Jack the Ripper? Who?
5 people named as Jack the Ripper (and why it’s probably bollocks)
Words and Research: OrangeEyeBrows
Formatting, pictures, jokes, and other crap: typical_michael
Gruesome serial murders are not, perhaps, the most intuitive topic for a comedy article, and as serial murders go, Jack the Ripper’s were particularly gruesome and not precisely side-splitting. However, Jack gripped the public imagination, to the extent that people today are still putting forward theories about his identity. And those people are funny, because they are what we'd like to call "screamingly batshit nutbags".
5. Prince Albert Victor
Prince Albert Victor, Eddy to his friends, was Queen Victoria’s grandson, and was inbred to the point that he was entirely composed of teeth and haemophilia. Speculation that he could have been Jack the Ripper started in the late ‘60s and gained momentum with the publication of an article in 1970 by Dr. Thomas Stowell, which he called “A Solution”.
Stowell claimed that Eddy suffered from syphilis, which drove him to murderous insanity. Syphilis is a hell of an STD. You'd be better off with mercury poisoning. The royal family hushed the whole thing up, of course, because occasionally, one gets this dreadful sense of ennui when faced with another day of polo and waving, and a jolly good conspiracy quite brightens things up.
Commentators also point to rumours that Eddy was involved in the 1889 Cleveland Street Scandal, when a homosexual brothel was overturned by the police. Because chaps who like to look at other chaps’ willies are Not Quite the Thing and might do anything.
It is mostly a joke with the British, at this point
Add that to another blisteringly stupid conspiracy theory which says, in frantic paranoid whisperings and occasional eye-twitches, that Prince Albert was exiled due to increasingly erratic behaviour and took up a new life on the Continent under the assumed name Adolph Hitler, and you come to the only logical conclusion. Hitler was Jack the Ripper. Cos, you know. He was kind of a bastard. Case closed!
Why it’s bollocks:
Eddy had to have help putting his underpants on. They had to take his crayons away from him because he kept eating them. Being stupid is not a crime, but at the time, homosexuality was a crime That was only because we Brits keep stiff upper lips and nothing else.
Regardless of how much Stowell disapproves of where Eddy was stuffing his junk, he wasn’t Jack the Ripper. He wasn’t in London at the time of any of the murders, and my feeling is that a man who one biographer compared to a goldfish probably hadn’t mastered the secrets of space and time and invented teleportation.
4. Dr Thomas Neill Cream
Dr. Cream, the Lambeth poisoner, killed at least four prostitutes with strychnine. Mind you, that’s not taking into account a young woman of his acquaintance who was found dead in an alley after an overdose of chloroform, and the fact that his wife died of a “mysterious illness” which, in retrospect, was not even a tiny bit mysterious.
So, Dr. Cream was a nasty piece of work, there’s no doubt about that. By the time he moved to London, he had already spent ten years in prison on charges of murder after supplying a patient with poison to do away with her husband. In October of 1892, he was sentenced to death after attempting to frame two innocent men for his crimes.
Essentially, this was his own fault since a) he was Canadian and should have known that murdering people is not polite, and b) he fell under suspicion because he was pointing his fingers randomly and shrieking “It wasn’t me, it was him!” when he wasn’t under suspicion, and in connection to the death of a young woman whose death had previously been ruled to be of natural causes.
The reason commentators believe he was Jack the Ripper, though, is that the executioner, James Billington, claimed that his last words were “I am Jack the—”
Okay, that’s pretty damning.
Why it’s bollocks:
Usually, I would happily take the word of a serial poisoner who frankly looks like he probably twirled his mustache and swirled his cape afterwards. I’m a trusting kind of girl. But there’s a slight problem with the theory.
Remember how I said that before his arrest in London, Cream had already spent ten years in prison? Now, take three guesses where he was when the Ripper murders occurred. If you guessed anything other than “in prison in an entirely different country”, turn yourself over to Rebo for punishment detail.
So dedicated are the proponents of this theory, that they have even suggested that he had a double who stood in for him in prison while he traveled to England, murdered a few people, then nipped back in again.
But honestly, which is more likely? A far-fetched doppelganger plot? Or the suggestion that a serial murderer might also not be a bastion of truth and honour?
