London’s infamous Jack the Ripper is probably one of the most well-known serial killers from the past. His killings of five (possibly six) prostitutes are some of the most brutal and shocking crime scenes to be seen. After watching a documentary about Jack the Ripper and reading a historical fiction inspired by Ripper’s murders, I wanted to see the locations of the infamous killings. Nick and I agreed this tour was a better Halloween outing than a traditional ghost tour — since it is home to Jack the Ripper.
Apparently Halloween time is a popular time to go on the tour. Whitechapel’s streets in East London were flooded with a myriad of Jack the Ripper tour groups. The one we went on is known to be number one out of the tours, and they are unique because they use RIPPER-VISION™. It’s nothing special, but they use handheld projectors to help you visualize their storytelling within the dark streets and alleyways of Whitechapel.
If you’re interested in learning about the victims, I will briefly discuss each victim’s death, along with a mid-break section of some fun side facts of London. Included are some photos, and I have to warn you a photo of one of the victims, Catherine Eddowes, is gruesome and graphic. Her picture will be towards the end, so if you are squeamish and don’t want to see it, please skip the ending. Also, if you can’t handle any grisly details, please skip the victim readings or this post altogether.
Jack the Ripper’s five canonical murders started in August 1888. During this Victorian era, West London was thriving, Charles Dickens novels were doing well, the aristocrats relished in their afternoon tea parties and stayed away from East London — especially at nighttime. With all the luxury and money in the West End, East London was quite a contrast. The overpopulation and poverty in the East End had many people sleeping on the streets. There were many brothels and a lot of women were prostitutes. It was not uncommon to see people sleeping, drunk and passed out on the streets — including women. And with all the dark alleyways, quick sex acts were performed in the private darkness. This type of ambience was probably how the dreadful Ripper committed his crimes unnoticed.
Victim 1: Mary Ann Nichols, August 31, 1888
The tour was over two hours. We met at the Aldgate East Station and walked over to our first location on Brick Lane. We stood crowded in the passageway where Brick Lane Hotel stands. This hotel used to be a bar back then, and it was where Mary Ann Nichols was last seen getting inebriated. Nichols’ body was later found nearby in a dark gateway in Buck’s Row, now known as Durward Street. This was a thoroughfare behind the Whitechapel Station. Nichols was lying on her back, legs straight out, and skirt raised up to her waist. Her neck was severed deeply in two locations, almost to the point of decapitation, and her abdomen was partially ripped open.
The tour guide did not take us to the site of where her body was found because it was too crowded. Yes, I’m not joking about how crowded the streets were that night! Below is a picture of where the bar Nichols was at before her death. Excuse my upward shot. Too many people were in the way and I didn’t want heads in the photo.
Victim 2: Annie Chapman, September 8, 1888
Annie Chapman was found in a back yard of 29 Hanbury Street where her mutilated body was lying on the ground between steps and a wooden fence. Her neck was slashed in the same way as Mary Ann Nichols, but her abdomen was entirely ripped open. Her intestines were torn out, but still attached and placed over the right side of her shoulder. With Chapman, Ripper had removed her uterus and parts of her vagina for his trophies.
Fun (side) Facts of London
A quick break from the killings, below are some of the fun facts we learned on the tour.
Victim 3: Elizabeth Stride, September 30, 1888
Elizabeth Stride was discovered in Dutfield’s Yard with her throat slit. It was not slashed in the same manner as Ripper’s previous victims, but her artery was cut. Abdomen mutilations were absent as well. It was believed Ripper was interrupted and feared being seen, so he fled the scene.
Victim 4: Catherine Eddowes, September 30, 1888
On the same night, 45 minutes later after Elizabeth Stride was found dead, Catherine Eddowes had failed victim to Ripper. This time he successfully completed his murder, making up for his insufficient kill with Elizabeth Stride. Catherine Eddowes was found in Mitre Square, where her throat was severed, her abdomen ripped open, with her intestines pulled out and laid over her shoulder. Eddowes was cut from her groin area and up through her face. There was a deep V cut into her face, shaping her cheeks and eyes. The tip of her nose had been sliced off and her ear lobes nicked by the knife. Her left kidney and a portion of her uterus were also removed for trophies. This was one of Ripper’s brutal kill, but it wasn’t his worst.
Victim 5: Mary Jane Kelly, November 9, 1888
Mary Jane Kelly was Ripper’s most brutal and gruesome murder. Kelly was found in her flat off Dorset Street in Spitalfields. Her body was mutilated beyond recognition. Ripper had emptied out her entire abdominal cavity, with her viscera placed on her bedside table. Her breasts were cut off, heart removed, and face hacked up. Quite a grisly sight for the landlord who found her body.
What makes Jack the Ripper unique from other serial killers — aside from the way he killed — is that he actually stopped murdering. All murders ceased after the mutilation of Mary Jane Kelly. For more insight on this and who the true killer is, I recommend watching The Missing Evidence: Jack the Ripper by Smithsonian. Unlike other shows, this documentary is more compelling and believable based on the evidence provided. For three decades, a Swedish journalist has sifted through over 120 years of clues, searching for evidence, revealing who the true Jack the Ripper could be. What he presents with a team of historians, detectives, and forensic pathologists will tie the murders to one man.
Also, if you’re interested in reading a good historical YA horror fiction inspired by Jack the Ripper’s murders, check out Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco. This was an excellent read, where the main character and her love interest are both likeable and fun to follow. It’s a little bit like a mystery/detective book, with a little humor present. I also learned a lot of interesting facts about the Victorian era. The book really painted a good understanding of how things were back then, especially how things were for women, for prostitutes, and the contrast between West and East London.
Lastly, if you’re interested in taking a Jack the Ripper Tour, I suggest attending one outside of Halloween. It will be less crowded and easier to hear without all the raucous and belligerent drunkards out. If you’ve made it this far, you’re quite brave to venture for the read and picture-seeing. And I thank you for your time!