April 17, 2009
Jack the Ripper’s London
Wanted: Big Foot
With every strange occurrence, unexpected murder, or public scandal there are always those people who wish to theorize about what truly happened. When Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her home conspiracy theorists wanted the blame to be put on the Kennedy’s. There are tons of conspiracy theories involving the United Sates government that the list would be much too vast. The point is that we as a species thrive on gossip, lies, and deceit. We want so badly for there to be a bigger story or a cover-up. The fact of the matter is that most of the time the story is what it is and nothing more. People honestly still think that Elvis and Tupac are still alive out there somewhere and are just waiting to make a comeback. This stretching of the truth and sometimes just downright lying has been occurring for decades. This emphasis on the “what ifs”, can be seen in a very popular unsolved murder case from the 1880s. The story of Jack the Ripper has fascinated readers and captivated audiences for years. The appeal is because of the unknowns that exist. Because of these unknowns people began creating their own version of what they believe to have happened to those unfortunate women. The Royal conspiracy theory is a popular one amongst the public. However, this theory is filled with loose facts, un-supported claims, and outright lies. Although it makes for an entertaining tale, the conspiracy theory is one of little merit.
The first and main suspect involved in the Royal Conspiracy is Prince Albert or Eddy as he was referred to as by his family. During his younger days Eddy is described as a ladies’ man and is suspected as being involved in many a scandal. Growing up Eddy was always described as a slow child and when he went to Cambridge he required a tutor and many historians now believe Eddy may have been mildly retarded. Party of Eddy’s difficulty in school could be attributed to the fact that he was partially deaf. This fact will be presented later to corroborate other evidence (1). As a young man Eddy was diagnosed with syphilis. The diagnosis was made by the royal family’s physician Dr. William Gull. The infection caused Eddy to go insane and caused him to commit the murders. This is the first of three theories that exist about Eddy’s involvement. It is believed that the Royal family knew of Eddy’s involvement after the second murder. It wasn’t until after the double event that anything was done to restrain Eddy. It was after the double event that Eddy was taken away in restraints to a private mental hospital. Somehow Eddy was able to escape and carry out the final murder of Mary Kelly. It was after this that he was apparently locked away yet again and died in 1892 (2). There are many things that upfront are obvious problems with this theory. Polly Nichols was murdered on August 31, 1888. The prince was staying with the Viscount Downe in Yorkshire from August 29th- September 7th. Annie Chapman was murdered on September 8; the prince was at the Calvary Barracks in York from September 7th-10th. Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were murdered between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. on September 30th. Eddy was Abergeldie, Scotland where Queen Victoria has it noted in her journal that Eddy came and visited her from the 27th to the 30th of September (3). Mary Kelly was murdered on November 9th; the prince was at Sandringham from November 2nd– 12th (3).
Eddy seems to have proven that he was not the main mastermind behind the Ripper killings due to the fact that he was absent during every murder. However, Eddy takes on the role of accomplice in Michael Harrison’s biography of Eddy entitled Clarence. According to the book Harrison took the idea from Stowell’s article and made Eddy the accomplice to his tutor James Stephen. Harrison claims that Stephen’s motive was out of “a twisted desire for revenge” because he was convinced that Eddy and he had a homosexual relationship (6). Harrison writes that a sexual relationship between teacher and pupil emerged while Stephen was Eddy’s tutor. Stephen apparently suffers some sort of trauma that leaves him with permanent brain damage. It was after this that he began to go mad and wrote two volumes of poetry that depicted extremely violent images of women (6). Harrison claims that it is the combination of the break up and the accident that caused Stephen to go mad and kill ten women. Harrison counts Alice Mackenzie, Frances Cole, Mellett and Annie Farmer. It is believed that Harrsion does this just to prove his own theory because he only counts the double event as one. The reason it has to be ten women is because of a poem that Stephen wrote entitled “Air Kaphoozelum” (6). In the poem the villain kills ten harlots.
