Jack the Ripper Essay

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Jack the Ripper

The mystery of Jack the Ripper has led to much speculation and countless stories about who the killer might possibly be. From an alien to the royal physician, there is no shortage of suggestions or myths about the motives and resources Jack the Ripper would have needed in order to carry-out such horrendous and meticulous crimes. In this essay, we will discuss the individuals suspected by Scotland Yard, and develop our own hypothesis by constructing a typology of Jack the Ripper that includes the killer's potential sociological background, physique, their understanding of sexuality and violence, and most importantly, psychological condition.

According to Larry S. Barbee of casebook.org, three suspects were seriously considered by Scotland Yard to be Jack the Ripper. In a confidential report by Chief Constable Sir Melville Macnaghten, M.J. Druitt is named as a primary suspect in the murders. (Barbee, 2011) A lawyer who supplemented his income as an assistant headmaster at a boy's boarding school, M.J. Druitt was mistakenly thought to be a doctor by the Chief Constable. For unknown reasons, Druitt was dismissed from his position at the school, ending his life nearly a month later by throwing himself into the Thames (Barbee, 2011). The evidence against Druitt was minimal, and circumstantial at best, thus any suspicions of his culpability or involvement in the murders were dismissed by other officials participating in the investigation.

The second suspect considered in Macnaghten's report was Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jew who had emigrated to London in the 1880 and who was working as a hairdresser in Whitechapel at the time of the murders (Barbee, 2011). Because the victims' bodies were found within a few blocks of Goulson Street, the residence of his supposed brother, and Macnaghten's assertion that Kosiminski had a "great hatred of women," Kosiminski was considered to be a serious contender for the title Jack the Ripper (Barbee, 2011). However, his tendency to speak Polish instead of English, his slight build, and his incarceration in a mental institution in 1891, where he was purported to be calm and well-behaved, lead most researchers to dismiss Kosiminski as a suspect (barbee, 2011).

Michael Ostrog was the third suspect named in Macnaghten's report. Ostrog, a Russian immigrant, was a professional con artist who used many aliases and disguises in his fraudulent schemes. However, there is no evidence that Ostrog had ever committed murder, let alone the "Whitechapel murders," during which prison records show that he was incarcerated in France (Barbee, 2011).

The most recent suspect, Dr. Francis Tumblety, came to light in 1993 after the discovery of a letter by John Littlechild, a superior officer of the Secret Department of Scotland Yard. Described in the letter as an "American quack," Tumblety accrued substantial wealth as a purveyor of healthful tonics and herbs (Barbee, 2011). Although he was likely responsible for the death of at least one of his patients, Tumblety was never tried for manslaughter or negligence. In 1888, in the same year of the murders, Tumblety relocated to the United States, evidently seeking to escape charges of homosexual behavior in England. Scotland Yard attempted to have Tumblety extradited to England as a suspect in the Ripper case, but the NYPD refused, citing a lack of evidence (Barbee, 2011).

Despite the tireless investigation of the Scotland Yard as well as the efforts put forth by other law-enforcement and lay researchers, then and since, the lack of technology and forensic technique in 1888 London has rendered it nearly impossible to determine the identity of Jack the Ripper. In order to better understand the process by which investigators begin to hypothesize about and identify their potential suspects, we will construct a typology of Jack the Ripper, taking into account the possible sociological background, physical appearance, understanding of sex and violence, and psychological condition.

Because the five murders were conducted in the same meticulous fashion, with controlled and calculated blood splatter, under time constrains and in the stressfully visible area of the center of London, it stands to reason that Jack the Ripper must have been someone of substantial technical training and skill (Bardsley, 2011). In certain cases the liver or the reproductive organs were removed from the victim with adept and economic incisions that demonstrated not only the killer's adroitness with his knife, but also a clear understanding of the female anatomy (Bardsley, 2011). Thus we must propose that the killer is from a family of means, or is at least an individual of means (perhaps self-made) who has received a medical education, or some such similar training that would enable him to understand the scalpel and the body so well.

Physically the killer would not necessarily need to be particularly enticing or attractive, given that he was hiring prostitutes and not attempting to seduce everyday women. In order to obtain a prostitute he would not need to be particularly rich either (especially since he didn't actually pay, or at least he must have taken his money back) but would merely need to appear decent enough to pay the cost. Additionally, the probable fear and panic instilled in the prostitutes of the area may have moved them to be more discerning when selecting clients, in which case it seems reasonable that the killer would have to seem at least relatively safe for prostitutes to engage him in spite of the heightened risk of the time. By relatively safe, we mean that the killer would have to be physically un-intimidating, perhaps of small build, clean, well kempt, verbally inoffensive, even comforting and inviting.

The premise of the murders, however, seems to be entirely motivated by the murderer's warped perceptions of sex and violence, so the un-intimidating persona was likely dispensed with immediately. Because one's understanding of one's own sexuality begin to develop during childhood, it seems reasonable to suggest that the psychology of the murderer was deeply damaged at a very young age, perhaps due to sexual or violent physical abuse as a child. Intense feelings of alienation from parents and peers, sometimes caused by a lack of feeling safe in the home or around one's family, can create deep and lifelong feelings of anger and resentment, especially toward those who are reminders of that pain. We suggest here, then, that the killer may have been acting out resentment toward a mother or sister figure, or even toward a former lover. His anger and resentment was likely amplified by the misogyny and Puritianical sexual morality of Victorian England, which served to justify his rage.

The evidence put forth by Scotland Yard is remarkably scant and almost sloppy. Descriptions of the suspects in the secret report written by Chief Constable Sir Melville Macnaghten were recalled, according to Larry S. Barbee, almost entirely from memory and after further investigation, were proven to be heavily flawed accounts of the suspected individuals (Barbee, 2011). For example the first suspect, M.J. Druitt, was believed by Macnaghten to be a doctor, when he was actually a lawyer and teacher (Barbee, 2011). The second suspect, Aaron Kosminski, was considered only because his brother lived in the area where the victims were found and because Kosminski himself was a known misogynist (Barbee, 2011). The third suspect, Francis Tumblety, is the most easily debunked because he was incarcerated in another country during the 1888 murders. Furthermore, not one of the three suspects would appear to have the training or medical knowledge to so skillfully murder and dissect his victims.

Because a solid understanding of the female anatomy, the ability to make steady, well-practiced and placed incisions, and intense focus and confidence were all necessary for the murders to be carried out where, when, and how they were committed, again it seems likely that the killer was either involved in the medical profession, perhaps surgery, or was a seasoned killer. However, much of the reason the "Whitechapel murders" and Jack the Ripper have endured so long in the popular imagination is that these were the first instance of recorded serial killings. It is indeed possible that Jack the Ripper had been slashing others to death in less public venues before 1888, and that these murders were not publicized for some reason, but then these murders must not have been carried out with the same routine of strangulation, then slitting the throat, followed by post-mortem surgery. If so, these surely would have been tied into the Whitechapel case. Thus we must conclude that either the police investigation and media coverage was shamefully inadequate prior to 1888, that the murderer had conducted his killings in other ways prior to 1888, or that he was not engaged in serial murder until 1888.

If the killer fled England after the murders and continued his rampage abroad, it seems likely that by that time he would have adopted a new modus operandi, because the serial slaying and dissection of prostitutes was not reported to be occurring in other cities in the aftermath of the Whitechapel case. Furthermore the ritualistic nature of Jack the Ripper's murders…[continue]

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