Victorian London, a cesspit for the impoverished, a gold mine for the wicked. Known for its huge amount of poverty, inhospitable slums, and violent thugs, East London was a far cry from its neighbor, the much more glam and glitzy West end. With areas that not even the police would care to enter, East London was a horror pool, mixed with a variety of characters, all out to get you. However, things began to take a more sinister turn, when thievery and robbery, turned into rape and murder, with eleven women slain over the span of four years, highlighting the atrocities of what was really going on in the East End.
But it was one name in particular that really shook the locals, as Jack the Ripper made his mark during the fall of 1888, in which five victims, ‘the canonical five’, were slain and gutted, all at the hands of the man himself. Managing to evoke terror from all parts of the globe, Jack the Ripper became a name that could be heard from all ends of the earth, continuing on until this day. Lauded as the original, ‘who dunnit’, Jack has still never been formally identified, however that doesn’t stop people from constantly trying to reveal the truth behind the man who has continued to terrorize for so long. Over 125 years later, ‘ripperologists’ and authorities alike are still trying to put a face to the crimes of the century, but are we any closer to discovering the truth? Sadly the answer is no, but what we do know is that he will continue to fascinate us for decades to come, spurring out one concocted theory to the next, pushing us that little bit closer to the final answer. Here are 15 Jack the Ripper theories just to blow your mind that little bit more.
15. The Whitechapel Murders
Often mistakenly thought to be the same as ‘the canonical five’, the Whitechapel murders were, in fact, a series of murders that all happened to take place during the reign of Jack the Ripper, who incidentally was only partly to blame. Between the years of 1888 and 1891, eleven women were unjustly murdered, in and around the impoverished district of Whitechapel, East London. With Jack attributed to at least five of these women (‘the canonical five’), it is also believed by some that he is responsible for many of the other murders as well. However, with no real answers as to who actually committed the crimes, what the murders did do instead was highlight the disgusting and distasteful class system that was happening in London at the time, in which West London was thriving while East London was lauded in poverty. With not only London but the whole world invited to take a hard look at what was going on in their back yard, the murders drew heaps of attention to the poor living conditions in the East End Slums. As women were turning to prostitution to support themselves, they incidentally became addicted to alcohol in order to help them through it. Out of the eleven murders committed, a huge proportion of them were ladies of the night, highlighting the extremity of just what was going in Victorian East London, forcing a change in government policy and the working class.
14. Why Did Charles Cross Lie?
One morning on his way to work, cart-driver Charles Cross was enjoying his usual morning stroll. Noticing what he thought to be some old tarpaulin across the road, Cross went over to inspect the scene. However, to his horror upon further inspection, the old tarpaulin was in fact the mutilated body of what many people believe to be the first of the canonical five, Mary Ann Nichols. A few seconds later, another man by the name of Robert Paul stumbled upon Cross and the deceased body of Nichols. However, Paul later claimed that he had seen Nichol’s eyes twitching, implying that she may have been killed minutes before he had gotten there. Worried about being late for work, Cross pushed for them to continue, while Paul suggested they find a policeman. Not long after they left the murder scene, the pair happened upon Police Constable Mizen who was walking his usual beat around the neighborhood, pointing a policeman in the direction of the victim. Cross falsely told them that the matter was already brought up to another policeman who was waiting for Mizen at the scene. Not only did Cross lie about having told authorities about the body, but he also gave Mizen a fake name. Coincidentally, when Mizen found the victim, there was another policeman there waiting, who had stumbled upon the body some minutes after Cross and Paul had left. Therefore, there was no further investigation into Cross’ story; no one knows why he lied.
13. Was George Hutchinson The Ripper?
As a local man living in the East End, George Hutchinson knew the area well. With claims that he knew everyone and everybody, Hutchinson was a good man to know. Most noted for his detailed and thorough witness statement that he gave to police on a suspect’s appearance, Hutchinson may well have been the only man to have ever seen The Ripper in all his rotten glory. Describing everything from the color of the man’s boots to the buttons on his shirt, Hutchinson exclaimed that he had seen this gentleman accompanying the fifth and final victim, Mary Jane Kelly. Obviously of huge importance to the police, leading detective Frederick Abberline took a special interest in the testimony, and went so far as forcing Hutchinson to come on patrol in search of the man he had seen. However, as quickly as he had appeared, Hutchinson vanished, leading many ripperologists to claim that Hutchinson was in fact the ripper himself, giving detectives a complete polar opposite account of what he himself looked like in order to avoid suspicion.
