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What’s the deal with Jack the Ripper? September 9, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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The internet has been on fire with the news that Jack the Ripper, Britain’s most famous serial killer, has finally been identified. Long thought to be a surgeon, an artist, or even the Duke of Clarence, the latest claims are that it was a Polish immigrant who set up shop in Whitehall, where the murders occurred. The claims are based on DNA analysis of the scarf of one of the victims, Catherine Eddowes. But longtime students of the case are dubious, and so is our friend Ben.

Certainly, the current suspect, Aaron Kosminski, lived in the vicinity where the murders took place. And, as a barber, he’d have had access to and known how to use sharp objects like a straight razor and scissors. But the five victims definitively associated with the Ripper were stabbed multiple times, and in several of the cases, an organ was removed (in Eddowes’s case, a kidney; in others’, the uterus). The deft use of the knife sounds more like the fictional Mack the Knife than a barber. And the removal of the organs certainly sounds more like the work of a butcher or surgeon.

But to our friend Ben’s mind, something more was going on. The Ripper clearly loved publicity and sought to stir it up by publicizing his crimes with letters. But he never sent any of the organs he removed to the press or Scotland Yard in little boxes or anything. Unless he was Hannibal Lecter and was enjoying them with a fine chianti, what happened to them? Why did he remove them?

But even more to the point, why did he stop his killing spree? Why would someone who was obsessed with serial killing, and the “fame” such killing brought with it, simply stop? The five murders that can definitively be attributed to the Ripper occurred in 1888. A couple of murders occurred earlier, and more occurred up to 1891, but Scotland Yard thought the style of them suggested either copycat murders or murders that coincidentally took place in the vicinity. Kosminski died in 1919. If he was really Jack the Ripper, why would he have suddenly stopped his serial-killing rampage? Not to mention that witnesses in Whitechapel at the time described a robust, fair-haired man, hardly the picture of the slight, dark-haired Kosminski.

But whether he was, or wasn’t, Jack the Ripper, or whoever was or wasn’t, it would take quite a compulsion to power that spate of serial killings. What would make someone start? And what would make someone stop just as suddenly? If you believe that insanity was the cause, would the person suddenly have become sane? Are we talking about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or Dr. Frankenstein and his monster? The only answer that makes sense to me is that Jack the Ripper died in 1888, so he couldn’t continue with his “work.”

I haven’t checked the deaths of the Duke of Clarence or famous Harley Street physicians of the time or the like; our friend Ben isn’t a Jack the Ripper fan, my only contact with him has been through a couple of Sherlock Holmes films, since I am definitely a rabid Holmes fan. But if you are a Ripper fan, I suggest that you start looking at the death dates of probable suspects and draw your conclusions from them.

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