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Szemeredy was in mental asylum in Budapest during 1888-89

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  • Szemeredy was in mental asylum in Budapest during 1888-89

    I've looked into the paper trail of Szemeredy in the contemporary Hungarian press. Many articles! They fit well with the great timeline outlined here. But there is a piece of puzzle that I can find in the contemporary sources and that makes it impossible for him to be Jack the Ripper.

    The correct Hungarian name is surely Szemerédy Alajos, that turned to Alois Szemeredy in international use (we write our family name first). The family is mentioned as a noble family in the 1754-55 register of noblemen. They used to live in County Hont, Northern Hungary (now that area is split between Hungary and Slovakia).


    06 April 1882: Fővárosi Lapok (Budapest paper) and Politikai Ujdonságok (weekly, on 12 April) both write about Szemerédy's arrest. They give his timeline as such:

    • He's said to be 42 years old (born in 1840)
    • He used to be in the military in Italy, but he deserted in 1863. He wore the rank of őrvezető (junior officer position). His regiment was the 32nd Infantry Regiment. The 32nd Infantry Regiment was founded by Maria Theresia and it used to be the home regiment for Budapest. A square is named after them with a statue in the middle, commemorating their service and battles. The regiment drew their rank soldiers from Pest and nearby area, that corroborates Szemerédy being from Pest.
    • He became a tanner
    • He was working as a doctor in America (no country specified), without having a licence. Left the continent in 1875.
    • Wandered all over Europe, he came back to Hungary to visit family, but he was arrested. He was locked up in the military prison in Buda. The rule was for deserters that if they get caught, they have to serve the same amount of time they've been on the run.


    27 April 1883: Alajos Szemerédy is found in the military hospital no. 17 in Buda. Budapesti Hírlap (another Budapest paper) writes that after he was arrested, he feigned insanity, thus ended up in military hospital. This account gives him a different timeline: deserting in 1866, going to America, living from 1874 in Pennsylvania and being a suspect in a robbery-murder in a brothel in 1879. Supposedly he was on a worldwide wanted list. He's described as "lowly educated, but having great cunning". A short news in August says he's not suspected any more in a murder case, so his brothers appealed for setting him free.


    31 July 1885: Fővárosi Lapok writes that he deserted in 1863, then went to the Hungarian Legion, trying his luck in America and Brazil. Came back in 1875 but was arrested. His brothers bailed him out and he went back to the American continent. In 1881 [erroneus date, it should be 1882, I guess] he returned to Budapest and was arrested. Feigning insanity, he was put into a military hospital and later the Lipótmező mental asylum. (That used to be the huge, central mental asylum, have a look!)

    9 October 1885: Fővárosi Lapok writes that doctors Laufenauer and Lechner examined Szemerédy and both found him "completely sane".


    16 December 1886: Magyar Közlöny (Hungarian Bulletin, the official national bulletin) has the following news on Szemerédy.

    17500, 36553/86, LEGAL GUARDIANSHIP

    "The Crown Court of Budapest makes it known that Alajos Szemerédy, 46 years old, single, Roman Catholic, profession of surgeon is taken into legal guardianship on the ground of insanity from 4 December 1886."

    No news until 1892.


    27 September 1892. Budapesti Hírlap writes about Szemerédy's history, mentioning that he might have murdered a prostitute in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. So to say, the contemporary press reports are not consistent with their earlier versions... The report also writes that he was often visiting the local newspaper HQs in 1885, trying to get a publisher (and a ghostwriter) for his life story.

    According to Budapesti Hírlap the police arrested an elderly man in Pozsony (Pressburg, now Bratislava in Slovakia), who during interrogation cut his own throat with a razor and died. In his pocket was a military ID, issued to Alajos Szemerédy, 50 years old, from Budapest. At that time Szemerédy was supposedly under suspicion for a double or even triple murder in Vienna (committed on 11 February, 4 June and 16 September).

    28 September 1892. Identity confirmed. The guy committing suicide was indeed Szemerédy. His military service papers say he was in the 32nd and 86th Infantry Regiment, serving for 7 years and 6 months. He was 183 centimetres tall (6 feet 3⁄64 inches) at the time of death, particularly strong build, greying hair, long moustache, freshly-shaven beard, grey eyes, dark brown eyebrows.

    30 September 1892. Pesti Hírlap is writing about his asylum years.

    In 1886 he was taken under legal guardianship and was sent to the Lipótmező mental asylum. According to the reports he was not very communicative, mostly reading books and newspapers. He was showing signs of paranoia. Sometimes he was bitterly complaining about being in an asylum.

    In 1888 he was discharged "not healed" to another mental asylum in Angyalföld (North Pest). This asylum was opened in 1884 to ease the pressure on the one in Lipótmező, and was considered the best mental facility of the country. This is how the asylum looked like.

    He was a patient of the Angyalföld mental asylum from 1888 to April 1889. If this is true, he is obviously off the possible Jack the Ripper suspects list. He was discharged "condition improving" in April 1889. Left for Vienna. Registered in August in Vienna and was suspected of committing murders there.

