Cultural Presentation: Jack the Ripper

 

 

 

 

 

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Jack was a serial killer in east end London in an area known as Whitechapel.

The number of murders he committed is questionable and debatable among those who study him along with the dates of the Ripper’s crime spree. This is based upon 11 murders being committed in Whitechapel from April 1888 through February 1891, but the most popular opinion is that the reign of terror went from August 31, 1888 until November 1888. This is because five of the murders committed by Jack are called the “Canonical Five” as they are confirmed as being committed by him. The Canonical Five murders took place from August through November of 1888. Six other women were killed in similar fashion, but circumstances surrounding them cast doubt that they were done by our killer.

Jack may have sent letters to the police, but so did a lot of the public. As the terror gripped London, many letters were written to the media and the police claiming to be from the killer. With so many regarded as hoaxes, they were easily discarded, however three of them seem to have some merit as being written by the Ripper himself. One such letter titled Dear Boss arrived at the Central News Agency on 27 September 1888.  Dated September the 25th, the letter mentions cutting off the ears of his victim. On the 30th of September, Catherine Eddowes, one of the Canonical Five, with one earlobe cut off in addition to other wounds. Years later, in 1931, a reporter by the name of Fred Best claimed he wrote the letter, but his claim was never proven.

To this day no one knows the true identity of Jack the Ripper. Some people claimed he was a doctor based on his removal of organs and clean slices who came to Whitechapel to commit his crimes. Other experts believe he was a butcher or common worker and a Whitechapel native. There were a number of suspects, some of whom were famous and possibly linked to the murders via documents found years later. 16 suspects were “favored” to have been Jack the Ripper and many investigators since have leaned toward an insane Polish immigrant named Aaron Kosminski as being the infamous killer based on what some claim is DNA evidence taken from a shawl worn by the first victim.

 

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For the purpose of brevity, only the Canonical Five victims will be discussed. These are the common attributes shared by the five victims that were undoubtedly the work of the ripper. Some of the similarities help to give investigators some idea of who he was. The organ removal was a driving force behind the theory that Jack was a trained medical professional while the fact all were murdered on the weekend supports the theory that it was a butcher or common worker that worked regular hours.

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Mary Ann Nichols was found dead at 3:40 AM on the morning of August 31st . She had been slashed open at the abdomen, cut open from the breastbone to the pubic area so deeply that her innards were exposed, and her throat was cut.

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Annie Chapman’s lifeless body was found at 6 AM on the morning of September the 8th. She was even more mutilated than Mary Ann Nichols.

Annie’s throat had a similar cut to Nichols in that it went from the left to the right and a gash in her abdomen made by the same knife. Her intestines had been torn out and placed on the ground over her right shoulder, but Jack left them connected to her body. Her uterus  was missing along with parts of her bladder and vagina.

It is said that the body was so grotesque that the doctor who conducted the autopsy wouldn’t discuss it fully with the police when questioned about it.

 

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Elizabeth Stride was the third victim of the Canonical Five, but some claim she should not be included because she did not have the abdomen wounds the other 4 victims had. This has been countered with the argument that the Ripper was interrupted while conducting his crime, leaving her “unfinished” so to speak. Also, there’s the possibility of a different knife used in her attack.

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Forty five minutes after Stride’s body was, Eddowes’ body was discovered. Her throat had been severed and her abdomen torn open with a deep, jagged wound. Her left kidney had been removed, along with a major portion of her uterus. The Stride and Eddowes murders were later referred to as the “Double Event“ which plays into the theory that Jack was “interrupted” with Elizabeth Stride, but was compelled to complete  the night’s activities.

Remember that I mentioned he possibly taunted police by sending them letters. One of the letters was a post card referred to as the “Saucy Jack postcard” showed up to the Central News Agency with similar handwriting as the Dear Boss letter and mentions the “Double Event”.

 

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Jack’s final victim of the Canonical Five was Mary Jane Kelly. Kelly’s body was mutilated beyond recognition. Her entire abdominal cavity had been emptied out, her breasts cut off, and the remains placed beneath her head and on the bedside table. Kelly’s face was hacked away and her heart removed, which was also absent from the crime scene. Kelly’s murder was by far the most grisly and ritualistic of all.

 

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This map demonstrates the places where the murders take place. The Canonical Five are indicated with red dots. Notice the close proximity of the victims.

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Motives range from mental health issues such as schizophrenia and late stage syphilis, to revenge for contracting a disease; elaborate schemes concocted to protect a wealthy person, and even cult or secret society activity. The truth is that we may never know.

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Jack the Ripper holds our interest to this day. From ongoing independent investigation books to video games, comics, and movies, our obsession still hasn’t ceased with this infamous killer nor do I believe it ever will.

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