3. Lewis Carroll
In 1996, Richard Wallace, dingbat extraordinaire, wrote a book in which he claimed that Lewis Carroll was Jack the Ripper. His evidence was a series of anagrams constructed from passages in Lewis Carroll’s work – extraordinarily clumsy and unconvincing anagrams .
“So she wondered 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.”
“'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.”
The theory, then, is that Lewis Carroll decided to confess. Rather than go to the police – which hundreds of people did, regardless of the fact that they absolutely nothing to do with the crime – he decided to do so in a baffling code that could only be uncovered by an unhinged crossword enthusiast who was inexplicably reading children’s books while thinking about prostitute murders.
But okay, the dude was English. We've established that, whoever he was, Jack the Ripper was a couple of sausage rolls short of a full afternoon tea. That metaphor sort of makes sense, as long as you squint really hard and you’re as drunk as I am.
Why it’s bollocks:
Well, Wallace removes and adds letter and words in order to make his anagrams (sort of) make sense. Which is not how anagrams work. Somewhat charmingly, anagram enthusiasts Francis Heaney and Gus Jacobson applied the process to Wallace’s own work.
“This is my story of Jack the Ripper, the man behind Britain’s worst unsolved murders. It is a story that points to the unlikeliest of suspects: a man who wrote children’s stories. That man is Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, author of such beloved books as Alice in Wonderland.”
“The truth is this: I, Richard Wallace, stabbed and killed a muted Nicole Brown in cold blood, severing her throat with my trusty shiv’s strokes. I set up Orenthal James Simpson, who is utterly innocent of this murder. P.S. I also wrote Shakespeare‘s sonnets, and a lot of Francis Bacon‘s works too.”
2. Jill the Ripper
The idea that Jack the Ripper was really Jill the Ripper isn’t new – it was suggested by Inspector Abberline at the time. The theory is that a woman would attract less notice in Whitechapel and, if she were a midwife, would have anatomical knowledge and a good excuse for having blood on her clothes. Not only that, but she would be likely to be familiar to the prostitutes in the area and thus able to approach them without arousing suspicion.
The main name that usually comes up in connection with this theory is Mary Pearcey, who was hanged in 1890 after murdering her lover’s wife and child.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed the theory – or at least believed that the killer might have dressed in women’s clothes to disguise himself. Of course, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in fairies. So there’s that.
Why it’s bollocks:
It’s only probably bollocks. There’s no earthly reason why Jack the Ripper couldn’t have been a woman.
Except that, generally speaking, stabbing is a man’s crime rather than a woman’s. Female serial killers are more likely to use poison. It’s not set in stone – as we saw with Dr. Cream up there, there are male poisoners, and as we saw with Mary Pearcey, women do sometimes murder with knives. But it’s suggestive.
More to the point, though, while there’s no reason Jack the Ripper couldn’t have been a woman. There’s also no reason he couldn't have been a man. And increasing the pool of suspects from two million to four million is the exact opposite of what you should do if you want to find out someone’s identity.
1. Walter Sickert
Here, we find ourselves on slightly shaky ground, since artist Walter Sickert is a reasonably plausible suspect. The batshittery really comes into play with the actions of crime writer Patricia Cornwell, who spent two million pounds buying up Sickert’s paintings, having one of them cut up in her quest to prove that he was the killer, something that is usually frowned upon in collectors’ circles.
The art world accused her of “monstrous stupidity”, although it seems more like a case of literature bleeding into real life. We should probably count our lucky stars that she picked Lawful Good and decided to play the investigator, rather than embarking on a spree of grotesque murders with bizarrely specific signatures.
Her case hinges on the fact that a strand of DNA found on a letter of Sickert’s matches the “Openshaw” letter, a letter purporting to be from Jack the Ripper.
Read more about the Openshaw Letter
Why it’s bollocks:
The Openshaw letter is universally agreed to be a hoax. Sure, it’s possible that Sickert was the perpetrator of that hoax – confessing to being Jack the Ripper was practically the national pastime at the time, after croquet and buggery. But even that’s impossible to confirm - the DNA was over a hundred years old and nuclear DNA testing failed, so they had to try the less conclusive mitochondrial DNA testing instead. More to the point, there's reasonably convincing evidence that Sickert was in France at the times of the killings.
http://www.casebook.org/dissertations/d ... ckert.html
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