I feel like we’ve talked so much about the man over the decades that we can call him by his first name and everyone knows who you mean. For those who aren’t quick to catch on, though, I’m speaking of Jack the Ripper.
Although he’s not a paranormal figure (never been any hauntings associated with him anywhere in England), he’s been most recently linked to an American serial killer so I decided to write up the latest about who Jack really was. Frankly, this new evidence is far more plausible than thinking that an American killing in the States would suddenly decide to hop across the pond and decide to kill just a few prostitutes before returning home.
There have been many theories as to who Jack the Ripper really was, so I’m going to list all previous suspects for those who don’t know.
First the men whom the Metropolitan Police strongly suspected to be Jack:
- Montague John Druitt – he was suspected simply due to the timing of his suicide after being dismissed from a teaching position. His body was found immediately following the death of Mary Jane Kelly.
- Seweryn Antonowicz Kłosowski – he was suspected to be Jack because he lived under two separate aliases in Whitechapel where the murders took place. He also poisoned his three wives and hung for it later.
- Aaron Kosminski – a Polish Jew who was suspected simply because he lived in Whitechapel at the time of the murders and was living in an asylum.
- Michael Ostrog – a Russian-born con man and thief who claimed to be a surgeon as well. It was later discovered he was in prison in France during the time of the “canonical five” Ripper murders.
- John Pizer – another Polish Jew who was suspected because he lived in Whitechapel and had one prior conviction for a stabbing offense.
- James Thomas Sadler – he was a suspect for at least the final murder associated with Jack the Ripper simply because he knew the victim, Frances Coles.
- Francis Tumblety – he was a suspect due to his collection of “matrices” (wombs) purportedly from every class of woman at the time. He was also a wanted man in the United States.
Next we have the suspects that the press and other “armchair detectives” believed to be Jack. Most were never taken seriously.
- William Henry Bury – he moved to the East End from Dundee, Scotland where he soon strangled his wife, a former prostitute. He inflicted extensive wounds to her abdomen and packed her into a trunk. He was later convicted for her murder.
- Dr. Thomas Neill Cream – a doctor who specialized in abortions who was convicted in Illinois of poisoning his mistress’ husband. He moved to London after several years in prison and resumed killing. He was still imprisoned at the time of the Ripper murders.
- Thomas Hayne Cutbush – a medical student suffering from delusions thought to be caused by syphilis. He stabbed one woman in the backside and attempted to stab a second, then was pronounced insane and sent to Broadmoor Hospital.
- Frederick Bailey Deeming – he murdered his first wife and four children, then emigrated to Australia where he murdered his second wife. He boasted at the time that he was Jack the Ripper.
- Carl Ferdinand Feigenbaum – a merchant seaman arrested in New York City for cutting the throat of Mrs Juliana Hoffman. His lawyer stated that he had a hatred of women and a strong desire to kill and mutilate them.
- Robert Donston Stephenson – a journalist interested in the occult and black magic believed black magic to be responsible for the murders. It turned on him.
Finally, the more contemporary authors who have studied the murders and believe they have found the real murderer:
- Joseph Barnett – Mary Kelly’s former lover who was examined by the police after her murder and not found guilty. Author Bruce Paley believed that Barnett was guilty of Kelly’s murder and that he committed the other murders to scare her off the streets and away from prostitution.
- Lewis Carroll – suspected merely due to anagrams concocted by Richard Wallace for his book Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend.
- David Cohen – a Polish Jew who had violent, anti-social behaviours and whose incarceration ended at roughly the same time the murders began. Both Ripperologist Martin Fido and former FBI criminal profiler John Douglas pointed to Cohen as Ripper due to his violent tendencies and speculation on police confusion with Kosminski and suspecting David Cohen to be a “John Doe” equivalent.
- Sir William Withey Gull – became a suspect as part of the Masonic/royal conspiracy theory, but was never taken seriously as a suspect by historians.
- George Hutchinson – an unemployed laborer who followed Mary Jane Kelly and an unidentified man to a room and watched for 45 minutes. He gave a detailed description to the police. He was later suspected by various authors as Jack who was trying to confuse the police by giving testimony.
- James Kelly – identified as a suspect by two authors: Terence Sharkey and Jim Tully, Kelly murdered his wife by stabbing her in the neck. He was committed to Broadmoor Asylum, but escaped using a key of his own devising. He disappeared without a trace, only to turn up 40 years later and turn himself back in at the Asylum. Retired NYPD cold-case detective Ed Norris not only believed Kelly to be the Ripper, he believed Kelly was also responsible for other murders in the United States. One of Norris’ reasons for suspecting Kelly is that Kelly left behind a journal in which he strongly disapproved of prostitution.
