You may know the story of "Wicked Jack." The legend goes that once there lived a man so evil that he was refused entry to Heaven, as well as Hell, because he tricked the Devil one too many times. So Jack wanders the earth without peace, carrying only a light that the Devil left him, and luring unsuspecting victims to their doom.
You may also know the story of another Wicked Jack, whom the papers dubbed "Jack the Ripper," a serial murderer who, in 1888, took the lives of at least five women, although he's been linked to many more. Like the Wicked Jack of legend, this Jack has not been allowed to rest, but still wanders the earth in the form of a mystery, an elusive shadow that has lured so many doomed innocents onto the path of ruin. Many peoples' lives and reputations have been lost in pursuit of this mystery, and still there is no solution.
The police never knew who I was. They never will know who I am. But they will know why I am.
First of all, my name is not Jack. Nor is it a pseudonym I would have chosen for myself. Some idiot at the newspaper offices thought up that one, in a letter they claimed was sent by me. I would never do such a thing. I am a careful, cautious man and I have no wish to gloat. Nothing I did was for fame or recognition, and certainly not for notoriety. I did what I did because I had to. Some of you will understand. Most of you will not. It makes no difference to me. "From childhood's hour I have not been / As others were — I have not seen / As others saw — I could not bring / My passions from a common spring" etc. I find most of Poe's poems dull and dreary, but this one holds a special fascination for me. The alone need not feel so when they find comrades who are alone. Poe is one of these to me.
Not that he would have understood. His portrayal of those who defy the conventions of normality is usually as unhinged lunatics, homicidal maniacs who kill for some unknown reason and then clumsily try to conceal the body, ultimately being overcome by their guilty consciences and admitting their crimes. He is not one to understand that crimes need not necessarily be criminal. Indeed, they are not criminal when they are necessary. Mine were.
And indeed, mine were not as horrific as people claimed. After all, I did not mutilate the women while alive. There was no sadistic pleasure in my actions, no perverse satisfaction gained by their screaming or their struggling. I did not violate them at all. And by cutting the throat I gave them a quick and painless death, which is a mercy considering what they were enduring while alive. I set to my work after they had died, and my work itself was merciful, in the long run.
Perhaps you have already dismissed me as mad. The newspapers certainly did. Within days of my first crime, they branded me as a lunatic, "a madman," "a maniac," a homicidal killer stalking the streets of London looking for my next helpless victim. Within days of my second crime, I became a being of mythical standing, a "half beast, half man," "a ghoul-like creature," a demon capable of any atrocity. But were there any there who cared for these women before I took their lives? Who there showed them charity, mercy, kindness, if not me? The hypocrites of the upper classes, suddenly so full of concern for those they wouldn't have glanced at, those they would have swept from the street like so much rubbish if they could. They had never cared for them. If my crimes accomplished nothing else, they accomplished, for a time, sympathy. People were brought together like never before in outrage over my atrocities. I was a banner all could rally under, a common cause all could relate to. And I accomplished so much, all for the trifling cost of a few lives.
Mind you, it was no trifling matter to me. Lives are not trivial, and they should never be taken lightly. The poorest wretch should be treated with respect, and even in ending their lives, I respected them. I did not allow their pain to last. I released them, and if there is a God, He and they will be blessing me from Heaven for their release.
For the Whitechapel I knew (and I knew it intimately) was Hell itself. Everywhere poor souls tried to eke out a miserable existence, deprived of even the simplest comforts and conveniences. Wretches were confined in cells, dozens packed into mere boxes of houses. I saw Whitechapel, I knew it, and I wept. But there was nothing I could do. At least, I thought there wasn't.
But this was only part of my reasoning. I did reason, you see, I planned it all out. It was not, as the papers claimed, the work of "a murderous maniac," someone who indiscriminately slaughtered poor defenseless women in order to satisfy his "insatiable thirst for blood." I did kill. I did murder. But it was because I had to. And it was all in a good cause.
I was brought up, like many in my age, to believe that God was a just and merciful creator, who made Man in His image. Even from a young age I believed this to be not entirely accurate. God was perfection, and Man was far from perfect. But God also taught us to forgive our fellow Man his trespasses. And being a man myself I could sympathize with my fellows' sins, for were they not also mine? I felt a great comradeship with men. But sadly, not so with women.
The only woman in my life in my early years was my mother, who was a sacred and beautiful lady. She was a lady above all. I never heard her speak a harsh word or criticism. Indeed, she barely ever raised her voice above a whisper. And her behavior in all things was impeccable; she was the epitome of Tennyson's "Isabel." She taught me that the lot of women was to serve men, to make them happy and to comfort their days. She certainly made both me and my father very happy, and my childhood was a serene and contented one, illuminated by her soft and gentle presence.
She died when I was a young man, and I never fully recovered from her loss. My father drank to overcome the pain, and finally drowned himself with alcohol. My thoughts at his funeral were only of how fortunate he was, to be at peace, to be in heaven with my mother. Although by then I was not certain whether I still believed in heaven, or in God. He could not be the just and merciful creator I had been led to believe if He could take my mother while still in her prime. We are taught to believe that God has a reason for everything, even if we cannot always understand it. In that respect I sympathize with Him. But I could not, try as I might, understand His reasons for taking my mother. I had to dismiss Him as a senseless madman, as so many dismissed me. And if God is a madman, there is no hope for any of the sane to find salvation.
