21 April 2009
Take Him off the List
For years many have tried and failed at identifying the infamous Jack the Ripper; hundreds of suspects have emerged, though few are actually plausible. Some believe that a Mr. Carl Feigenbaum appears as a strong candidate. Feigenbaum’s attorney, William Stanford Lawton, was stated as saying he believed his client was indeed the notorious killer. Trevor Marriott wrote his theory on how Feigenbaum was the killer in his book Jack the Ripper-The 21st Century Investigation. However taking a closer look into the actual facts reveals ragged theories with loose ends and distortions. Although Lawton and Marriot’s theories are both appealing, they are founded on a lack of evidence. When examining the actual concrete facts, it is clear that Carl Feigenbaum should not be considered a suspect in the Ripper murders.
When taking a closer consideration of Feigenbaum as a Ripper suspect one must look into his history, though very little is know. It is not known exactly how many brothers and sisters or other family members Feigenbaum, or Anton Zahn, had, nor is the actual town he was born in known. He stated he was born in Capitoheim, Germany, however, during Marriott’s investigation he could find no such town. Feigenbaum worked many years of his life at sea aboard the Atlantic Star, according to Lawton. Ironically, one definitive fact know about Feigenbaum is that he was pronounced dead in the Sing Sing Prison at 11:18:30 on April 27th 1896. He had been charged with the murder of Juliana Hoffman, the woman from whom he was renting a room. The electric chair was the price he paid for his crime. He rented a room from Mrs. Hoffman on the 29th of August, a Wednesday, with the promise that he would pay her the rent that following Saturday the 1st of September. Mrs. Hoffman’s son awoke late that evening to see Feigenbaum standing over his mother covered in blood. Feigenbaum would later be captured and sent to jail to await trial. During this trial he repeatedly proclaimed his innocence while placing the blame on “a friend” with whom he had been traveling. He stubbornly stated this friend, Jack Weibel committed the crimes. Feigenbaum even went as far as saying, “had I known that the man was such a scoundrel I would not have permitted him to be near me for a moment” (casebook). Obviously, the bloody knife, the bloody clothes, as well as Mr. Hoffman identifying Feigenbaum as the killer, did little to convince twelve honest men of this “friend” tale (casebook).
Attorney William Stanford Lawton received his fifteen minutes of fame when he told a reporter he believed his crazed client was the infamous prostitute killer. It is surprising that Lawton, a seasoned attorney, would make a statement like this considering the evidence to back his argument is purely circumstantial. Lawton told a reporter what he believed only after his client had been executed. He said that Feigenbaum had “confessed” to the crime by stating that “I have for years suffered from a singular disease, which induces an all absorbing passion. This passion manifests itself in a desire to kill and mutilate the woman who falls in my way. At such times I am unable to control myself” (casebook). One important issue with this statement is that Feigenbaum never actually confesses to being Jack the Ripper, he confesses that he has a desire to kill women. Killing multiple women makes a person a serial killer, but it does not necessarily make that killer the notorious Jack the Ripper.
Lawton never tells anyone about this “confession” other than the reporter, not even his own partner, Hugh Pentecost. Pentecost admits that “In Feigenbaum I found nothing in his homicidal method to remind me of the Ripper” (casebook). The question remains, why did Lawton never speak to anyone about Feigenbaums “confession” until after he was executed? It could be that Lawton was unable to speak of this “confession” due to attorney-client privileges, however, if that is the issue why would Lawton not tell his partner on the case?
Lawton also reveals the lack of evidence in Feigenbaums’ past. Feigenbaum has been known to go by multiple aliases and is known to have lied multiple times about his past (casebook). As mentioned earlier, little is known about his upbringing or his family members. Lawton takes this lack of information and turns it against Feigenbaum by making him seem more deceitful. However, being a deceitful person or a pathological liar does not make a person Jack the Ripper. It may be true that Feigenbaum had a very shady past, but there is not enough hard evidence to prove he was the killer.
Lawton also states that he believed Feigenbaum has some form of anatomical knowledge. Lawton never reveals any information to back this statement. Where and when Feigenbaum would gain this knowledge is also questionable, when one takes into consideration that Feigenbaum was at sea for most of his life. He worked aboard the Atlantic Star for a great deal of his life. Lawton also uses this fact, that Feigenbaum traveled the world, as evidence to back his argument. Lawton believes he has proof that Feigenbaum was in the London area at the time of the murders. He states that he had been “corroborating evidence from England” but never reveals any information to back this claim. Lawton should have revealed this vital evidence against Feigenbaum. No one has been able to prove that Feigenbaum was in the locations of the murders on the right dates (casebook).
As with Lawton’s claim, Marriott too, lacks the accurate and definite evidence to prove Feigenbaum was Jack the Ripper. Marriott looked into other suspects during his investigation finding problems with each. He stated that he has “always believed that, should the truth ever come out, the killer would be revealed as someone who did not fall under suspicion at the time and has not been mentioned by any researcher to date. For a long time I have suspected that Jack the Ripper may have been a merchant seaman” (casebook). Therefore, Marriott focuses his attention to the ships at dock during the time of the murders.
During his investigation Marriott found that a few ships were at port during most the dates of the murders. He specifically looks into German merchant ships. According to his investigation, ships from the Norddeutscher Lloyd Line were at port during all of the dates. One ship, the Reiher, had been at port during five of the eight dates of murders. These ships sailed from Bremen to all parts of the world. The main problem with Marriott’s theory is that he was unable to find evidence that an individual had been on these ships and left for land, on the dates of the murders. Due to the time period and the lack of official paperwork, Marriott failed to release a specific name from the ships (casebook). This information proves nothing other than the fact that London had many merchant ships at dock during the time of the Ripper murders. Feigenbaum only fits into Marriott’s theory because Lawton suggested his client as a suspect, not because Marriott linked Feigenbaum to the murders.