    The journalist was talking to Dr Jakab Salgó, the head doctor of the Lipótmező mental asylum, who was treating Szemerédy. So almost 100% that the details about his mental asylum trips are correct, as the head doctor should have had the papers at hand, especially because he was the one treating Szemerédy. The journalist also secured records from the Angyalföld asylum.

    Dr Salgó states that Szemerédy might have well been able to think clearly and calmly while committing a crime, but he was insane regardless.

    1 October 1892: Pesti Hírlap writes about his case (murder of a prostitute called Karolina Metz) in Buenos Aires, 1887. Metz was murdered on 25 July 1876 by a "tall, strongly built, broad-shoulder man with huge moustache and soldierlike stature". The article, based on Viennese sources even quotes letters from Szemerédy.

    1893 AND LATER

    1893: Small news on the fact that Szemerédy's supposed accomplices have been acquitted. There was a court case in both Vienna and Budapest.

    Szemerédy's crimes made him pretty infamous, in the early 1900s magazines still recount his story!


    So, as far as I can see, Szemerédy was most surely a criminal, might well well have been insane and court saw him guilty of multiple murders. He seems to have left a blood trace in multiple countries on the American continent as well. He took his own life, slashing his throat.

    But the 30 September 1892 report in Pesti Hírlap (1892/270. issue: details his story in 1886–1889 and states that he was in the Angyalföld mental asylum between 1888-April 1889.

    Pesti Hírlap is the most respectable quality newspaper of that time in Hungary, journalist talked to his doctor and obtained asylum records, hence I think we can conclude he was indeed in an asylum.

    1840: Born, possibly in Pest

    1855? Joins the military at the age of 15. Spends 7 years+ in the military, at the 32nd Infantry Regiment. He's deployed in Italy when he deserts. A source gives the following story for deserting: he was in sentry, but left his position, taking his weapons with him. He was summoned in front of military court but went on the run instead.

    1863–75: his travels take him to the American continent

    1875: He's back in Europe. Goes to Hungary to visit family. Gets arrested. His brothers bail him out. Leaves the continent yet again.

    1876: Suspected in the murder case of Karolina (Carolina) Metz in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

    1881: His murder case is still ongoing. Acquitted in September.

    1882 spring: Gets arrested for desertion in Budapest, Hungary. Feigns insanity (maybe he did not need to feign, actually).

    1883 spring: He's sent to military hospital no. 17. Possibly registered for the 86th Infantry Regiment, which was just established in November 1882 and incorporated the V/III Battalion of the 32nd Infantry Regiment, Szemerédy's old unit.

    1885: His mental state is probed in the Lipótmező mental asylum. Two doctors declare him completely sane at an official court probe. Possibly released to his family.

    4 December 1886: He is put under legal guardianship by the Crown Court of Budapest, on the grounds of insanity.

    December 1886–1888: He is sent to the central mental asylum in Lipótmező, Budapest. In 1888 he is discharged "not healed" to another institution.

    1888–April 1889: He is in the mental asylum of Angyalföld, Budapest. He is discharged "condition improved" in the spring of 1889, released to family.

    August 1889: Registered in Vienna.

    1892 February-September: Might have committed three murders in Vienna on 11 February, 4 June and 16 September.

    26 September 1892: Gets arrested in Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava). Commits suicide by slashing his throat with a razor.

    Murderer - yes. Mentally ill - yes. Possible psychopath - yes. Jack the Ripper - no.

  • #2
    From Gergely's thread starter :


    31 July 1885: Fővárosi Lapok writes that he deserted in 1863, then went to the Hungarian Legion, trying his luck in America and Brazil. Came back in 1875 but was arrested. His brothers bailed him out and he went back to the American continent. In 1881 [erroneus date, it should be 1882, I guess] he returned to Budapest and was arrested. Feigning insanity, he was put into a military hospital and later the Lipótmező mental asylum. (That used to be the huge, central mental asylum)

    Fantastic work, GM !
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    • #3
      That is an excellent and detailed report! Thank you, Gergely!
      The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript


      • #4
        I am constantly amazed by the discoveries made by researchers and posted here, thank you Gergely for sharing. That's another suspect crossed off the list.


        • #5
          Thanks for that fascinating information, Gergely. A fine piece of research.
          Originally posted by Gergely Marosi View Post
          The correct Hungarian name is surely Szemerédy Alajos, that turned to Alois Szemeredy in international use (we write our family name first).
          I thought so! That explains why some of my CDs have "Liszt Ferenc" on them (as opposed to "Franz Liszt").
          Kind regards, Sam Flynn

          "Suche Nullen"
          (F. Nietzsche)


          • #6
            I doubt that this Szemeredy related information Gergely organized and shared would have ever been seen...again.
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            • #7
              Excellent work Gergely.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Sam Flynn View Post
                Thanks for that fascinating information, Gergely. A fine piece of research.
                I thought so! That explains why some of my CDs have "Liszt Ferenc" on them (as opposed to "Franz Liszt").
                Exactly. Liszt Ferenc in Hungarian usage, Franz Liszt in international usage.

