A study of any mystery, which includes any unsolved crime, must of necessity strictly follow the known evidence sequentially. These facts become the dots by which the connecting line is drawn by logic to link these facts progressively. Without sequentiality and chronology context is lost. Even more important are the clues. Clues and evidence are not the same thing, but clues should lead to evidence upon investigation. They help us to reveal facts hitherto unseen, for the mind, all minds, follow a pattern. Therefore, quite inadvertently, the mind that conceives the crime also gives us the solution. It is unavoidable. Reenactment of the crime, the sure method of the French police, when combined with the British approach of obsessing on every detail, should do the trick. Unraveling a mystery thus can be likened to decoding a cipher. Once a few letters are learned, we can build words. With a few words we can build more and complete sentences. With logic and a few facts we can find hidden things.
The crimes of “Jack the Ripper” have certainly become hidden behind a century of folklore, and what I outlined above is necessary just to accurately restore the truth of the crimes today. This is a monumental task, but it must be done before we can even take a step toward solving this series of murders. Part of the process is going back. We must go back before the folklore and vividly experience the exotic and sordid world that was Whitechapel 1888. The Ripper has become so romanticized in western literature that both he and his serial killings have all the anodyne appearance of fiction. Yet a phantom killer truly existed in the Autumn of 1888 in the squalor of London’s East End. The very first book written on these murders captured the grisly mystique, and the same thing can still be said today as Sam’l Hudson wrote in 1888 (Leather Apron: The Horrors of Whitechapel):
He defied the entire population of the East End, every soul of whom was detective for the time being. He paid no heed to the swarm of Scotland Yard’s sleuth hounds, or the thousands of “bobbies” who patrolled the streets of London. He plied his knife right under their eye. He committed atrocities that sickened the soul. He left his dead, with bodies still warm, lying on the sidewalks, the yards of houses and in darkened alleys. People would pass certain spots and in a moment or two thereafter the corpse of a woman would be found there, with the body scientifically mutilated, and the murderer— gone.
This is the phantom that is still world famous today only as a moniker: “Jack the Ripper.” We have filled in the ghostly space wherein only phantoms tread with the image of a top-hatted gent. But the truth is that the Ripper was never seen in the act of killing. His motives were never explained. Only one shadowy figure seems to fit as the man who was “Red Jack.” He was a clerkly looking fellow. Such a man was caught sight of with a couple of the victims, sometimes within minutes before their bloody bodies were found sprawled in the public gutter. But this is all there is. Aside from the details of his crimes, this is really all we have.
This clerkly looking fellow was about 5 foot 7 inches tall. He dressed all in black (or dark), and he was said to look “foreign” by the quaint folk of the East End.There was only a couple people really who caught ear of a few of his words to the victims. They thought him well spoke, but not a gentleman. He was “mutton dressed as lamb.” This impression was probably fostered by his display of a strange bit of misplaced ostentation. Oddly, he wore a deerstalker hat. This was a country gentleman’s hat. It was worn only when hunting in or just enjoying rural areas. Yet here in crowded, lower East End London, the most populated city in the world, indeed the greatest city on earth and capitol of an empire, a soft spoken, clerkly fellow strolled along looking like he eloped from some Audobon Society bird watching tour. . . and yet still he remained a phantom. Wearing this misplaced bit of rural etiquette, he should have been easily identifiable. Remarkable though this is, and indeed it is— not to digress too much but it must be underscored that men did not wear these hats in a city despite our misimpression from Sherlock Holmes movies— it is more remarkable that no one knew who he was, from whence he came or whither he disappeared.
No one knew where such a person could live. No one recognized such a man as someone who frequented Whitechapel and Spitalfields during the day. He materialized only at night and then was seen only a couple of times before-the-fact with women who would be soon found cut open and splayed for parts. No one ever saw a man walking along the narrow, busy streets wearing such a hat, coming to or from the crime scene. Ever. To put it in perspective for today, this would be like an entire city not recognizing a man walking along with an Elmer Fudd hunting hat on. It seems ridiculous, but it does become a clue. Jack the Ripper should have stood out like a herring on a cupcake, but he obviously took precautions. He must have worn this hat only when stalking his game (interesting symbolism) and then took it off afterward and strolled away, mixing in with the local East End traffic.
The image of Jack the Ripper is quite different today. Folklore has told us he was a “topper,” some top hatted gent from the West End. The theory was popular even back then because his trail led nowhere in the East End. To Sir Robert Anderson, the head of CID at the time, this was a clue that the Ripper must have been a low class Jew. He was certain that no Jew would give up another of their kind to Gentile justice, and it was impossible that Jack the Ripper’s identity could go undiscovered unless an entire people was protecting him. To the East End people, the Ripper was a West End gent preying upon their downtrodden hides for some ghastly experiment.
Folklore instantly preferred the top hat wearing, sophisticated villain. Sadly, however, in an attempt to sound “modern’ it is now quite popular to imagine the Ripper as being such a low-class East End Jew, some demented sex killer. Neither image was ever based on the facts.
Both the top hatted gent and the East End “foreign” dreg cannot explain the ghostlike quality of the Ripper murders, nor the practical knowledge of anatomy that he displayed. Both images were popular even back in the panic stricken autumn of terror, and amazingly the image of Jack the Ripper still tick-tocks back and forth between the two. The clerkly, soft spoken man in a black cutaway suit or long dark coat and deerstalker hat has been allowed to dissolve into the night and into history again.
As a subject, Jack the Ripper is haunted by books where economic rehash hurries through the crimes in order for the author to promote some very impossible suspect, some topper or some dreg, neither of which fit the image of the clerkly little fellow in the gauche deerstalker hat.
As a result, we have lost sight of the fact that Jack the Ripper was a real phantom killer. Perhaps he is worthy of being romanticized as the arch villain of the night, but it should be done with real facts and not elaborate conspiracy theories or with modern psychological profiling. I was the first to reestablish the actual image of the Ripper and present a detailed study both of his crimes and of their context in Scarlet Autumn.
The purpose of this section of The Quester Files is to give the reader both a taste of Scarlet Autumn and to develop the continuing evidence for the search for the real Jack the Ripper. Any student of cold cases must begin with the Ripper. He is the first. There are those who say there were serial killers before him. In a strict sense, no. He was the first that displayed a pattern that he was after more than just victims. They were killed in installments. His crime spree garnered international news coverage— this was most certainly the first ever— because of the supernatural staging of each crime. It seemed unfathomable what he did, and to this day the one thing that rightly remains undiluted by the folklore is the open verdict he has created.