While still mourning the loss of my mother, I experienced an event which shaped my destiny. A friend of mine, one of my few, decided that in order to cheer me up, I should seek the company of other women. And not just any women, but prostitutes. So he took me to a house of sin and told me to select any Jezebel in the place.
I cannot put into words the horror and revulsion that filled me the moment I set foot in the brothel. Women, which to me had always been pure, sacred, and innocent creatures, were here lascivious, drunken, bawdy monsters, worse than animals. I had read about the Whore of Babylon, but I never imagined seeing so many all in one place. And the filthy things they suggested, the vile, hideous things they suggested, filled me with loathing. In comparison to these hideous beasts, my mother seemed like someone from another race entirely. Needless to say, I did not select a whore, but ran from the place in terror. Seeing women like that filled me with loathing, especially when I thought of my good, kind, virtuous mother. Surely those things were not women! Surely they were not how women should behave! Surely God, however mad He might be, had intended women to be good and virtuous and to serve men faithfully and lovingly, not to sell their bodies to anyone who would pay a dirty coin for them!
It occurred to me, then, that if God truly were mad, He had made a mistake when He created women. He had intended them for the honorable purpose of serving men, but he had accidentally made a fault somewhere along the way. He had meant for Man to sin, and for Woman to be his light and guidance. But He had got it wrong somewhere along the line. His mistake made creatures like these, creatures like the ones I had just seen. Bodies and faces which should have been pure and innocent, vile and corrupted and seeking gratification from strangers. The thought filled me with hatred, and anger at this injustice. The world was by no means a perfect place, it can never be a perfect place. But unless every man is willing to do his bit to improve it, there is no hope for humanity.
Killing was not the first solution that came into my mind, nor did it come naturally to me. I cannot stress enough that I am not a homicidal maniac, nor am I used to murder. I am not now, no more than I was then. Maniacs are not rational; they are raving and senseless, and I have always been a quiet and careful man. The thought of murder appalled me for several months; despite the hatred that filled me whenever I saw a woman of the street, I never considered murder. And then I began to think, to reason. We think of death as such a terrible thing, but why should it be? My father was granted a mercy when he died. Life to him was terrible, and he was happy to be taken from it. In my frequent visits to Whitechapel, I saw that life for most people was dreadful. Living conditions were clearly appalling, and existence could only be a burden. These people only survived day after day because of Hamlet's lament that "conscience does make cowards of us all…[that] makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of." This was certainly true in my case. I did not have the strength or the courage to take my own life. But if I could free others, if I could give them the gift of peace, surely that was no bad thing? Surely even murder could be a blessing?
With these thoughts in mind, I began to study a little anatomy in my own time. I wanted to see what God had made, and why He had made it. The more I studied the female form, the more I could see that He had made some tremendous errors. The body that should have been used to bear children and nurture them was twisted by so many to base and corrupt ends. The female frame strangely did not fill me with lust, but with hatred. Frustration, too, at the mistakes that had been made in creating it. And so I did not join my few friends in the brothels, or carousing with tavern wenches. I spent as much time as I conveniently could among my books of anatomy, and with my thoughts.
Sometimes I conversed with the women on the streets. Once I was able to fend off their solicitations, most of them were quite amiable. My hatred for them gradually began to turn to pity. Many of these creatures were simply weak; they could not help themselves. They were flawed, like men, although they should not have been. But it was not their fault. They had no alternative. And many of them had resorted to prostitution at the last, in a life filled with failure and despair. But the more I talked with them, the more I confirmed my own belief that death would be a mercy for them. Indeed, if they were not cowed into fear of some repercussion after death, I am certain many of them would have taken their own lives.
The same fear of repercussion stayed my hand for months after my reason had resigned itself to the killing. I had convinced myself that what I intended was just; now I needed to put it into practice. But the words spoken by the pastor for so many years still rang in my brain. "Thou shalt not kill." If I were wrong, and if God were not mad, He could never forgive me for breaking His laws. But the more I thought about my mother and her unnatural death, the less I cared. Hell, whatever it was, could not be worse than what these women suffered day after day, night after night. I could not hate them anymore; I could only look upon them with pity and compassion.
I think of myself as a humane man. I had a Labrador as a child that grew up with me, until it was so old it could no longer see, and its legs gave way. I remember shooting it with tears running down my face, but knowing that it was an act of mercy. Knowing that it was right because he would be out of pain. Could I be any less merciful to one of my own species?
And so one rainy night in August I left my residence with my resolve set. I met a prostitute, paid for her, and took her to a quiet and secluded spot, George Yard.
Some people do not believe my first crime was perpetrated by me. I admit, it does not bear all the hallmarks of my others, but that is because it was my first and I was understandably very nervous. I am ashamed to admit it, but I panicked. I had meant to cut the woman's throat, but I was not quick enough with my knife and she saw it. In my haste to prevent her screaming, I seized her round the throat and began to throttle her. In my panic, I began to stab her anywhere and everywhere, desperate only to kill her, to silence her forever. My heart was pounding as I did it, but this was from terror and from fear, not from any kind of excitement.
At last my panicked frenzy abated and I let the woman fall to the ground. My rational mind tried to regain control, and I recovered my head enough to lift the woman's skirts to prepare for my work. But my nerve failed me again, and I was suddenly aware of every sound as a potential danger. My cowardice overcame my rationality, and I fled.
