22 September 1907
Who Was Jack the Ripper?
by George R. Sims
Who Was Jack the Ripper?
The deeds of darkness of this miserable wretch, cursed with one of the most terrible forms of blood lust, are known over the world. During his short career of carnage he built up for himself immortal infamy.
I have, while travelling abroad, purchased in various languages pamphlets and booklets on Jack the Ripper, more of less of the catch-penny order, and I have seen them eagerly purchased at country fairs on the Continent by the gaping village folks.
A year after the last of the murders I was in a little town in the South of Italy on market day, and I bought of a man who carried a banner on which the crimes of Jack the Ripper were gorily depicted, the last copy of the red covered penny dreadful he was selling. It was entitled:-
Il Terrible Squartatore Di Donne
and gave a detailed and lurid account in Italian of the crimes of the Whitechapel fiend.
Whenever during the last nineteen years a wholesale slaughterer of women has been brought to trial in this country the cry "Is he Jack the Ripper?" has been raised in the Press. Deeming Neil Cream, and Chapman were all in their turn brought into the controversy without the slightest justification. Their methods were entirely different to Jack's, and their motives were not the same.
From Germany, France, Spain, the United States, and South America there have come stories from time to time of women slayers whose deeds have led the local Press to revive the murder mysteries of the East-end of London. A good many murders with which he had absolutely nothing to do have in this country been popularly attributed to the Whitechapel monster.
I have seen six, seven, and eight East-end murders of women debited to the Ripper, but, as a matter of fact, his murders were five in all, and no more. The other murders of women committed about the time were in a totally different "handwriting."
The crimes that brought him into public discussion were all committed in a limited area, and within a limited period. They were as follows:-
1. Mary Ann Nichols, forty seven, her throat cut and body mutilated, in Buck's row, Whitechapel, Aug. 31, 1888.
2. Annie Chapman, forty seven, her throat cut and body mutilated, in Hanbury street, Spitalfields, Sept. 8, 1888.
3. Elizabeth Stride, throat cut, in Berner street, on Sept. 30, 1888.
4. Catherine Eddowes, alias Conway, mutilated in Mitre square, Aldgate, also on Sept. 30, 1888.
5. Marie Jeanette Kelly, fiendishly mutilated, in Miller's court, Whitechapel, Nov. 9, 1888. Most of the murders marked an advance in the disease from which the madman who committed them was suffering.
The mutilations in the last murder, that in Miller's court, were so ghastly that the full details were never made public. It was impossible for any journal of general circulation to describe them fully.
The mutilations were in all the cases, except one in which probably the murderer was interrupted, ghastly and revolting, and in one case an internal organ had been removed in a manner which showed beyond the shadow of a doubt that the miscreant was person of anatomical knowledge.
Maniacal as was the fury with which he hacked and ripped his unhappy victims, the instance in which he skilfully removed and carried away with him this internal organ must be borne in mind when discussing the identity of the monster.
Into the separate details of the murders which during the autumn of the year 1888 kept the public mind in a state of seething excitement, and caused a panic in the East-end and were undoubtedly the main cause of the resignation of the then Chief Commissioner of Police, it is not necessary to go.
The public indignation over this series of unparalleled atrocities vented itself upon the police authorities, and the Home Secretary by declining to offer a reward came in for a considerable amount of fierce criticism. But when all has been said the fact has to be admitted that the best efforts of the police were foiled not so much by the cunning of the murderer as by the conduct of the victims themselves. Being of the unfortunate class, they willingly accompanied the man who was to murder them into dark and hidden places where, at the hour of night selected by the fiend as the most favourable for his purpose, there was little chance of attention being attracted.
In no case except in the last, which was the only one that occurred inside a house, was the faintest cry heard.
In the last crime, the murder of Marie Kelly, in the house in Miller's court, two women living in the court declared that between three and four in the morning they heard a cry of "Murder!"
It roused them from their sleep, but it made no impression upon them, and they closed their eyes again.
Such a cry usually means nothing in such a neighbourhood. Some years ago I stood in a little room in a slum in the East of London. It was a room on the ground floor, and the window opened on to a back yard.
