August 31, 2012
Jack the Ripper, or Saucy Jacky as he liked to refer to himself. Everyone knows the name. Images of a faceless man dressed in a black top hat and cloak lurking the dank and dirty streets of London come to mind. Who was he? Will we ever know? If you are like me and think this story of murder and mayhem is fascinating, then please read on. If not, stop here; you don’t want to go any further.
Let’s rewind to 1888, August (exactly 124 years ago) in London’s Whitechapel district. Sources disagree on which exact murders to attribute to the infamous killer, but most concur that The Ripper began his spree with either the untimely demise of Martha Tabram or Mary Ann Nichols. Over the next two months, three or more women fell victim to his rampage. The city of London recoiled in fear as the stories of his horrendous acts spread. Then suddenly, almost as quickly has he appeared, he disappeared into the pages of history.
Why do we still care? Over a century has past, but I have yet to come across a person who doesn’t know of Jack the Ripper. This story is fascinating for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, this person was never caught. No one knows who he was, and the only thing we do know is how bad he was. How was someone so awful never exposed? Some very well-known folks, including Patricia Cornwell, have put forth guesses as to his identity. In Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed, Cornwell asserts that artist Walter Sickert was the infamous murderer.
Secondly, these murders took place over a two-month period in a very concentrated area. He went so far as to kill two women in one night. If the Ripper murders occurred in modern day Kansas City, there would be a mass exodus. I can understand the hysteria.
Thirdly, maybe we are all just morbid. There is a reason that James Patterson, Kathy Reichs, and Lee Child are always on the bestseller lists. It is definitely not the vague crime scenes and happy endings. It is schadenfreude at its finest.
Whatever the reason, Jack the Ripper still continues to leap out of the pages of history and stalk into our nightmares. Beware!
Blue Springs North Branch