Jack the Ripper was a serial killer before the term was coined. Be warned, today’s episode contains some very disturbing content about the murders…check it out before listening with kids.
About From Hell
If you’re a fan of graphic novels, you know who Alan Moore is. He’s made a name for himself in the industry writing Superman and Batman comics for DC. But even if you’re not a fan of graphic novels, you’ve probably seen—or at least heard of—some of the movies that have been created from his works.
Watchmen, V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, just to name a few.
While some people would be ecstatic to have their work adapted for the silver screen, Alan wasn’t. He’d written the stories like Watchman specifically as comics and wasn’t a fan of having them turned into films—a completely different medium.
But that didn’t stop it from happening.
Despite his not liking the idea of having his work turned into movies, today we’re going to be looking at the film that led the way when it was released in 2001 after being adapted from a graphic novel of the same name.
Today we’re going to be doing a bit of true crime as we compare history with From Hell.
Learn the true story of From Hell
One day men will look back and say I gave birth to the Twentieth Century. — Jack the Ripper, 1888
That quote is the very first thing we see on screen as the movie begins. Unfortunately, that’s not something the real Jack the Ripper ever said.
Which, I guess, if he had talked about giving birth to the 20th century in 1888, that’d be a little strange since he’d be saying that over a decade too early.
Although, it’s worth pointing out that while the quote may not have been something the real Jack the Ripper said, the date is accurate. And so is the text on the next scene where we find out this is happening in the Whitechapel District. That’s in the East End of London.
After establishing the time and place, we’re introduced to Mary Kelly, as played by Heather Graham, as she walks along the street saying a friendly hello to many of the other women she passes. Then, after a brief run-in with the Nichols Street Gang where we learn that Mary’s being forced to pay protection money, we meet some of Mary’s other friends that are some of the main characters in the film.
Including Mary, who is often referred to in historical documents as Marie Kelly, there’s six women getting washed up as we see them for the first time. The others are, in no particular order, Liz Stride as played by Susan Lynch, Dark Annie Chapman as played by Katrin Cartlidge, Kate Eddowes as played by Lesley Sharp, Martha Tabram as played by Samantha Spiro and Polly Nichols as played by Annabelle Apsion.
All of those women are real, although it’s worth pointing out that we don’t really know if these women knew each other. What we do know, though, is that they were all prostitutes in the same area of London. So there’s a chance they knew each other, but seeing as many of the working women of Whitechapel back in the day weren’t exactly very well off, that also meant there was little to no documentation of their day-to-day life.
So even if they were good friends like the movie suggests, there’s no way we’d really know.
There’s one more woman I didn’t mention, though. Her name is Ann Crook, and she’s played by Joanna Page. I didn’t mention her because she’s the one who walks up with a baby after we’re first introduced to the other six ladies first.
Ann tells the story of how she’s been taken care of by a rather well-off man—the father of the baby. That man’s name, according to Ann, is named Albert.
And again, both of those are real people. Well, Ann is usually referred to by historians today as Annie Crook.
As for the father of the baby, although they don’t really explain who he is until a little later in the movie, I’m going to go ahead and spoil it for you and let you know that Albert was, as the movie says later, Prince Albert Victor.
Prince Albert was a member of the royal family in the United Kingdom as the son of Edward and Alexandra of Denmark. He was the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne of Great Britain, older brother of Prince George and grandson of Queen Victoria.
Although his father wasn’t king when he was born in 1864, when his grandmother, Queen Victoria, passed away in 1901, Albert’s father became King Edward VII.
Speaking of Ann and Albert, going back to the movie, the next big plot point in the movie is a scene where we see the couple having sex. Then Ben Kidney bursts into the room with a couple of goons and haul them both off.
Oh, and Ben Kidney, who’s played by Terence Harvey, is a fictional character. Although he could’ve been modeled after a real person named Michael Kidney.
In the movie, Ann and Albert are taken away in two different carriages. We never see where Albert goes, but we see Ann get interrogated by Kidney—”Who knows!?”
The movie doesn’t really tell us why he’s trying to interrogate Ann, but we’d later find out he was trying to learn who else knows about the baby Ann and Albert had.
After this, still in the movie’s storyline, we see the first murder. It’s Samantha Spiro’s character, Martha Tabram. She parts ways with Mary, who’s taking Ann’s baby to her parents, Ann’s parents that is, while Martha is going back to work. Suddenly, Martha is pulled into a dark corner.
