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Alex Chisholm : Done To Death

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  • Alex Chisholm : Done To Death

    Previous authoritative and accredited contributions to the study of Whitechapel murders have almost invariably started from a position of a single murderer laying claim to at least five canonical victims - Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes and Kelly. Of course some variations are apparent with Tabram being added by some and Stride removed by others, but basically the series remains intact. This is not to say that all or even indeed most would subscribe to the actual existence of Jack the Ripper - a sobriquet that is more often than not taken to be a particularly enterprising press creation. I feel it may be of use to take this notion a step further and view the series itself as, if not solely a press creation then at least a product of the times. For if we de-centre traditional approaches to these crimes a wholly new perspective becomes apparent. One in which differences outweigh similarities and should therefore prompt a serious questioning of why a number of individual murders became indelibly regarded as the work of a single hand as the victims of Jack the Ripper. What follows, although more of a plan of research than a presentation of evidence, may prove of interest to some as an indication of how the notion of Jack as myth can be seriously addressed.

    ‘Done to Death’
    Whitechapel Murders
    The Legend of Jack the Ripper

    Traditionally historians have tended to shy away from such sensational, singular, episodes as the Whitechapel Murders, believing these to be of little value to the understanding of history as a whole. But in recent years a range of post-modern approaches, centring on the role of language in the construction of historical reality, have considerably undermined traditional views of history. By acknowledging that history does not happen in the past, but is written in the present, post-modern notions of history redirect attention away from the outdated oppositions of traditional history towards the discourses with which social actors engage. Categories such as class, sexuality, gender, even ‘the social’ itself, - all of which are vital to the historical context of the Whitechapel murders, - are no longer taken to refer to existing, natural, true realities but are seen as discursive products of history. That is to say they constitute part of the on-going narratives by which differing groups within society make meaning of, and locate their position in relation to, their own very particular society. From this perspective historical texts and narratives, including the Ripper legend, do not simply reflect or relate events but form part of the social/cultural discourse and practices through which people organise, understand, and make meaning of their world. It follows from this that any attempt to reveal the ‘truth’ behind such stories, without a recognition of the processes involved in their construction, is ultimately fatally flawed. Despite this, the central importance of the prevailing late nineteenth century culture in shaping responses to the Whitechapel murders is something that seems to have remained largely unaddressed in the hunt for Jack the Ripper.

    A few select historians have, however, drawn on post-modern methods to obtain from the Ripper legend new insights into the construction of identity in the late nineteenth century. In this respect, while works by eminent and respected historians such as Judith Walkowitz, (City of Dreadful Delight) and Christopher Frayling (The House that Jack Built) are invaluable in their own right as innovative studies in social history, they also present interesting possibilities for the reappraisal of the Whitechapel murders themselves. Rather than simply using Jack the Ripper as an entry into the broader aspects of social and cultural history, it would now appear to be equally fruitful to reverse this approach. By firmly locating ‘Jack’ in his historical and cultural context, and bringing an understanding of late nineteenth century social and cultural history to bear on the Ripper narrative, the processes involved in the construction of this enduring legend can be revealed. This would seem to confirm that, while ‘Whitechapel Murders’ were clearly committed, Jack the Ripper as conventionally characterised simply did not exist outside the language used to define him. This shadowy figure always was and remains very much a product of Ripperography. ‘Ripperography’ as opposed to ‘Ripperology’ is used here to encompass all aspects of the ‘writing of Jack the Ripper’. That is not simply to the missives bearing the infamous sobriquet, but all ‘his stories’, including official files and press reports, which wrote, in other words created, drew on, and developed, the Ripper myth.

    To say Jack was a myth, of course, is not to say simply that as a fictitious, imaginary creation he had no presence in reality. For, in common with all mythology, Jack the Ripper imparts a degree of self-justification regardless of the strengths, or otherwise, of his rational or practical legitimacy, and therefore elicited responses which considerably impacted, and continue to impact, on any investigation of the Whitechapel murders. For this reason this creature of imagination, that never actually existed, has made an indelible mark on history and is very definitely a historical figure. It is precisely because of this mythic power that the identity of an individual Jack the Ripper continues to be central to the study of Whitechapel murders. This is despite the fact that any attempt to locate the myth within an identifiable subject, or individual suspect, would seem to have been always doomed to failure. By recognising that current challenges to traditional notions of history are of relevance to the historiography of Jack the Ripper, however, and applying these to an exploration of the historical, cultural context in which the murders occurred it may be possible to illuminate the influential cultural fantasies which helped shape the attitudes and perceptions that so informed the construction of the legend of Jack the Ripper.

