Jack the Ripper and others

Dear Hildie:


I’ve never blogged before. In fact, as an archaeologist, I thought maybe a blog was a deposit where all those preserved ancient bodies were left. Anyway, I think it’s terribly egotistical to think people want to read all the crap and bombast one puts out there on the airwaves (Woops! Revealing my age), so, as a way of feeling better about doing this, I thought, “Why not just blog the letters I write you?” After all, you get my letters in hard copy because you aren’t hooked up. Plus, you truly seem to want to read this stuff, so I’ll just use you as my foil, poor thing.


Early this month we returned from a trip to England and Ireland. The literate members of our party wanted to go see Jane Austen’s house in Bath while I wanted to visit the spots where Jack the Ripper left his victims. All right, so now you know how my mind works.


I was never that much of a Ripperologist until Patricia Cornwell wrote her book a few years ago, claiming the artist Walter Sickert was the Ripper. It was such a ridiculous work that I started reading more about old Jack and two years ago, when we were in Britain, I walked over to the Tower souvenir  stand, where a number of Ripper walking tours may be booked. Now, there are any number of JTR tours available, some more complete than others, some led by part-time guides and some led by acknowledged Ripper experts.  I think my guide was one of the former. As I recall, it cost me ten pounds and we only visited two of the sites related to the five canonical victims. These were the Mitre Square site of Katherine Eddowes’ death (No. 4), and the Miller’s Court site of Mary Kelly’s killing (No. 5, the final murder). Mitre Square remains, but the buildings that surrounded it in 1888 and gone. Miller’s Court is now a parking lot and garage. Our guide told us that the other three sites were unrecognizable, partly due to WWII bombing, and partly due to modern development.  He might also have added that they would have drawn the tour out to four hours, from the two it took us, because they are the farthest from where the tour began!


Well, I got what I paid for, which included the guide’s opinion that the Ripper was really Dr. Francis Tumbelty, an American.  His evidence? Tumbelty had a bad reputation in the States, was suspected by the Yard, and the killings stopped when Tumbelty was deported to the U.S. After all, he said, serial killers never stop unless they’re caught or killed. I didn’t mention BTK (Dennis Rader) or Zodiac. Or that Tumbelty was deported for homosexual acts, which hardly fit the Ripper’s predilections.


The point is that nobody much wants to believe the Ripper was some nondescript madman who  lived in Whitechapel and wasn’t especially noticeable. A couple of recent books have suggested that Aaron Kosminski, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, was the most likely culprit. Now, whatever you think of the so-called DNA evidence said to link him to Eddowes, he certainly matches the FBI profile better than some high profiler person such as Sickert—who probably wasn’t even in the country at the time.


Anyway, this trip I left the ladies at the Ten Bells, said to be a pub dear to JTR’s victims, and retraced the route to the sites of the first three murders.


My amazing discoveries will be detailed when next I take up computer keyboard.