Bad news, amateur Jack the Ripper enthusiasts. The Whitechapel mystery that gripped imaginations all over the world for 125 years has finally been solved. The results, though fascinating and unexpected, are a little disappointing.
Even though there are over one hundred theories about the Ripper’s identity, that he never even existed seems to have never occurred to anyone before Trevor Marriott, a former murder squad detective with Bedfordshire police.
Marriott has spent 11 years reviewing the Ripper killings, and has gone deeper into Scotland Yard’s files than anyone before him. Using modern-day police techniques and forensic analysis, Marriott said that the reason there are so many theories about the Ripper’s identity is that the facts of the case have been distorted over the years.
“The general public have been completely misled by any number of authors and publishers,” Marriott said. “Jack is supposed to be responsible for five victims, but there were other similar murders before and after the ones attributed to him, both in this country and abroad in America and Germany.”
In total, Marriott estimates there were 17 unsolved Ripper-esque cases in England, Germany and America. Some have speculated that Jack the Ripper moved around and continued his crime spree, but Marriott suggested that the truth is much simpler.
“The reality is there was just a series of unsolved murders and they would have sunk into oblivion many years ago, but for a reporter called Thomas Bulling,” he said.
Bulling was a journalist (and a drunk) who had several connections at Scotland Yard. In 1888, he worked for the London-based Central News Agency, and was paid to write crime stories for newspapers. So, hurting for a story, Bulling sent a letter about the killings to the police. He signed it “Jack the Ripper.”
“It was the most ingenious piece of journalism that has kept this mystery alive for 125 years. Even now any modern-day serial killer is called a ‘Ripper’,” Marriott explained.
“You have to ask yourself if ‘Jack’ is an urban myth. Around 80 per cent of the books about him have a picture of a chap on the front stalking the streets of London in a long black cape and a top hat. They were the clothes of an upper class, wealthy man. But back in 1888 if someone dressed like that had actually walked around Whitechapel in the dead of night they wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.
“It wasn’t just one of the most crime-riddled areas of London, it was one of the worst areas in the country. It’s a false image that has been created by the likes of Hollywood film makers.
“New facts have come to light, we’ve now disproved the claim that the killer removed organs from the victims at the scenes of the murders, the organs were removed later once they were in a mortuary.
“There just isn’t a Jack The Ripper as such.”
Of the 17 unsolved murders committed between 1863 and 1894, Marriott believes that a German merchant seaman named Carl Feigenbaum was responsible for some. He was a crew member on ships that regularly docked near Whitechapel, and was executed in New York in 1896 after he was caught by police fleeing the scene of a Ripper-esque murder there.
So he’s the closest thing to a real “Jack the Ripper” there is, but he’s not like the one we’ve come to appreciate in pop culture.
Of the outlandish interpretations, we choose to believe that Alan Moore’s version… that Jack the Ripper was really Queen Victoria’s physician Sir William Gull, and that the Whitechapel murders were part of a Freemason occult ritual to enforce masculine hegemony in the coming twentieth century… is close enough.