripper’s Secret Confession, pins the killings on textile millionaire Henry Spencer Ashbee, who also allegedly penned, under the pseudonym Walter, the ferociously debauched My Secret Life – a stunningly vivid, even microscopic, sexual memoir of a Victorian (ahem) gentleman.

The Parade of names extends, and Jack lurks in the shadows.

New Jack the Ripper Play!

Events No Comments »

Jack the Ripper, HG Wells and a time machine!  Thats the rough outline to a new play in Pittsburgh. 

The Globe ran the following article,

Jack the Ripper murders ‘Time After Time’ in world premiere

When sophomore Michael Campayno was first cast as John Leslie Stephenson, a character portraying Jack the Ripper, he began spending day and night researching the killer’s motivation.

Campayno’s character is part of a world premiere musical entitled “Time After Time,” where a time machine, invented by H.G. Wells, brings Jack the Ripper into 2010, and Wells must find a way to take him back to his time period before he strikes again.

“This is really hard because I’ve never had the urge to kill someone,” Campayno said as he developed the character for its first stage production. 

Because Jack the Ripper was never identified, he looked into famous serial killers, such as Charles Manson, searching for what drives them to kill. Campayno ended his research with an autobiography of his character, resolving the character’s needs for acting purposes.

The show is based on a book with the same title written by Karl Alexander, who will be signing books at the Playhouse on opening night of the musical adaptation. 

The music is by Jeffrey Saver, a current Point Park University musical theater professor and teaching artist, in collaboration with Stephen Cole, who wrote the lyrics and the adopted book for the production.

Both were available to tweak characters and lines throughout the production process. This is the first time the show will take place full-scale, but there was a reading and workshop in New York last summer, which helped to develop the characters as well. 

“It’s a good old-fashioned sci-fi musical romantic thriller,” senior musical theater major John Wascavage said. He plays H.G. Wells, who is the brains behind the show’s time machine from which all of the problems seem to stem.

Because he is a character from 1895, his songs are more classically influenced. Wascavage explained that those from 2010 are featured in contemporary pieces from their time period, and there is even some rap.  

“It’s in the present time, and some of the songs make fun of how technology has influenced us,” senior musical theater major Sara Manganello said.

Manganello portrays Stephenson, Jack the Ripper’s sister and “the embodiment of his subconscious.” Her character has developed and changed along with the show while preparing for opening night.

Directed by Gabriel Barre, rehearsals began the week after winter break. This gave the cast of around 30 people about six weeks to rehearse the modern and original musical. 

“[Barre] is very flexible and all about listening and experimenting,” Manganello said.

The musical follows Wells’ search for Jack the Ripper in 2010 and his need to rescue his new-found love, Amy, from the killer’s grasp. The story has a little bit of everything, from science fiction to horror to romance.

According to Campayno, this show is very current, including a scene at a McDonald’s and a reference to Lady Gaga. For these reasons, the cast needed to “do a lot of homework” to prepare.

“We had a day where we did nothing but movement work to work together as a team,” Wascavage said.

Because it is a world premiere, the Point Park theater students had to entirely research and develop their characters, having nothing to directly base them on.

Manganello found playing John’s sister changed throughout the entire rehearsal process and is looking forward to seeing how audiences will understand her character.

“I don’t think there is a lot out there like this,” Manganello said. “There is romance, gore and suspense … and the message of love.”

The show opens on Friday, Feb. 26 with a special preview show Thursday, Feb. 25. It runs in the Rockwell Theater of the Pittsburgh Playhouse on the weekends of Feb. 26 through Feb. 28 and March 11 through March 14. Thursday through Saturday, the curtain rises at 8 p.m. There are also 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays.

Student tickets are $7 for matinee and $8 for night shows, and all other tickets are $18 for the matinee and $20 for evening performances. Call (412) 621-4445 or visit to purchase tickets or for more information.