For many days I hid in fear, cursing my own cowardice and clumsiness. I heard the cries of the newsboys outside, accusing me of "The Horrible Murder in Whitechapel." And it was a horrible murder. All I could think about was that poor woman, who had to die so horribly because of my incompetence. That poor woman, who never deserved that death, who should have been laid to rest peacefully and with minimal pain. Guilt at her suffering, and at my own ineptitude, consumed me. I was overcome with remorse; I vowed never to kill again. For days I neither slept nor ate but drowned my guilty conscience in drink.
But we can never escape our duty. And after several weeks of temporary insanity, I regained my rationality. There was no reason for me to fear the law; I had left no clue to my identity at the crime scene. And from what I gathered from the newspaper headlines, the police had no leads. I was not suspected. I was safe.
And my fear of capture could not stand in the way of what I had to do. I had to continue. But this time I had to do it right.
I relived the murder over and over again in my mind, so that I would not be caught off guard during the next one. I practiced drawing my knife quickly, practiced slicing it quickly through pieces of meat I had obtained from the butcher. I studied my books of anatomy from cover to cover. I prepared myself mentally and physically for the next crime, and vowed I would not fail.
And indeed, it was not my fault I did. On the night of the 30th of August, I left my lodgings in search of my next victim, and met her in Buck's Row. This time I was quick, and I was accurate. I throttled her and then slit her throat on the ground before she could put up any sort of resistance. It was a difficult thing to do, and I had to be forceful to make sure she died. My incision was more violent than it probably should have been. And although I took her by surprise and she did not struggle, her throes and twitches in death were more horrible than I could have imagined. But I was firm. I had prepared myself. I would not fail this time.
I set to work, making several incisions on her abdomen. But before I could begin properly, I heard people coming, and so had to vacate the premises. They wouldn't have understood.
I wasn't surprised by the newspaper headlines the next morning. They couldn't understand my reasons because I had not had time to illustrate them. I had not made my point as well as I had hoped, if you will forgive the distasteful joke. I was dismissed again, as a "homicidal maniac," but a maniac I was not.
In fact, to justify my cause further to myself, I sat in on the inquest of my own crime. I repeated this procedure for each of my murders, and in this way I not only learned the identity and back-story of each of my victims, but also how utterly clueless the police were in discovering my own.
The first woman, the one I had slain in panic, was called Martha Tabram, an alcoholic and obviously a prostitute, whose life had become, in any civilized person's estimation, unbearable. Poor Martha. She never deserved to suffer as she did. She had certainly suffered enough while alive. She had come from a broken family, which can only lead to other broken families, and indeed, her marriage was short-lived largely due to her love of drink. I can only hope she was heavily intoxicated on the night we met, because that at least would have dulled the pain a little.
The police suspected a soldier, and made many of Her Majesty's loyal servants parade in front of unreliable witnesses who accused them indiscriminately. The law was clearly baffled. The witnesses were clearly baffled. And this was no different in Polly Nichols' case.
That was the name of my second victim, the Buck's Row one, the one I was interrupted with. Her story was similar to Martha's; she suffered from a broken marriage, and alcoholism, and engaged in prostitution to alleviate both these sufferings. She traveled from workhouse to workhouse in an attempt to better herself, but fate seemed determine to confine her to the streets. I freed her from her prison. It was an act of mercy, no doubt about that.
The aftermath of Polly's murder, however, was when things really began to heat up. The public had taken notice of my previous murder, but there was an even greater outcry over this one. Higher powers became interested, became involved. High commissioners of police, members of Parliament, the Queen herself heard about it. I was touched, and not a little baffled. Of course like any decent human being, I realized that murder is naturally a cause for concern and public outrage. But never before had people of this rank taken notice of the murder of people of Polly's rank. I could not entirely understand it.
Nevertheless, people rallied around my cause. I had not even been able to successfully complete a murder the way I had intended, and already the response was prodigious. The newspapers began to shout of "A Revolting Murder…Ghastly Crimes By A Maniac!" I was amused by that – the press and authorities' willingness to condemn the crime as something inexplicable, something only a madman would do. As if we all hadn't thought of murder, of violence sometimes. As if we all hadn't had that dream, however much we tried to repress it, of slaughtering another human being, of holding their lives in our hands. That dream of power.
I am only human. The lust for power did not enter into my reasoning, at least not consciously at the time. But since then I have thought that perhaps that may have had something to do with it. At the time I thought of these women only with pity, but since the whole world has come to regard me as a monster, sometimes I find it difficult not to. Sometimes I look for motives that are less honorable than my own were. Sometimes I think I am alone, the only one who understands why I did it. Sometimes I think I must be wrong.
But I wasn't wrong. It all seemed so clear at the time. Even when the whole world shouted me down, I rose up. I was confident. I knew I was right. Let others believe what they would; I had a mission. Something the world still had to see. And I succeeded in my mission with my third victim, Annie Chapman.
Dark Annie. Her life had been dark indeed, but her death would bring to light my vision, my purpose. Her story was the same as the others; a life full of hopes and prospects, as all lives are, beaten and destroyed by the world in which she lived, as so many lives are. Her marriage, like the others, had fallen apart, and her husband had died two years before her death, leaving her with no allowance to speak of. Overly fond of alcohol, like the others, and a prostitute, like the others. She had to be so. I only chose the lowest and most desperate for my victims. Only they deserved to be released.
