Miss Emily Marsh was cited by contemporary newspapers as possibly having conversed with the author of the "From Hell" letter. She was employed in her father's leather shop at 218 Jubilee Street, Mile-end-road on Monday, 15 October 1888, when a man walked in at around one o'clock in the afternoon and asked for George Lusk's address. He referred to the notice of a reward that was posted in the shop window.
Marsh initially offered the address of Joseph Aarons, the treasurer of the Vigilance Committee who lived only thirty yards away, but the man indicated he "had no interest in going there." The girl then found a newspaper nearby which referred to Lusk's address as "Alderney-road, Globe-road," with no street number indicated, and she read this aloud while the man wrote it down in his pocketbook. He then thanked the girl and left the shop, but Emily was so "alarmed by the man's appearance" that she sent John Cormack, the shop-boy, to follow him a bit and make sure everything was alright. At around this time Mr. Marsh, the owner of the shop, returned and witnessed the man on the sidewalk just outside 218 Jubilee Street.
As he left the shop, the stranger passed directly by Joseph Aaron's house but did not call there.
No one took any particular notice of this event until after news of the "From Hell" letter, which was sent to Lusk on the following day, hit the press.
Both Emily and her father, as well as John Cormack, gave full descriptions of the man they saw:
- around forty-five years old
- six-feet tall
- slimly built
- soft felt black hat, drawn over his forehead
- stand-up collar, described as "Prussian or clerical" and partly turned up.
- very long, black, single-breasted overcoat
- face was sallow with a dark beard and moustache
- spoke with an Irish accent
George Lusk was informed of the Marsh incident shortly thereafter, but stated categorically that no one matching that description had called to see him, nor did he know anyone who resembled the stranger.
The story of Emily Marsh's encounter hit the newspapers on 20 October 1888, being most fully described in the Daily Telegraph and Evening News. The Sunday Times of 21 October 1888 stated that the circumstances surrounding the stranger had "not been satisfactorily accounted for." It appears that no further press mentions are made of the incident after that point, nor is it mentioned in the surviving police records.
Possible Connection with an Incident of 4 October 1888
Some modern-day scholars have attempted to draw parallels with the Emily Marsh incident and a statement made by one of George Lusk's sons to the press only a week before. The statement was made to a press correspondent on the afternoon of Saturday, 6 October:
"On Thursday [4 October], at 4:15, a man apparently from 30 to 40 years of age, 5ft. 9in. in height, florid complexion, with bushy brown beard, whiskers and moustache, went to the private residence of Mr. Lusk in Alderney-street, Mile-end, and asked for him. He happened to be at a tavern kept by his son, and thither the man went, and after asking all sorts of questions relative to the beats taken by members of the Committee, attempted to induce Mr. Lusk to enter a private room with him.
The stranger's appearance however was so repulsive and forbidding that Mr. Lusk declined, but consented to hold a quiet conversation with him in the bar-parlour. The two were talking, when the stranger drew a pencil from his pocket and purposely dropped it over the side of the table saying, "Pick that up." Just as Mr. Lusk turned to do so he noticed the stranger make a swift though silent movement of his right hand towards the side pocket, and seeing that he was detected assumed a nonchalant air, and asked to be directed to the nearest coffee and dining-rooms. Mr. Lusk directed him to a house in the Mile End-road, and the stranger quietly left the house, followed by Mr. Lusk who went to the coffee-house indicated, and found that the man had not been there, but had given his pursuer the slip by disappearing up a court." (News of the World, 7 October 1888)
Some comparisons may be drawn between the description made by Lusk Jr. and that made by Emily Marsh, but one key fact seems to indicate these were two completely separate incidents. Both the Daily Telegraph and the Evening News clearly stated that George Lusk was given the description of the man encountered by Emily Marsh, and he replied that he didn't "know any one at all like the man in question". Surely if these two incidents involved the same man, Lusk would have remembered his peculiar experience with the pencil-dropping stranger only two weeks before.
Possible Connection with the Author of the "From Hell" Letter
The timing of the Marsh incident, as well as several key details of her description, have led many modern scholars to conclude that her man was indeed the author of the "From Hell" letter. The fact that this happened only one day before the letter was received is perhaps the most suggestive, as is the man's Irish accent, as the letter was written in what is generally described as an "Irish" voice, with spellings such as "Sor" for "Sir," and "prasarved" for "preserved." Emily also did not provide the man with a street-number when she read out Mr. Lusk's address, and no street number was indicated on the package which contained the letter and section of kidney.
However, one bit of evidence exists that may indicate the author of the "From Hell" letter already had Lusk's address several days before the Marsh incident. According to Lusk, he received a postcard a "day or two" before the arrival of the "From Hell" letter. It read:
"Say, Boss, you seem rare frightened ; guess I'd like to give you fits, but can't stop time enough to let you box of toys play copper games with me, but hope to see you when I don't hurry so much. Good-bye, Boss.-Mr. Lusk, Head Vigilance Committee, Alderney-street, Mile-end"
The handwriting of this postcard was deemed to be quite similar to that of the "From Hell" letter by Lusk, as well as several other members of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee and at least one journalist at the Evening News. (Unfortunately, it does not survive today to allow for modern examination).
If the "Box of Toys" postcard was from the same author as the "From Hell" letter, then this seems to indicate that the author already had Lusk's address, possibly a day before the Emily Marsh incident. However, no precise date has been given for when "Box of Toys" was received - the consistently vague date in numerous press reports is "a day or two" before the receipt of the "From Hell" letter. If it was in fact just the day before "From Hell" was received, this would mean "Box of Toys" arrived at Lusk's residence on the same day as the Emily Marsh encounter. Since Marsh gave the stranger Lusk's address at one o'clock in the afternoon, and since postal deliveries in 1888 occurred several times throughout the day, it would still be within the realm of possibility that Emily Marsh's man posted "Box of Toys" soon after leaving the shop at 218 Jubilee Street, and that it was received by Lusk later that same afternoon.
Although we can not be certain, it is altogether possible that Emily Marsh did in fact encounter the author of the From Hell missive.
Connections with Known Suspects
The description given by Emily Marsh has been compared by modern researchers to several known suspects:
- the "Pipeman" involved in the Israel Schwartz incident on the night of 30 September.
- Michael Ostrog, who was known to have dressed as a cleric at time
- Francis Tumblety, who was quite close to six feet in height and, though raised in America, did come from an Irish family. He was also fond of wearing a "Prussian uniform."
All such comparisons are of course speculative. It is entirely possible, if not probable, that Emily Marsh's man was a local nobody, perhaps a prankster, or perhaps someone genuinely interested in assisting the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. At this late date, its highly doubtful we will ever know for sure.
The Emily Marsh Incident, Staged?
At least one modern researcher has suggested that the Emily Marsh incident (as well as the 4 October 1888 incident recorded by Lusk's son) may have been staged by members of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, as a means of garnering additional publicity for the organization. Tom Wescott has put forward Charles Reeves, a member of the Committee and life-long actor, as having possibly been involved in the ruse, perhaps at the behest of Joseph Aarons, but this - as Wescott himself acknowledges - is purely speculation.Contemporary Sources
News of the World - 7 October 1888
Times - 8 October 1888
Evening News - 19 October 1888
Daily Telegraph - 20 October 1888
Evening News - 20 October 1888
Sunday Times - 21 October 1888