    Notions of Victorian infallibility and a burgeoning jingoism combined with a virulent anti-Semitism, which fuelled the characterisation of Jack as immigrant Jew, or at least some other foreigner, are perhaps among the more obvious prejudices. However, other prevalent cultural fantasies included powerful notions of the dangers involved in transgressing the boundaries between public and private spheres, together with pervasive fears of invasive medical practices that were interwoven with developing views of sexuality. On such foundations ‘wages of sin’ explanations for the murders and ‘Doctor Ripper’ theories could be built. Perceptions of social demoralisation and descent, coupled with forbidding representations of the East End, were also given full expression in the form of Jack the Ripper. From these were derived the ‘social reformer’, ‘Nemesis of Neglect’ perceptions and the darkly mysterious, otherworldliness of the faceless fiend. At the root of all these was a sense of duality which seemed to characterise Victorian society at this time. A duality that was to be found in the desired separation of public and private life and space, male and female roles, moral from immoral, science from nature, and respectable from rough elements of society. It was a duality geographically apparent in London between suburbs and the inner city slums, and between the West and East ends. In the midst of this, disparate elements of Victorian society watched aghast as private regions of unacceptably public women were exposed, in a dark and mysterious manner, to public gaze, in secluded yet public places. And all of this was taking place within Whitechapel, a part of the East-end that was seen to be as far removed from the rest of the Metropolis as ‘Darkest Africa’. Notwithstanding this notion of otherness, Whitechapel was feared in its difference because of its unavoidable proximity to the West-end. A teeming cauldron of uncivilised human want and waste that was very definitely a part, and product of London, the self-assured centre of the civilised world. To a large extent anxieties over the darker side of this duality had been safely contained in such fictional figures as Dr. Jekyll, to much popular acclaim, until, with the Whitechapel murders, the ‘half-man, half-beast’, ‘inhuman, non-human’, Mr. Hyde seemed to have taken his place in reality.
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  • #2
    The image of 'Hyde the Ripper' - the inhuman, unbound beast within the respectable Dr. Henry Jekyll, sating his bloodlust on the wretched unfortunates of the London's East-end – is one which has become familiar. But as Professor Frayling shows in his "Nightmare: The Birth of Horror," this image finds no foundation in Stevenson's "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" but results from a hopeless confusion between characterisations in the novel and the subsequent presentations and perceptions of Jack the Ripper in the popular imagination. When Stevenson’s masterly exploration of duality and hypocrisy first appeared, some two years before the Whitechapel murders, Hyde stalks the West-end (of what was first formulated as Edinburgh), and only ever kills one elderly gentleman by bludgeoning him with his cane. The first significant female character was only introduced in Richard Mansfield's theatrical production, playing at the Lyceum at the onset of the Autumn of terror. Yet it is now almost impossible to find Hyde portrayed as anything other than a knife-wielding ripper of east-end prostitutes, thanks to the Whitechapel murders. In addition to the largely harmless distortion of fiction, however, any confusion may have considerably coloured the meagre facts concerning Whitechapel murders as they were represented to the public.

    Ostensibly, of course, any confusion must in large measure been seen as testament to Stevenson’s insight into, and ability to compellingly present, the less seemly aspects of the Victorian condition. And in this regard his work proves an excellent means of exploring culturally constructed elements of the Ripper legend. But perhaps the foremost explanation for the endurance the Ripper legend, and its fusion with fiction, can be found in Stevenson’s "Edinburgh Picturesque Notes," written some years before the publication of Jekyll & Hyde, where he observes: "THE character of a place is often most perfectly expressed in its associations. An event strikes root and grows into a legend, when it has happened amongst congenial surroundings. Ugly actions, above all in ugly places, have the true romantic quality, and become an undying property of their scene "