In this yard a woman had recently been murdered. The occupants of the room above had heard her shriek and call out "Murder!" but they had taken no notice. I asked the woman living in the room why she had not got up and given an alarm, or, at least, looked out to see what was the matter. Her reply was very much to the point.
"If we got out of bed in this street, sir, every time we heard somebody yell "Murder!" we should be in and out of bed half the night."
The cry to ears accustomed to it means nothing more than a quarrel and a fight.
The cry of Maria Jeannette Kelly, the most terribly mutilated of all the Ripper's victims, did certainly ring out upon the night, but the other victims were killed before they had time to utter a sound.
They were killed, hacked, hewn, and mutilated in the dark byeways in and around Whitechapel and left lying where they fell to greet the horrified eyes of the first person who should pass that way.
To realise the most remarkable feature of these maniacal deeds it must be borne in mind that the murderer, after cutting the throat of his victim and hacking the body about with maniacal fury, always, except in the last instance, in a dark place, left the scene of his butchery and walked home through the public streets, He had a home somewhere, he slept somewhere, ate somewhere, changed his linen somewhere, sane his linen to the wash somewhere, kept his clothes and lived his life somewhere, yet never during the series of murders did he arouse the suspicions of any person who communicated with the police.
The first murder was committed on Aug. 31, and the last on Nov. 9 - the night of Lord Mayor's day - therefore, five times during three months did the Ripper rise from his orgy of blood and walk through the streets of London to his home without attracting the attention of one single witness who could be called upon to give evidence of any value.
One man only, a policeman, saw him leaving the place in which he had just accomplished a fiendish deed, but failed, owing to the darkness, to get a good view of him. A little later the policeman stumbled over the lifeless body of the victim.
One other man believed that he had seen the Ripper soon after the double murders of Sept. 30, and he may have done, but there was no absolute proof that he was correct in his surmise.
This man was a coffee stall keeper. In the early hours of the date of these murders, between three and four in the morning, as far as I can remember, a man came to the stall and asked for a cup of coffee.
The customer stood drinking his coffee, and the stall keeper said, thinking of the murder of Sept. 8, that the Ripper had been quiet for a bit. "But," he added, "I expect we shall hear of another murder before long." "Yes," replied the customer, "you may hear of two before many hours are over."
He put down the cup, took some coppers out of his pocket, and stretched his hand across the stall to give them to the stall keeper.
The sleeve of his coat was drawn up by the action and the shirt cuff came into view.
The cuff of the shirt was stained with blood.
the man saw the coffee stall keeper's eyes fixed on his bloodstained cuff, bade him a gruff "goodnight," and walked rapidly away, quickly disappearing into the darkness.
That morning the coffee stall keeper heard of the two murders, the one in Berner street, which was discovered about one in the morning, and the other in Mitre square, which was not discovered until nearly two o'clock. The man with the bloodstained cuffs had suggested between two and three in the morning that "two" murders might be heard of in a few hours.
The coffee stall keeper gave his information to the police and to Dr. Forbes Winslow; who at that time was writing letters on the subject of the Ripper murders in the Press and expressing a very strong opinion that they were the work of a homicidal maniac, who had a trained knowledge of surgery.
What was the man with bloodstained cuffs like? That was the question. The coffee stall keeper described him from memory. A day or two later passing by a stationer's shop he saw exhibited in the window a sixpenny book entitled "The Social Kaleidoscope." On the cover was a portrait of the author.
"That is the living image of the man I saw," he exclaimed. He purchased the book and went off with it to Dr. Forbes Winslow.
"That is the man I saw, or his double," he exclaimed, handing over my little book to the astonished doctor, who knowing me fairly well, assured the coffee stall keeper that it might be the double of the Ripper, but it certainly was not the fiend himself.
I present the portrait as one put forward by a man who had every reason to believe that he had seen and conversed with Jack the Ripper, as the "double" of the Whitechapel Terror.
Various witnesses who had seen a man conversing with a woman who was soon afterwards found murdered said that he was a well dressed man with a black moustache. Others described him as a man with a closely trimmed beard. The portrait on the cover of the first edition of "The Social Kaleidoscope", a book which twenty years ago was in most of the newsagents' and small booksellers' windows, was taken about 1879.