Annie's murder was committed in a yard in Hanbury Street. This being my third victim, I was prepared for all the unpleasantness that was to follow. But the procedure seemed rather routine by now, throttling the victim and then cutting her throat as she lay on the ground. I still cut it too hard, though, and had to take care not to sever the head, something that would have been unnecessary and unpleasant. But this time I finally got to properly dissect the corpse. I took care in doing so, although I was able to work fairly speedily. I was well aware that at any moment, any of the residents in the buildings surrounding the yard could wake up and catch me. Strangely it was not fear I felt at the thought, but exhilaration. The danger awoke in me an odd sensation of excitement, of joy at accomplishing my purpose, of devil-may-care recklessness at my situation.
And finally, after carefully moving the stomach and intestine out of the way over Annie's shoulder, I reached the organ I had been searching for. The uterus. There was the cause of all her trouble, there the precious object that men would pay money to use. No one would pay for it now. Annie had sinned, and this was the object of her sin, in my hand. By cutting it out, I purified her. I made her perfect, as she always should have been. Without the sinful organ, there is no need for sin. Indeed, there is no possibility of sin. Without it, she was perfect. She was just like God. She was what God should have created, were He not mad.
I wrapped the uterus in a sheet of brown paper, and stuffed the parcel into my jacket. I had taken up fifteen minutes in this murder, and believed I should take no more. Besides, there was a chance people would be rising to go to work, as the sun was lightening the sky, just managing to penetrate the fog that clouded the horizon.
I looked at her, wondering if people would finally understand. She looked so peaceful now, at rest. Although her body was mutilated, it was better this way. And her soul was at peace. I am not as religious as I should be, I know, but I knew then that I had done a good deed. I hoped others would know it too.
And then an idea occurred to me. I reached under Annie's skirt and found her pocket, in which she kept her few small possessions: a piece of coarse muslin, a small-tooth comb, and a pocket comb in a paper case. These I lay out in front of her, arranging them in a row. I could leave no note explaining my actions, for handwriting can be identified. (Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why I can assure you I never sent those infamous letters to Scotland Yard, aside from the fact that they were gloating and distasteful.) But I could leave these few objects as proof that there was a method to my murder. There was a line of thinking, a reason. It was not just random chance, my killing. It had all been arranged, just like those items. People could not fail to understand. Someone, somewhere, would.
But again I underestimated the public's taste for the gruesome, and their willingness to imagine the worst case scenarios. I awoke the next morning in expectation of some insight in the morning papers, but the nature of the mutilations proved so horrific for so many that they could only dismiss them as the work of an unthinking madman. That or a mythical monster. The Telegraph described "beings who look like men, but are rather demons, vampires…"
I did understand their haste to dismiss me, truly. No man likes to think of himself as a monster. The more horrific and impossible the killer, the better. The greater distance man creates from himself. Sir Robert Anderson, head of the CID, admitted later in connection to my crimes that "when the stolid English go in for a scare, they take leave of all moderation and common sense. If nonsense were solid, the nonsense that was talked and written about those murders would sink a Dreadnought." He was quite correct, of course. The murderer had to be painted as an inhuman monster. It was too terrifying a thought for the police, the papers, and its readers, to think that the perpetrator of these deeds was a man just like them, a cool, clear, thinking, rational man. That would be admitting themselves capable of these deeds; that would be seeing the monster in themselves. And such things cannot be done. A recent play based on a novella by Robert Louis Stevenson tried to show this, but thanks to my crimes, had to be cancelled. It is a pity. I saw it, and it was a marvellous production. But the director was afraid that it would encourage more crimes like mine.
I would argue that my crimes brought to light the monster in everyone else, rather than the other way round. Annie's murder began a full-scale panic in the East End. Any scrap of evidence was seized upon, any suspect dragged up and put to a lynch mob. Indeed, well-known criminals ran to the police begging for arrest, because their safety was assured in jail, while out the on the streets every new accusation could put their head in a noose. Panicked people are violent people, and many innocent people suffered because of this panic. I am sorry for this, but I cannot take the blame for all the evil in people. I watched their panic with interest, detached from it all. I was tempted to let slip a clue as to the motive in one of the pubs I frequented, but thought better of it. Explaining the killer's crimes was tantamount to defending him, and that was tantamount to suicide.
So much hatred was built up against me, and so much fear. I am used to it. People always fear and hate what they do not understand.
But they should have understood this time. I had made my point, made it very clearly. And yet no one did. Again, I think this was probably because trying to explain my reasoning was defending me, which no one would dare to venture.
I thought of giving it all up, then. My mission had been accomplished; I had shown the world how women should be, I had demonstrated the fault in their creation, and I had shown them the better, more perfect creation. Even if no one recognized this, nothing could be gained by illustrating it again. It was likely that the panic would only increase, and more innocents would be harmed. I did not wish that on my conscience, and I fully intended to stop.
But then something happened. I was walking back to my lodgings one evening, when I passed a little shop that had been converted into a gruesome wax museum. Outside the sign advertised authentic replicas of my murders. Intrigued, I paid the man the penny for admission and entered.
Naturally the displays were nothing like my killings. They did not even come close to being accurate. But what struck me was how popular these pathetic replicas were. Large groups of people were gathered here to stare and whisper at the wax figures. I stayed behind to talk with the proprietor after the tour was over.
"You seem to be doing a decent business here," I commented.
"Oh yes, sir," he replied. "The killings have done me a great deal of good. Not so for the poor souls who are now at peace, sir, and please don't think me heartless taking advantage of their horrible murder. But we do what we have to to survive, you know, sir, and I don't think they'd begrudge me making a few pennies."
"I am sure they would not," I replied.
"Besides, it isn't just me," he continued. "There's a couple over at Hanbury Street showing off the spot to sightseers where that Chapman girl was found. And Lord bless me if the people don't flock to them! People love nothing more than a good old fashioned murder, sir, the gorier the better."