    Following the death of Annie Chapman it seemed clear that no uglier actions in no more ugly a place could be imagined than the outrages being presented from Whitechapel. Even before, to many whose impressions remain to be regarded today, London’s East-end as a whole, and Whitechapel in particular, had become the epitome of an ugly place harbouring ugly deeds of the dangerous classes. The perfect backdrop for a real-life gothic romance and, with the subsequent reporting of the mysterious otherworldly Whitechapel murderer, the press took full advantage. The literary technique of introducing contrast to develop atmosphere and characterisation – deployed in Stevenson’s presentations of the outwardly respectable and upright Jekyll’s well-lit, spacious front entrance, opening onto a main thoroughfare, and the stooping beastly Hyde’s small dingy back-alley-way exit – can easily be found throughout Ripper reporting. The dark, dingy, claustrophobic atmosphere of murder locales presented in contrast to adjacent bustling thoroughfares. Painting a picture of ordinary, natural, everyday life in the vicinity also provided a suitable contrast to the extraordinary, unnatural deeds of death that were being perpetrated behind the scenes. The allure of contrast, duality and boundaries may also have assisted the cultivation of ideas that Jack could come from a more affluent celebrated background than Whitechapel. The contrast being between the lowest of low class victims and a higher class, outwardly respectable, gentleman, sallying forth from suburbia into the abyss to sate his monstrous murder lust.

    Perhaps the clearest influence exerted by Stevenson’s work on the unfolding Ripper legend, however, was in lending credence to the notion that a diabolical doctor could have been responsible for the murders. This was also bound up with prevailing anti-vivisectionist views and an underlying unease at the power wielded by the ‘New Medical Priesthood,’ particularly over lower-class women. And Coroner Baxter’s revelations of a medical specimen collector, characterised by the Star as the "Burke & Hare" theory, finds further connection with fictional horror. One of Stevenson’s earliest ventures into this genre was his reworking of the Burke & Hare legend. In this he lays responsibility firmly on the shoulders of the hypocritical Dr. Knox for providing a market in which resurrections could ply their trade and turning a blind eye to their crimes, in order to advance medical science. The fear of a possible burgeoning of similar sentiments within the populace at large may have been influential in determining the medical profession to swiftly and summarily dismiss Baxter’s theory. With these and other fictional analogies then, although admittedly only available with hindsight, it is perhaps appropriate that Stevenson’s good Dr. Jekyll may still provide the most apposite solution to the enduring mystery of Jack the Ripper’s identity when he remarks of his own condition: "But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safety was complete. Think of it – I did not even exist!"

    Leaving such fictional fantasies aside, however, it can still be contended that Whitechapel murders achieved their infamy largely because Jack the Ripper seemed to be a realisation of Gothic romance, embodying and perpetuating central tenets of the popular imagination by appearing to be a manifestation of the ills of society as a whole. Critical analysis of press reports of the murders can illuminate the influence of these cultural fantasies and trace the development of the legend. The uneasy relationship between police and press, which retarded the flow if information, helping to fuel speculation and deepen the mystery surrounding these crimes, can be similarly explored; and contemporary suspects assessed to determine whether they became objects of suspicion through any tangible links with the murders or merely because they fulfilled the requirements of prevailing culturally constructed perceptions of Jack the Ripper. Modern accounts can be similarly reviewed to indicate the ways in which present day Ripper hunters continue to be influenced by late nineteenth century cultural fantasies and the press coverage which drew on and developed them. All of which suggests that traditional approaches, from the original police investigation to modern accounts, may have been variously influenced and distorted through a largely uncritical acceptance of the Ripper myth.

    Even at the most basic level an unwarranted cohesiveness, a structure, can be seen to have been imposed on this subject. Whitechapel murders are not the same as the crimes of Jack the Ripper, but since its first deployment the phrase ‘The Whitechapel murders’ conjured up notions of a unified, homogeneous grouping, and the adoption of the metonymic Jack further distorts the picture. This simple example of the role of language in the construction of reality reveals that even innocently employing largely unavoidable titles to locate our object of study reinforces, before a single piece of evidence has been addressed, the mythical collective serialisation of these crimes. And, as is often repeated in relation to lesser component fantasies, it is difficult to counter myth. Repeated often enough phrases, and their connotations, lose any recognition of their cultural construction. They become naturalised, obvious, ‘goes-without-saying’ common sense.

    A close critical review of initial coverage of Whitechapel murders can help denaturalise the illusory truth of the ‘goes without saying’ by exploring its history to reveal the influences and attitudes which informed its construction. Such a review, however, can also reveal the press as principal creators of ‘Jack the Ripper’, by highlighting that not only were the press instrumental in defining characteristics of suitable suspects but they were also responsible for initially portraying the murders as a series and throughout the period provided the only tangible link between all the crimes. Remembering that murders prior to and after the ‘canonical five’ quickly lost their association it can be contended that these five retain their cohesion largely due to their occurrence within the period of greatest hysteria orchestrated by sensational media hype.