 The Pittsburgh Post Gazette ran the following review…

Playhouse’s ‘Time After Time’ tells time machine tale in song


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Read more:

When H.G. Wells hurtles toward his future — our present — pursuing Jack the Ripper, dreaming of Utopia and destined for love, the time machine rearranging his molecules for the journey is powered by writer Stephen Cole, composer Jeff Saver and director Gabriel Barre, the creative team behind the new musical “Time After Time.”

If that title sounds familiar, it’s because this show started as a novel that became the Nicholas Meyer film in 1979.

The movie starred Malcolm McDowell as “Time Machine” author Wells and Mary Steenburgen as Amy, the 20th-century woman who steals his heart.

The next phase brings the story into the 21st century with a world-premiere musical by the Point Park Conservatory Theatre Company, opening Friday (after a preview tonight), at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.

Mr. Cole set out a decade ago to write a science-fiction musical, with a few stops and starts.

“The first idea was ‘The Time Machine’ itself. I thought, ‘OK, I really like the beginning of that.’ Then when I started thinking about the Morlocks in the distant future, I started thinking, ‘Ooh, that smells baaad.’ “

Bad, at least, for a stage adaptation; Morlocks were Wells’ idea of human evolution about 800,000 years in the future. “Time After Time,” on the other hand, is an all-too-human story with elements of sci-fi. It re-imagines real people — Wells and Jack the Ripper — in a time-travel situation. The author, librettist and lyricist, whose “After the Fair” received an Outer Circle Critics nomination for Best Musical, also collaborated with Mr. Saver on another other-worldly show, “Casper.”

Mr. Cole obtained the stage rights to “Time After Time” from the novelist Karl Alexander, who plans to attend the premiere Friday and sign copies of his book in the lobby before the show.

“When I really delved more into this, there was so much more to it than sci-fi,” Mr. Cole said. “There’s the romance, the comedy and especially the bigger picture of the character of H.G. Wells seeking a Utopia and finding out what the world really was. It screamed to be sung, because it was about love being the only bearable thing in a world with good and evil.

“And as the years went by and we wrote the show, 9/11 came, the world changed, and the picture of good and evil changed drastically.”

The three collaborators live in New York. In the new musical, Wells lands there following his friend, John, who has been revealed as the Ripper and uses Wells’ time machine to make a getaway.

The film had catapulted them from 1895 London to 1970s San Francisco.

“I felt part of the reason it was set in San Francisco was to do car chases on those hills, and I knew we wouldn’t be doing those,” Mr. Cole said, laughing.

The show takes other detours, including motivation for the Ripper’s heinous crimes. He also is haunted by a chorus of his victims.

“You can get away with murder in film,” Mr. Saver said, pun intended, but you can’t throw in a car chase to divert a savvy theater crowd.

Mr. Saver is a teaching artist-in-residence at Point Park University, which provided the cast, crew and theater — “They are the producers of this production,” Mr. Cole said.

It was about a year ago that Mr. Barre, a veteran director and Tony-nominated actor (for the 1989 musical “Starmites”), joined the team. He had hoped to work with Mr. Cole since a previous project fell through due to scheduling conflicts.

“I was really drawn to the piece,” Mr. Barre said. “It succeeds on so many levels. I have a habit of calling it a good, old-fashioned, contemporary romantic sci-fi thriller.”

Also aboard was Steve Orich, the arranger/orchestrator for performers, films, and TV series, plus shows such as “Jersey Boys.” Some of the “Time After Time” tunes got a concert treatment, accompanied by piano, at a Massachusetts benefit, with Broadway stars like Fox Chapel’s Christian Borle (”Spamalot,” “Legally Blonde”) singing as Wells.

For this first full-scale production with orchestra, Point Park Conservatory students populate the cast, including John Wascavage as H.G. Wells, Taylor Chalker as Amy and Michael Campayno as John Leslie Stephenson (the Ripper).

Last Wednesday, all were gathered at the Playhouse’s Rockwell Theater, where scenery and musicians were introduced to the rehearsal process.

Before heading to their respective perches for rehearsal — Mr. Saver with the musicians, Mr. Barre directing onstage traffic from the center of the theater, Mr. Cole going back and forth between them, taking pictures and notes — the trio sat at a round table in a room several flights above the Playhouse theaters and discussed their congenial collaboration.

