Who Was Jack The Ripper?

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Ghost, Monster, or Madman

Jack The Ripper wasn’t a ghost, but he was certainly a monster.

Who he really was, and why he did what he did has been subject to all sorts of explanations from the psychiatric to the supernatural to the downright occult.

History names the unidentified serial killer who slaughtered women in the Whitechapel area in the East End of London between 1888 and 1891: ‘Jack The Ripper.’

There are other murders that may have been carried out by the same man, but only five are undoubtedly the work of the Ripper.

Five killings are laid at the door of one man. They call these five victims ‘the canonical five.’

Mary Ann Nichols

Nichols, aged 43, was the first victim, and she was murdered on Friday, August 31, 1888.

Her estranged husband alleged she was a prostitute at the time and the police noted her drunken ‘antics’. She was an alcoholic and thief. At the time of her death, she was in living in a common lodging-house locally.

Her body was found at 03:40 in Buck’s Row, Whitechapel, London. That street is now Durward Street, a narrow road that has been rebuilt since the Ripper’s time and is a mix of social housing and industrial units. The area wasn’t rich then and isn’t rich now.

Nichols was seen leaving a pub in Brick Lane, not far away at 00:30, and her roommate saw her alive on the corner of Osborn Street and Whitechapel Road at around 02:30 when she told the other woman she’d earned money for her bed that night, but had spent it on drink.

When her body was found, Nichols’s throat was cut twice, and someone had sliced open her lower belly and stabbed her several more times in the guts.

What makes this murder more attention-grabbing is that the spot was patrolled by policemen every thirty minutes.

Annie Chapman

Annie Chapman was 47 when she was murdered. She lived in a common lodging-house nearby and was known to drink heavily and get into fights with other women in the lodging house.

She had no money for her lodging on the night of her death, and at around 01:30 Chapman went out to earn some more cash on the street, presumably by prostitution.

Chapman’s body was found at 06:00 on Saturday, September 8, 1888, near a doorway in a back yard at 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields.

This site is half a mile and eight days after the first murder. The Ripper severed Chapman’s throat by two cuts. Her belly was slashed completely open.

When investigated, it was found that someone had removed her womb.

There was a witness to this case who said they’d seen Chapman with a dark-haired man about 05:30 at the back of 29 Hanbury Street who was said to be ‘shabby-genteel’ looking.

Elizabeth Stride

Elizabeth Stride was 43 at the time of her death and originally from Sweden. She, like the others, was a prostitute.

Stride also lived in a common lodging house. Like the others, she drank heavily. She was spotted by a local police officer with a man (she’d been seen with others earlier in the night) around 24:35.

This man wore a hard felt hat and was carrying a long package around 18 inches long.

Stride was killed in the early morning of Sunday, September 30, 1888, and her body found around 01:00 at Dutfield’s Yard, off Berner Street (now renamed as Henriques Street).

Berner Street was about a half-mile south of the first killing and about three-quarters of a mile southeast of the second.

Stride was killed by an incision that cut her carotid artery in her throat, but her belly was not cut open so people wonder whether it was the Ripper who killed her, or whether he had killed her but was interrupted before he could rummage in her guts.

Witnesses said they’d seen Stride earlier with a man but the descriptions varied, either dark-haired or fair-haired and either shabby or genteel.

Catherine Eddowes

Catherine Eddowes was 46 when she died. Like the others, she drank heavily and lived in a common lodging-house locally. She also engaged in prostitution to pay her rent and for drink and food.

On Friday, September 29, at around 20:30 Eddowes was found drunk on the street and taken to the local police station to sober up. She was sober enough by 01:00 and left the police station around that time.

Eddowes was killed the same night as Elizabeth Stride and her body was found at Mitre Square at 01:45 on Sunday, September 30, so forty-five minutes and 0.7 of a mile west of where Stride was found.

That distance would take around fifteen minutes to walk these days, and so probably about the same in 1888, or less if the murderer walked briskly.

Like the others, her throat and like all except Stride, her belly was slashed open. The womb, but also this time the left kidney, were cut out and removed.

A local witness called Joseph Lawende had crossed Mitre Square with friends shortly before the murder at 01:35, and he said he saw a fair-haired man dressed shabbily with a woman who might (or might not) have been Eddowes.

Eddowes’s blood-stained apron was found at the doorway of a tenement at Goulston Street, Whitechapel, which is more or less halfway between where Eddowes and Strides bodies were discovered.

There was graffiti daubed on the wall at Goulston Street that said:

The Juws are not the men that will not be blamed for nothing.

It’s hard to make out what this means.

The graffiti may not have anything to do with the murders. It might be a complete coincidence that it was found near the bloody apron.

The East End of London had a swelling population of Jews fleeing persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe.

This graffiti inevitably (because it’s a sad repeated feature of European history) led to anti-Semitism and riots, and of course, the Jewish people will have reacted against this, and maybe someone scrawled the graffiti as an act of defiance.

This all started a rumor in the East End that the Ripper murders were the work of a Jew, but as we know bad things usually get blamed on immigrants.

The rumor was very likely born of predictable anti-Semitism, and typical of the slander that led to prejudice and discrimination against Jews in the area.

Mary Jane Kelly

Twenty-five-year-old Kelly is the last of the canonical five murder victims. She was found lying on the bed in the single room of her home at 13 Miller’s Court, Dorset Street, (no longer there) Spitalfields at 10:45 on Friday, November 9.

