Little Bits of History

Going Postal

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 15, 2013
Jack the Ripper murder reported

Jack the Ripper murder reported

October 15, 1888: A letter is sent to Mr. Lusk, supposedly coming “From hell.” This was the third and last of the letters most frequently deemed to have come from an unknown assailant terrorizing the streets of London’s Whitechapel area. While the crime spree is given different dates due to “unknown assailant” status for other crime victims, there are five canonical victims. Mary Ann Nichols, aka Polly, was murdered on August 31, 1888. Annie Chapman fell on September 8. Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were both killed on September 30 and Mary Jane Kelly was butchered on November 9. There were 11 similar murders between April 3, 1888 and February 13, 1891. The five listed are said to be the true victims of the criminal dubbed Jack the Ripper.

The first of the three most likely letters from Jack, the “Dear Boss” letter, was sent to the Central News Agency of London on September 27, 1888. The letter commented on various aspects of the case and was written in red ink since the blood saved from the last victim had clotted and couldn’t be used. The author promised to cut the ears off the next victim and send them to the police. The next missive, the “Saucy Jacky” postcard, was sent October 1. The postcard refers to the two killings on September 30. There was some speculation these letters may have also been hoaxes perpetrated by journalists. Scotland Yard was inundated with them, but these three were given credence.

The “From hell” letter was sent to George Lusk, the head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. The letter arrived with a small box containing a human kidney preserved in ethanol. One of Eddowes’s kidneys had been removed at the time of her murder. Many of the physical evidence artifacts have been removed from police custody. It is assumed they were stolen as souvenirs from the famous case. What we have today are photographs of the postcard and last letter. The first letter was returned anonymously to the Metropolitan Police in 1988.

The case was never solved. Six main suspects were identified by the police at the time. Five more possible perpetrators were identified by journalists and citizens interested in the case. Fourteen other names have been mentioned by researchers working from a later date. No one knows who Jack the Ripper was, why he started his killing spree, and even more importantly – why he stopped. The name for the murderer came from the signature line of the Dear Boss letter. It was signed “Jack the Ripper” with an additional line “Dont mind me giving the trade name.”

“Mr Lusk,
I send you half the Kidne I took from one women prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer” – entire text of the ‘From hell’ letter

“I was not codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip, you’ll hear about Saucy Jacky’s work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn’t finish straight off. Had not got time to get ears off for police thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.” – entire text of the ‘Saucy Jacky” postcard

“I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled.” – partial text from ‘Dear Boss’ letter

“I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha.” – partial text from ‘Dear Boss’ letter

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The police suspects for Jack the Ripper were: Montague John Druitt, Seweryn Kłosowski alias George Chapman, Aaron Kosminski, Michael Ostrog, John Pizer, James Thomas Sadler, and Francis Tumblety. The press and public opinion of the time listed more suspects: William Henry Bury, Thomas Neill Cream, Thomas Hayne Cutbush, Frederick Bailey Deeming, Carl Feigenbaum, and Robert Donston Stephenson. Authors of later times added even more suspects: Joseph Barnett, Lewis Carroll, David Cohen, William Withey Gull, George Hutchinson, James Kelly, James Maybrick, Alexander Pedachenko, Walter Sickert, Joseph Silver, James Kenneth Stephen, Francis Thompson, Duke of Clarence, and Sir John Williams. There is still no definitive answer to the crime.

Also on this day: Rostov Ripper – In 1992, Andrei Chikatilo, of Russia, was found guilty of 52 murders.
You Got Some ‘Splainin To Do – In 1851, I Love Lucy premiered.
Chance Chants – In 1764, Edward Gibbon was inspired to write his work on the fall of Rome.

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