Amid Martha’s muffled screams, all we can see is the glint of a knife. Stabbing. With each stroke, a little more blood covers the knife.
The specifics of how the murder happened was fictionalized for the film on the account of—well, the obvious. By that, what I mean is that to this day we don’t know for sure who Jack the Ripper really was. And, sadly, it is true that Martha was murdered in Whitechapel on Tuesday, August 7th, 1888. So there’s not going to be any reports or documents of an event only witnessed by two people—one of whom we don’t know who it is, and the other being murdered.
But was it Jack the Ripper? Maybe.
Even though the movie never comes out and shows the killer, we get the implication maybe it was. In truth, we don’t really know. At the time, the viciousness of Martha’s murder—39 stab wounds—led the police to connect it to the slew of Jack the Ripper murders that followed hers, but more recently a lot of historians and other various experts who have studied the Jack the Ripper mystery extensively have suggested perhaps her murder was not connected to Jack. One of the big reasons for that is because Martha’s murder was unlike any of the others—she was stabbed instead of slashed.
But it was still a brutal murder of a prostitute around the same time, so maybe there is a connection.
Speaking of which, the movie never mentions this at all, but there’s another murder that actually happened before Martha that some today think might be a victim of Jack.
That’d be another prostitute named Emma Smith. She was attacked and raped on Tuesday, April 3rd, 1888. That’s 126 days before Martha was murdered.
But the reason the police of the time did not connect Emma to Jack while they did connect Martha was because Emma didn’t die. She survived the attack and told the police that she had been assaulted by either two or three men—she wasn’t sure. One of them, though, she said was really young.
Sadly, she developed peritonitis after the attack. That’s an inflammation of the inner wall of the abdomen, and something she’d contracted because during the rape apparently the attackers had used a blunt object so forcefully it’d ruptured that lining.
Emma passed on the morning of April 4th, 1888, the day after the attack.
So does that mean Jack the Ripper is actually multiple people? Maybe. Maybe not. Some have suggested maybe Emma wasn’t a victim of Jack, but rather a local gang. In the movie, there’s the mention of a Nichols Street Gang, and while we don’t really know specifics about the people involved in local gangs like that, we do know that there were multiple gangs in the streets of Whitechapel in 1888.
Or maybe Emma really was the first victim of Jack the Ripper and she recognized him, so she deliberately led the cops down the wrong path because she was afraid he’d finish the job. Or maybe she’d been attacked by her own employers—her pimps—who were using her as an example for other prostitutes.
There’s a lot of theories. We’ll just have to be satisfied without knowing the truth.
Going back to the movie, after Martha’s murder we’re introduced to Johnny Depp’s version of Inspector Frederick Abberline.
As a little side note, if you’ve read the graphic novel the movie is based on, he’s Frank Abberline. And maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never heard of the name Frank used as a shortened version of Frederick so we could come to the conclusion that Frank Abberline is a fictionalized version of the real Frederick Abberline.
However, it’d seem the movie is a little more accurate than the graphic novel here because the real person’s name was indeed Frederick Abberline. He was the Chief Inspector for the London Metropolitan Police who was assigned to the murders that would turn out to be Jack the Ripper’s victims.
Although, throughout the movie Johnny Depp’s version of Frederick Abberline has a bit of a special power where he sees visions of the killings. A special power that seems to be induced mostly when he’s high on drugs.
And since we were just speaking of the graphic novel, it’s worth pointing out that in there Frank Abberline didn’t have that sort of special power. Instead, he did meet up with a man named Robert James Lee. It was Lee who was a clairvoyant claiming to see the murders in his visions, not Abberline.
Let’s hop back into the movie’s timeline, though, and the next major plot point happens when we’re introduced to a couple more characters. William Gull, who’s played by Ian Holm, and Dr. Ferral, who’s played by Paul Rhys. William is explaining a medical process while Dr. Ferral performs it on a girl tied down in the center of a bunch of medical students looking on.
The girl is Ann Crook, who we saw earlier. The procedure is one a lobotomy—removing the connections to the frontal lobe of the brain. As William Gull explains it in the movie, this simple procedure will cure the violent form of the poor girl’s dementia permanently.
Except…Ann was fine. She had no issues before this procedure. We know this from seeing her earlier in the film as a happy girl enjoying life with Albert and their newborn baby, Alice.
So something fishy is going on.
And again, the movie is showing something that we just don’t know is true. But I suppose that also means we don’t know it’s not true…hence why there’s been so many debates back and forth for centuries. Way too much than we could hope to cover in a single episode.
