Michael D. Winkle

Since every Jack became a gentleman

There's many a gentle person made a Jack.

-- Shakespeare, King Richard III

Dracula, Hitler, Fu Manchu, Moriarty. Characters in the Wold-Newton Universe run into these villains and many others besides. Though often shadowy and mysterious, something is known of their goals, desires, and weaknesses.

The archetypal fiend nicknamed Jack the Ripper is more problematical. He is known only by the horrible remnants of his victims and by a few dubious clues ranging from grape stems to chalked messages on walls. Several detectives (and scores of true crime writers) claim to have solved the mystery. Consulting detective Sherlock Holmes is credited with catching the Ripper not once but several times! [1]

"Jack has been hanged in fishermen's nets, burned, died in an electrified pond (The Night Stalker), stabbed in revenge by American Indians and nuked himself (as well as the rest of the world!)," writes Donald Rumbelow. [2] How could ol' Saucy Jack get caught or killed time and again, yet slip away to strike anew? How could so many people be accused of the same crimes? The answer is simple: There is not one Jack the Ripper loose in the Wold-Newton Universe, or even two, but many!

[1] There may be some truth to all of these Holmesian accounts, as I hope to demonstrate in an upcoming article, "The Holmes-Ripper File."

[2] Rumbelow, Donald. Complete Jack the Ripper (Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1988), p. 235.

Primary Rippers

The Black Magician

Several researchers have suggested that the Ripper was a practitioner of Black Magic, including occultist Aleister Crowley, crime writers Simon Whitechapel and Leonard Gribble, and teacher/radio broadcaster Melvin Harris. This is the theme of "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper," Night in the Lonesome October, and one can presume a similar explanation in other tales, such as Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

There is only one person to whom these various writers and tales could be referring.

In 1994 Melvis Harris, a leading authority on the Ripper murders, published a book entitled The True Face of Jack the Ripper (London: Michael O'Mara Books, 1994). In it he lists thirteen "essential points" that must be met for a suspect of the 1880s to be the Ripper. Only one man, in his opinion, fits all thirteen points: an English soldier, doctor, and self-professed Black Magician named Robert Donston Stephenson, better known to his contemporaries as Dr. Roslyn D'Onston.

In an unpublished article entitled "Jack the Ripper," the infamous Aleister Crowley wrote:

After the last of the murders, an article appeared in the newspaper of W. T. Stead, the Pall Mall Gazette, by Tau Tria Delta, who offered a solution for the motive of the murders. It stated that in one of the grimoires of the Middle Ages, an account was given of a process by which a sorcerer could attain "the supreme black magical power" by following out a course of action identical with that of Jack the Ripper.

Crowley claimed to have studied the astrological aspects of the Ripper murders. He continues:

In every case, either Saturn or Mercury were precisely to the Eastern horizon at the moment of the murder (by precisely, one means within a matter of minutes).

Mercury is, of course, the God of Magic, and his averse distorted image the Ape of Thoth, responsible for such evil trickery as is the heart of black magic, while Saturn is not only the cold heartlessness of age, but the magical equivalent of Satan. He is the old god who was worshipped in the Witches' Sabbath.

"Tautridelta" also published an article entitled "African Magic" in the November 1890 issue of Lucifer, the Theosophical journal. Here is an interesting excerpt concerning the typical necromancer:

The very least of the crimes necessary for him (or her) to commit to attain the power sought is actual murder, by which the human victim essential to the sacrifice is provided . . . Yet, though the price is awful, horrible, unutterable, the power is real.

This could easily be the creed of the Ripper. "Tautridelta" was later determined to be Dr. D'Onston/Stephenson. The article published in the Pall Mall Gazette ran under the title "Who Is the Whitechapel Demon?" In this essay he explained that a necromancer needed "a certain portion of the body of a harlot" and that the Ripper murders marked the points of a profaned cross over London.

D'Onston/Stephenson was a slippery critter. He dropped out of the world completely from 1891 to 1896. "The missing five years baffle us. There is not the slightest trace of the man until 1896." [Harris, p. 129] He might have been anywhere, doing things of a Ripper-like nature. (I wonder at this timing -- Holmes' Great Hiatus overlaps Stephenson's vanishment.) Eventually he disappeared as thoroughly from history as the Ripper himself. In 1904, after publishing a book called The Patristic Gospels, "He simply vanished without trace. Despite repeated searches no death certificate can be found within the British Isles or anywhere else." The last man to see Dr. D'Onston/ Stephenson was his publisher, Grant Richards, who called him "a weird uncanny creature." [Harris, p. 139] (Update: Ivor Edwards, author of Jack the Ripper's Black Magic Rituals, recently tracked down Stepenson's grave site. He will no doubt tell all in his next book. Of course, we can always say it's not really Stephenson buried there!]