"As long as it isn't their murder," I added, with a smile.
"Goes without saying, sir," nodded the man. "But let me tell you, confidentially now, these murders have been no bad thing for Whitechapel. We've had killings here before, sir, lots of killings every day, but nobody used to take any notice of us until these ones started happening. These were too terrible for the upper classes to ignore. The authorities started being interested in us poor folk and our suffering. And now suddenly everyone wants to hear our stories, will pay to hear them, sir, and suddenly the newspapers are shouting out that something must be done about our district, as if something shouldn't have been done ages ago! But this killer, this is what happens, they say, if people like us are left to fester in such horrible conditions. This is the government's fault, the Socialists say, and mind I don't much like listening to them sometimes, but they're right about this. This killer could be the start of a revolution, not just in Whitechapel, but in the whole city of London, in the whole country if we play our cards right. And think of what that would mean for us poor folk, sir! I'll be damned, sir, if years from now people don't fall down on their knees and thank the Whitechapel Murderer for all the good he's done, and that's the honest truth! Mind you don't go repeating that though, sir. The lynch mob's hungry for anyone sympathetic to the killer, and I've no wish to see my head in a noose."
"Never fear, sir, your secret is safe with me," I replied. "Good evening to you."
I can't tell you how excited the man's words made me. He was one who, if he knew, would have understood, I am sure of it. But I couldn't tell him. The secret of my identity had to go with me to the grave, I knew that. But all the same, his words awoke a kind of fire in me. If I truly had that power, the power to change things for the better, not just for a few poor women, but for the whole of the lower classes, surely I had to use it! Surely I had to do whatever little good I could for them! The people wanted murder, the man had said, the gorier the better. Very well, I resolved to give them gorier. I resolved to make the whole nation, from the lowest costermonger to the Queen herself, shake with fear at the mention of my crimes. The Whitechapel Murderer would be reviled in his day, cursed and scorned, but celebrated in later ages. I was prepared to accept that burden. I felt myself akin to Jesus, if he had ever existed. I had a flock that followed my killings, witless and frightened by them, but at the same time fascinated. I could not disappoint them. The death of a few more women, horrible as they would be, would be a small price to pay for so much good. Their lives were like Jesus's sacrifice to save mankind, and they would be rewarded for it, as would I.
Not by God, you understand. I had not suddenly become a devout man. No, I would be rewarded by history, by posterity. People would speak of the horrors of the East End until my great horrors began, and then they would speak of a figure who, despite his terrible crimes, saved its poor inhabitants from further suffering. And from that moment, I knew I had to kill again. I would be a hero, known to all, the Whitechapel Murderer, the Whitechapel Savior.
But of course I am not known by either of those names, not really. I am known by another, bestowed upon me after my double murder. Jack the Ripper. It does have a certain ring to it, I'll grant you, but it completely erases any good my crimes may have done, as well as their motive. The Whitechapel Murderer implies that I murdered for Whitechapel, or that my murders killed Whitechapel as it was and reformed it into something better. Jack the Ripper…the name just conjures up images of horror. It's the name of a villain in a melodrama, not someone like me. Not what I tried to be, anyway. Jack the Ripper. All my good intentions ripped apart, all my good results destroyed. Jack the Ripper. Caricature, cartoon, fool. After all the good I tried to do, I am reduced to Jack the Ripper.
But you'll want to hear about the last three murders, of course. That's why you're reading this. You're not interested in exonerating me, or having me exonerate myself. You, just like all the inhabitants of London at the time, want to hear about grizzly crimes and ghastly murders. You don't care about the lives of these poor women, not like I did, do you? You're reading this because you have a taste for the morbid, because everyone likes a good murder. You know those women, if you know them at all, from their post-mortem photos that you've seen in books written about me. You've judged them, as everyone did then, and probably with less pity than everyone did then. I pity them. I pitied them more when I learned about them at the inquest. I realized that they were living once, that they had a heart and soul and a life, as you do. But do you realize that, when you look at those gruesome bodies cut up like meat in a butcher's window? Or have I really done the exact opposite of what I wanted? Have I done so much harm that you find it hard to believe that I actually did exist? Have you thought of me only as that fool, that caricature, that Jack the Ripper? That man who could be anyone from an artist to a prince, that man who has become a popular myth, a joke, a byword for any violent crime? Do you still think of me as a man? Because I am. I am just like you. And the sooner you realize that, the better.
I did not intend for my next crime to be a double murder. For one, I hadn't planned it out that way, and for another, I wasn't sure I could accomplish it. I had meant for Elizabeth Stride to be my only victim, but after being surprised during her mutilation, I knew it wouldn't be enough. The public's taste for the morbid could not be sated by a mere throat wound. And so I had to find another girl, and mutilate her properly. In a way, the man who disturbed me was the one responsible for the death of Catharine Eddowes, not I. I would never have harmed her had I been allowed to finish with Elizabeth Stride. But it had to be done, you see. It had to be done for them, and for all the poor, suffering citizens of Whitechapel. I had to grant them the salvation that God would not.
Poor, trusting Elizabeth was an easy victim. She seemed a very kind woman; from Sweden originally, apparently. How sad that her life had started out in the beauty of that country only to end in the filthy streets of this one. I had bought her a packet of sweetmeats and this treat so pleased her that she was willing to do anything for me. So much so that even though the ground in Dutfield's Yard was wet from the rain, she agreed to lie down on it. I daresay she was more than shocked when I fell upon her with the knife, and cut her throat before she could make a sound. But before I could do practically anything else, I heard the wheels of an approaching cart.