This murder happened five weeks after the previous killing, and about a six-minute walk (a third of a mile) from Goulston Street where the bloody apron was found. Goulston Street was one of the worst areas of slums in London.

The Ripper hacked off Mary Kelly’s face, cut her throat down to her spine, emptied her belly of organs, and cut out and removed her heart. Her heart was the only organ he took with him.

We see that all victims were killed at night. All were women. The murders were done in a tiny area and usually happened near the weekend.

As time progressed, the attacks became more and more frenzied. All but Mary Kelly were killed outside.

These five are considered definitely to be victims of the Ripper, but there were further killings that may or may not be put down to him.

Rose Mylett

Mylett was found strangled at Clarke’s Yard, High Street, Poplar on December 20 1888, so five weeks after the previous murder. It was suggested she had caught her collar when drunk and hanged herself, but the coroner felt it was murder.

This place is over three miles east from the Ripper’s usual haunts.

Alice McKenzie

McKenzie was killed on July 17, 1889, by having her carotid artery cut. She had bruises and cuts on her body when she was found in Castle Alley Street, Whitechapel. It’s seven or eight months after the previous Ripper killings, but it’s just the next street east of Goulston Street where the bloody apron was. Similar, but not the same modus operandi too.

The Pinchin Street Torso

The headless, legless torso of a woman was found under a railway arch at Pinchin Street, Whitechapel on September 10, 1889.

The cadaver here may represent body parts of someone murdered elsewhere and dumped here.

Frances Coles

Coles was killed on February 13, 1891, under a railway arch at Swallow Gardens, Whitechapel. What made people think this might be the Ripper is that her throat was cut. However, her abdomen was not cut open. A man called James Thomas Sadler was arrested for her murder as he’d been seen with her earlier, but he was acquitted through lack of evidence.

Jack the Ripper’s London: Occult Implications

It is inevitable that someone somewhere would believe that these horrendous murders were prompted by black magic and Satanism.

A theory was put forward in 2002 that the Ripper was, in fact, an occultist named Robert Donston Stephenson, also known as Roslyn D’Onston, and that the murders were carried out as an occult ritual.

Another writer said that the layout of four of the murders is roughly the shape of the Christian cross, and the Ripper’s purpose was to defile that image.

This theory came out in a book by Ivor Edwards called Jack the Ripper’s Black Magic Rituals where Edwards claimed the different organs, heart, kidney, genitalia, and uterus were removed to meet the demands of black magic.

And when you think of it, it’s interesting that different organs were taken each time and when organs weren’t taken, it was probably because the Ripper was disturbed.

Edwards also makes the point that the victims were carefully laid facing north, east, south, and west. He went so far as to measure the distances from victim to victim and take compass bearings and found both a Christian Cross shape and also two overlapping equilateral triangles which Edwards says is a Satanic symbol.

When Edwards took bearings and examined the positioning of the fifth victim, Mary Kelly, he saw that all the victims were killed within a 500-yard radius in the Vesica Piscis symbol.

Now, this symbol is an ancient one with both Christian and pagan connotations. It appears in various holy sites such as on the top-stone of the Chalice Well at Glastonbury, so to claim it is a Satanic symbol is a little beyond my understanding.

However, Edwards is on firmer ground when he talks about his supposed Ripper, Robert Stephenson, who was an ex-military surgeon, author, journalist, and an occultist who had traveled to West Africa for occult knowledge.

Edwards says such practices were standard there.

Robert Stephenson

In his book, Ivor Edwards says that Robert Stephenson even published books on this subject entitled One Who Knows and Tautriadelta.

There is an excellent article from the San Francisco Call from June 7, 1896, where Stephenson, calling himself Tautriadelta reveals himself as a ‘true magician.’

Stephenson claims to have been a pupil of Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton who wrote occult fiction and had an interest in magic and was a member of the Rosicrucian Order.

He allegedly confessed to murdering Africans when traveling there in pursuit of occult knowledge. Stephenson was arrested twice by police for the Ripper crimes but released on both occasions.

It is true that Stephenson lived very near to the site of the murders. It is also true that Stephensons’ wife, Anne, nee Deary, disappeared in 1887.

Later that year, the dismembered body of a woman was found in a river near Brighton on the south coast of England.

It was near a house owned by Stephenson.

And after his wife was out of the way, Stephenson frequented the company of prostitutes in London.

In terms of timescale, binding him to the Ripper killings, Stephenson admitted himself to The London Hospital in Whitechapel on July 26, 1888. The first killing was a hundred and fifty yards from the hospital around a month later.

Baroness Cremers told the occultist Aleister Crowley that Stephenson was the murderer and he had committed the crimes as part of a magic ritual.

After the murders, Stephenson wrote a long article about them for the Pall Mall Gazette where he showed an intimate knowledge of what had gone on.

His theory in that article was that the murderer would have to be a black magician, a subject that Stephenson was well versed in as we have seen. His last writing was published in 1904. It was a tome called The Patristic Gospels.

An article in the Guardian says Robert Stephenson disappeared after that and was never heard of again. However, the Wiki entry on him says he died on October 9, 1916.


Too much time has gone by now, and we will never actually know who Jack the Ripper was. Perhaps he was an occultist; maybe he was simply insane.

Thank Heaven he can’t come back. We’re confident of that.

Aren’t we?


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