                Hungarian names can be quite maddening. Nowadays they are usually used in the same way abroad (just the family name is being put second), but 19th and early 20th century there was usually one name used in Hungary and an "internationalised" one abroad. Liszt is a good example, Szemerédy is another.


                • #9
                  One of the things I had hoped would happen a few years ago was the increased participation of continental European researchers ( quick glance on these boards shows a good and increasing number....).

                  Good to see the first thread Gergely started mentioned elsewhere :

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                  • #10
                    Very interesting, Gergely, great work


                    • #11
                      Photos of the mental asylums Szemerédy spent time in

                      From top to bottom:

                      Budapest, Lipótmező, National Central Mental Asylum, around 1890
                      Budapest, Lipótmező now (abandoned, up for sale)
                      Budapest, Angyalföld Mental Asylum, around the end of the 19th century
                      Budapest, Angyalföld Mental Asylum, living room


                      • #12
                        Family background

                        Okay, sooner or later this will be enough for a backbone of an article. Two friends helped me (as well as contemporary records) and more details emerged on background:

                        ALAJOS SZEMERÉDY
                        Birth date: 7 July 1840
                        Born: Pest-Buda, Hungary
                        Baptised: Belváros (District V, inner city), Pest-Buda
                        Father: István Szemerédy, string-maker (a person who makes strings for instruments, is there an English word for that? Not luthier, because he's a specialist for strings only. Seitenmacher in German). He signed Nemes István Szemerédy on the birth record, indicating that he's from the noble family (was possibly impoverished nobleman). His profession is very rare, only 2-4 string-makers were in Pest-Buda at that time)
                        Mother: Örzsébet Dotronyi
                        Address of family: Müllergasse (today Molnár utca, District V, inner city)

                        I managed to find the original birth register and the father's job and address in the Pester Lloyd Catalogue.

                        I'd love to get a look into contemporary mental asylum records somehow, but there is a huge chance that they are either lost or destroyed or classified as sensitive data.


                        • #13
                          Nice work, Gergely!


                          • #14
                            The murders or murder attempts Szemerédy could have connection with in Vienna:

                            11 February 1892, Andreas Schütz(e), jeweler (attacked in Wöhring, Vienna, Austria): knife attack, neck knifed. Succumbed to his injuries and died the next day. Robbery attempt, killer took jewels.

                            4 June 1892, Maria Schottola, clock-maker's widow (attacked in District 7, Vienna, Austria): a man entered her shop, asked to see a clock and when Maria turned her back to her, he attacked. With an iron rod he aimed a few hard hits on the head. Victim survived the attack with serious injuries. Robbery attempt.

                            16 September 1892, János (Jan? Johan?) Lammel (attacked at 18 Schönbrunner street, Vienna, Austria): Lammel worked as the apprentice of a clock-maker, Hermann Stolle (or Stolár). While the clock-maker was out, having lunch, about 13.30 a postman tried to enter the shop but did not receive an answer to his greeting. He entered anyway and found Jan Lammel lying in his own blood. Succumbed to his (knife?) wounds, died later that evening. Robbery attempt, killer took golden chains.

                            Looks like he maintained a room (or flat) in Budapest, Lipótváros (in a "house occupied by vile elements") and travelled to Vienna, committing "commuter murders" (if he was the killer). Probably he was, as he was connected with pawning the golden chains in Budapest and multiple people recognised him.


                            • #15
                              A very interesting insight from a contemporary mental asylum doctor

                              Quoting Dr Jakab Salgó, head doctor of the Lipótmező Mental Asylum in Budapest. He was the one treating Szemerédy. It's interesting how he looked at someone who might have been branded a psychopath serial killer today.

                              Salgó was a famous doctor and forensic medical examiner of his time, was known as the author of multiple books. One was written for law enforcement about mental illnesses, other books were about anthropology in mental illness and child criminals.

                              "Answering to our journalist's question, Dr Salgó did not exclude the possibility that Szemerédy committed his crimes in a deranged state, which would render him insane. On the other hand, he does not find impossible that somebody is mentally ill but can commit such heinous crimes with cold calculation and utmost cunning.

                              Dr Salgó told about a similar case in Dijon, France, which caused considerable debate in medical circles. A henchman was arrested for arson, on first examination he seemed to be insane, so he was put into mental asylum. The head doctor of the asylum examined him and diagnosed him as incurably insane. The henchman fleed on the very same day from the mental asylum and committed a robbery-murder a week later. He was caught again and taken back to the asylum. A different doctor evaluated him and he was found completely sane, causing a huge debate between alienists in France. A similar case happened, too, in Budapest."

                              (Pesti Hírlap, 30 September 1892, page 6)