12. The Lodger Of Batty Street
The story of the Batty Street lodger was first reported in a newspaper article during the final months of 1888, when a house in East London was supposedly being watched with enormous interest by the police. With information that a male lodger had gone missing, the landlady had told the authorities that the gentleman in question had returned home in the early hours of the morning, woken her up, and then proceeded to tell her he was going away for a while. Noticing the state of his clothes, the lodger then asked the landlady if she could wash a shirt of his. Later discovering that the shirt was stained with blood, she went straight to the police. Unfortunately, the man had vanished before the police arrived and was never identified.
As time went on so did the story, until quack doctor and recent ripper suspect, Francis Tumblety, was thought to have been the gentleman lodger himself. Nevertheless, it seemed to have impacted a number of creatives, as it is often said that the event had even inspired legendary director Alfred Hitchcock into producing one the most sinister of his movies, The Lodger in 1927, a silent flick based on the book by Marie Belloc Lowndes.
11. Who was Francis Tumblety?
Speaking of Tumblety, a man that appears as quickly as he disappears, was a Canadian quack doctor ousted from his native homeland and was known to be in London at the time of the murders, maybe as a lodger perhaps? Tumblety is often accused as a ripper suspect due to him satisfying many requirements of what we now know as the ‘Jack the Ripper Killer Profile.’ With a supposed hatred of women and prostitutes up his sleeve, and a known tendency to be violent, Tumblety fit the bill perfectly; it was even said that he collected women’s sexual organs in jars— for anatomical research, of course. Often fingered as the Batty Street lodger, Tumblety was connected to the house many times with numerous reports and identifications in the area. Obviously having their own suspicions, the police tracked him down, only for him to flee across the pond to USA, never to be seen again.
Despite the many things that put Tumblety in the frame, there are also many doubts. Tumblety was once arrested for indecency with another male whilst in London, therefore if we are to refer to the ‘Jack the Ripper Killer Profile’, Tumblety’s homosexuality would rule him out as a suspect due to the philosophy that homosexual serial killers are more likely to target male victims rather than female. Whatever the case, Tumblety and his extravagant mustache will forever be regarded as a suspect, and to many, the most likely of all who were accused.
10. Did Jack Escape Through Underground Tunnels?
With millions of theories written on how Jack made his infamous escapes, the list only continues to grow. From paranormal activity to time travel to covering himself in horse manure, a new theory has arisen in that Jack used the newly built underground tunnels to evade capture and disappear without a trace. As all five victims were murdered after midnight, the tunnels would have been left unguarded as they had just been built or were in the process. With Mary Ann Nichols slain only 200 meters from Whitechapel tube station, it would have been a feasible route for The Tipper to slip away undetected. Claiming that Jack would have been able to wash his hands with sewer water found in the tunnels, and the mud acting as a way to cover his stained clothes, ripperologists have argued that such a far-fetched story actually has some sense to it.
9. The Goulston Street Graffito
On the night of the ‘double event’ when Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were supposedly killed at the hands of The Ripper, Police Constable Alfred Long was on the look-out for anything suspicious. At around 2:55am, Long was walking through Goulston street, a long and narrow street that cut through Whitechapel. Noticing a piece of apron on the floor in the doorway of some lodgings, Long immediately raised the alarm, where it was later revealed to be the bloody apron of victim number 4, Catherine Eddowes. But, there was more to come, as Long looked up, he noticed a chalked message written on an archway, jotting it down, the message read, “the Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing”. However, as the message was quickly ordered to be washed off by the superintendent who was fearful of anti-semantic riots, the exact wording is often disputed. Nevertheless the incident has lead a number ripperologists to believe that if Jack the Ripper did indeed write the famous graffito, then he was most likely on his way home from the killings, making it very possible that the killer was a local, living close-by and keeping a watchful eye.
