So Far Away: The Truth of The Whitechapel Murders of 1888
From cannibals to prisoners to arsonists, serial killers come in all shapes and sizes. They can be basically anyone from the man next door to the unknown recluse in Nevada who goes to town to murder his victims. The true identity of Jack the Ripper is similar in this regard. Ripperologists have suggested people as diverse as Lewis Carroll, the Prince, and a poor Polish Jew. Regardless of who people suggest, there is only one truth: the murders occurred, and someone committed them. These clearly were not suicides, so there must be some sort of murderer, and it probably was not Lewis Carroll, but more likely the Polish Jew Aaron Kosminski.
Some ripperologists suggest some fairly implausible solutions to the Jack the Ripper problem. One of the most unusual of these suggestions is that one Lewis Carroll was the Whitechapel Murderer. Simply from looking at his youth and how he grew up this does not even seem plausible. Carroll, born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, son of the reverend Charles Dodgson, was a middle class boy (Leach “Lewis”). A member of the middle class would probably not be wondering around Whitechapel at night. Because of this middle class nature, he attended boarding school for most of his childhood. He was always strong academically. He, after secondary school, attended the Oxford Christ Church School in order to become a man of the cloth so to speak (Leach “Lewis”). It would be unexpected for a seminary student to become the most infamous serial killer of all time. That is not to say that all seminarians are good people that do not kill or commit adultery, because that is simply not true. All that is meant by that statement simply is that as a rule it is safe to assume a seminarian is a pacifist. Dodgson, later in life, wrote the Alice in Wonderland stories. A children’s writer is also someone who would not be the most prime suspect for the ripper. Of course there is one characteristic of Dodgson that would suggest potential psycho. This characteristic is simply a rumor even. In boarding school growing up, young Charles may have been sexually assaulted (Leach “Jack”). This is a common cause of being disturbed later in life that could lead to serial killing and disemboweling. Of course this suspect has become a considered suspect simply due to a book written fairly recently that discusses some fun coincidences.
In 1996, Richard Wallace published the book, Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend. The basic argument of this book is simply that Lewis Carroll, or Charles Dodgson, is Jack the Ripper. Wallace basis his main argument on anagrams (Adams). The idea seems to be presented that some of the writings of Lewis Carroll can be rearranged in such a way as to be read as a confession to the brutal murders of the five so-called canonical murders of Jack the Ripper. An example of this effect is demonstrated through the opening lines of his poem “The Jabberwocky,” from Through the Looking Glass.
“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”
Is the first passage that Wallace uses in his book (Adams). Wallace translates this into:
“Bet I beat my glands til,
With hand-sword I slay the evil gender.
A slimey theme; borrow gloves,
And masturbate the hog more.”
This does not seem much like a confession. Some of the other anagrams work out slightly better, but still this system by its very nature feels flawed. The only reason that a reasonable person can see as to why this poem should be ‘translated’ is that throughout the whole poem Carroll uses nonsensical words. One reason for these words could possibly be that Carroll needed certain letters to write what he wanted and then translated that into a silly poem. A question arises from all of this idiocy. Could this not simply be done with any work by any author? The simple answer is yes. Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope, an internet discussion site, takes this answer one step further, proving Christopher Robin, from A.A. Milne’s work Whinnie the Pooh. The first line of the work is, “Here is Edward Bear coming downstairs now.” Adams creates this dark accusation: “Stab red red women! CR is downing whores – AA.” This accusation suggests that Milne had some inside knowledge and decided to tell the world the truth behind Jack the Ripper, that Christopher Robin killed those prostitutes in 1888 Whitechapel.
Not all of the accusations of suspects are as silly as that of the Lewis Carroll issue. One man that has been suggested from nearly the beginning is a man named Aaron Kosminski. This suggestion seems to have first come from the Macnaghten Memoranda. This memo outlines the basics of the murders, names the five canonical murders, discusses four additional murders that Macnaghten says are not Ripper murders, and discounts the suspect “The Sun” suggests (Macnaghten). It is widely considered one of the most important documents to ripperologists. The three suspects Macnaghten suggests are M.J. Druitt, a Kosminski, and Michael Ostrog. The memo gives a little information about all three of these suspects, particularly concerning Druitt and Ostrog. The information on Kosminski is very vague. Macnaghten lists Kosminski by only one name, with no first name. This immediately feels suspicious considering it means that Macnaghten must not know too much about Kosminski. If this is the case, then it would make even more sence that Kosminski over Ostrog and Druitt is Jack the Ripper because it would mean that Macnaghten has done more research into Ostrog and Druitt, and has decided that neither of them with out a doubt is the Witechapel Murderer. This means that it is possible that the fellow he has done less research on has perhaps a higher chance of being the Ripper but simply cannot find more information about him. Of the things he does know, Macnaghten lists Kosminski as a “Polish Jew… [and] resident in Whitechapel” (Macnaghten).
