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Jack the Ripper

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Jack the Ripper is the name given to the person responsible for the murder of at least five prostitutes in London in 1888 (and possibly later). This name derives from a letter written in September 1888[1] which is today generally regarded as having been a hoax.

Murders[edit]

Between April 1888 and February 1891, eleven women were murdered in the Whitechapel district of London. While different theories ascribe different murders to the Ripper, five, which occurred between August 31, 1888, and November 9 of that same year, are attributed by most modern commentators to Jack the Ripper. All five of these victims were prostitutes, and all five had their throats cut. In order, they are: Mary Ann Nichols (Friday, August 31), Annie Chapman (Saturday, September 8), Elizabeth Stride (Sunday, September 30), Catharine Eddowes (also September 30), and Mary Jane Kelly (Friday, November 9).[2] All five except Stride displayed mutilation of the abdomen, and Chapman, Eddowes, and Kelly all had organs removed.

Theories[edit]

Contemporary police had several strong suspects, ranging from a barrister who committed suicide shortly after Kelly's murder, to a barber later convicted of other serial murders and executed, to a Jewish bootmaker who one particular constable had personal issues with. No suspect was ever charged with the Whitechapel murders, though they were arrested by the dozen. Beyond the 'official' suspects, though, there have been many theories as to who 'he' was, from a deranged butcher[3] to the son of the Prince of Wales[4] or a painter.[5]

These murders, while by no means the first serial killings, were unique in that they were the first to garner worldwide (well, from the Eurocentrist's perspective) press attention. By accident of timing, they were able to take advantage of a somewhat recent explosion in the circulation numbers of periodicals, which was due in part to decreasing costs. As such, reporting on the subject showed (for nearly the first time) patterns of sensationalism still seen in modern media reports of high-profile crimes, including the publication of four letters allegedly written by the killer, which are now regarded as almost certain hoaxes.

In addition to being widely covered at the time, the murders have been enshrined in cultural memory, and, as such, attract attention into the present day, leading to a continued stream of research into the matter, of both the academic and nonsensical sort. Some of the more outrageous proposed theories name Prince Albert Victor (George V's older brother, not the Prince Albert of canned fame) as the murderer.[4][6] The fact that he was several hundred miles away in Scotland at the time of two of the murders does nothing to sway those who hold this view. Likewise, the ever popular "Freemasonsdidit" claim has been tailored to the Ripper cases, alleging that the mutilations were in accord with penalties laid out in Masonic oaths.[7] That these oaths do not make an actual threat, do not mention harming non-Masons (such as the victims certainly were), and fail to match the mutilations actually observed, which varied from victim to victim anyhow, is likewise no deterrent to such fanciful claims.

References[edit]