For the sake of our story today, though, let’s summarize this theory because it’s really the plot of the theory for both the From Hell graphic novel and the movie.
Do you remember the baby that Ann Crook had with Albert earlier in the movie? Well, according to this version of the story, Annie Crook got pregnant and married Albert. If you recall, Albert was none other than Prince Albert Victor. So the marriage and baby meant that the child, whose name was Alice Margaret, might have claim to the throne. We don’t really know how legitimate that claim would’ve been, but it’d seem no one wanted to find out.
To make sure it never got out, Annie had the lobotomy to remove her memory. Then Sir William Gull, who at that point was a surgeon connected to the royal family, enlisted the help of a couple other men to silence Annie’s friends—the six other women we were introduced to earlier.
And just like the movie suggests, according to this version of the story, Sir William Gull is Jack the Ripper. He’s sent by the royal family to hide the fact that Britain’s heir to the throne had a child with someone they deemed unworthy—Annie. Seemingly on his own, Sir William Gull decides to turn the women into a Masonic ritual series of killings, perhaps in an attempt to further distance the murders from the crown.
Then, as we saw at the very end of the movie, William Gull himself is silenced with a lobotomy. The same way he silenced Ann Crook. At least, that’s how the story goes—and for what it’s worth, the movie is pretty faithful to this version of the story.
Unfortunately, we just don’t know if any of that is true.
Let’s start with Annie Crook. We don’t really have any records indicating she lived anything but a normal life. In fact, some historians point to an Annie Crook living in the Upper Rathbone Place area of London in 1891 along with a child named Alice Margaret as being the one and same Annie Crook.
If you happen to have an Ancestry.com subscription, you can find the census records to find her listed there, living with Annie’s parents, William and Sarah. And if that’s the same Annie Crook with little Alice then that’d seem to call into question the storyline that both the graphic novel and movie follow—that Annie was lobotomized and lived out the rest of her life not at home but rather shrouded in anonymity in a mental hospital.
Some historians have even managed to track what they claim was Annie’s life through to her eventual death in 1920, including multiple instances of her holding down jobs along the way. Not something you’d get from someone locked away in a mental ward.
What, then, of Sir William Gull?
Well, he was a real person. And he was, like this version of the story suggests, a surgeon. He rose from a rather obscure background to prominence toward the end of 1871 when he successfully treated the then-Prince of Wales, Edward, after he came down with typhoid fever. Saving the future king’s life helped William’s status, and he was given a Baronship as well as being named the Physician-in-Ordinary to Her Majesty Queen Victoria.
Although it’s worth pointing out that the real William Gull never seemed to get a lobotomy like the movie suggests. Instead, in 1887, William Gull suffered a stroke that he feared was but the first of many to come.
And he was right.
He’d end up suffering numerous strokes over the next couple of years.
Maybe, as some have suggested, William Gull’s stroke in 1887 caused something to go wrong in his mind that led to the killings. If you recall, the first of the Jack the Ripper victims passed away in April of 1888—assuming that Emma Smith was indeed his victim.
If you recall from the movie, it’s implied that the queen had something to do with the murders when we see Ian Holm’s version of Sir William Gull receiving his marching orders of silencing the women from none other than Queen Victoria, who’s played by Liz Moscrop.
And perhaps that’s one reason why this version of the story has held so much weight for so long. After all, how spicy of a conspiracy is it that Jack the Ripper was actually commissioned by the throne itself?
Maybe Jack the Ripper was born out of a perfect storm of sorts, when Sir William was asked to cover up Prince Albert’s child and the strokes that Sir William suffered around the same time. And maybe all of that was covered up by Queen Victoria. Or maybe not. Either way, we’ll never know.
What we do know is that, unlike what we see in the movie, Sir William Gull was never lobotomized. Instead, his health deteriorated after that first stroke in 1887. On January 27th, 1890, he suffered what would be his final stroke. Then, on January 29th, Sir William Gull passed away.
Now we haven’t really mentioned it until now, but the timing of Sir William’s death could itself be what suggests he wasn’t Jack the Ripper.
You see, despite what the movie shows, the final murder tied to Jack the Ripper was in 1891—after Sir William died.
Now would be a good time to go over the victims.
There’s more than the six women we see killed in the movie. In all, there are 11 women believed to have been victims of Jack the Ripper. Although, as is the case with just about every aspect of this sad story, we just don’t know how many of them were actually Jack’s victims.
