This is a preview to something that I've been working on for the past 7 months. I don't know when this specific entry will be done, but I want to share the opening of it. I hope you all like it.
A massive, massive thank you to by great friend Tyler ‘Bioshock’ Rodriguez for helping make this entire series possible. You're the best friend I could've ever asked for!
Having grown up with a father who's a law enforcement officer, my childhood was heavily influenced by shows centered on crime and stories of those who committed acts of evil being caught. This ranged from Scooby-Doo to Forensic Files and America's Most Wanted, all of which I greatly enjoyed.
As life went on though, my fascination in these stories only grew. While I never planned on pursuing a career in law enforcement (not that I could at this point given my physical disabilities), I always loved to read about how these horrible people would slip up and get caught and what their motivations were. It never ceased to blow my mind as to how little it takes for someone to decide that they'll take another humans life. That's not even touching on unsolved crimes, which are even more fascinating on my eyes. The many questions that surround them really put into perspective the tagline to the 2007 film, Zodiac. There's more than one way to lose your life to a killer.
This brings me to this blog series which I call A World of Terror. Formally the Summer of Terror, I've decided that one season wasn't enough time to do what I wanted. For this series, we'll be looking at 100 of the world's worst serial killers. Most will be known, convicted serial killers, but there will be a few who have never been identified. So, if you would be so kind as to join me, let's take a gander at the worst that the world has had to offer us.
A World of Terror: Serial Killers, Spree Killers, and other Repeat Offenders
#100: Jack the Ripper (United Kingdom)
Widely regarded as one of the world's most enduring mysteries, Jack the Ripper has enticed the minds of amateur and seasoned detectives alike for 131 years. So unsurprisingly, the story behind Jack has been twisted into one that's made him out to be something of a surgical boogeyman who taunted police with numerous letters. This picture that has been painted of Jack isn't true whatsoever. So, before we dive into this legendary serial killer, let's get some facts straight as it's extremely necessary to fully understand who Jack the Ripper was as both a killer and as a person.
#1: Jack wasn't surgically precise
Contrary to popular belief, Jack's victims didn't have surgically accurate or precise injuries. All of his victims died quickly as their throats were slashed. This normally leading to near decapitation as Jack's attacks were frenzied; there was no premeditation or organization involved. All of his victims were stabbed, slashed, and disemboweled in a blitz of aimless attacks that personify a crime of passion and lust. This is evident as most of the wounds that Jack inflicted were on or around sex organs, but there was never any indication or sign that he sexually assaulted any of his victims.
What Jack may have had experience in is butchery. While I will expand upon this in a little while, Jack’s crimes, as stated above, were frenzied; they had no real “goal” in mind beyond destroying as much of the victim as possible. This indicates that Jack hated his victims for one reason or another (most believe that Jack was extremely misogynistic or had a vendetta against prostitutes—more on that later though). But as for the belief he may have had experience in butchery, this belief stems from the fact that he was very much aware of where vital organs were, such as the liver and uterus. It’s believed that he took these as mementos to his crimes. Given that he knew how to disembowel his victims quite well, it isn’t too far fetched to believe he worked, or knew someone who worked, within a butcher’s shop.
#2: Jack wasn’t clever or intelligent
This misconception stems from the fact that Jack was never caught. While it’s unknown as to whether or not Jack was in any way intelligent (be it with an above-average IQ or education) or mentally challenged, the mere fact that he wasn’t caught doesn’t immediately equate to being clever or smart.
Jack’s crimes were extremely messy, callous, and spur of the moment acts of extreme violence that were committed without any regard for how much evidence he’d leave behind. This is evident by how he’d slash the throat of his victims twice and cause blood to splatter onto nearby walls. Most killers would make sure to not cause this as it’d leave blood and other indicatives on their clothing that could in turn be used to trace them back to the scene of the crime. Lucky for Jack however, tracing DNA hadn’t been invented yet. In fact, it wouldn’t be until shortly after his “Autumn of Terror” that it would be.
Not helping matters was that the London Police Department would not only allow people to flock around the crime scene and gawk at it, but they would move the corpse away from the scene and bring it to the coroner and clean the scene before anything could be collected for investigation or preservation.
This brings us to the primary reason that Jack is perceived as being clever and intelligent. His luck. Jack’s overall crimes were a hotbed for evidence to be collected. However, due to the lack of appropriate training on the part of the London Police Department, the lack of technology available that would allow for the collection and preservation of DNA, and the callous disregard shown for the scene of the crime, Jack had enough luck that could’ve allowed him to win the lottery jackpot five times over. This isn’t exclusive to Jack himself however. There have been plenty of other cases where killers—serial or not—have gotten away scot-free thanks to police incompetence or due to their lack of appropriate training. Many of these tend to happen in small towns where violent crimes aren’t common or are outright unheard of. In Jack’s case, the Whitechapel District had murders, but they were often done by gangs. This, in turn, would lead to someone ratting the others out and police taking it from there.
Jack was a one man murder machine and the only way that he would’ve ever been caught was by dumb luck. In Jack’s case, lady luck was on his side from start to finish.