This did not panic me, as one would have supposed. Even though Dutfield's Yard was a dead end, and there was nowhere for me to run if spotted, I calmly stepped away from the body and concealed myself in the shadow of the building at the far end of the yard. I saw the carter enter the yard, and his horse shied as it noticed the body. The man did too, and rushed away from the scene in order to find a policeman. I took this opportunity to make my getaway, stealing out of the yard and heading into the City to search for my next victim. I did not think it would be prudent to loiter around an area in which one of my murders had already taken place, for fear of being discovered in the act of another.
I paused to clean my hands at a public pump, for if anyone saw the blood on them, it would be the end of me. No one did, thankfully. I was and had been exceedingly lucky in my endeavors, which only reassured me that I was doing the right thing. Not believing in God, I do, however, believe in a kind of fate, otherwise I would never have believed in my destiny as the Whitechapel Savior. But the circumstances of my life all led me to this end, and I believed, and still do, that it was destined.
I was passing through Mitre Square when I was accosted by a woman apparently soliciting for clients. I studied her carefully to make sure she would do. She smelt very strongly of alcohol, and was clearly desperate; anyone would have to be to sell themselves for money. And so I responded to her advances and drew her into the darkness of Mitre Square. And there, like the others, I throttled her and then, laying her on the ground, cut her throat.
I worked quickly but efficiently, opening up her abdomen with a violent gesture. I cut into her again and again, feeling like a sculptor shaping a work of art. Her flesh was my clay, soft and pliant, and able to be shaped and cut to my whims. I intended to remove the uterus again, and, finding it, did so with one swift cut. During my cursory examination, I noted that one of the woman's kidneys was infected by a cancer. Since I wanted to make her as beautiful as possible, for after all, I intended this body to be a work of art, I extracted that too. I wrapped them both in brown paper, and then returned to my work on the body. It had to be mutilated, but in such a way that there appeared to be a method. And indeed, there was. She had to be butchered, butchered horribly, almost to be unrecognized. Only that would do. Only the most horrible mutilations would appease my adoring public.
And when I had done, I must say she did resemble a work of art. Not the kind you'd find in any museum, unless they be one of those ghastly German sculptures of Jesus after his crucifixion, those Andachtsbilder, but she was beautiful like this, all the same. I had intentionally placed a piece of her intestine between her body and left arm, because it looked better that way. I had also mutilated her face, changing and manipulating it so that it was horrible and beautiful at the same time. The whole woman looked better that way, lying open and exposed and vulnerable. Here you could see Woman as she truly was. You could see every piece of her, and you could appreciate how beautiful she could be, were she not inherently flawed.
I cut off a piece of her apron and then left her, lying there in her beauty, her glory, waiting for her public. Poor Kate Eddowes had always been a cheery soul, always happy and singing. And now she would be immortalized forever, her death meaning so much more than her life ever could. Her natural face forgotten, to be replaced by the face I had given her, the body I had given her. There was, indeed, a feeling of power to it, although I had never intended to play God. I would have to be mad myself.
Still clutching her piece of apron, I made my way over to Goulston Street, back into Whitechapel. I had to leave evidence of the crime here, not in the City, for it was on Whitechapel that I wanted everyone's attention focused. I should probably have been afraid of the police, as they had no doubt discovered Elizabeth's body and would be on the lookout for me, but I felt safe here in these streets, among these people, my people. And anyway, the police had no probable cause to stop me. I was a harmless man out for an evening stroll. There was nothing suspicious about that. There was a strange serenity, a strange invincible feeling about me that night. I felt as if nothing and no one could ever hurt me again. I was meant to be doing this. I had a purpose.
I do regret one action of mine, however, and I would take it back if I could. Along with Martha Tabram's brutal death, it is the only thing I would erase about my past. And that is the implication of the Jews.
I have nothing against the Jewish race. I am sure that on the whole they are no better or worse than any other race on the planet. Which is to say that we as human beings are all flawed, and no group of us is more flawed than any other. But the Jews certainly have suffered more than any other. They did not deserve to suffer any more, certainly not by my hand. And that is why I wish I had taken greater care as to where I had placed the scrap of apron.
I am a careful man. I think my crimes prove that, if nothing else. Many unflattering adjectives have been used to describe me, but 'careful' is probably the kindest, as well as the most accurate. 'Cunning' perhaps the more frequent word, because of its negative connotations. But I was neither careful nor cunning when I threw that scrap of apron down in what I thought was an inconspicuous and random location. The block of houses adjacent to it was, unbeknownst to me, a community of the sons of Abraham, and rather recently some miscreant eager to stir up trouble amongst these innocent people, had scrawled on the wall in chalk "The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing." I have no idea what the graffiti writer wanted to blame the Jews for, but because it was dark and I did not notice the message, I inadvertently placed Kate's apron near this spot that would blame the Jews for my crime.
Coincidence is a boring idea, and not to be trusted. People do not like it. People like to think that someone, God or fate or whatever one believes in, has a plan, and that every thing happens for a reason. This makes them feel safe and secure in their actions. And naturally people did not just assume that the apron discarded by the graffiti in a Jewish block of houses was a coincidence. They assumed, and they cannot be blamed for this, that I had some connection to the Jews, that I either was a Jew or was trying to incriminate them. I can assure you that this was not my intention. It was bad luck, terrible luck, a most unfortunate accident that the apron was found where it was, and nothing more. I am not a malicious man, and I would never want others to take the blame for my crimes. I am more than capable of taking credit for them myself.