8. Did A Policeman Commit The Murders?
With the police force a young establishment, the public was still not completely sold on the idea of these ‘bobbies in blue’. Mocking them throughout the investigation, newspapers often made light of the fact that the bumbling bobbies were unable to catch such a direct and in-your-face murderer. With Police Constable James Harvey possibly becoming the closest to catching The Ripper than any other officer, Harvey came within a whisper of catching the man in the act. Walking his regular beat, Harvey stumbled upon the mutilated body of fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes, stuffed in the dark corner of Mitre Square. Claiming to have heard absolutely nothing, Harvey had only just walked through the square some 10 minutes prior, giving The Ripper a short amount of time to mutilate, remove a kidney, and cut triangles on to the unfortunate victim. Questioned no further, Harvey was suddenly dismissed a year later, with the reason being unknown and kept quiet. Could it be that a policeman was somehow involved in the murders? Kept quiet in order to keep an already untrustworthy public on their side.
7. Lewis Caroll Was Involved
Highly respected author with an imagination that could creep out the strangest of us, Lewis Caroll has often been linked to the murders. Real name, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Lewis Carroll’s pen name has often been the subject of debate with regards to where exactly it came from. With claims that Carroll had sexually harassed a young girl named Alice, the inspiration for his most famous book Alice in Wonderland, Carroll has also been linked to a number of other questionable acts in and around the time the book was published, 1865. With a careful examination of his work and the work of Caroll’s then friend Thomas Vere Bayne, many claim that both were responsible for the Whitechapel murders, based on the anagrams that were hidden in his books. For example, in one particular text, Carroll writes, “so she wandered away, through the wood, carrying the ugly little thing with her. And a great job it was to keep hold of it, it wriggled about so. But at last she found out that the proper way was to keep tight hold of itself foot and its right ear”, which in turn becomes, “she wriggled about so! But at last Dodgson and Bayne found a way to keep hold of the fat little whore. I got a tight hold of her and slit her throat, left ear to right. It was tough, wet, disgusting, too. So weary of it, they threw up, Jack the Ripper.” As crazy at may seem, Carroll was indeed a man of mystery, choosing to stay rather anonymous throughout his whole life until his death in 1898, ten years after the original murders.
6. England’s First Serial Killer Was Also America’s
Dubbed as ‘America’s First Serial Killer’, H.H Holmes was a Chicago-based serial killer, in which he murdered up to 200 victims inside his house of horrors. Named the ‘murder castle’, Holmes acquired the 3 story building shortly after arriving in Chicago. Keen on remodelling the house himself, Holmes began turning the house into a booby-trapped nightmare, laced with torture chambers and ghoulish equipment. Captured in 1895 and charged with only a few of the murders, Holmes was sentenced to death and hanged a year later.
His connection with Jack the Ripper surfaced not long after execution, with claims that some time before the murders in Chicago, Holmes’ whereabouts were unknown, spouting rumors that he had been living in London. With Holmes’ handwriting matching The Ripper’s, and the two sharing similar physical descriptions, theories began pouring out over whether or not Jack had moved to the USA to finish off what he had already started in London.
5. George Chapman The Poisoner
Originally from Poland, George Chapman, who’s real name is Seweryn Antonowicz Klosowski, arrived in the East End in 1888, the year the Ripper murders occurred. Trained as a barber, Chapman was also a senior surgeon (it was common practice, at the time, to mix hairdressing and medicine). Upon arriving in London, the already married Chapman quickly married again, and was known to have had a number of mistresses. Having poisoned three of them to death, Chapman’s motives remained unclear, as he did not received life insurance or benefits. As police became increasingly suspicious, Chapman was arrested, tried, and hanged in 1903. However, it was claimed that the day of Chapman’s arrest, Frederick Abberline, who was the leading detective on the Ripper case a few years earlier, professed to have shouted, “you’ve got Jack the Ripper at last!”, stating that he had always suspected the barber of being the culprit of the canonical five. With his known working address to be that of a pub located in the heart of Whitechapel, not far from where the murders had taken place, Abberline considered Chapman to be the most likely suspect. However, many ripperologists disagree, arguing that the change of Chapman’s modus operandi from poisoning to slaying, makes it unlikely that Chapman was The Ripper.
