People of London and Fear of Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper is, by far, one of the earliest and most notorious serial killers in history. Terrorizing the streets of London, England in 1888, Jack the Ripper has inspired countless fictional characters in literature and movies. Over 150 non-fiction works have been published regarding and stipulating about the crimes committed by Jack the Ripper; he was the inspiration behind the character in The Lodger, by Marie Belloc Lowndes, later adapted into a film version by the infamous Alfred Hitchcock. But the horrific murders and fear Jack the Ripper was responsible and were far too real for the people of London.

Jack the Ripper was the title given to the unidentified person responsible for murdering and disfiguring at least five prostitutes in East London, in an area called Whitechapel, after a person claiming to serial killer signed his name to a letter admitting to the murders, the name was then splashed across media outlets of the time. However, there is speculation that the letter may have been a hoax by a journalist searching for a break in the story. The name has proliferated history in a gruesome and profound way, and was quickly transitioned into folklore. Jack the Ripper is also called “Leather Apron” and “The Whitechapel Murderer”.

Jack the Ripper was never positively identified, adding to the unsettling and mystery behind the murders. The murders attributed to Jack the Ripper received massive media coverage from the London press. With little experience covering serial murders and sexually based crimes, journalists capitalized on the fears of Londoners and added to the terror and legacy of Jack the Ripper.

This case is singled out because of the magnitude and violence involved in each murder and the fact that the no one was ever held accountable for the murders. The most famous of the Ripper murders are those of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. All five of these victims were murdered between August 31, 1888 and November 9, 1888. There are eleven other victims in the Whitechapel area that may have been connected to the Ripper murders, along with a handful of other victims, however these are the five “confirmed” and most publicized victims connected with Jack the Ripper. Some common attributes of these five murders include the victims’ throat being slit and stab wounds or violent cutting to the abdomen.

The murder of Elizabeth Stride may or may not be attributed to Jack the Ripper, because unlike the other victims, her abdomen was left intact; there is some stipulation that the attack may have been interrupted or committed by another person all together. The attacks took place at night and became increasingly brutal; the last victim – Mary Jane Kelly – was missing her heart and her body and face were hacked almost beyond recognition. Several other victims were also missing organs, but none as damaged as the body of Mary Jane Kelly.

Jack the Ripper has been reported to have had some surgical training and medical knowledge, although other reports reject those findings. The victims’ bodies may have been mutilated post-mortem. The killer may have suffered from satyriasis, also referred to as hyper sexuality, and an erotic homicidal impulse. It is believed that these were sexually motivated murders and the attacker used the murders as a sexual release; however none of the victims were sexually assaulted. There is considerable speculation among those who have studied the Ripper murders, and many conflicting theories, however this is a widely accepted assessment.

Crimes this heinous were unheard of at this point in history and caused panic throughout the City of London. In an effort to calm the fears of Londoners, Sir Melville Macnaghten, the Head of the Criminal Investigation Department and Assistant Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police Department at the time stated in a report that “the Whitechapel murderer had 5 victims - & 5 victims only”. However, Jack the Ripper will continue to live on in criminology and folklore as one of the most brutal serial killers in history and “Ripperologists” continue to be fascinated by these infamous murders.

The Hunt for Jack the Ripper – A PDF detailing the Ripper Diaries and contributions of those who study and speculate regarding Jack the Ripper.

FBI: Jack the Ripper – A PDF document released by the FBI under the Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts detailing the investigation of Jack the Ripper.

Jack the Ripper: An Introduction – A website dedicated to the investigation and murders committed by Jack the Ripper.

Metropolitan Police Investigate Jack the Ripper – Information regarding the mystery, suspects, and victims associated with Jack the Ripper.

The Telegraph: Jack the Ripper’s Identity Finally Uncovered? – A British newspaper sheds new light on the 1888 serial murders attributed to the infamous Jack the Ripper.