In response to a debate between Birgitte and myself, I have dusted off this old Ripper Notes article from 2001. This is the first one I wrote and it is pretty primitive. The original file has been lost, and this is the article as it appeared in Ripper Notes.

In which we begin a Whitechapel tour with a wary look at the odd and out-of-place

IN THE BRANCH of analytical mathematics known as statistics, a ‘flyer’ is a data point that deviates from others that follow a recognized trend or pattern. Here we identify and analyze some unique aspects of the ‘flyer’ of the Whitechapel Murders, the killing of Polly Nichols in Buck’s Row.

There may be hidden significance in the relative isolation and location of Buck’s Row as compared to other Whitechapel Murders, which took place in a more concentrated area some distance away. Why is that one murder site so far removed from the locations of the other murders? Could the explanation be that a fledgling Ripper committed his first murder injudiciously close to where he worked and/or lived?

According to eyewitness reports, Polly Nichols was last seen walking along Whitechapel Road — presumably in the direction where she was later found — practically across the road from the London Hospital Thus, the Ripper probably encountered her as he was walking down Whitechapel Road in the opposite direction, toward the area that would later become his killing ground. Was he in that relatively remote area because he worked or lived thereabouts?

London Hospital is a prime candidate as the location of the Ripper’s presumed regular employment. According to Sugden, p 469, “He would look for employment perhaps as a hospital or mortuary attendant.” This premise could be expanded to include a postmortem room orderly or attendant, who might have been employed at the hospital to clean up after autopsies and amputations, and preside over the corpses awaiting disposition. If so, then this would be someone who:

• would be inured to gore, dismembered corpses and body parts;

• had ready access to amputation or post-mortem knives and other medical paraphenalia needed for his sorties;

• could experiment and ‘practice’ with impunity on a plentiful supply of corpses that no one would likely bother to inspect further after an autopsy;

• could readily work nights, as the post-mortem room would require an attendant 24/7, thus conditioning him for his nocturnal excursions and allowing him to ‘practice’ in private and under the right conditions;

• could pass virtually unnoticed if smeared or dabbled with blood;

• had a ready disposal method for the odd organ or body part collected as a souvenir, “blind”, or a red herring;

• was well-placed to ‘commute’ to his killing ground by a brief walk down Whitechapel Road;

• would seldom, if ever, be interrupted in his gruesome work, regardless of his working hours.

Indeed, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s ghost story The Brown Hand, he describes a scene in which a hospital lackey is sent to fetch a series of amputated hands from a “post-mortem room”. Consider the following, excerpted from a number of the standard reference works:

• “It must have been some one accustomed to the post-mortem room.”
• “…doctors and surgeons all attested to some degree of knowledge or skill.”
• “he had...a great deal of expertise, both anatomical knowledge and surgical skill.”

Such a professional situation could also go far toward explaining one of the most baffling aspects of the Whitechapel Murders — how was it that the Ripper could execute such apparently skillful mutilations so quickly in poor light or near-total darkness? As any ex-serviceman could testify, repeated practice can enable one to
quickly disassemble, clean, and then reassemble a weapon of considerable mechanical complexity in total darkness. Could the Ripper have done much the same thing under these predicated working conditions — deliberately ‘practice’ in a poorly-lit postmortem room on a plentiful supply of corpses that were destined for disposal?

Although medical doctors would have us think otherwise, surgical skill is not difficult to attain on one’s own. Surely, with sufficient practice, someone who had a general knowledge of human anatomy such as would naturally be developed by such employment could gain the expertise required to extract selected internal organs in poor light, entirely by feel, with knowledge of the relative locations as a guide. As Rumbelow, (1975) p 205, states, “There has been nothing done yet to any of these poor women that an expert butcher could not do almost in the dark.”

In further support of the London Hospital area as the Ripper’s home base, consider that if one extrapolates from Mitre Square through the point where the bloody scrap of apron was found in Goulston Street, the track passes very close to London Hospital. Would the Ripper possibly be heading ‘home’ after the murder of Eddowes, in that direction, along that track?

That the Ripper was cunning and daring enough to commit murders and extensive mutilations under adverse conditions has been well established. Surely, when it would become apparent that a serial killer was at work, such a man would know how the authorities of the day would react:

• “The police made repeated inquiries at common lodging houses in the neighborhood of the murders.” — Sugden, p 386

• “The police made ….a house-to-house search of parts of Whitechapel and Spitalfields.” – Sugden, p 368

• October 1888 — Warren sanctioned a ‘massive’ house-to-house search north of Whitechapel High Street/Road.

If Polly Nichols were indeed the Ripper’s first murder or one of his very earliest ones, it would surely occur to him that he should not repeat these activities so close to work or home, knowing as he would that searches of the surrounding areas would ensue. Hence, his killing ground would necessarily be relocated to a safe distance away from the London Hospital.

The preceding is nothing more than hypothesis - pure conjecture and speculation - but it could nonetheless prove to be a fruitful area of investigation, should someone wish to explore a path that does not feature the usual phalanx of cuckolded Liverpudlian cotton merchants, misogynistic quack doctors, malingering black magicians, libidinous crown princes, Hebrew ritual killers, or conspiracy of chloroform-wielding Masons.

Further speculation concerning the Ripper’s possible mechanics of killing and mutilation will be the subject of future articles.