4. Jill The Ripper
With everybody assuming the Ripper to have been a man, very little has been discussed on whether or not a woman was capable of such grotesque and violent murders. However, although they may be small, some theories have actually pinpointed a variety of women, now known as ‘Jills’ or ‘Jacquelines’. Pictured as a possible midwife, or baby farmer, a profession that existed in Victorian London, in which women would buy babies from impoverished mothers and sell them, a female ripper has been associated with a number of women and to have been working at the time of the murders. One possible ‘Jill’, was Lizzie Williams, who apparently became so enraged by her infertility, that she began gutting and murdering prostitutes, in order to collect their sexual organs and store them for future use. Although a female killer may seem unlikely, the fact that the killer has gone undisclosed for 125 years only shows that the answer may indeed be one we’re unlikely to believe, making the possibility of ‘Jill the Ripper’ all the more intriguing.
3. Was Mary Jane Kelly Really The Fifth And Final Victim?
With Mary Jane Kelly usually considered to be the final victim of the canonical five, it is often professed that a crazed and deranged Jack the Ripper had finally reached the end of his instability, intent on making his last crime one where he could unleash his worst. Completely ripped to pieces, Kelly was chopped, dismembered, and totally disfigured— to the point that it was impossible to identify her. With her nose sliced clean off and placed under her chin, the authorities had no way of being 100% sure that it was indeed Kelly, only going on the landlords’ claim that Kelly had been living there for the last few months.
However, nearby neighbor and respected lady of the time, Caroline Maxwell claims that she saw Kelly the morning after the murder had supposedly taken place, looking extremely pale and as white as a ghost. The woman stated that Kelly was hungover and vomiting in the gutter just outside her house, Maxwell claims she then suggested that Kelly have a pint of ale to clear her head. Going on to further maintain that she saw Kelly walk towards to the pub, even though she was supposedly murdered the night before. As an honorable married woman, Maxwell had no apparent reason to lie, unlike previous witnesses who were enjoying the limelight and attention that the ripper murders had brought.
Another theory also proposes that Kelly returned to her lodgings early that morning, finding the grisly body of her friend who had been staying with her for the last couple of days. Wanting to escape her volatile relationship with now known ripper suspect Joseph Barnet, Kelly seized her chance when the body turned up, changed her identity, and made a new life outside of the rotting East End.
2. Did Authorities Know Who Jack The Ripper Was?
Winning a legal battle in 2011 to keep the files on the ripper case under wraps, the Metropolitan police force maintained it was to keep the Victorian informants’ information confidential and their families safe. Widely believed that the documents are said to include four new suspects, and over 36,000 entries of new information from 1888 to 1912, the effort into keeping these files a secret has begun to make people extremely suspicious.
With the ripper killings known to have produced a number of ridiculous suspects that have been tipped as being The Ripper (one of which including Queen Victoria’s nephew, Prince Albert), the idea that a secret is being kept is becoming much more believable. Often accused as being The Ripper himself, along with a number of masonic helpers, ‘Prince Eddy’ racks up a number of claims to put him in the frame. From accusations that he caught syphilis from an East End prostitute which sent him to insanity, to getting Mary Jane Kelly pregnant, and the list only continues.
However, with newly discovered letters matching his handwriting to that of the original ripper messages, some might argue that the main reason for the police to keep such files under lock and key may have something to do with a great royal cover up, and that Prince Eddy was the real killer after all.
1. Was Jack The Ripper Even Real?
Ex-murder squad detective and all-around ripper enthusiast, Trevor Marriot proclaimed that The Ripper never actually existed in the first place. Writing a book on his findings, Marriot wrote that The Ripper was, in fact, a German merchant sailor who had committed some of the murders, but East London was so jam-packed with deviants and delinquents that many people had a hand in the action. Stating that, “the media has portrayed Jack the Ripper as a doctor, with a black cape and hat. And since the organs were removed from the victims, people believed he would have medical skills based on how it was done. The truth of the matter is that the killer would not have had time to remove the organs”. Marriot is adamant that none of the suspects considered even have the slightest of links to the murderer.