It conjures imagery of murky fog and dark alleyways, of victims lying gutted in the street and ‘stalk and slash’ murder.
When I was writing my new novel Cruel...and Unusual I had to go into intensive background research on the perpetrator of these murders and the possibility of previous atrocities. I researched the weather, the dates, even the possibilities of other - previously unconnected attacks - and I researched the language that the people of Whitechapel would have used. Not necessarily to use all the information, but to get a ‘feel’ for the era I was ‘working’ in. I even read the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker in order to further my research on how lives were lived in that time.
I had to read autopsies of the victims and I began to wonder what really did happen to the man the world knows as Jack The Ripper?
Of course, because my work is fiction, I can make the tale fit my story, but that’s not how it works in real life, is it?
How did he get away with the crimes scot-free?
What drove him to attack those women?
What would cram a person so full of inexplicable hate that he would snap the restrictions of his mental restraints and slaughter the women in such a violent and horrifically bloody manner?
The majority of us ‘normal’ people that interact with other human beings day in and day out would perhaps think “OOOH!!! I could just kill him/her...” but it never gets past the inside of our ‘civilised’ craniums (crania?) and it certainly never ever gets through to the act of making those preparations to commit such an act and to commit it in order to be certain of getting away with it. No ‘normal’ person would go to the trouble of hiding evidence that points in our direction and misdirecting any suspicion that could possibly come our way or, almost never.
So, Jack The Ripper – madman or criminal genius?
I’ve asked a lot of questions in this article and I’ll leave my ‘audience’ to answer the majority for themselves – exercising the imagination so to speak.
I will however, give my own views on what I believe Jack The Ripper was. I will steer clear of presuming to know who did it – I cannot possibly claim to have performed a feat deserving of the title ‘Case Closed’ but I do have an opinion.
I believe that the man that London was so terrified of back in 1888 was a little man – not necessarily small in stature but not one that was noticed – or taken notice of. He craved attention and nothing that he did – no matter whether he was at the pinnacle of an illustrious career or on the bottom rung of a very long ladder – made him believe any better about himself. I believe that he used the murders and the ensuing panic in the streets to enable him to feel fulfilled – more of a man, more important in some way, less frustrated in his life. He used each experience, the emotions – both felt and witnessed – in order to enrich his own existence, but did he succeed?
Is that why he stopped?
What prevents history from repeating itself?
What would we – the public, the authorities – do in the event of a repeat?
Was it only one man? Some of the murders were similar, but others were different enough to make one think very carefully. Some were performed with almost clinical precision – others, even the last one, Mary Kelly, was executed with such rage and oblivious hatred that precision was thrown out the window and hack and slash were more gainfully employed.
I know what happened to him at the end of my novel, but my novel is fiction. I don’t believe that anyone has the answer now; it’s been far too long to prove anything.
I know there are theories aplenty – which one do you believe, dear reader?