#3: Jack never sent any letters
This one is a bit trickier to disprove for one reason, not the least of which being that Jack is claimed to have sent 600 or more letters. However, only three are spoken about: Dear Boss, Saucy Jack, and From Hell. Most detectives you speak to will, more than likely, say that they weren't written by Jack. Some believe that they were written by local police officers or by reporters who wanted to keep the locals interested in the case to sell papers. The “Dear Boss” letter is the biggest talking point for the latter theory as it's the one that coined Jack's name; the writer having signed off as “Jack the Ripper”.
The “Saucy Jack” letter—which is in reality a postcard—is believed by some to be a legitimate letter, though the numerous hoax letters has cast a thick shadow of doubt over it on principal. Scotland Yard put a facsimile on the postcard nevertheless as its contained a few details that stood out from most other so-called “Jack Letters”.
The letter that stands out from the others and has become divisive among self-proclaimed “Ripperologists”. The legendary “From Hell” letter. The reason for the plausibility with this letter stems from two things. The first is that the grammar in the letter (which I’ll show later on) was more in line with the disorganized nature of Jack’s murders. The second was that the letter was mailed with half of a kidney which is believed to have belonged to one of Jack’s victims. However, it’s never been confirmed if the kidney did in fact belong to any of his victims and as such, it’s unknown if the letter was from Jack or not.
A fourth letter that’s gained some fame, albeit significantly less, is the “Openshaw Letter”. Like the first two above-mentioned letters, this one is normally considered to be a hoax. Still, there exist those who disagree and believe it to be a genuine letter from jolly old Jack himself. We’ll go over it later though.
#4: Jack did not commit suicide
Admittedly, this enters more speculative territory. However, Jack isn’t a major exception to the rule of how many serial killers act and, in turn, end their “careers”. In fact, much of what Jack did is normal for many of the people that you will see in this series of write ups. The only reason Jack seems like an exception is simple: he wasn’t caught. As such, we don’t know how Jack escalated into becoming the butcher that we know him as today.
As for why people believe Jack committed suicide, it stems from one simple fact: the murders stopped. This isn’t something abnormal however. There have been many cases where killers simply stop. Joseph James DeAngelo—better known as The Golden State Killer (AKA: The East Area Rapist and The Original Night Stalker)—took a long hiatus between his transition from being a serial rapist to a serial killer, and eventually stopped all together. While Jack was nowhere near the bodycount of DeAngelo, it bears mentioning that ending a “career” of murder and crime isn’t out of the ordinary. If Jack did die, it’s likely that he died of natural causes, at the hands of someone else. Otherwise, he was likely arrested for an unrelated crime or was confined to an asylum by someone.
#5: Jack only had 5 victims
Canonically at least. Many suspect that Jack murdered more than five women, but none have ever been proven as there’s zero evidence to tie him to them. Besides the Whitechapel Murders, the most popular additional murders come in the form of the Thames Torso Murders, which took place between 1887 and 1889. The modus operandi what has been referred to as the “Embankment Murders” is significantly different than the slaughterhouse style adopted by Jack. The Embankment killer disposed the torsos of his victims into the Thames River without much else. Jack, on the other hand, murdered his victims where they stood and did so in a callous manner. Why the same man would adopt two diametrically different MOs is peculiar and virtually unheard of.
Nevertheless, the two year period of the Embankment killer is in-line with when Jack’s reign of terror was on-going: the autumn of 1888. Claims that it stretched into 1891 are the primary reason that Jack’s suspected of having murdered more than 5 women. Whether or not this is true has been at the center of many debates, but as it stands: it was autumn of 1888. No longer, no less.
With these five misconceptions out of the way, the waters are less murky and we better see who Jack was. So, let's dive into them and fully understand him to the best of our ability.
Who was Jack the Ripper?
The notion that one can understand Jack may seem silly at first, but it's actually rather simple to get a firm grip on the type of person he was. Sure, we may not know who Jack was for certain, but there's a lot that we can surmise based off of his crimes and actions. This technique, called criminal profiling, was largely created by John Douglas—who Jack Crawford was modeled after and wrote the book that the Netflix show Mindhunter is based on. A former agent at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Douglas—along with the late Robert Ressler and Roy Hazelwood—pioneered this technique during the 1980s and used it to profile numerous serial killers in the United States. These included Ted Bundy, Lawrence Bittaker, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Charles Manson among many, many others.
Profiling, in essence, is the technique of identifying a suspect through the actions they made a crime and in interviews. It taps into the psyche of a criminal and, as Douglas put it, requires one to be capable of understanding the individual to make them feel comfortable and open up to you.
So while Douglas didn't have the privilege of profiling Jack, he—along with other agents—were able to surmise a lot from the descriptions of the crime scenes of Jack and deduce a fair bit about him that way.
Jack likely blended into his surroundings very well, likely dressing in a way that allowed him to appear like any other person in the east end of Whitechapel. The would've also meant that he was likely a white male in his late 20s or mid 30s, had poor hygiene, and would've appeared disheveled.
