The unsolved case of Jack the Ripper is one that has fascinated people around the world for many years. The gruesome murders of five women (possibly even more) have become firmly ingrained in the public psyche, with increasingly elaborate schemes and conspiracy theories being thought up even now, 129 years later.
Jack the Ripper is one of the world’s most infamous serial killers. Five women from London’s Whitechapel district were murdered across the duration of several months in 1888. At the time, the killings gripped the nation like never before. Despite dozens of arrests, police and detectives were unable to positively identify the killer, and the entire East End of London lived in fear of becoming the Ripper’s next victim.
The Ripper’s five confirmed victims – the ‘Canonical Five’ – were all local residents of Whitechapel. The first victim was Mary Ann Nichols, followed by Annie Chapman. Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were murdered on the same night, and the final victim of the Canonical Five was Mary Jane Kelly.
Although the rudimentary details of the Ripper and his victims are well-known, there are plenty of other more unusual facts still waiting to be explored.
Were there Only Five Victims?
As the Ripper was never caught, it is almost impossible to pin down his exact number of victims. The Canonical Five are confirmed Ripper victims, but did you know that there are actually many more potential victims too?
The Whitechapel murders file contained the information about the Canonical Five, but there were actually eleven unsolved murders detailed within the file. At various points, all of these murders have previously been attributed to Jack the Ripper.
The very first murder in the file was that of Emma Elizabeth Smith, who was robbed and assaulted by a gang of men. She later died of her injuries in hospital before she had the chance to identify her assailants. Another victim was Martha Tabram, who was stabbed 39 times. Nowadays, most experts agree that she wasn’t a Ripper victim, but as her attacker was never caught, the doubt still remains.
Following the Canonical Five murders, there were several further murders. At the time, these killings prompted fears that the Ripper had returned, but these suspicions were never confirmed.
Who were the Suspects?
Although the authorities at the time detained and questioned up to one hundred people in relation to the murders, the identity of Jack the Ripper is still a topic of contention today.
However, there are some names which continually crop up time and time again in relation to the case of Jack the Ripper. Some of the most popular suspects include Montague John Druitt, a barrister who committed suicide shortly after the last victim’s death, Aaron Kosminski, a Polish man who was admitted to a lunatic asylum, and Thomas Neill Cream, a doctor who was known to have killed before the Ripper murders began.
Of course, with all the wild theories and speculation surrounding the murders, there is also a broad spectrum of conspiracy theories and obscure suspects.
Some of the more outlandish theories include the killings being carried out as part of a Masonic conspiracy, the murderer being connected to royalty, and even Jack the Ripper being a Russian cult initiate!
Unlikelier suspects include everyone from Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll to Lord Randolph Churchill, Sir Winston Churchill’s father.
Introducing the Ten Bells Pub
One of the most infamous locations on the map of Jack the Ripper’s London, the Ten Bells pub in Whitechapel is known for its strong connection with the murders.
According to reports from the time, several of the Canonical Five victims are said to have visited the pub in the days before their untimely deaths. Elizabeth Stride was apparently thrown out for being drunk and disorderly, and Mary Kelly was drinking in the pub with a friend the night before she was murdered. Some eyewitness reports even said that Annie Chapman was drinking in the Ten Bells just hours before her body was discovered around the corner from the pub.
Still standing and trading today, the Ten Bells has now become an attraction of its own thanks to its dark past.
How Jack Became the Ripper
The persona of Jack the Ripper came about when the police received a series of letters signed off ‘from Jack the Ripper’. The authorities received hundreds of letters from people claiming to be Jack, but four stood out. These four letters were written in similar handwriting and were notable for the information they contained – the letter writer had knowledge of particular details which hadn’t been released to the general public.
The most noteworthy of these was the infamous ‘From Hell’ letter, which was delivered alongside half a human kidney, thought to have been taken from the body of one of the Ripper’s victims.
The name of ‘Jack the Ripper’ soon became public knowledge, and before long, the moniker had taken hold. As the culprit was never caught, the name has stuck ever since.
Still curious about the identity of the Ripper? Interested in finding out more about the murders and theories surrounding the case? There are numerous books and films based on the events of 1888, but a Jack the Ripper tour could be just what you need to satisfy your curiosity and discover more about the infamous killings.