We already learned about Emma Smith, who was attacked and raped on Tuesday, April 3rd, 1888. She died the next day as a result of the attack, making her what many consider to be the first victim of Jack the Ripper.
Then there was the first murder we see in the movie, Martha Tabram. Now, as we learned, some don’t think she was a victim of Jack the Ripper since she was stabbed 39 times, but others do. She was murdered on Tuesday, August 7th, 1888.
The next murder was on Friday, August 31st, 1888. That was Polly Nichols. At least, that’s her name in the movie. In the graphic novel, they more accurately name her as Mary Ann Nichols. Polly was her nickname. Although the movie shows Johnny Depp’s version of Inspector Abberline come into the picture after Martha’s murder, it was after Polly’s murder that the real Inspector Abberline was brought onto the case.
Even though they weren’t sure if Polly’s death was linked to Emma’s or Martha’s, the murders of women in close proximity and close timing was something that led cops at the time to think there might be a serial killer on the loose. Well, they would have if the term “serial killer” had existed back then. But you know what I mean.
The reason they thought there might be a connection had to do with the manner in which Polly was murdered…something the movie gets pretty accurate. Polly’s throat was slit from left to right. Not once, but twice. As if that wasn’t enough, her abdomen had been ripped apart with several deep gashes, likely with the same knife used to slit the throat.
Then, as the police were trying to figure out what happened to Polly, another body showed up. This time it was Dark Annie Chapman. Again, that’s what the movie calls her. And like Polly, that was her nickname. Her friends called her Dark Annie because she had dark brown hair.
Annie Chapman’s body was found on Saturday, September 8th, 1888. Like Polly, Annie’s throat had been slit from left to right. And like Polly, Annie’s abdomen had been mutilated, but the coroner would later suggest the cuts had been made by a very fine blade—the kind a doctor would use in surgery. Interestingly, her body was found in the back yard of a home occupied by a dozen people at the time. No one had seen or heard anything.
After Annie was Elizabeth Stride, or Liz as she’s called in the movie. In the movie, when we see Liz get murdered, something different happens. For the first time, someone stumbles upon Sir William and his coachman, Jason Flemyng’s character, Netley, while Liz is still alive. Netley, who is muffling Liz’s screams at this point, yells at the unnamed man, who moves on.
Then Liz’s body is discovered later.
Of course, there’s no way we know if this is how it happened or not. But it could have been.
At about 1:00 AM on Sunday, September 30th, 1888, Elizabeth Stride’s body was discovered lying in a pool of blood with a slit across her throat from left to right. By the account of the man who discovered the body, a man named Louis Diemschutz, the body was still warm suggesting that Elizabeth had been murdered just moments before he stumbled upon the body. He thought perhaps he had even scared off the killer.
Unlike Polly or Annie, though, Elizabeth’s body wasn’t mutilated. Or maybe it was just that the killer didn’t have time to mutilate it before Louis happened upon the scene. We don’t know.
According to the movie, as Johnny Depp’s version of Inspector Abberline and the cops are arriving on the scene of Elizabeth’s murder, we see a dark shadow cover the screen in front of another of the women. It’s Lesley Sharp’s version of Kate Eddowes.
All we hear is, “Excuse me, miss,” and the shadow passes across the screen, blanketing it in darkness for the fraction of a second. When we can see Kate again, her hands are on her throat with blood spurting through her fingers as she slides down the wall.
Then there’s a commotion—another body! The cops rush to the scene, and we see Inspector Abberline arrive to find a message scrawled in chalk.
While dramatized, of course, the basic gist of all of that is true.
If it is true that Louis Diemschutz stopped the killer when he found Elizabeth Stride’s body, still warm, at 1:00 AM on September 30th, then the killer went right back to work. At about 1:45 AM, Catherine Eddowes’ body was found. Unlike Elizabeth’s body, though, the killer apparently had time to finish his work on Catherine. Her throat was slit from left to right from what the coroner concluded was a sharp knife at least six inches in length.
Catherine’s face was cut open as was her abdomen, and her intestines were strung up over her right shoulder. There was a smaller, completely separated piece of intestine strung along her left arm and chest. Finally, the coroner later conclude that Catherine’s kidney and uterus were removed. Well, most of it anyway.
The doctor arriving on the scene estimated that she’d been dead for no longer than 10 minutes.