They alternately finished each other’s sentences, talked over each other and ceded the floor. Asked if there was a tie-breaking vote to settle disagreements, Mr. Saver jumped in first.

“It’s never come to that because we’re all about the same thing: making the show as good as it can possibly be and keeping it honest.”

An example would be Mr. Saver changing his tune to serve the characters and keep the show “as timeless as possible.”

“One of the things I’ve said before to Steve is, wouldn’t it be interesting if John and H.G., when they come forward, if they sing in a contemporary vernacular? But why would they? They only know from whence they come. So you have to find something that rings true, rings honestly. That idea lasted about 15 minutes. It didn’t resonate at all.”

What you do find are tunes associated with specific characters crossing over, particularly in the case of H.G. Wells, as the characters grow and learn from each other.

All of these ideas are evolving and keeping the student cast on its toes. Mr. Cole said that there were changes on 30 pages of the script after the first rehearsal.

Last week, the trio descended the steps and Mr. Barre led the cast as it was introduced to the multilevel set — asymmetrical steps that can represent more than one locale in the same scene — bordered by projection screens. Mr. Barre, miked so he could be heard from the audience seats, advised them to get comfortable with the steps and “put safety first.”

The actors then went through their paces as Mr. Barre stopped and started and stopped again, asking actors to retrace their steps and then make note of new marks, before beginning anew. Calculus might be a breeze compared to creating a role from scratch, learning lyrics and lines, and remembering where to be at every moment.

“I told them from the first day, you’re not here just for your talents but for your minds,” Mr. Barre said. “I really want them to engage us in what works for them and what doesn’t. … We’ve learned from them, too.”

During the run-through, the actors maneuvered around and through a false-proscenium wall, with openings that will become doors, in front of the staggered steps. As the musical opens, it defines London streets and Wells’ home.

The actors were asked to work at a fast clip or retrace their steps, as Mr. Barre conducted traffic control.

The director and his collaborators say that it helps that they are all detail-oriented, and that they watch each other’s backs to serve the piece.

One thing they all agree on is that the book and movie were merely starting points. Mr. Cole hasn’t seen the movie in more than 10 years.

It would be a mistake to be too reverent to the source material, he said, “especially in musical theater. If you look at the film, there are some holes which are covered beautifully by car chases. … I think theater audiences are smart. If something doesn’t ring true, they will not be listening in the next scene.”

It is interesting to see that the main character is named Stephenson, not only like Robert D’Onston Stephenson, but in keeping with the murderer in the original movie of the same name.


I would like to wish the cast and crew of this production all the best, or should that be “Break a leg”?

Whitechapel II

TV/Documentaries No Comments »

Whitechapel is Back!!  The most popular drama series of 2009 returns with another series commisioned by ITV.

Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis and Steve Pemberton reprise their starring roles in the three-part series, produced by Carnival Films. The story continues to centre around the iconic cult of Jack the Ripper in the East End of London.
Series executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle said: “Whitechapel II will be as sharp, intense and as visually distinctive as the first series with the gangster culture of the Krays never far away. Once again the streets of Whitechapel yield an extraordinary story and we are delighted, if slightly scared, to be going back there again.”
Director of drama Laura Mackie added: “Whitechapel II will be as audacious and as compelling as the first series strengthened by further character development and very real personal jeopardy.”  The show will be produced for Carnival Films for ITV.