The last of the theories is one that first surfaced in 1973 in the BBC program Jack the Ripper. The directors of the show wanted to take some of history’s most famous detectives and have them try to figure out who Jack the Ripper was. Through a series of phone calls and recommendations the directors and writers were set up with a man by the name of Joseph Sickert. Sickert told them a story of how Eddy was having an affair with a common woman who lived on or around Cleveland Street. This woman’s name was Annie Crook (1). She was a poor Catholic girl who worked in a tobacco shop. Annie also was rumored to work as a prostitute at times. The two were married in a Catholic church and eventually had a child, Alice Margaret. When the queen found out about the marriage she immediately launched a plan to help eliminate the problem (1). The Queen found had Annie taken away and put in a mental institution. It is here that she became a test subject and was given a lobotomy to erase her memory. The baby was put in the care of Mary Kelly, a friend of Annie Crook. The problem with this theory is that in Rumbelow’s book Jack the Ripper: The Complete Casebook, Rumbelow proves that Annie Crook moved from workhouse to workhouse and that Alice Margaret was with her during most of this time (5). A marriage certificate of Alice Crooks was found and on the certificate Alice lists her father as being William Crook. William Crook is the father of Annie Crook, in other words William Crook is Alice Crook’s grandfather (5). One of the points that many conspiracy theorists make is that Alice Crook had a hearing problems and was prone to epileptic seizures. The point they make is that Eddie also had genetic hearing problems was prone to seizures however; it has been discovered that Sarah Crook (Alice’s grandmother) was deaf and had epilepsy (5). Mary Kelly left Alice in the care of nuns and they moved to the East End. Mary Kelly told the story of what she had witnessed to a few of her friends (Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes). Her friends encouraged her that it would be a good idea to try and blackmail the government and extort money from them. When the Queen heard of this she once again called on one of her subjects to take care of the problem. The problem with this theory is that there is no evidence that links Eddy to Cleveland Street or to a woman named Annie Crook. The other piece of information that is missing is that there is no proof that any of the victims knew one another.
There are several theories that revolve around Eddy. The public would love to believe that this really is a conspiracy theory and that the Royal Family has done a brilliant job of covering it up all these years. The last theory about Eddy is the most popular and is extensively analyzed in Stephen Knight’s book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution. This book supports the theory that Eddy had a love affair and a bastard child with an “unfortunate” but was not involved in the actually killing. The person who is mostly to blame in this tale is Dr. William Gull. As mentioned previously, Gull was the physician to the Royal Family. When Victoria first learned of the affair and secret marriage, she turned to the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury. Salisbury then took the problem to Dr. Gull. Sickert claims that Nichols, Chapman, and Eddowes were all murdered because of what they knew about the situation (4). Joseph Sickert told Knight that Stride was a mistake because she often went by the name Mary Kelly. Because no one could know that the Royal Family had any involvement in the murders a scapegoat was chosen. Montague Druitt was chosen to take the fall and according to Sickert, was then murdered for it. Sickert also insinuates that Gull had help at each murder. It is believed that Gull acquired the help of John Netley a coachmen who used to chauffer Eddy to the East End. Gull needed a way to flee the scene with relative ease so Netley provided the getaway car so to speak (4). Because the murders were often committed in the middle of the street and required a decent amount of time, there had to be someone to would stand guard and warn Gull if anyone was approaching.
The theory that is discussed in Knight’s book was originally brought to light by the producers of the BBC program when they found Joseph Sickert. Knight became fascinated with the story and asked Sickert if it would be possible to write an article on the story. Although Sickert didn’t want to be in the public eye he agreed to the interview. As the interview progressed Knight decided that an article would not do this story justice and decided to write a book. The difference between Knight’s book and the BBC program is that Knight suggests that the third man involved in the murders was not Sir Robert Anderson but Walter Sickert.