Just like in the movie, about 1,500 feet away from where Catherine’s body was found, there was a piece of her apron covered in blood. That’s about 500 meters or so, and the clothing led the police to find the writing on the wall. And the movie got that pretty close.
In the movie, the message is:
The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing
In truth, the message said:
The Juwes are not the men who will be blamed for nothing
Although the movie is correct in showing that the police commissioner wanted to erase the words. In the movie it’s Ian Richardson’s character, Sir Charles Warren, playing the commissioner.
And that was the real commissioner’s name at the time. At this point, the murders were already causing a media frenzy, and fearing the words would spark an anti-Semitic riot, Commissioner Warren ordered the words erased when he arrived on the scene at about 5:00 AM.
The surgical precision to remove Catherine’s organs were something that led the cops at the time to assume that the killer had to have known quite a bit about the position of organs in the body—basically, the killer was probably a surgeon.
But even that was debated at the time. Other doctors suggested there’s no way it was a surgeon.
Oh, and there’s one scene in the movie where both the graphic novel and the movie get its name. That comes when Johnny Depp’s version of Inspector Abberline receives a letter from the killer along with a kidney. According the movie, the letter has the words, “From Hell” on it.
That’s true, although it was really sent to George Lusk. We haven’t talked about him, but he’s got a small role in the movie played by Vincent Franklin. George was a local businessman who had been elected to be the chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee during the murder spree from Jack the Ripper.
So he wasn’t a police officer, but he was sort a citizen’s liaison to the police. At the height of the murders, in October of 1888, George Lusk asked for extra police protection at his home because he had spotted what he described as a sinister-looking man with a beard watching his home.
Then, one day, he received this chilling letter alongside a box with half of a human kidney inside. This is the letter now known as the “From Hell” letter from Jack the Ripper:
I send you half the Kidne I took from one women prasarved it for you tother pirce I fried and ate it was very nise I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer.
signed Catch me when
Can you imagine getting that at your home?
That was just one of the letters that Jack the Ripper sent. In fact, even though the “From Hell” letter is signed by “Catch me when you can”, we get the name Jack the Ripper from a different letter. As with just about everything in this case, not everyone agrees the letter signed as Jack the Ripper was authentic, but I’ll make sure to include more of those in the bonus episode for Producers.
In the movie, there’s one more murder. It’s the dramatic end of the movie where we see Heather Graham’s character, Mary Kelly, asleep in her bed. Or is it really Mary?
Meanwhile, there’s an epic escape going on as Johnny Depp’s version of Inspector Abberline, who at this point has a thing for Mary Kelly, gets kidnapped by Sir William Gull’s Masonic associates.
With ample time, Sir William arrives at Mary’s home and begins his work. We don’t see much other than the result—a room covered in blood. Everywhere. Then, he pulls out his surgical kit and removes Mary’s heart, which he cooks over the fire.
After this, in the movie, we find out that wasn’t really Mary. It’d seem she managed to get away, taking baby Alice back to her seaside home in Ireland. Instead, the woman murdered was Ada, a newcomer to the area as played by Estelle Skornik.
The brutality of the murder was right. Was it Mary Kelly? Well, they didn’t have DNA testing so we don’t really know for sure, I guess, but she was positively identified by a man named Joseph Barnett.
He’s not in the movie at all, but he is in the graphic novel as the man who Mary was living with. And that’s more accurate than the movie, which seems to have added the romantic relationship between Inspector Abberline and Mary Kelly—that wasn’t really in the graphic novel. In fact, Inspector Abberline was married in the book to his second wife, Emma, just like he was in real life at the time.
Something else the movie portrays with Heather Graham’s version of Mary is that she had red hair. Remember Dark Annie, who got her nickname because of having dark brown hair? Well, it’d seem Mary had the nickname Black Mary on account of her having black hair.
But then again, she also had the nickname “ginger”, so even that has some rather conflicting reports.
As for the murder itself, unfortunately the movie is accurate in depicting a brutal scene. In fact, if anything, the movie probably doesn’t show the full extent of the brutality.
He’s not in the movie at all, but Dr. Thomas Bond was one of the physicians who examined the body after it was discovered on Friday, November 9th, 1888. For a long time, his report had gone missing but then in 1987 it was anonymously returned to Scotland Yard. That’s a mystery for another day.
I know I started off this episode with a parental advisory, but I’ll give you another one right now…this is a small excerpt from Dr. Bond’s notes regarding the state of Mary’s body when it was discovered. If you’d rather not hear it, feel free to skip ahead—I wouldn’t blame you. Oh, and if you’re like me and unfamiliar with one of the words used, supine, that basically means lying face up.
