Serial killers are probably the most fascinating type of criminals in the imagination of many people. In the US, serial killers such as David Berkowitz (the “Son of Sam”), Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer have become household names among fans of the macabre. And in fiction the name of Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter is just as famous.
But none of them, in fiction or in real life, will ever match the notoriety of Jack the Ripper. His very name is synonymous with “serial killer”.
Jack the Ripper is the popular name given by the media for the serial killer responsible for a string of murders in 1888 in London. The police officially held this particular killer responsible for the murder of 5 women from August 31 to November 9 of that year, although some in the press speculated that the actual number of victims was 9.
All the women were prostitutes, and they were all killed outdoors. They were all killed within a one-mile area near Whitechapel.
The Public’s Fascination with Jack the Ripper
It’s easy enough to understand why the people at the time were so engrossed about the so-called Whitechapel murders. First of all, the fact that victims were all prostitutes had tongues wagging. The fact that he also killed them outdoors which carried the risk of being seen by passersby and constables also made the killer seem more daring.
What really seared the public’s consciousness was the killer’s horrific practice of ripping off certain body parts. He didn’t just slash their throats. He gutted them and took their viscera as trophies. Sometimes he removed a kidney, and there was also a time he removed the victim’s sexual organs with one clean stroke.
In 2014, an attempt to use DNA analysis to identify Jack the Ripper revealed that a Polish immigrant barber named Aaron Kosminski was the perpetrator of the atrocities. However, independent study of the methodology used to identify Kosminski also exposed several fatal flaws, and showed that the entire case against the Polish barber was conjecture and supposition.
Back then, Kosminski was considered a serious suspect by the detective in charge of the case. Kosminski was placed in an insane asylum, where he actually was a harmless and docile inmate. But he wasn’t right in the head, as he heard voices and only ate from the gutter.
Another suspect was a barrister named Druitt, who became a teacher and who committed suicide soon after the murders occurred. The police thought he was a doctor, but this turned out to be untrue. Then there was a man named Ostrog, but the evidence showed that he was nothing more than a demented con man. An American named Dr. Tumblety was also investigated by Scotland Yard, to no avail.
Today, the debate for the identity of Jack the Ripper still continues. Was he a doctor or a butcher? Or was he a demented member of the nobility or even royalty, as some have suggested? No one really knows for sure, and that’s the enduring mystery of Jack the Ripper.