Given Jack's attacks were all committed towards women, it's likely that Jack was single and never married. This is something that we'll cover more about in a few.
Jack almost certainly had an extremely good understanding of the east end of Whitechapel, likely spending an extensive amount of time there—likely having spent his entire life there. This would explain his ability to flee the crime scene without being seen by anyone. Normally anyways.
The final note before we get to the primary part of this section is what Jack worked as. Given his ability to disembowel his victims with skill, it's suspected that Jack was either a butcher, mortician, or medical assistant. However, it's entirely possible Jack outright didn't work whatsoever and was someone who quite literally prowled the streets day in and day out.
So now we know a little about Jack as a person, rather than as a killer. But what of him as a killer; what do we know about him as one? While the crimes may have seemed like nothing more than frenzied attacks of blind rage, there's more to them than that.
Jack's attacks were extremely personal in nature. They were merciless crimes of passion and lust. While he may have ended the lives of his victims swiftly, that didn't deter Jack from butchering them postmortem. Why he did this is evident if one has insight into the types of killers that commit these kinds of murders.
Passion killers generally have some sort of emotional attachment to their victim. Whether it be a significant other, parent/family member, or friend, the end result is generally the same: overkill. The murderer is generally invested in their actions and is typically very close—literally—when they commit the murder. They relish in what they're doing because emotionally, they're a mess. Everything is cranked up to 11. All they see is red and by the time they're done, they panic.
But in the case of Jack, he displays a slightly different kind of passion. While his victims certainly weren't people he was emotionally close to, he was still emotionally invested in them because absolutely despised them. From this, we can extrapolate a few things.
First and foremost: Jack was more than likely a vitriolic misogynist. While that term may be thrown around a lot nowadays, Jack's actions towards his victims—all of who were female—bare the (numerous) injuries of someone whose anger was directed at parts of the body that had gender-specific organs—or were sex organs. Killers tend to only target these areas if the crimes are sexual in nature (Jack's weren't) or if they have a vested interest in the gender of the person.
While we can't verify if Jack did have a vested interest in female anatomy, criminals aren't exactly clever or original. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule (the Zodiac and Ted Kaczynski come to mind), but most follow a familiar pattern depending on what type of killer they are. Jack's pattern is one of extreme resentment towards women because in his past, he was likely abused by his mother and/or sister or rejected by numerous women because he was either poor or not very attractive.
With the idea of Jack likely having a deep seeded, we can then look to his past; his childhood. Jack's actions as a killer speak volumes to what his childhood was possibly like and allows us to create a thorough profile of our suspect. The abuse and trauma that many killers suffer will manifest in a variety of ways throughout their lives. Some in violent ways, some in naivé, almost childlike ways; blissfully ignorant to the socially acceptable norms of everyday life.
In Jack's case, it was the former and it was to a degree that tells us that whatever happened to him in his early life, it had an effect on him that caused him to develop a vendetta women.
As for what straw broke the camel's back is an entirely different story. Given that Jack targeted prostitutes and only prostitutes, it stands to reason that his rage lay with them and only with them. Something happened between Jack and a prostitute that sent him over the edge and there exist a few ideas as to what that something was.
The first is that Jack was rejected by one too many prostitutes. Whitechapel wasn't exactly the most luxurious of locations. Rather, it was more of a slum and a sleazy area where Johns would go to have sex behind their wives' back. Jack may have been one of those Johns, but he may have no had the money to pay for a night of fun. On the other hand, he may simply have not been appealing to the local prostitutes for one reason or another. Perhaps he had a history of being aggressive or shorting them.
The second theory and most popular is that Jack contracted Syphilis from a prostitute. Known as “The Great Imitator” thanks to its symptoms being similar to many other diseases, Syphilis is an extremely dangerous Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) that goes through four different stages. By the fourth, which can be anywhere from 3–15 years after contracting it, Syphilis will begin to affect one's internal and vital organ. This includes the brain, which can cause violent and extremely volatile mood swings, along with paranoia. The legendary mobster Al “Scarface” Capone died of Syphilis after being let out of Alcatraz Island. He then spent his final year of life trying to fish out of a pool, showing that even the mightiest of people aren't safe from disease.
Should Jack have contracted Syphilis from a prostitute, it stands to reason that he may either snapped after it finally got to affecting his brain. The norm when it comes to Syphilis when untreated isn't as it was with Al Capone. Most become incredibly violent and psychotic. Even the kindest of individual will become not unlike Jack. Knowing that he was infected thanks to a prostitute, Jack's potential history of abuse and mockery from women finally boiled over and he took his pent up rage out on those that destroyed his life.
This is the painting that I present to you—the reader—of Jack the Ripper. I do this because the most common image that most have of Jack the Ripper is one of a boogeyman; a clever, sneaky, overcoat and top hat wearing, surgically precise psychopath who outwitted London police and Scotland Yard at every turn. To envision Jack in that manner as we go over his story is to paint an inaccurate picture that desecrates one of history's most infamous unsolved crimes and one of London's most enduring unsolved murders. With this series, I want to always paint the most accurate and thorough picture possible. With that, let's finally get on with the show.