Marriott also gives information on other Ripper-like murders during the time. A few of these murders were committed during the time that ships had sailed into town. Most of these reports were proven to be hoaxes. One incident in particular, the murder of six prostitutes in Managua, Nicaragua, had the closest appearance of a Ripper mutilation. Marriott received his information on these murders from an article in the New York Sun. According to casebook, no one at the time was able to find any evidence to prove these murders ever occurred.
Marriott also mentions the murder of a prostitute, Lottie Morgan, in Hurley, Wisconsin. Was this young prostitute a victim of Jack the Ripper? Marriott seems to believe so, even though the overwhelming evidence points to a regular non Ripper-like murder. Unless the Ripper changed his MO to a single blow to the head with an axe, Morgan was not murdered by the Ripper. Marriott again, failed to prove that Feigenbaum was in the area when the murder was committed. He does state that a ship from the Norddeutscher Lloyd Line (sailing from Bremen) was reportedly docked in the port of New York on April 9th 1890. Miss Lottie Morgan was killed two days later on the morning of the 11th. Marriott strongly believes two days was “ample time to get from New York to Wisconsin” (Marriott 405). The drive today would take hours, and it is impossible to believe that Feigenbaum would have the means to cross two states in two days in 1890, when most were traveling by horseback or carriage.
Marriott then discusses the murder of Carrie Brown. Brown was a prostitute, often referred to as “Shakespeare” because she liked to quote William’s famous lines during drinking games (absoluteastronomy). The last man seen with Brown was described as a 5 foot 8 or 9, very thin, with light features and blonde hair and mustache. This man was said to have looked around 30 to 35 years old with a thick accent, probably German. Carl Feigenbaum fits in that had a thick German accent; however, he was around 51 years old with dark skin and hair. Feigenbaum was also considerably shorter, standing around 5 foot 4 inches. Marriott questions if Brown had left to fetch another client; however, according to the hotel owner, Ameer Ben Ali, women were not permitted to leave the hotel once they had checked in for the evening. Ali was afraid the hotel would get the reputation of a brothel (absoluteastronomy). Marriott seems to ignore all of these exceptions to his “facts” and “evidence.” It is very unlikely that Feigenbaum was the murderer of Carrie Brown, because he does not fit the profile at all; Feigenbaum just happened to live in New York at the time of her murder.
Marriott then tells his readers that after the execution of Feigenbaum the Ripper-like murders all around the world mysteriously stopped. Again, Marriott misleads his readers. There were multiple Ripper-like murders long after the execution of Feigenbaum. One example would be the murder of prostitute Francisca Hofer, in Vienna, sometime in December of 1898 which remained unsolved (esm 76). Others such as the mutilation of Sarah Martin in New York City, again in December, 1903 were solved (casebook). Due to the inconsistencies in Marriott’s theory, Feigenbaum should not be seriously considered a suspect for the Ripper murders.
The majority of Marriott’s theory is heavily based on the assumption that Lawton was as honest as Abe himself. Marriott is bit naïve in believing that Lawton had no ulterior motives for lying to the press. Marriott bases the validity of his information on the belief that Lawton had no reason to lie to the press. He asks why neither the Metropolitan Police, nor the New York City Police ever followed through with this inquiry. The answer to that question is that the police realized that Lawton only wanted his fifteen minutes of fame, and there are no facts or evidence to back up his statement. The police must have understood that they would be wasting there time following up on this “lead” that had already been executed. Marriot even goes as far as saying that “Surely if they [the police] had spoken to Lawton he could have given them details of the enquires he conducted, and this is where Lawton’s credibility as a witness is confirmed. Lawton would not have made that statement if the facts contained in it were false or untrue” (Marriott 406). This statement is completely based on opinion. There is no way of knowing if Lawton would have told the truth on this issue. Lawton has way more reason to lie about his client being the infamous Jack the Ripper than he does to honestly speak the truth. Being the attorney for Jack the Ripper, Lawton’s name would be written in history books years from now which is enough reason to lie.
The fact that Lawton never told anyone about his client’s “confession” until after his execution raises serious questions. Why would he wait until his client was dead? Why would he not tell his partner on the case? Was this a failed attempt to be written about in history books at the attorney for Jack the Ripper? Obviously these questions need to be answered before Lawton’s statement can be taken into consideration seriously. Due to the fact that Marriott bases most of his information on the subject from Lawton, Marriott too, is misleading. By association with Lawton’s theory, Marriott’s theory has flaws that cannot be overlooked. The fact that the Ripper-like murders did not end when Feigenbaum was executed is an important against this theory. Simply because a person was guilty of killing one woman, does not make that person a serial killer let alone Jack the Ripper. It does not matter if a person has a shady past, or has lied and changed his name, because that is not evidence of murder. All of the circumstantial evidence proves more that Feigenbaum should not be considered a suspect in the Ripper murders.
Absolute Astronomy. 22 Apr. 2009 <http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Carrie_Brown_(murder_victim)>.
ESM. “The Vienna Ripper.” Ripper Notes: Jack the Slasher: 65-77.
Marriott, Trevor. “Carl Feigenbaum-aka Jack the Ripper.” The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper. Philadelphia: Running P, 2008. 390-407.
Vanderlinden, Wolf. “Carl Feigenbaum: An Old Suspect Resurfaces.” Casebook. <http://www.casebook.org/suspects/carl-feigenbaum.html>.