Several reasons exist as to why it is important that Kosminski is a Jew from Poland. His religion itself is very important. In chalk writing, the words “The Juwes are not the men that will be blamed for nothing” were found on a wall on Goulston Street shortly after the double murder event. It is also possible that the words said, “The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing.” In either instance, it is clearly either a defense of Jews or an anti-Semitic statement. It would make more since if it was defending the Jewish people simply because in 1888 many anti-Semitic people roamed the streets. It would seem like the perfect venue and medium for defending Jews particularly if maintaining anonymity is necessary. The easiest way to understand the wording itself, so as to get a feel for what kind of tone it is written in, is to replace the word nothing with anything. Using nothing when meaning anything is a common mistake, particularly for non-native English speakers. If one does that then it reads: the Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for anything, or, the Juwes are not the men that will be blamed for anything. The first of these makes simply a false statement that the Jews will not be blamed for anything. Being very anti-Semitic times, this clearly is not the case because they are blamed for all bad. Because of this fact, it would make sense that a Jew would write this because then it is a hopeful statement in the use of will as in saying in the future the Jews will not be blamed for anything. The second reading with the replaced word also is positive from a Jewish stance, with a similar meaning with the first one. Of course both of these two readings of the graffiti requires the person to be new to the language such that he or she would have written the wrong last word. This would also allow for a misspelling of the word Jews. If someone is new to the English language, a supposedly difficult language to learn, it is possible that a small spelling error could occur. Who better to be new to learning English than a man from Poland?
Macnaghten also mentions the mental state of this Kosminski fellow. Macnaghten writes, “This man became insane owing to many years indulgence in solitary vices. He had a great hatred of women, specifically of the prostitute class, & had strong homicidal tendencies” (Macnaghten). Psychotic problems are common among serial killers. It is what makes them commit such heinous crimes. Many of the serial killers are what are known as phychopaths, implying that they do not seem crazy, but simply are. Many of them have sexual torments as well as social torments (“Inside”). This is something that presumably the Kosminski referenced in the Macnaghten Memo had experience with. The memo mentions that Kosminski was placed inan asylum shortly after the murders stopped (Macnaghten), implying some serious mental issues. Rumors have also circulated about an Aaron Kosminski being placed in the same asylum at the same time as Macnaghten’s Kosminski. This Aaron is presumably the same Kosminski, though not necessarily, but for argument’s sake it is the same man. This A. Kosminski, also a Whitechapel-residing Polish Jew, is known to have had a masturbation problem (House). This is one of the warning signs of serial killers. To have a masturbation problem shows that the individual also is suffering from sexually imposed depression. This is a major issue and can cause people to do unsightly things. This would also perhaps be reason to believe he would be interested in killing prostitutes and women of the night. In light of his sexual frustration, targeting sexual deviants would be somewhat logical. Just because he is full of sexual angst does not mean he is Jack the Ripper, or even that he killed all of the canonical five Macnaghten mentions.
The first of the canonical five murders, that of Polly Nichols is fairly straightforward, and frankly could have been done by any number of people. Born Mary Walker, Mary Ann Nichols was a prostitute. The same year as her death, she moved away from her husband due to alcohol issues and moved in with a fellow prostitute. This was in May and her death occurred on August 31, 1888. She was not a very wealthy person, which is why she turned to the streets to gain money. Most of her injuries were around her neck and towards the lower part of her abdomen. Her throat was slit and there were some smaller lactations around her lower torso, all of which caused by the same weapon (Fido 23). This is the first of the five murders, and a seemingly logical choice for a first murder for Jack the Ripper.