The body was lying naked in the middle of the bed, the shoulders flat, but the axis of the body inclined to the left side of the bed. The head was turned on the left cheek. The left arm was close to the body with the forearm flexed at a right angle and lying across the abdomen. the right arm was slightly abducted from the body and rested on the mattress, the elbow bent and the forearm supine with the fingers clenched. The legs were wide apart, the left thigh at right angles to the trunk and the right forming an obtuse angle with the pubes.
The whole of the surface of the abdomen and thighs was removed and the abdominal Cavity emptied of its viscera. The breasts were cut off, the arms mutilated by several jagged wounds and the face hacked beyond recognition of the features. The tissues of the neck were severed all round down to the bone.
The viscera were found in various parts viz: the uterus and Kidneys with one breast under the head, the other breast by the right foot, the liver between the feet, the intestines by the right side and the spleen by the left side of the body. The flaps removed from the abdomen and thighs were on a table.
The bed clothing at the right corner was saturated with blood, and on the floor beneath was a pool of blood covering about two feet square. The wall by the right side of the bed and in a line with the neck was marked by blood which had struck it in a number of separate splashes.
There’s more…too much more. I’ll include more of his notes along with the bonus episode for Producers, but for our purposes today it’s worth pointing out that Dr. Bond would go on to mention that the pericardium, the cavity where the heart lies, was cut open and the heart was missing.
Oh, and Dr. Bond also remarked in his notes that the mutilations were more in line with a butcher cutting up dead animals—he said there was no reason to believe the mutilation was done with any sort of surgical precision by someone with knowledge of human anatomy.
In the movie, Mary is the last of the murders we see. Ian Holms’ version of Sir William Gull gets a lobotomy to cover up the murders and the matter is considered resolved by Queen Victoria.
As we already learned, the real Sir William ended up passing away in 1890 from one of many strokes he’d had over the course of a few years.
So what, then, of the murders that happened after he died?
Well, it’s true that many believe Mary Kelly was indeed the final victim of Jack the Ripper. Following this hypothesis, the suggestion is that after Mary was murdered Jack was captured, perhaps on another charge not even connected, and locked away the murders ended.
And it is true that after the vicious nature of Mary’s murder, the police stepped up their effort even more. A massive search was underway and the police even published an open pardon to anyone who might be associated with Jack the Ripper—anyone but the person who actually performed the murders would get a pardon if they helped the police catch the murderer.
Maybe it worked. Maybe Mary Kelly was Jack the Ripper’s final victim.
Maybe it didn’t.
A little over a month after Mary Kelly was murdered, a police constable on patrol in Whitechapel discovered another body. It belonged to a woman named Rose Mylett, but unlike Jack’s other victims Rose died not from a slit throat but from strangulation.
After Dr. Bond analyzed Rose’s body, he came to the conclusion that there weren’t any signs of struggle. Perhaps Rose had accidentally strangled herself by hanging while drunk.
Then again, Emma Smith and Martha Tabram didn’t have their throats slit either. And that’s one reason why many don’t think they’re associated with Jack’s killings. Interestingly, Rose Mylett knew and even lived in the same house as Emma Smith for a while.
As for signs of struggle, if you remember, Elizabeth Stride was murdered near an occupied home. They’d concluded there were no signs of struggle in that case, either.
If Rose was one of Jack’s victims, she was the final one for 1888. Sadly, possibly not the last, though.
On Wednesday, July 17th, 1889, the body of Alice McKenzie was found. Her throat had been slit from left to right, and like some of Jack’s earlier victims the abdomen had been mutilated. However, the cuts on the abdomen weren’t quite as deep, indicating a shorter knife had been used than the one in Jack’s earlier killings. As a result, there were some conflicting thoughts. Some thought the slit throat and mutilations suggested Alice was another of Jack’s victims while others, including Inspector Abberline, didn’t agree.
Speaking of mutilations that caused controversy about whether or not it was Jack’s victim, a couple months after Alice’s body was found, on Tuesday, September 10th, 1889, a torso was found in Whitechapel near Pinchin Street. Despite a search of the area, no other body parts were found and the torso could never be identified. Some suggest since it was found in Whitechapel and was obviously a mutilated body, it must be Jack the Ripper, while others suggest perhaps this torso was linked to another rash of killings in London.
