Nearly 130 years ago, an English town by the name of Whitechapel was plagued by a vicious serial killer. This killer was known as Jack the Ripper, and rightfully so, as he was famous for his brutal slaughtering of women. Despite these crimes occurring long ago, there are many people throughout history, and present day, who call themselves Ripperologists. These people spend countless hours researching and analyzing case facts in order to solve various aspects of Jack the Ripper’s case. Aspects such as why he committed the murders, who he was, and if cases similar to his can help discover his true identity. Each Ripperologist has claimed that they have accurately identified him, although that can not be the case for each one because there can only be one true Jack the Ripper. Based on the numerous credible sources that have claimed to explain why the crimes occurred and who did them, it is apparent that no one has proven who it was with 100% certainty. Through my research into the details of the slayings, psychological theories, and police investigations, I have found that there is so much more information that is needed to know about the crimes in order to accuse someone of being the true Jack the Ripper.
The Ripper first struck the English town on August 31, 1888, killing Mary Ann Nichols (Goldstein). Unknown at the time, but Nichols was just the first victim in a string of brutal murders. Jack the Ripper was the kind of murderer who was proud of his work, he had a MO, or modus operandi, that he would do to each victim. A criminal’s MO is like a signature, something to show the world that it was their work, which is one factor showing that this was a complicated case. According to Jack Nickell, a well-known Ripperologist, each victim had her throat cut and abdomen ripped open (Nickell). With each murder, the fear grew stronger because, in the end, there were five prostitutes were brutally slain. (Nickell).
Because of the Ripper’s MO, the question wasn’t whether it was all done by the same person, the question was the identity of the criminal. The name Jack the Ripper came to be when letters began to be received by the Central News Agency and the Metropolitan Police signed Jack the Ripper(Nickell). Even though it was later proven that it was just journalists, the name caught on. The name Jack the Ripper does not give any direction as to who the killer might have been, the name is really only for the publicity, which is just one of the factors that made this case so impossible to solve. Moon madness There are many theories as to why certain people commit crimes, some psychologists blame genetics, some attribute violent behavior to childhood abuse, but there are a few who think that the Ripper’s actions can be associated with the phases of the moon. This unfamiliar belief is also known as Moon Madness, or the Transylvanian Effect (Owens).
In an excerpt from the German Journal of Psychiatry, authors Mark Owens and Iain McGowan gather an abundance of statistics through accredited experiments and research to explain what the phenomenon is and how accepted it is in the medical world. According to their research, 81% of mental healthcare professionals reported a belief in behaviour being influenced by lunar cycles(Owens). However, as they look at the actual numbers in the observations, they find out that there is not a significant amount of data that shows the lunar phases affecting a person’s mind. In his book titles Western Folklore, author George D. Hendricks states that moon madness was suggested by an American expert here as a possible explanation of why Jack the Ripper killed five women in London in 1888(Hendricks).
Even though an expert’ made the connection between the Ripper and Moon Madness, the idea of the moon influencing violent behavior has been transformed into something fantastical like werewolves and vampires, thus making it less believable that it had any impact on or identifying the Jack the Ripper. This is a prime example of researchers making large stretches in order to claim that they know more about the case than the next guy, instead of trying to look at all the facts and solving this 100-year-old mystery. These irrational claims are not the first for this case, the police force at the time started to become less and less reliable as I dug into primary sources.
There are many difficult tasks that police departments have to handle everyday, and there is no hiding the fact that some of those tasks are not done in the correct, or in a fair way. Today, police corruption and brutality the most public it has ever been, but it has always been a problem, even if it wasn’t overt. In the nineteenth century, there was little to no internal affairs (inside investigations regarding workings of a police force), which led to some police misconduct. In an article from an 1889 issue of the London Newspaper, Illustrated London News the Commissioner of Police expressed that there was increasing crime, and…the authorised strength of the Metropolitan police force…is not equal to the duties imposed on it. (Illustrated London News). This statement indicates that the police at the time were not equipped to handle the situation and did not have the resources or knowledge direct a thorough investigation.
Consequently, all of the information that was provided by the department could be considered questionable. Another example of the police’s incompetence can be found in a political cartoon that was drawn soon after the killings. In the drawing, a policeman is blindfolded while pointing at random people with the caption turn round three times and catch whom you may!(Tenniel). This depiction of the police is another reason that the suspects and statements from the police are not reliable because they even seemed idiotic to citizens of that time. One of the most serious accusations made toward the police was by Goldstein who conjured up the idea that various elements of the investigation were covered up or thwarted by senior figures, whether within the force (Goldstein). The idea of a police cover-up is not unfamiliar in modern times, in fact, it is something that our country is still dealing with today. Cover-up, corruption, and incompetence are all components of misconduct and makes researchers today question the facts of the case, making it more difficult to identify the killer.
People will declare almost anything to the media to get attention, from fake tips to fake news, knowing something that other people don’t can influence behavior dramatically. One story that seemed to travel rather quickly was the notion that Jack the Ripper struck again, overseas in South America. Authors of Jack the Ripper: The Forgotten Victims, John Bennett and Paul Begg, suggest the idea that the Ripper either made his way to Jamaica and performed the same malicious acts, or he had a copycat. In this book, they discuss the investigation of a woman who was killed in a way that exhibited a resemblance to Ripper victims, her murder was a catalyst for sensational and misleading reporting(Begg). Numerous articles were released soon after the murder with quotes such as like the Jack the Ripper victims and Jack the Ripper of Whitechapel has emigrated from the scene of his ghastly murders, instilling fear in the citizens of Jamaica (Begg). The terror that Jack the Ripper was back only fueled the fire for making illegitimate connections, that is until a medical examiner took a look at the bodies and said, I cannot satisfy myself, on purely anatomical & professional grounds that the perpetrator of all the Wh Ch. murders’ is [Jack the Ripper](Begg ). There was a confession from a man named Benjamin Ranger, who most likely killed the woman in Jamaica, but probably not the ones in White Chapel. The consensus that the authors came to is that there is not enough evidence that proves Jack the Ripper did the crime, but it was more of domino effect, where the media would make illegitimate connections between murders. An additional component of the case that was soon deemed inaccurate were the alleged Ripper Diaries. In 1991, a diary that turned up that was believed to belong to Jack the Ripper, the diary was then inspected by Kenneth Rendell, the same person who investigated the Hitler Diaries.
Incorrect facts paired with a journalist confessing that he wrote the diaries, they were soon disregarded as something that could help identify the killer. These are all examples of people trying and failing to put a real name to the stage name of the notorious killer, further supporting my claim that no one has fully identified Jack the Ripper. Because these crimes and investigations were all done in a time with no forensic analysis, DNA, or fingerprint comparisons, the only sure way that a detective could accurately identify a criminal was if they were caught in the act. Unfortunately, none of the murders had witnesses, so the hundreds of accusations made are merely speculation. Author Paul Begg asks if it is a mystery that will ever be solved, and the disappointing answer is that it probably won’t (Begg). Based on the research I have done, and the countless allegations made, I agree that no one person has figured out who he was and instead of just looking at the victims, or just looking at his psychology, you have to look at all of the aspects as a whole to ensure that the right person is brought to justice.
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