The year 1888 witnessed a series of ultimate unsolved and mysterious homicides the world has ever experienced. The unknown assassin went on committing his cruel deeds, putting the Scotland Yard investigators in big trouble. He lurked behind the shadows creating chaos and leaving little evidence to the cops. Five prostitutes were killed in the Whitechapel area of London alone by the so-called legend who named himself Jack the ripper. The London media made the name popular and today it has become worth enough to address all the murderers at large. The story of Jack the Ripper, no doubt, remains as an unsolved riddle even today and the peculiar nature of his crimes has raised the curiosity of criminologists, investigators, crime reporters, criminals, and the common man. Many theories and speculations have been drawn regarding the series of murders; however, it is still an unresolved puzzle of who the actual killer was.
The identity of the White chapel murderer was unknown to the world until the police and the newspapers received a number of letters ‘during the autumn and winter of 1888/89’ which were supposed to have been written by the murderer himself and one of them “contained the first use of ‘Jack the Ripper’, a nickname the papers swiftly adopted and which is now synonymous.” (Wilde). The modus operandi in these crimes was unique and peculiar that made him a legend. Even after the passage of a century, the public fascination in this regard has not yet come to an end. Jack the ripper has sustained to maintain his role as the godfather of entire serial killers of the world. The strategy of his murders has been ever analyzed by the police and psychologist.
Even though there is no unanimous list of the people Jack murdered, studies have pointed out a common strain in his murders-that he killed five London prostitutes. It is believed that Jack the Ripper “killed five women, all London prostitutes, during 1888: Mary Ann ‘Polly’ Nichols on August 31, Annie Chapman on September 8, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes on September 30 and Mary Jane (Marie Jeanette) Kelly on November 9.” (Wilde). The nature of the crime, the mannerisms, and the ferocity displayed by the killer add to the professionalism of Jack the Ripper. There are many who believe that the killer had some sort of anatomical knowledge and many perceive him to be a doctor or surgeon because he killed his victims by strangling them, “then laying them down and cutting the arteries in their throats; this was followed by a varied process of mutilation, during which parts of the body were removed and kept.” (Wilde). Even though there were visible traces and common patterns in all the murders, it is quite mysterious that the killer was neither identified nor prosecuted. Thus, the name of Jack has become synonymous with unproven crimes and this has raised him to the stature of a hero admired by criminals all over the world.
Like any other sensational news, London dailies and magazines contributed their major portion of time and effort to add enough flavor to the gruesome events. The admiration, if it could be called so, was really attributed to the media. They cherished every horrible event especially when the Scotland Yard received certain letters on behalf of the very dangerous thug. He concluded his letters signed “Jack the Ripper” and thus entered history forever. Wide publicity was given to the letters supposed to have been written by Jack and with the publication of the letters “the murderer was given the name that would launch him into legend. A name that would become so well known the world over that the very mention of it, even to those who have little knowledge of the actual murders, could summon up vivid images of gas-lit, foggy streets and of an unknown terror stalking the night shadows on a murderous and chilling quest.” (Jone). Thus, one can never undermine the role played by the newspapers and the other media in popularizing the ‘heroic’ deeds of Jack, and these sorts of undue publicity have accelerated the mysterious element in the homicides.
Though highly terrifying were the cruel deeds he performed under the cover of solid darkness, they were highly an epoch-making one. An unlimited number of stories, novels, films, dramas, and operas are born on this classic culprit. Since then, Jack has been a subject for researchers. His attire and deportment were praised to be the symbols of a perfect killer. With his quickness, mystic image, and supernatural ability to vanish from the scene we’re capturing the readers and spectators all over the world. Jack the Ripper is considered to be an unsolved mystery for a number of reasons. There must be several killers who have shed the blood of more people than Jack did. Yet he is considered to be unique and extremely mysterious. Perhaps, unlike others, he deliberately left some trace but always managed to be in ambush. Simply killing people was not his motto. Instead, he always haunted a particular category of women. This is very well pointed out by Marjorie Dorfman when the author observes:
Certainly Jack the Ripper left traces of his murderous presence, including a leather apron soaked in blood. In an act of ultimate audacity, he even sent a body part of one of the victims to Scotland Yard. It is likely that the crime technology and criminal profiling techniques of today would have yielded many more clues to the identity of Jack the Ripper and that these crimes, were they committed today, might not have gone unsolved. (Dorfman).
The initial objective of the killer was not apprehensive to the experts, yet the modus operandi paved way for enormous discussions and further case studies all over the world. Crime investigations have shown that based on an offender’s way of work and his behavior patterns, various conclusions regarding the murderer can be drawn. For instance, the conclusion of an expert is given below: “By choosing to murder Kelly indoors, the killer demonstrated that he was an experienced nighttime cat burglar and stalker, as he attacked all his victims in the early morning hours when dawn was approaching.” (Jack the Ripper the First Serial Killer: Jack the Ripper’s Modus Operandi). However, Jack the Ripper’s crimes remain still unsolved as such conclusions were inadequate and insufficient. The consequences of his brutal actions were far-reaching. It did not cease with the end of five prostitutes.
The mysterious assailant tormented many innocent people by leaving them suspects to the police. An array of investigators and suspects took their turn to unveil the secret but all in vain. All efforts added to his fame and made him an unsolved mystery in crime history. Jack the Ripper has attributed to the origin of a number of ‘Jack the Ripper theories’ and a new term ‘ripperologists’. Among the theories, the most controversial one was the ‘Sickert theory’ which also displayed a paucity of vital facts and evidence. The fact that differentiated the theory from many others was that its assumptions were more reasonable and sufficient to satisfy the avenging lust of the people who were persecuted by the Government. Patricia Cornwell cites a number of evidence to prove that Walter Richard Sickert was behind the series of murders. She found the key to most solid evidence to Sickert’s guilt “in his paintings, which she claims have an eerie similarity to the grisly post mortem pictures taken of the Ripper’s victims.” (Steele). And purports that he is the most dreaded criminal behind the homicides. Whether the theory is reliable or not people who read and watch fiction or non-fictions on this legend killer today would like to see him remain mysterious forever.
The reason behind this is perhaps, the people who suffered some kind of social injustice always longed for an anti-hero who would give enough headache to the authorities. All professional and amateur forensic experts have tried to analyze the psychological dimensions of Jack the Ripper for a period of hundred and more years. Still, he remains an unapproachable character minimizing their studies to a kind of uncertainty. The words of Keppel and Burns would be appropriate to quote: “Hidden among the evidence, often gleaned from the marks and wounds on the victim’s body these signatures are the only ways the killer truly expresses himself.” (Jack the Ripper the First Serial Killer: Jack the Ripper’s Signature). But in the then case of Jack, the Ripper such ways of expressing never took place, or rather the evidence was still hidden, unexplored, and unproven. To conclude Jack the Ripper is still an unsolved mystery-a puzzle or riddle that needs to be solved or answered.
- Dorfman, Marjorie. Jack the Ripper. Suite101.com: The Genuine Article. 2007.
- Jack the Ripper the First Serial Killer: Jack the Ripper’s Modus Operandi. All About Forensic Psychology. 2008. Web.
- Jone, Richard. The Letter from Jack the Ripper: The Legend of Jack The Ripper is Born. London Walking Tours. 2007.
- Steele, John. Jack the Ripper was painter Sickert Says Crime Writer. Telegraph.co.uk. 2008.
- Wilde, Robert. Jack the Ripper: The Crimes. About.com: European History. 2008.
- Wilde, Robert. Jack the Ripper: The Letters and Nick Names. About.com: European History 2008.