We haven’t even talked about those yet, and they’re typically not associated with Jack the Ripper, but right around that same time there were a series of murders in London’s East End, of which Whitechapel is just one of the districts. That began as one murder in 1887 in which the only evidence left was a torso. Then in 1888, another victim was murdered and two more in 1889. Each time, the killer left behind a torso—hence the name as the Thames Torso Murders.
Could the Pinchin Street torso be connected to Jack the Ripper or was that the work of the Thames Torso Killer? Or could it be that they’re one and the same?
Those are all questions left unanswered.
Two years after Alice and the Pinchin Street torso were discovered, the final victim sometimes associated with Jack the Ripper was found. That was of a 25-year-old woman named Frances Cole, the same age as Mary Kelly when she was murdered.
Frances’ body was discovered on Friday the 13th in February of 1891. Again, it seems that her body was discovered just moments after the murder, which happened at around 2:15 AM. While many think Frances Cole wasn’t a Ripper killing, her throat was cut from left to right and then back again, right to left.
With her murder, there might’ve finally been a break in the case. She’d been seen with a man named James Sadler earlier, someone who the police had on their list of suspects to be Jack the Ripper. After Frances was murdered, they arrested James for her murder. Unable to find any more proof, they had to release him on March 3rd, 1891.
Oh, and as a little side note, James Sadler wasn’t on the police’s short list of suspects. There were a few men that they were looking at closer than others. They were, in no particular order, Dr. Francis Tumblety, Aaron Kosminski, Michael Ostrog and Montague Druitt.
Then there was Chief Inspector Abberline’s favorite for the murders, a man named Severin Klosowski—he went by the much-easier-to-pronounce George Chapman.
While those might be considered the primary suspects at the time of the murders, they weren’t the only suspects overall. Even Lewis Carroll, the guy who wrote Alice in Wonderland has ended up on the suspects list for some. The fear and terror that gripped the streets of Whitechapel has been something that countless historians, experts and others have tried to solve ever since.
Ripperologists. That’s the name for true crime buffs who become obsessed with the search for the man that might’ve been the real Jack the Ripper, even to this day.
Or woman. Inspector Abberline thought perhaps it could’ve been a female killer. In all, there have been well over 500 suspects. Some with closer connections, like the storyline of Prince Albert Victor and Sir William Gull, both of whom are on that list of suspects.
Of course, as we learned, there’s no way Sir William could’ve been Jack the Ripper if it is indeed true that Frances Cole was a Ripper victim since her murder was after Sir William died.
Over a hundred years after Jack the Ripper’s last murder, a massive clue broke the case wide open. That was in 1992, when a remarkable diary surfaced.
Without ever writing their own name across over 9,000 words, the author confesses to the murder of five women in London and another prostitute in Manchester, some 200 miles or 322 kilometers to the north of London.
Well, I guess saying that the author never gave their name isn’t entirely correct.
At the very end of the diary, after all of the confessions, the author wrote these words:
I give my name that all know of me, so history do tell, what love can do to a gentleman born.
Jack the Ripper.
Dated this third day of May 1889.
As you can probably guess, this caused a new whirlwind of theories and ideas—including the fact that the diary itself was a hoax. After all, why after all this time had it come to light? The man who produced it, Michael Barrett, claimed he got it from a friend named Tony Devereux in 1991. Unfortunately, Tony died soon after giving it to Michael so the trail stops there.
Is it a forgery? Maybe.
But what if it’s not?
According to researchers like Bruce Robinson, who spent years researching the subject matter, and Robert Smith, who authored the book 25 Years of The Diary of Jack the Ripper: The True Facts, the diary is not only authentic, but Michael Barrett didn’t reveal his true source of the diary out of fear of being charged with a crime.
It’d seem the diary was discovered in a Liverpool home of a man named James Maybrick. That would seem to line up with the contents of the diary. Even though the author of the diary never comes out and says their name, most historians agree that with the other events and things mentioned within point to it belonging to James Maybrick.
He’s not in the movie at all, but James Maybrick was a cotton merchant who lived in Liverpool. On April 27th, 1889, James’ health suddenly declined until passing away 15 days later on May 11th. Do you remember the date at the end of the diary? May 3rd. What if James knew he was dying, and the diary was his deathbed confession of sorts?
Doctors determined the cause of death to be arsenic poisoning, and immediately James’ wife, Florence, was arrested and charged with the murder. She received a life sentence, but was released in 1904 and lived until passing on October 23rd, 1941.