    When the mutilated remains of Mary Ann Nichols (now widely regarded as Jack’s first victim) were found on 31 August 1888 all major Press reports classified this as the third in the series of Whitechapel murders. Despite the lack of even tenuous association, links were forged with the previously little reported deaths of Elizabeth Smith and Martha Tabram. By the time Annie Chapman’s body was discovered on the 8th September the series was an accepted fact and the press went out of their way to emphasise links, both physical and geographical, between Nichols and Chapman. In subsequent weeks this approach continued to gather pace, culminating with Mary Kelly’s murder on 9 November. But, with the notion of a series now firmly entrenched, pre-Tabram crimes began to be afforded less significance. Although subsequent crimes continued for a time to be associated with this series, they never again came close to matching the butchery inflicted on Kelly. As a result the hysteria soon abated and the terror of Jack the Ripper dissolved into no more than the lurid memory of a recently present Bogeyman. It was this orchestrated hysteria interdependent with escalating brutality, which first set the imaginary limits to the crimes of Jack the Ripper.
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    • #3
      Of course it can be claimed that it was reported in this way because ‘this is the way it was’. However, it is equally valid to question such ‘certainty’ and consider whether the perception ‘that’s the way it was’ may have been predetermined precisely because ‘that is how it was written’. In this regard it may not be unreasonable to ponder the reasons for introducing attacks on Elizabeth Smith and Martha Tabram into reports on the murders of Nichols and Chapman. What purpose did it serve to draw comparisons and emphasise physical and geographical coincidences between Nichols and Chapman, other than to inextricably link these two crimes, and by extension their predecessors as well, in the popular imagination? This contrived serialisation was then augmented by serial presentation. With each new crime, any potentially related incident, or additional evidence being presented as a further instalment of the unfolding story. A serialisation to which the protracted Inquest hearings presided over by Coroner Baxter were perfectly suited. Indeed, it is interesting to note that, deprived of such sustenance in the wake of the Miller’s Court murder, reports in the main authoritative Dailies quickly dwindled. Nevertheless, despite certainty about its existence, the series of Whitechapel murders has never been fixed or stable but has always been subject to change. Change which seldom relies on the discovery of new evidence but is borne from a reinterpretation of the extant. If one looks for similarity it will be found, if difference is sought this too will be discovered. It is important to note that, by tacitly accepting that specific crimes constitute a series while others do not, individual crimes become transformed into an individual series and, perhaps by extension, the work of an individual. With connections pre-formed in this way it becomes easier to find similarity than to seriously account for difference. An alternative would be to deconstruct the myth, disengage these crimes from their serialisation and examine them individually before defining the series, which can then be examined holistically. Such an approach has the potential to redress the balance, previously weighted in favour of the often taken for granted serialisation, by highlighting areas of possible difference

      The dearth of Whitechapel murders prior to 1888 is often taken to militate against the possibility of the existence of more than one murderer. However, concluding that murders in 1887 were less common than in 1888 does not demand the existence of only one Jack. Such a stance would only make sense if all crimes attributed, at one time or another, to Jack the Ripper during 1888 are accepted as the work of one Whitechapel murderer. A view that few if any would subscribe to. Even allowing for the validity of the canonical five, adding Tabram for good luck and linking her murder to Annie Millwood’s, there were still at least three murderers abroad in Whitechapel/Spitalfields during 1888, and this does not account for the ‘torso’ killer. If, as is more generally accepted, Tabram and Stride are discounted then a minimum of five, and, in all probability, at least six Whitechapel murderers were stalking the streets in that year. So a scarcity of murders in 1887 has little or no bearing on events in 1888. Despite this, incredulity at the possibility of an excess of murderous maniacs certainly played, and continues to play its part in the eagerness to attribute disparate crimes to a most singular Jack. It is only by de-centring Jack to review each Whitechapel murder individually that less predetermined conclusions can hope to be arrived at.

