When The Ripper Came to Town (Part Two)

Continued from Part One

After the Double Event during which two women were murdered in a single night, the police were more desperate than ever to solve the killings.   The hunt for Jack the Ripper consumed countless man-hours as investigators covered every possible lead.  Even the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee got into the act by hiring two private detectives to run their own parallel investigation.   Also, given that this was an era when spiritualism was all the rage, self-proclaimed psychics offered their services to the Metropolitan Police only to be turned away.  One of these psychics, Robert James Lees, would complain in his diary that the police had called him a "fool and a lunatic."   Meanwhile, Metropolitan Police Chief Sir Charles Warren got into the act again by arranging for bloodhounds to be brought to London to get a scent of the killer at the crime scenes.  Nothing came of the attempt (according to legend, both hounds and Sir Charles managed to lose themselves in the London smog).

And, of course, the mocking letters continued to come.  One postcard smeared with blood and written in red ink was received by the Central News Agency and said, "‘I was not codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip. You’ll hear about saucy Jacky’s work tomorrow. Double event this time.  Number one squealed a bit. Couldn’t finish straight off. Had not time to get ears for police. Thanks for keeping back the last letter till I got to work again – Jack the Ripper."   Unfortunately, the postcard has since disappeared from police records so there is no way to verify whether the blood was real or if it was simply another hoax.  

Not surprisingly, police brought in suspect after suspect based on their "suspicious movements",  having a rough resemblance to the sketches of the Ripper's face as described by the few witnesses, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.   All of them were released with police being no closer to making an arrest.   They then tried to place "decoys" on the streets, mainly consisting of officers dressed as women partnered with plainclothes officers.   One outraged Londoner, who took offense to how he was being watched while spending time with a woman in a doorway, punched a plainclothes officer in the eye after accusing him of being a voyeur.   

On October 16, just a few weeks after the Double Event, George Lusk, the head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, received a small cardboard box wrapped in brown paper.   Inside the box was a bloodstained letter and half a human kidney.   The letter read:  "From Hell/ Mr Lusk Sir I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman.  Preserved it for you, tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knife that took it out if you only wate a whil longer. signed Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk."   While the kidney was believed to have belonged to Catherine Eddowes, there was no way to very this considering the state of forensic medicine at the time.    As for the note, which has since gained immortality as the "From Hell" letter, Ripperologists argue that it may be one of the few notes to come from the true killer though nobody is quite sure what to make of the crude language in which the note was written.   220px-FromHellLetter[1]

The impact of all the lurid Ripper details being described in London's various newspapers continued to take a toll, regardless of what Jack was actually up to at the time.   One woman, Mrs. Mary Burridge, was reportedly so overcome by reading a particularly gruesome story about the killings in the Star that she dropped dead with a copy of the paper still in her hand.  Whether this actually happened or was simply one of the many rumours that were circling at the time is anybody's guess at this point.  While there were numerous other murder cases being investigated by the Metropolitan Police (this was London, after all), they were all largely overshadowed by the Ripper killings.  Even a stage adaptation of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde was cut short because actor Richard Mansfield's portrayal of Mister Hyde was so convincing.  He was even briefly accused of being the Ripper himself before being allowed to leave town with the rest of the theatrical troupe.   

Police also managed to make an charge 22-year-old Maria Coroner with writing "certain letters tend to cause a breach of the peace ... purported to be written by Jack the Ripper."   Though the charge was relatively minor, the judge still denied her bail and kept her in jail until her trial, largely because everyone was sick of the hoax letters and were willing to make an example of anyone caught sending them.

By November, police were no closer to making an arrest despite various theories about who Jack really was.  These theories ranged from the killer being a medical doctor, a butcher with experience in carving up animals, a member of nobility, etc.  Various likely (and a few unlikely) candidates were investigated and dismissed as suspects.  In the meantime, letters describing rather innovative methods for protecting the public from Jack's rampage continued to be published in newspapers.   One letter printed in the Star proposed that "a few young men of somewhat feminine appearance should be got up in disguises as females. They should wear around their necks steel collars made after the style of a ladies’ collaret, coming well down the breast and likewise well down the back. My reason for this is . . . that the assassin first severs his victim’s windpipe, thereby preventing her raising an alarm."   No word on whether this innovative plan was ever carried out.

But the main reason people were so terrified was the morbid publicity over the killings being drummed up by the various newspapers in town.   There was certainly no escaping the lurid headlines being hawked by various street vendors selling papers.  According to one plaintive letter written in the Daily Telegraph:

"Sir, Can nothing be done to prevent a set of hoarse ruffians coming nightly about our suburban squares and streets yelling at the tops of their voices, and nearly frightening the life out of sensitive women and children of this neighbourhood? Last evening, for instance, their cry was ‘Special’ – ‘Murder’ – ‘Paper’ – ‘Jack’ – ‘The’ – ‘Ripper’ – ‘Caught’ – ‘Paper’ – ‘Whitechapel’ – ‘Paper’ – ‘Got him at last’ – Paper . . . These awful words were bawled out about nine o’clock in a quiet part of Kensington; a lady who was supping with us was so greatly distressed by these hideous bellowings that she was absolutely too unnerved to return home save in a cab because she would have to walk a hundred yards or so down a street at the end of her journey by omnibus. Now, I venture to ask sir, is it not monstrous that the police do not protect us from such flagrant and ghastly nuisances?"

But the Autumn of Terror wasn't over yet....

To be continued


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