So was James Maybrick the infamous Jack the Ripper?
If so, that’d mean the murders of Alice McKenzie and Frances Cole weren’t Jack’s victims since they both happened after James died in May of 1889. And, for that matter, it’d mean the Pinchin Street torso wouldn’t be connected to Jack, either.
Many already don’t consider those murders to be connected to Jack, so that doesn’t discount James Maybrick.
In 2011, a man named Jose Abad proposed a different theory. Jose is a handwriting expert who compared the writing from Jack the Ripper’s diary to other handwriting from suspects at the time.
He believes he found a match in none other than Inspector Frederick Abberline—the police officer in charge of the investigation for the murders.
And while entirely circumstantial, the dates could line up with all of the women even possibly thought to be Jack’s victims. The last of those, of course, being Frances Cole who was murdered on February 13th, 1891.
Inspector Abberline retired from the police on February 8th, 1892 before taking over the European arm of the United States’ Pinkerton National Detective Agency for over a decade. It’d seem he wasn’t done with detective work—he just wanted a change of scenery.
On December 10th, 1929, Frederick Abberline passed away from natural causes at the age of 86. Three months later, his wife of more than 50 years, Emma, passed away as well.
So was Inspector Frederick Abberline the infamous Jack the Ripper?
KEEP LEARNING WITH MORE RESOURCES
- From Hell (2001) – IMDb
- From Hell – Wikipedia
- From Hell (film) – Wikipedia
- From Hell (2001) – Plot Summary – IMDb
- From Hell (2001) Synopsis
- Jack the Ripper Tours and Ripper expert Richard Jones’s blog
- Casebook: Jack the Ripper – Ripper Letters
- New Jack the Ripper Exhibit in London
- From Hell letter – Wikipedia
- Casebook: Jack the Ripper – Message Boards: “One Day Men Will Look Back and Say….
- Ryan Miller – Film and TV Reviews: “One day men will look back and say that I gave birth to the twentieth century.”
- William Gull – Wikipedia
- Casebook: Jack the Ripper – The Life and Possible Deaths of Sir William Gull
- Casebook: Jack the Ripper – Suspects
- Whitechapel murders – Wikipedia
- Jack The Ripper suspect Prince Albert Victor is revealed to have had gonorrhoea | Daily Mail Online
- Albert Victor Duke of Clarence and Avondale.
- Is this Jack the Ripper? Scotland Yard’s Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline named | Daily Mail Online
- Casebook: Jack the Ripper – Jack the Ripper: A Cast of Thousands – Annie and Alice Crook
- Frederick George Abberline (1843-1929) – Find A Grave Memorial
- Casebook: Jack the Ripper – Dr. Bond’s Post Mortem on Mary Kelly
- Has the true identity of Jack the Ripper been revealed? Victorian diary proven genuine contains huge clue
- Jack the Ripper: has Withnail and I director Bruce Robinson solved the world’s most famous crime? – Telegraph
- Finally, a Breakthrough in Jack the Ripper’s Identity?
- Lewis Carroll – Author – Biography.com
- Casebook: Jack the Ripper – Lewis Carroll
- Lewis Carroll | Biography, Books, & Poems | Britannica.com
- Lewis Carroll | Poetry Foundation
- Montague John Druitt – Jack the Ripper Suspect
- Jack The Ripper Suspect Montacgue John Druitt
- Casebook: Jack the Ripper – Montague John Druitt
- Montague John Druitt (1857 – 1888) – Genealogy
- Jack the Ripper suspects – Wikipedia
- Dr. Francis Tumblety – An American Jack the Ripper Suspect
- Jack the Ripper Suspect: Francis Tumblety | Historic Mysteries
- Dr Francis Tumblety – The American Suspect
- The Life And Crimes Of Dr. Francis Tumblety
- Francis Tumblety (Author of Narrative of Dr. Tumblety)
- Severin Klosowski aka George Chapman, Victorian Murderer – Headstuff
- Severin Klosowski: AKA George Chapman, The Borough Poisoner Serial Killers and Murderers
- Severin Klosowski (1867-1943) – Find A Grave Memorial
- George Chapman – A Jack the Ripper Suspect
- Joseph Barnett: Lover, Killer, or Both? | Jack the Ripper’s London
- Another Joseph Barnett – Jack the Ripper Map
- Jack the Ripper: the suspects – Telegraph
- Murder of Mary Jane Kelly: The Ripper’s Most Ghastly Killing