- Charles Allen Lechmere – he was a witness who came upon the body of Polly Nichols and later became a suspect in the mind of three individuals: Swedish journalist Christer Holmgren, criminologist Gareth Norris and former detective Andy Griffiths. These three men believed Lechmere lied to the police about how long he was with Nichols’ body and that Lechmere’s daily routine took him near the places of all the other murders.
- Jacob Levy – a butcher who had contracted syphilis from a prostitute. He lived in the area at the time of the murders.
- James Maybrick – a Liverpool cotton merchant who was poisoned with arsenic by his wife. He became a suspect in the eyes of author Shirley Harrison who believed he was also the Servant Girl Annihilator of Austin, TX. A diary associated with Maybrick is said to have contained a confession that he was Jack the Ripper. It was later said to be faked by the man who found the diary, but the story changed over the years.
- Alexander Pedachenko – William Le Queux named Pedachenko as a suspect after reading a manuscript allegedly written by Rasputin stating that Jack the Ripper was an agent of the State Police of Imperial Russia sent to England to discredit Scotland Yard.
- Walter Richard Sickert – despite proof that Sickert was in France at the time of the murders, Sickert is one of the more well known suspects. Three authors have linked Sickert to the case: Donald McCormick, Joseph Gorman and Patricia Cornwell. He’s believed to be part of a Masonic/royal conspiracy that led to the murders.
- Joseph Silver – suspected by South African historian Charles van Onselen purely on speculation. No proof was ever offered of Mr. Silver ever being in London at the time of the murders.
- James Kenneth Stephen – put forth as a suspect by Michael Harrison while he was writing a biography of another Ripper suspect, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Stephen was the prince’s tutor and was suspected by Harrison due to his handwriting being similar to that of the Ripper in the “From Hell” letter. Harrison also speculated that Stephen had sexual feelings toward Prince Albert and because his feelings weren’t reciprocated, Stephen was willing to take his anger out on women.
- Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale – nothing more than a victim of a rumor that got passed around over and over by various men. The rumor came to the fore when Dr Thomas E. A. Stowell claimed he thought the prince committed the murders after being driven mad by syphilis.
- Sir John Williams – accused of being the Ripper by two of his own descendants who claimed he murdered the women as part of research into infertility.
So there we have it. Twenty-eight suspects in all. I think the two who were suspects without proof – i.e. they weren’t even in London at the time of the murders – should be dismissed as any sort of suspect. The rest have varying degrees of credibility, but there’s one who now stands out from the rest: James Maybrick.
I found a brief blurb about this suspect in the October issue of BBC History magazine which prompted this blog entry. Briefly, because this blog entry is already insanely long, the diary of Mr James Maybrick of Liverpool was discovered and shared with the world. At first the diary was suspected as a fake because one of the men involved in its discovery passed away before he could offer insight. Now, however, potentially new and compelling evidence has been discovered by writer/director Bruce Robinson. The evidence? The diary was found in Maybrick’s Liverpool home. It was apparently discovered during renovations of the home, called Battlecrease House, in 1993.
Another interesting thing that I discovered after skimming through one of the current articles about this evidence is that Mr Maybrick was addicted to arsenic. Now in today’s world, arsenic is used as a means of poisoning someone to death, but according to this source, arsenic was apparently used in the 18th century as a means of increasing a man’s sexual potency. Think of it as an early form of Viagra. If it was used as such in the 18th century, it follows that it was still probably used as such in the 19th. It would’ve likely driven him mad, but I dare say there would’ve been an element of anger and frustration if he couldn’t “get it up” and that anger and frustration is typically taken out on the woman. So that could be part of the reasoning why he did what he did.
Does this mean there will be no more questions about the identity of Jack the Ripper? Probably not. No one who has written about Jack the Ripper wants someone else to be the one who answers the question once and for all. I think it’s a mystery all of us love to speculate on.
Two stories from August and September of this year about Mr Maybrick being Jack the Ripper:
Has the true identity of Jack the Ripper been revealed? Victorian diary proven genuine contains huge clue
Evidence growing that Liverpool cotton merchant and arsenic addict James Maybrick was Jack the Ripper
Really well done! I knew there were a lot of suspects, but when you see it broken down like that, it really shows the fascination with this mystery. I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for anything more!