      While Tabram occasionally resurfaces, it is now almost invariably accepted that pre-Nichols, post-Kelly victims were not dispatched by Jack. Yet, despite problematic aspects concerning the inclusion of each, the central ‘canonical five’ are largely taken for granted. The one exception to this of course has been the intermittent questioning of Elizabeth Stride’s murder. A victim whose only connection with ‘the Ripper’ appears to rest with the timing of her demise and the imaginary link forged between ‘the double event’ and the ‘Dear Boss’ missives which form crucial yet interdependent pillars of the myth. The second of the communications which introduced Jack the Ripper, posted on the day of the double murder, relates to the first unpublished letter before making reference to, and therefore validating, the ‘double event’ as part of the series. Conversely, of course, two murders committed in one night and referred to in this correspondence testifies to the authenticity of the letters as the work of the murderer. It is now widely accepted however that these letters were the work of an ‘enterprising journalist’ and once one part of this particular house of cards is weakened the whole edifice must come crashing down. Medical testimony supports the contention that the timing and coverage of this murder, together with the legitimising letters, are all that sustain Stride’s inclusion in the Ripper series. Once Stride’s association is accepted to be dubious, the whole canon becomes open to question, and the more controversial dismissal of Mary Kelly can be addressed. Again the timing and coverage of this murder seem to provide the central link. In this instance, however, it can be suggested that the press may have played an even more significant role. It is perfectly reasonable to consider that whoever killed Kelly, for whatever reason, need not have murdered the other victims. Her assailant may simply have taken advantage of the opportunity to evade detection by making the crime appear to be the work of Jack the Ripper.

      The implications of such a proposition are considerable as much Ripper hunting gravitates around Mary Kelly. She is taken to be the last victim, she was the most excessively mutilated, and as such determines that any suspect must ‘fit in’ with the circumstances of her death. In this respect she is a major constituent of the legend, and may well have become the principal actor in a distortion of history. The Kelly case, more than any other, provides a clear example of how the often obsessive pursuance of marginal minutia by successive generations of Ripper hunters may have been to the detriment of more straightforward explanations. Explanations which correspond well with all the existing, credible, medical and circumstantial evidence but are incompatible with the myth.

      Much debate centres around disagreement within the medical profession at the time as to the degree of skill evidenced by the murders, yet such disagreement is only problematic if the crimes are perceived as the work of a single hand. When viewed individually, divergent medical opinion becomes readily explicable. Much is also often made of similarities between the murders to confirm the ‘signature’ of a single murderer. Yet in comparing the nature of attack on Mary Kelly with previous canonical crimes, differences easily match, if not outweigh, similarities when viewed, as far as possible, in absentia of the myth of Jack the Ripper. Kelly’s murder was the only one to take place indoors. The fact that she was undressed, with her clothes neatly folded, suggests she knew and felt at ease with her companion, as she would be unlikely to afford such conditions to any casual pick-up. The presence of deliberate facial mutilation seems to set Kelly and Eddowes apart from previous crimes, but the much reported description of Eddowes’ face being mutilated almost beyond recognition is an overstatement clearly more applicable to Kelly. Such examples - whether or not one accepts the likelihood of more than one Whitechapel murderer, - help establish the escalatory influence of press reporting. In this respect Kelly’s death most accurately manifested the much-reported ‘butchery’ of previous crimes.

      The greatest accumulation of blood in Miller’s Court, together with the wounds on Kelly’s arms and hands suggest she had been lying on the bed, or thrown onto it, and cowered backwards toward the top corner of the bed and the partition in a desperate attempt to escape her attacker’s approach with a knife. This is incompatible with Dr. Bond’s claim that there were no signs of struggle and, together with the reported cry of ‘Oh Murder’, is difficult to reconcile with his belief that ‘sudden onslaught preventing any cry for help’ was a consistent factor in the series. Such evidence also suggests that Kelly may not have been strangled first as is believed to have been the case in other murders.

      The location of this accumulation of blood led Dr. Phillips to believe the body had been moved after death, the immediate cause of which he concluded had been severance of the right carotid artery, not the left as in other cases. Kelly’s throat having therefore been cut from right to left, as opposed to the left to right cutting discerned in other victims. While this divergence may certainly have been forced on the attacker by his position in relation to his victim and surroundings, it is nevertheless a significant departure, which does not appear to have received the attention it deserves.

      All of which supports the notion that, while Whitechapel murderers were clearly a reality, there is ample evidence to suggest that Jack the Ripper, the solitary serial Whitechapel murderer of at least five unfortunate women, is and ever was a fiction. A peculiar creation of the Victorian popular imagination who functioned as a focus for a range of emotions and attitudes which seemed to manifest themselves in a number of murders within a geographical area that was an almost constant preoccupation of concerned and influential voices in the late nineteenth century. The recognition of this possibility allows the evidence of Jack’s macabre magnum opus to be viewed in a wholly different light.

