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History of Jack the Ripper

The history of Jack the ripper can be traced back to the 19th century in England. During this period, the population in England was very high in the cities. There were problems of overcrowding and general work conditions due to the population pressures especially in the East End and Civil parish of White chapel in London. The overcrowding resulted in massive economic problems and most women resulted in prostitution. During the period of 1888 to 1891, there were series of brutal murders in the white chapel. The murders were linked to one serial killer who was nicknamed Jack the ripper. The name Jack the Ripper was a nickname that was attached to the serial killer who terrorized the residents during this period. He was the famous uncaught murderer of the time (Begg 17)

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The name was adopted from a letter that was written on 25th September 1888. The letter was then forwarded to the metropolitan police on 29th September. The letter was written by the serial killer who signed himself off as Jack the Ripper. The name spread fast to the public and it was adopted as the accepted nickname for the serial killer. The name has been used over the years to refer to the mystery of the uncaught serial killer. His identity remains unproven till today. The task of apprehending the serial killer had been given to the officers of Scotland yard but they honorably failed. Although the serial killer was never caught, some studies have argued that his identity was known to the Scotland yard. His father was a cosmopolitan gay and he had worked very hard to improve the status of England (Sugden 32). Over the years there have been various press stories, books, plays, pamphlets, and films which clearly bring out the facts about the serial killer.

Various individuals were named as suspects of having been the real Jack the Ripper. The number brought forward was very small. The suspects totaling about five makes it hard to believe the police were committed to finding the real serial killer. The genuine claims which were brought forward reduced the number to four suspects. The first suspect was Kosminski who was a poor Jewish resident in the white chapel. Michael Ostrog was the second suspect. He was a Russian resident who was related to theft cases. The third suspect was Montague John Druitt who was a school teacher. These three suspects had been named by Sir Melville Macnaghten. He was metropolitan police working as an assistant chief constable. Although the three were named in the suspicions, there was no sufficient evidence against them since the report given by the constable contained a lot of errors. The fourth suspect was Dr. Francis j. Tumblety. He was an American doctor who later left the country after getting a very high-priced bail. All these suspects could not be adequately related to the serial killing in the White Chapel leaving the mystery still very open with an unidentified serial killer (Jakubowski 47).

The nature of the serial killer was basically similar to most of the murders that he committed. Most of the victims of the serial killer were women who had been involved in the business of prostitution. The serial killer would have their throats cut and their bodies were mutilated. Some theories have suggested that the serial killer might have first strangled the victims in order to avoid them raising any alarm. Most of the crime scenes were reported to lack any blood. The serial killer also removed the internal organs of the victims which made the officials suspect the serial killer must have been very conversant with surgical or anatomical knowledge. Major streets that the serial killer committed his crimes included Osborn Street, George yard, Durward Street, Hanbury Street, Berner Street, Metre Squire, and Dorset street. The police efforts to catch the serial killer in the crime scenes were futile and they missed him even with minutes of committing the crime.

There are various victims who have been named as subjects to the murders of Jack the Ripper. Five murders of prostitutes are most famous. The investigations from the Metropolitan police however identified eleven separate murders from 3rd April 1888 to 13th February 1891 in the white chapel murders (Jakubowski 52). Some of the most famous victims include Mary Ann Nichols who was killed on 31st August 1888. Her body was discovered in Durward street by Charles cross. Her throat sustained two deep cuts and her abdomen had been partly ripped off leaving an open wound. Other cuts also run across the abdomen. A second victim was Annie Chapman who was killed on 8 September 1888. She was killed in Hanbury Street with her throat having two cuts, her abdomen opened and the uterus removed. Another victim is Elizabeth Stride who was killed in Henriques Street of the white chapel. She had one cut in the throat but her body was not severely mutilated. It is believed the killer must have been disturbed and Elizabeth is suspected to have died from severe bleeding. Other victims who died from similar instances include Catherine Eddowes, Mary Jane Kelly, Martha Tabram, Emma Smith, Rose Mylett, and Alice McKenzie (Begg 25). Even as these murders heightened and caused panic among the residents no one was arrested or convicted of the murders.

Jack the ripper used to communicate a lot to the police and the media in the course of the murders. This he did through written letters. Many of these letters were however considered a hoax. Some of the letters include the “Dear the Boss” letter which was written on 25th September 1888. The letter was first considered a hoax but the killer kept the promise following Eddowes death. The letter had threatened to send the ears of the victims to the police. Another letter is the “Saucy Jacky’ Postcard which was received by the agency news on 27th September 1888. It had similar handwriting as the former letter. Another letter is the “From Hell” Letter which is commonly referred to as the Lusk letter. The letter was received by George Lusk who was one of the committee members of the white chapel vigilance group. The letter was delivered in a small box that contained half a human kidney. The serial killer claimed to have eaten the other half of the kidney. This kidney was later claimed to have belonged to Eddowes (Skinner 23).

The most famous of the communication from the serial killer is the writing on the wall which were found on the crime scene of Catherine Eddowes and Elizabeth Stride. After the death of Eddowes, the police discovered a part of the Apron that she wore before her murder. Above the wall where the apron was found, there was writing on the wall in white chalk. The writing read, “The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing.” This writing has been referred to as the Goulston Street graffito by many historians (Vanderlinden 29). After this killing and the writing on the wall, there was great tension among the residents of the White chapel. A police officer ordered the writing to be removed in fear of anti-Semitic attacks by the Jews. The news about the Serial killer spread to the international level as the newspapers of the day detailed every small detail that was linked to the serial killer. News about the killer became very famous from Europe to America.

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Various investigations were carried out in an effort to catch the serial killer but the police did not bear any fruit. There were various vigilante committees that were formed to try and get the serial killer. The period was also involved with a lot of mob chasing along the White chapel streets. The last of the murders of the serial killer however ended in 1891. The case of finding the mysterious serial killer was then closed in 1892 after the police could not find the killer. Investigations to the case however continued for the next three years but no links were made (Knight 32).

In conclusion, various researchers today have made various attempts to write a profile on the killer. The researchers have drawn various conclusions on the serial killer. Most of them suggest that the killer did his activities during the week and is believed to have been living within the local residents. The killer is also believed to have had mental disturbances linked to schizophrenia which directed him to kill prostitutes. Many historians have continuously believed that the serial killer was a doctor, a butcher, a sailor, or a lunatic (Cornwell 43). The history of Jack the Ripper continues to be re-examined by generation after generation. The stories have been widely documented in books while others have made sculptures of the mystery which are found in the museums. Today there is improved technology for catching killers but during those days the serial killer could only be caught in action.


Dan Norder and Wolf Vanderlinden. Ripper Notes: Madmen, Myths and Magic. Inklings Press, 2004.

Maxim Jakubowski. The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper. Running Press, 2008.

Paul Begg. Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History. Longman publishers, 2004.

PD Cornwell. Portrait of a killer: Jack the Ripper case close. Berkley Publishing Group, 2003.

Philip Sugden.The Complete History of Jack the Ripper. Da Capo Press, 2002.

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S Knight. Jack the Ripper: The final solution. Chambers Harrap Publishers, 1976.

Stewart P. Evans and Keith Skinner. Jack the Ripper: Letters from Hell. The History Press, 2005.

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