And then came those ghastly letters. I could not believe my eyes when I read about them in the papers. The things they implied about me, the insanity, the cannibalism, the writing in blood, were all horrific and disgusting suggestions, and ones that offended me beyond measure. I still cannot believe that anyone would be so vulgar and heartless as to make these up for a prank, or a joke, or to sell papers, but that is obviously what happened. It is also where that ridiculous name came from. Jack the Ripper. Oh, how that entrepreneurial young journalist must have laughed when he thought that up, how clever he must have thought himself! Good old Jack, Jack the Giant Killer, Jack the hero, taken and twisted into Jack the Whore Killer, Jack the villain, Jack the Ripper. I am not a vengeful man, but I swear if I knew who did it, I would live up to his name for me while he was still alive. Because of him I will never be treated as anything more than a raving psychopath with a taste for blood, a monster who prowls the gas-lit streets of London in a top hat and cape and a black bag (something I never carried, by the way) in search of innocent young victims to terrorize. Nobody will ever see past that image to my real motivations. Nobody wants to. It is a far better story than mine. When reality disappoints, people make up fiction to replace it. I assume that is why the journalist wrote those letters. I wasn't giving him any material to work with, and so he made up some of his own. He needed a story, and so he made one up. It's as good a reason as any.
I wish to say just a few more things in connection with those letters. First of all, I never sent a kidney to Mr. Lusk. Mr. Lusk, as you may know, was head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, a group of men bent on bringing me to justice. A noble goal, but one they never came close to realizing. A few weeks after Kate's murder, he received a parcel in the post that contained a piece of a left human kidney, and a note, both of which have been attributed to me. Now, if you've been paying any attention during the reading of this, you will know that I would never do anything of the kind. I would never be so careless as to send anyone any clue as to my identity, especially not to gloat. I burned poor Kate's kidney when I got home; I did not, as the writer of that ghastly letter attested "fried and ate it." The ravings of that semi-literate author were none of mine. But I suppose if people are going to demonize me, it's best to go all the way, and what could possibly be more frightening and, as I've mentioned before, more different from them than a taunting cannibal who sends letters and body parts to his enemies? It was another way to distance me from themselves, I suppose, which is why that terrible prankster did it. I can forgive him for that. But I cannot forgive that other for Jack the Ripper.
Perhaps I am being too harsh. It's not as if anyone would have understood my reasons even without those letters. Few people in this world will understand still. I daresay you don't. I don't care. I just want this knowledge to be made public, to give those few people who will understand the chance to. But I must hurry and finish this, for my less patient readers will be wanting to hear about Mary Kelly, about my excuse for her horrible mutilations. I do not excuse my behavior toward her. I do not need to. The people who doomed her to so terrible a fate are the same people who so eagerly followed my crimes, who bought paper after paper in the hopes of reading more of me, who visited that wax museum and the locations of the bodies just moments after the poor women had been removed. It was a doomed cycle, in a way. The more I killed, the more interest in me and in the district of Whitechapel grew, and so spurred me on to more killings. All for a good cause. But I am no more to blame for their deaths than you are. You encouraged them, don't you see? It was all your fault.
But you mustn't feel guilty. The good I did! The good we did! Such wonderful good for the citizens of Whitechapel! After the double murder a howl was raised as would deafen those in high office. People united in their hatred for me; I brought classes together, groups that would otherwise never have glanced at each other were now one in their hatred of me. It is a glorious thing, bringing people together. They say war unites people more than peace, and this is true for murder. It is the strange paradox of the human race that tragedy makes us more united, and peace and prosperity makes us more antagonistic. We are creatures of conflict.
They hunted for me. The police and the people, united in their hatred of me, hunted for me. They patrolled the streets together, side by side, they brought in dogs to track me, their wily fox. The people demanded any action, however futile, and the authorities had no choice but to listen. This is how it should always have been, you see, the law obeying the people, not the other way round. I made that possible. I made the law afraid of the people. Any of us, after all, could be Wicked Jack.
Police patrols were increased. There were fewer prostitutes walking the streets. Even those who could not afford lodgings were sometimes allowed to stay by their charitable landlords in order to keep the women safe from me. Such good I brought. But then a month passed, and people began to lose interest. The government began to lose interest. I was afraid that all I had worked so hard to achieve would now be lost, and so I knew I had to kill again, one final time. I had to make every human being shudder at this final atrocity, so that they would never forget me, or Whitechapel.
It had to be done. And Mary Kelly was the one I chose to do it. She was a very pretty girl, and well-liked in her own community. It had to be so. Sweet little Mary Kelly, innocent little Mary Kelly, the poor little Irish girl who only wanted a decent life. She had to be my masterpiece, my Magnum Opus. She had to be Jack's final victim. And what history she would make, what immortality she would achieve. She and I would make Whitechapel great.
I met her soliciting near her home. She struck me as a very attractive young lady, so much more so than the others I had killed. But people always respond better to the death of a young person than an old one, and so I thought it only fitting that she be young and beautiful. People, however much they might deny it, are so much more concerned by the murder of a young and beautiful person than an old and ugly one. We are ultimately all superficial.
She took me to her room in Miller's Court. It was unsafe for me to work out on the streets with double patrols, and so it had to be done in a safe place, like Mary's little room. Otherwise I might have been scared off and left my work undone, as I was for Polly Nichols and Liz Stride.