There are two theories with regard to the identity of the Ripper. One has everything in its favour, and is now generally accepted by the high authorities who had the details of the various investigations gathered together and systematically inquired into.
It is betraying no state secret to say that the official view arrived at after the exhaustive and systematic investigation of facts that never became public property is that the author of the atrocities was one of three men.
Let us take them separately.
The first man was a Polish Jew of curious habits and strange disposition, who was the sole occupant of certain premises in Whitechapel after nightfall. This man was in the district during the whole period covered by the Whitechapel murders, and soon after they ceased certain facts came to light which showed that it was quite possible that he might have been the Ripper. He had at one time been employed in a hospital in Poland. He was known to be a lunatic at the time of the murders, and some time afterwards he betrayed such undoubted signs of homicidal mania that he was sent to a lunatic asylum.
The second man was a Russian doctor, a man of vile character, who had been in various prisons in his own country and in ours.
The Russian doctor who at the time of the murders was in Whitechapel, but in hiding as it afterwards transpired, was in the habit of carrying surgical knives about with him. He suffered from a dangerous form of insanity, and when inquiries were afterwards set on foot he was found to be in a criminal lunatic asylum abroad. He was a vile and terrible person, capable of any atrocity.
Both these men were capable of the Ripper crimes, but there is one thing that makes the case against each of them weak.
They were both alive long after the horrors had ceased, and though both were in an asylum, there had been a considerable time after the cessation of the Ripper crimes during which they were at liberty and passing about among their fellow men.
The third man was a doctor who lived in a suburb about six miles from Whitechapel, and who suffered from a horrible form of homicidal mania, a mania which leads the victim to look upon women of a certain class with frenzied hatred.
The doctor had been an inmate of a lunatic asylum for some time, and had been liberated and regained his complete freedom.
After the maniacal murder in Miller's court, the doctor disappeared from the place in which he had been living, and his disappearance caused inquiries to be made concerning him by his friends who had, there is reason to believe, their own suspicions about him, and these inquiries about him were made through the proper authorities.
A month after the last murder the body of the doctor was found in the Thames. There was everything about it to suggest that it had been in the river for nearly a month.
The horrible nature of the atrocity committed in Miller's court pointed to the last stage of frenzied mania. Each murder had shown a marked increase in maniacal ferocity. The last was the culminating point. The probability is that immediately after committing this murderous deed the author of it committed suicide. There was nothing else left for him to do except to be found wandering, a shrieking, raving fiend, fit only for the padded cell.
What is probable is that after the murder he made his way to the river, and in the dark hours of a November night or in the misty dawn he leapt in and was drowned.
From this time the Ripper murders ceased. There have been no more. Women have been barbarously and mysteriously murdered since, but never with the unmistakeable "handwriting" of the Ripper upon the deed.
The other theory in support of which I have some curious information, puts the crime down to a young American medical student who was in London during the whole time of the murders, and who, according to statements of certain highly respectable people who knew him, made on two occasions an endeavour to obtain a certain internal organ, which for his purpose had to be removed from, as he put it, "the almost living body."
Dr. Wynne Baxter, the coroner, in his summing up to the jury in the case of Annie Chapman, pointed out the significance of the fact that this internal organ had been removed.
But against this theory put forward by those who uphold it with remarkable details and some startling evidence in support of their contention, there is one great fact. The American was alive and well and leading the life of an ordinary citizen long after the Ripper murders came to an end.
It would be impossible for the author of the Miller's court horror to have lived a life of apparent sanity one single day after that maniacal deed. He was a raving madman then and a raving madman when he flung himself in the Thames.
The fact that I had the unpleasant experience of having my portrait pointed out to the authorities as the portrait of the Ripper, caused me to take a keen personal interest in the East end horrors, and I have in my museum some curious documents and gruesome photographs connected with the crime. Two of them are unprintable. The photograph of the scene in Miller's court is not one to be looked upon except by those who have in the exercise of their calling to study all phases of human perversion.
But no one who saw that awful scene, or its reproduction in the photographic exhibits prepared for the coroner's jury, could possibly believe that the perpetrator of the horror could return to the quiet enjoyment of the rights of citizenship, or even change the methods of his consuming madness and become a Deeming, a Neil Cream, or a Chapman.