Walter’s connection to the case is that he was close a friend of the Royal family at the time. Princess Alex asked Sickert to watch out for Eddie. It is said that Sickert was the one who introduced Eddie to Annie Crook. Sickert was a painter and had used Annie Crook and some of her friends as models for his paintings. Knight implicates Sickert in the book because he believes that Sickert seems to know too much about the murders. Knight reasons that anybody who knows that much had to have some hand in the actual deed (4). One of the witnesses who gave details about the appearance of the suspect claims that the man was carrying a parcel. Knight argues that the parcel is actually a portrait that Sickert painted of Mary Kelly, the painting was being used as a way to recognize Mary Kelly (4). This is doesn’t make any sense because if Sickert had painted Mary Kelly then he would know what she looked like and therefore would not have to carry around a portrait of her (5). Almost the entire of basis of Knight’s theory is centered on a red handkerchief. One of the eyewitness testimonies claims that the last man who was seen with Mary Kelly gave her a red handkerchief. In many of Sickert’s paintings there is a red handkerchief painted in (1). The last point that Knight has against Sickert is that he was supposedly given “hush money” from Lord Salisbury. The story that is told is that Salisbury randomly visited Sickert’s studio one day and without looking at any of the paintings bought one for 500 pounds when it was apparently a worthless piece. Possibly the biggest problem with Knight’s entire theory is the fact that shortly after the book was published, Joseph Sickert admitted to fabricating the entire story (1).
The last piece of the puzzle when talking about the Royal Conspiracy is the inquiry as to the involvement of the secret organization known as the Masons. This is so typical of a conspiracy theory. Government involvement? Check. Secret ritualistic practices by a historically secret organization? Check. The Mason’s are a good way to top off a conspiracy theory because there is no way to prove or disprove involvement. Knight argues that the lack of evidence in this case is due to the fact the Mason’s and the government conspired to destroy any and all evidence that could possibly implicate them (1). “No marriage certificate for Eddy and Annie? Conspiracy. No evidence that Gull, Salisbury Warren and Anderson were Masons? Conspiracy. Evidence suppressed at the inquest? Conspiracy.” (1). Knight makes the argument that the murders were part of a ritual that the Masons used in the murder of Mason Hirem Abiff in Soloman’s Temple. The murder was committed by three members, Jubela, Jubelo, and Jubelum. In this ritual the victim’s throat is cut and their torsos are cut completely open in order to disembowel them (4). The other significant piece of Knight’s argument is the analysis of the location of the victim’s bodies. Mitre Square for example is said to be significant to the Masons because it was a popular meeting place and the words Mitre and Square are prominent symbols of the Masons (4). Many ripperologists have a problem with this because the method is neither sensible, nor discreet. If the Royal Family wanted to have something taken care of quickly and quietly this does not seem like the way to do it.
Conspiracy theories are definitely entertaining and provide great fiction novels. However that’s all that most conspiracy theories are, fiction. Marilyn Monroe dies from an overdose and I am sorry to report that Tupac and Elvis really are dead. It’s amusing to sit around and talk about all of the possible what ifs and the crazy explanations. When we get down to it though, chances are that Jack the Ripper is still some random guy that isn’t one of the prominent suspects and maybe he wasn’t ever even questioned. It is just about as likely that Big Foot or the Lochness Monster killed all those women in London, as it is that Prince Albert, a crazed doctor, a twisted painter, and a secret society of men did.
Begg, Paul, and Martin Fido. Jack the Ripper A-Z. 3rd ed. United Kingdom: Headline Books, 1994. Print. (3)
Harrison, Michael. Clarence: The Life of H. R. H. the Duke of Clarence and Avondale (1864-1892).. 1st. London: W,H Allen, 1972. Print. (6)
Knight, Stephen. Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution. 1st. Chicago, IL: Academy Chicago Publishers, 1986. Print.(4)
Rumbelow, Donald. Jack the Ripper: The Complete Casebook. 1st. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1988. Print. (5)
Ryder, Stephen P.. “Prince Albert Victor.” “Good Knight: An Examination of the Final Solution” Casebook. 2009. Casebook. 5 Apr 2009 (1)
Stowell, Dr. Thomas. “A Solution.” The Criminologist 5(1970): 18. Print (2)