The second murder that the Ripper preformed is that of Annie Chapman. This suspect is slightly different in that a witness placed her with a man shortly before the murder. This man was a shorter man with a foreign accent (Fido 30). Someone with a foreign accent would probably be foreign, and perhaps Polish. The fact that this man is foreign suggests that it is at least not a horrible stretch of the imagination to place Kosminski as the man seen with Annie Chapman. This murder is slightly more savage than the first. This murder included some removal of organs. The throat was again slit and then the uterus was removed and the vagina cut (Fido 35). It also seems as though the murderer knew how to cut these parts of the body for “there were no meaningless cuts” (Fido 35). This murder seems to plausibly be the work of the same murderer of Mary Ann Nichols, more accurately, Aaron Kosminski.
The next two murders occurred on the same evening. The murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes occurred on the very same evening. This is uncommon for serial killers. Normally serial killers have a cool down period after each murder for longer than just an hour or so (“Generalized”). This is part of the reason they not both Jack the Ripper cases. The first one of the evening, that of Liz Stride, is significantly less grotesque than either of the previous murders or even that of Catherine Eddowes. The same person that cut out a woman’s uterus probably would not simply settle with a throat slitting. This leads many ripperologists to believe that some how the murderer got interrupted and had to kill someone else instead. This does not seem plausible, simply because people like this seem to enjoy the thrill of killing, and nearly being found out would not stop someone like this. From these assertions it is easy to see that the murderer of Liz Stride was simply not Aaron Kosminski. It does not fit with the M.O. of increasing brutality in the murders. Catherine Eddowes’ murder, on the other hand, does just that. One of her kidneys was missing, and she had been un-seamed towards the bottom part of her torso. She also, of course, had similar lacerations to her throat as the other victims. Of course there is one issue with the murder of Catherine Eddowes, which is that she simply was not a prostitute. She was a hops farmer who was out late a few nights at pubs and things, but she was not a prostitute. Kosminski probably did not realize this, and took her out anyway. She is the final murder of the Jack the Ripper, Aaron Kosminski.
The same fellow who killed some of the other four simply did not do the fifth canonical murder of Mary Jane Kelley. Mary Kelley was killed inside. This is not at all part of the way Jack the Ripper works. Kosminski has previously killed people in the streets, not people laying in bed. Another issue with this murder is that it is presumed that an ax was used as well as a knife. This also does not fit the modus operandi. The Ripper previously only used a knife to cut his victims, and had no need for an ax. Mary Kelley was also significantly more brutally murdered. Her body, mostly mutilated, simply was too cut up to be considered one of the Jack murders.
The Jack the Ripper murders happened. This is a fact. Another fact is that Aaron Kosminski murdered some of the victims. One more fact is that not all of the accepted five murders were committed by the same person. This is simply not possible. Murders do not happen this way. Serial killers tend to act one way and not another. They tend to be people more like Kosminski than fun loving Lewis Carroll. Thanks to more modern developments in crime analysis and criminal profiling, it is clear that Kosminski is Jack the Ripper, but this is not exactly as important as this fact: the author of the Jabberwocky simply is NOT the brutal and malicious Whitechapel Murderer.
Adams, Cecil. “Do anagrams in Lewis Carroll’s poems prove he was Jack the Ripper?” The Straight Dope. 7 Mar. 1997 <http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a970307a.html>.
“Generalized Characteristics of Serial Merderers.” Criminal Profiling Research. 22 April. 2008 <http://www.criminalprofiling.ch/character.html>.
House, Robert. “Aaron Kosminski Reconsidered.” Casebook. 21 April. 2008 <http://www.casebook.org/dissertations/robhouse-kosminski.html>.
“Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer.” Killers.com. 21 April. 2008 <http://www.killers.poetmotel.com/serialkillers.php>.
Leach, Karoline. “Jack Through the Looking Glass (or Wallace in Wonderland).” Casebook. 8 April. 2000 <http://www.casebook.org/dissertations/dst-leachwallace.html>.
Leach, Karoline. “Lewis Carroll.” Casebook. <http://www.casebook.org/suspects/carroll.html>.
Macnaghten, S.M. Memoranda. 23 Feb. 1894.
Fido, Martin. The Crimes, Detection & Death of Jack the Ripper. Great Brittain: The Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, 1987.