      As has occasionally been proposed Joe Barnett may well have killed Kelly for domestic or other reasons but, even if he did, this does not require the production of elaborate theories, evident in some accounts, to connect him with other murders. ‘Whitechapel murders’ were a major popular spectacle, the reports of which Barnett read to Kelly. It may well be that, following a violent outburst resulting in Kelly’s death, he sought to conceal his involvement by making her death resemble what he believed a Ripper killing would look like. In doing so however, drawing on sensational but sketchy reports of extreme mutilations, which provided his only knowledge of the crimes, he managed to create the worst example of Ripper excess. Although Barnett admitted being with Kelly on the night of her death, the police were looking for ‘The Ripper’. If he could satisfy them he was not connected with the other murders then he could not have killed Kelly. After all prevailing impressions characterised Jack the Ripper, the single murderer of Whitechapel, as an immigrant Jew, a mad Doctor, or some other convenient category of foreigner. In this way the most notorious act of the Ripper and therefore his defining moment could be seen to have been largely a press creation. Such a hypothesis would provide an explanation for the considerable differences between this and the other crimes, with Kelly’s mutilation resulting from the partially informed perception of other murders. Her killer being someone whose only familiarity with the Ripper crimes came from nothing more than sensational press reports. Therefore, given the prominent position occupied by Kelly within the Ripper legend, the press can be accredited as paradoxically both the creators of Jack the Ripper and the main impediment to his capture. This of course would mean that throughout the intervening years the search for Jack the Ripper as the murderer of at least five women including Stride and Kelly has always been doomed to failure.

      None of the above is presented as a definitive answer to the mystery of Jack the Ripper. Nor is it intended to finally secure conviction of Barnett. It is merely presented as an exploration of possibility. A theoretically grounded reviewing of events, which can be supported by significant surviving evidence, but is freed from the shackles of the past perceptual productions, cultural myths, and sensational press coverage, that have structured the subject ever since. Of course there is an immense gulf between reading about something and actually having the want or wherewithal to attempt to emulate it, but the potential effect of the media on certain ‘subjects’ is presently exercising the minds of many in the fields of social science and psychology. Despite the belief that this is somehow something new, in this respect the late nineteenth century was not so very different. There was considerable concern over the influence violent posters may have had on the weak of mind. The production of Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde at the Lyceum fell foul of a similar concern and was closed down at the height of the Ripper scare. In addition Dr. Phillips was sufficiently aware of the dangers to incur the wrath of Coroner Baxter at Chapman’s inquest for questioning the need to detail injuries which he believed could thwart the ends of justice. It can be contended that this is just what happened. Not necessarily in the sense of press reporting encouraging others to go out and kill, but by providing a means of evading detection through the creation of the myth of Jack the Ripper. While the press forged connections, perceptions of the murders were developed and modified with each new interpretative interjection, but one thing remained unchanged, the worst atrocities had to be the work of one man. Victorian society drank in the spectacle, incredulous to the fact that anyone could commit such ghastly crimes. If it was inconceivable how one man could sink to such depravity, how much more impossible would it be to imagine that different hands were at work? The police, under attack for allowing one murderer to act with impunity, would be unlikely to entertain the possibility of there being more than one. For this reason when suspects for the latest murder could prove an alibi for previous crimes they were no longer seriously considered. All of these are views which continue to exert considerable influence to this day. In the end then, it is probably fair to say that the actual number of victims attributable to any singular, serial Whitechapel murderer may, in common with the identity of such a fiend, never be known. But whatever conclusions are arrived at will only be well founded if the possibility has first been seriously addressed that Kelly was not a Ripper victim and, giving credence to the views of Dr. Phillips, that Stride and perhaps Eddowes were killed by different hands to the ones that dispatched Annie Chapman. In this respect, with Jack owing his conception as much to prevailing cultural perceptions as to any Whitechapel murder, serious consideration must be given to the possibility that, from the canonical five, if it is accepted that Jack’s work began with Nichols, only two may remain. As the murderous fiend may have retired after Chapman, a murder that occurred a full two weeks before Jack the Ripper was first written into the pages of history.
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