The discovery of a female torso in the cellars of the new police headquarters under construction at Whitehall (the Norman Shaw building) added to the air of horror on 2 October, 1888. The floodgates to a deluge of copy cat 'Jack the Ripper' letters were opened, and added to the problems of the police. An unpleasant experience befell the Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, builder George Lusk, on 16 October, 1888, when he received half a human kidney in a cardboard box through the post. With this gruesome object was a letter scrawled in a spidery band and addressed "from Hell ....." It finished. "signed Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk." The writer claimed to have fried and ate the other half of the "kidne," which was "very nise." The shaken Lusk took both kidney and letter to the police. The police, and police surgeon felt it was probably a hoax by a medical student, although others believed it was part of Eddowes' missing organ.
The only clue left by the Ripper was the "Goulston Street Graffito (graffiti)", with the words "The Juwes are the men that Will not be Blamed for nothing", and were chalked on a doorway immediately above a portion of the bloodstained apron of the fourth victim Catherine Eddowes, who had been released just 45 minutes before her death by the police for being drunk after sleeping it off at Bishopsgate Police station. It has not been established that these words were written by the Ripper, but some believe that the word "Juwes" was a code-word for the Freemasons, who allegedly employ similar terminology in their ceremonies. It is unclear if the graffiti was supposed to blame the Jews or point to their innocence.
Suffice to say genuine suspects are far fewer than the prolific authors of the genre would have us believe. In fact, to reduce them to only those with a genuine claim having been nominated by contemporary police officers. The first three of these suspects were nominated by Sir Melville Macnaghten, who joined the Metropolitan Police as Assistant Chief Constable, second in command of the Criminal Investigation Deptment (C.I.D.) at Scotland Yard in June 1889. They were named in a report dated 23 February 1894, although there is no evidence of contemporary police suspicion against the three at the time of the murders. Indeed, Macnaghten's report contains several odd factual errors.
Jack the Ripper has remained popular for a lot of reasons. He was not the first serial killer, but he was probably the first to appear in a large metropolis at a time when the general populace had become literate and the press was a force for social change. The Ripper also appeared when there were tremendous political turmoil and both the liberals and social reformers, as well as the Irish Home rule partisans tried to use the crimes for their own ends. Every day the activities of the Ripper were chronicled in the newspapers as were the results of the inquiries and the actions taken by the police.
The five prostitutes were stabbed to death in Whitechapel between August 31st and November 9th, 1888, always late at night. Then, for unknown reasons, the killings stopped. Each of the women was not merely murdered, but horribly mutilated, with organs removed and a strong possibility of cannibalism. The last victim was mutilated almost beyond recognition. Even today, the photographs of the bodies are still deeply shocking.
The culprit responsible for the murders of five prostitutes—all took place within a mile of each other, and involved the districts of Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Aldgate and the City of London.
It is generally believed that there were five victims of Jack the Ripper. They were:
Mary Nichols, murdered on 31st August 1888.
Annie Chapman, murdered on 8th September 1888.
Elizabeth Stride, murdered on 30th September 1888.
Catherine Eddowes, also murdered on 30th September 1888.
Mary Kelly, murdered on 9th November 1888.
Because of the tireless, ongoing debate about the Ripper and his presence both in fact and fiction, he feels strangely familiar. Although he is faceless, he lurks within the shadows of our own subconscious. At the time of the murders, foreign immigrants, particularly Jews, were often accused of being the Whitechapel fiend. With the passing of time and the shifting of social trends, the Ripper's identity will continue to change.
In the Summer of 1888, a brutal killer emerged like a plague in the very epicenter of what was at the time one of the worst slums in the world. By the end of the summer, three local prostitutes had been brutally murdered, and a frenzied panic had taken hold of the heart of the British Empire. In late September, the police received a taunting letter from someone claiming to be the killer; it was signed "Jack the Ripper."
The Victorian murderer who slew a handful of women in London's East End has become a worldwide symbol of terror, his fame celebrated in story and song, on stage and on film, in art and in opera, his tale told in languages as diverse as English and Russian, Spanish and Swedish, German and Japanese.