The principal cast will be joined by Peter Serafinowicz, (The Peter Serafinowicz Show) who plays DCI Cazenove and Craig Parkinson, (Lark-Rise to Candleford) who plays twins, Jimmy and Johnny Kray. Whitechapel II once again draws on a set of iconic cult crimes born out of the area. After Jack the Ripper comes the gangster brutality of the Krays, and in Whitechapel II the paranoia of this era and the faded glamour of the former East End overlords will characterise the drama.
Directed by David Evans (Unforgiven, Survivors) and produced by Grainne Marmion (Small Island, The Damned United), Whitechapel II will be filming at various locations around London including Whitechapel, Bethnal Green and the East End.
Whitechapel I, which played out in a 9pm Monday night slot in February, was ITV1’s best performing new drama of 2009. The first episode debuted with 9.3 million viewers (31.1%) and an average audience of 8.7 million (30.1%) watched across the three episodes.
Returning to write the second series are Ben Court and Caroline Ip and Sally Woodward Gentle will executive produce the series.
Woodward Gentle said, “Whitechapel II will be as sharp, intense and as visually distinctive as the first series with the gangster culture of the Krays never far away. Once again the streets of Whitechapel yield an extraordinary story and we are delighted, if slightly scared, to be going back there again.”


Thai “Jack the Ripper” jailed!

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The Bangkok Post ran an article on February 12th 2010 regarding a man named Somkid Phumphuang.  The full report read,

The Criminal Court has sentenced a suspected serial killer who allegedly murdered five sex workers to life imprisonment in connection with the death of one of the victims. 

The court yesterday found Somkid Phumphuang, 45, guilty of premeditated murder and robbery of Sompong Pimpornpirom, 25, a masseuse, at Piya Mansion in Buri Ram, on Jun 20-21, 2005.

The court was told the suspect had met the victim at a hotel in downtown Buri Ram before taking her to Piya Mansion. They had sex and while Ms Sompong was asleep, Somkid strangled her to death and took her belongings including a gold ring and necklace worth 12,200 baht.

The court handed down the death penalty to Somkid but commuted the sentence to life imprisonment due to his confession.

He must pay 10,000 baht to the victim’s family for stealing the woman’s belongings. Last August, Somkid was sentenced to life on charges of murdering a singer in Mukdahan. Somkid, dubbed ”Thailand’s Jack the Ripper”, was also indicted in three other murder cases in 2005.


For the record,   10,000 baht is roughly £196 gbp!

Jack the Ripper- The Hull Connection Lecture.

Events No Comments »

Next month I will be lecturing at the multi million pound Hull History Centre on March 9th 2010 as part of the Lunchtime Club.

The event will begin at 12.30 and run for an hour, concluding at 1.30.

Admission is free!

Among the items discussed will be:
Hull Ripper Letters
Hull Ripper Scares
9 Previously named Ripper Suspects with links to Kingston upon Hull.

For more details visit:

Hull History Centre,
Worship Street, Hull HU2 8BG

Monday 9.30am - 7.45pm
Tuesday 9.30am - 5.30pm
Wednesday 9.30am - 7.45pm
Thursday 9.30am - 5.30pm
Friday 9.30am - 5.30pm
Saturday 9.00am - 4.30pm

Tel: 01482 317500


Recent Findings

Archives, Books, Libraries, Research, Stephenson Family No Comments »

This morning I once again had the pleasure of visiting the multi million pound Hull History Centre and I must admit, I made some fantastic finds, including,

The Census entries for Dr Sutton, the man who treated Robert D’Onston Stephenson in the London Hospital.

The Death Entry for Dr Sutton.

The entry of Dr Sutton into the British Medical Registry.

The Census entries for Dr Morgan Davies, the man Stephenson accused of being Jack the Ripper.

The Death entry for Dr Morgan Davies.

The entry of Dr Morgan Davies into the British Medical Registry.

I searched the Death Registers and found Isabella Stephenson’s box number, showing where and when she was buried and with whom.

I also managed to transcribe three years of the Hull Watch Committee’s Minutes, showing Richard Stephenson Junior present at the committee and sub-committee meetings.

I also managed to transcribe three years of the Hull Corporation Minutes showing Richard Stephenson Senior receiving his quarterly wage and bonuses for his role as a Water Bailiff.

These records also showed the political career of Richard Stephenson Junior.

I also searched the British Medical Registers for the years 1859, 1863, 1867, 1871, 1875, 1879, 1883, 1887, 1891, 1895, 1899, 1903, 1907, 1911 in search of Robert D’Onston Stephenson and his aliases!

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