130 years ago today, a killer calling himself Jack the Ripper was hunting women in London. Take a moment to think about how frightening it would have been to be a woman in that era, worse one who had to sell her body to strangers to make ends meet and didn’t have the luxury to say no when approached by a man with shark-like eyes and blood under his fingernails.
The Jack the Ripper murders are infamous, not just because they remain unsolved, but because of their brutality. When I was a little girl, I went on a school trip to Madame Tussaud’s and found a striking Jack the Ripper diorama in its Chamber of Horrors. The image of a man in a top hat and cape, clutching a medicine bag – quite literally dressed to kill – still haunts me. I was obsessed from then on.
Looking at the research, other attacks could be attributed to Jack. Joining the canonical five Ripper murder victims, Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly could be Annie Millwood who survived a man repeatedly stabbing her abdomen. There was also the grisly Thames Torso case, which could have been an earlier victim whose identity Jack tried to hide through dismembering – Didn’t Hannibal Lecter tell Agent Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, killers covert first what they know? Perhaps the Thames Torso belonged to someone who knew the real identity of Jack, so could be traced back to him?
As most readers who find their way to my blog and books will know, I have a dark mind, so it’s not surprising that this case has always fascinated me. There have been so many theories and suspects, for a full list, click here… My money is on James Kelly. He has the MO, the timing both in the UK and the USA when murders were happening, and could have been related to Mary Kelly, the last victim in London who let her assailant into her flat. Looking at the list, who is your prime suspect?
I’ve written two Jack stories. Jack’s Month about a possessed calendar drawing in victims on the stroke of twelve on New Year’s Eve, included in Year’s End, and the Gothic, erotic Madam X in The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper that gave the killings a twist of the knife with Jack’s murders explained in an entirely new light. With both stories being published, one could argue that Jack has strangely brought me luck.
I’ve walked the streets of Whitechapel and seen how the urban geography has evolved over the crime scenes. Their surroundings may have forgotten the victims, but the media and the people will not.
The hard truth is – it’s doubtful we’ll ever know the identity of Jack the Ripper…although with DNA ancestral tests being all the rage now, all it would take is a quick swab of some evidence and a search of a few databases – what would you do if you discovered you were related to Jack?