She lay on the bed, waiting for me. I studied her for a moment, appreciating her beauty. Appreciating how it was that some men could not resist her allure, the allure of those pretty blue eyes, that long, soft, beautiful hair, that lithe and supple body. Appreciating how difficult it truly was to be a man.
Weaker men would have given in to her temptation. But not I. I may have been possessed for a moment by some bizarre whim, but that made my determination to mutilate her even greater. It was the work of an instant to pull the sheet over her face, stifling her scream, as I slit her throat. And then, after starting a fire in the grate so that I could see, I set to work, work to outdo all the horrors I had previously committed, work that would make the name of the Whitechapel Murderer feared and respected forever.
I mutilated her completely. You can find the police photographs, if you're interested. I imagine you probably can't see it's the remains of a human being in them. It does not resemble a human being anymore. I mutilated her beyond recognition, not only of her identity, but of her species. It was the only way. This time I took her heart with me, instead of her uterus. It wouldn't have been right to take her uterus, somehow. From the earliest history, the heart has been a symbol of love. And it was for my love of Whitechapel that I did this. Everyone had to know it.
But of course, they didn't. The papers didn't report that her heart was missing. It wasn't revealed at the inquest. People were afraid of causing a panic. As if one wouldn't be caused by the very ghastly nature of the murder! "Beautiful – Awful – Murder!" the newsboys cried, and indeed it was. But it had to be done. I murdered Mary on the day of the Lord Mayor's Show, when the fat snob of a mayor paraded down the streets at an expense which would have fed the hungry of Whitechapel for a year. And how people lost interest in all the pomp and circumstance of the parade when they heard about my murder. Everyone's attention, high and low, was turned to Wicked Jack's victim, not the glorified wealthy. For once, the lowest of humanity was paid attention to, rather than the highest. That is how it always should have been. Mary Kelly, the poor dear, had hopes and dreams and wishes just like that fat mayor. None of which would ever be realized, as his were, but now…now people would know her. I daresay you cannot recall the name of the Mayor of London in 1888. But who doesn't know the name of Mary Jane Kelly?
They knew her name in Paris. They knew her name in Vienna. They knew her name in New York. The Queen knew her name, and grew outraged at her murder. She wrote to the Prime Minister: "This new most ghastly murder shows the absolute necessity for some very decided action. All these courts must be lit, and our detectives improved. They are not what they should be."
Such good I did. Sir Charles Warren, the Commissioner of Police, resigned, much to the delight of the common people. I had nothing against the man personally, but he was not well-liked, and when people are not well-liked, they must go. I am glad I could be of some small service in accomplishing this.
And looking back, I didn't make such a bad job of the whole thing. I did help Whitechapel. I helped those women find peace and respect in death. As one prostitute who spoke to the paper said (and I believe she would have understood, if I had told her) "I'd not object to being ripped up by him to be talked about so nice after I'm dead." I spread sympathy and compassion. I helped the poor and the oppressed come to the notice of the rich and powerful. I am a hero, of sorts. For after all, six women is a comparatively small price to pay for so much good. Again, I am not flippant about human life, but just compare their loss to all the men lost in a single war. We do not call our leaders mad when they send hordes of men off to their certain doom for a just cause. No more am I mad, who killed far fewer than would have died in the smallest war. I slaughtered those women for my war on Whitechapel.
There was, and is, much speculation as to why the murders stopped after Mary Kelly. People decided that I had committed suicide, or else been caught and confined in some madhouse. Again, the truth is far less interesting. I stopped because there was no need to continue. My murders, according to one Ripperologist, or so the self-styled detectives of my crimes call themselves "were the stuff of legend, and would not be forgotten." No one could understand that that was all I wanted. I did not want my cause to be forgotten. That is why all I did had to be so horrible. But you know it now, and you won't forget it, will you? Whenever someone slanders Jack the Ripper, you will pause and think maybe, just maybe, I was not the villain I have always been portrayed as. Maybe, just maybe, I wanted to do good.
We must always have good and evil in this life. And when the cost of good outweighs the cost of evil, we must act on it. I daresay this testimony has disappointed you. No doubt you wanted some detailed description of each of my murders, some raving maniac gloating over his gore. The truth is far less interesting. And nobody wants to hear it. I am not a prince, nor some vengeful doctor sent by the Illuminati, nor an impotent artist, nor some monstrous vampire. I am not who they say I am in every book or film or play about me. I am not Jack the Ripper. I am the Whitechapel Savior. Because of me you visit the scenes of my crimes in the East End, still squalid, but improved, little by little. All good things come slowly. Because of me the names of Annie Chapman and Elizabeth Stride and Mary Kelly will live on and on, into immortality, as sacred and as well known as the names of the Apostles. At least until people get bored of me. But they never will. I am an unsolved mystery, and always will be. I am far too tempting to resist. People will continue to submit their wild theories, continue dedicating their lives to slandering innocent men for my crimes. But you know the truth.
You will never know who I am, so you might as well stop searching now. All you will ever know is this: I am a man. I lived and died as you will, I felt as you do, thought as you do, knew right from wrong, as you do. I am a man. That does not satisfy you? It is not meant to. I am not satisfied with how I have been maligned by history. Life isn't fair. But as I said before, we must each do what little we can to make it better. I have merely done my bit. You must do yours. I hope you are as lucky in your endeavors as I have been in mine. I wish you all the good this world has to offer you.
Yours truly and eternally,
Jack the Ripper.