The Second Ripper

An eyewitness report ignored for nearly a century suggests that two men committed the Ripper crimes. On the night of the "Double Event" (September 29/30, 1888), one Israel Schwartz was walking home on Berner Street, Whitechapel, when he saw a woman struggling with a man. The man threw her down, and she screamed. As Chief Inspector Donald Swanson writes: "On crossing to the opposite side of the street, he saw a second man standing lighting his pipe. The man who threw the woman down called out, apparently to the man on the opposite side of the road, 'Lipski', and then Schwartz walked away, but finding that he was followed by the second man, he ran so far as the railway arch." [1]

The struggle took place exactly where "Long Liz" Stride's body would be found only fifteen minutes later. Schwartz later identified Stride as the woman he had seen. "We may be wrong in thinking of Jack the Ripper as just one man," writes Philip Sugden. "For Schwartz compels us to take very seriously the possibility that he was really two." [2] Oddly enough, the authors of a number of Ripper letters claimed not to be the killer himself but "Jack the Ripper's pal" or something to that effect.

(After the 1887 murder trial of a Jew named Israel Lipski, the word 'Lipski' became a slang term for murder. Schwartz's second man, therefore, was undoubtedly being addressed by a pseudonym. . . just in case you're thinking of looking for someone named Lipski in a nineteenth century gazetteer of London.)

Eventually this "Assistant Ripper" might have branched off to start his own career.

A Third Ripper?

"As though Londoners had not already 'supp'd full on horrors,' fresh ones were now served with the breakfast coffee," writes Tom Cullen. "On Tuesday, September 11, a grisly object was washed onto the foreshore of the Thames off Pimlico. It was a human arm, severed above the shoulder." [3]

At first the arm was dismissed as a joke pulled by medical students, but then the torso of a woman, lacking head and limbs, was found in the foundations being dug for New Scotland Yard headquarters. The Pimlico arm fit the "Whitehall Mystery" perfectly, and a reporter with the aid of a dog and a local laborer found the left leg.

No authority connected this crime with the Ripper murders. "There might, however, have been some connection with the similar Pinchin Street and Elizabeth Jackson murders of the following year." [4]

On June 4, 1889, someone dropped two packages into the Thames from the Albert Bridge. A dockside laborer named John Regan saw a group of boys throwing rocks at one package in the water. They pulled it ashore to find that it was linen underwear wrapped around the lower half of a human torso. At almost the same time, across the river, a left thigh and leg (down to the knee) were discovered in the second package. They belonged to a woman in her early twenties who had died around June 2nd. On Thursday, June 6, a bundle was found at Battersea Park, just above where the thigh was found. It contained the upper half of the torso, plus the spleen, kidneys, stomach, and part of the intestines. Police dragging the river found "the neck, shoulder, the first and second ribs, and the liver" (Times, June 7, 1889). On Friday the 7th, a Gypsy found the left leg and foot lying on the foreshore of the Thames, then the right leg was found floating off Limehouse. On Saturday a parcel was found in the river containing the left arm. That same day the river police fished the buttocks out of the Thames, and a reporter found the right thigh on the grounds of a house on the Chelsea Embankment. All the parts except the buttocks had been wrapped in either parts of a woman's dress or in brown paper.

This human jigsaw turned out to be a prostitute named Elizabeth Jackson. Despite a few speculations in the press, no one connected her to the Whitechapel crimes.

On September 10, 1889, Police Constable Pennett discovered a woman's torso, missing the head and legs, under a railway bridge on Pinchin Street. The date of death was approximately September 8, the anniversary of Annie Chapman's murder. The woman was thought to be a missing East End prostitute named Lydia Hart, but this was never proven. Although dismissed as a Ripper murder by the police, "The general conclusion, then and since, has been that this torso murder was in some way connected with the Whitehall Mystery." [5]

This indicates a third killer in London at the same time as the two Rippers, a sort of Torso slayer. There seems to be no reason to connect this third killer to the first two, but one name strings them eerily together: A woman named Margaret told of seeing Mary Jane Kelly on the night before her murder, but investigation showed that she had actually mistaken one Lizzie Fisher for Kelly. Catharine Eddowes, murdered and mutilated on September 30, had a sister named Elizabeth Fisher.

And the undergarments wrapped around the left thigh and leg of Elizabeth Jackson had a name stenciled on them: "L. E. Fisher".

[1] Swanson, Donald, quoted in Paul Begg, Martin Fido, and Keith Skinner. Jack the Ripper A to Z (London: Headline Books, 1994), p. 400.

[2] Sugden, Philip. Complete History of Jack the Ripper (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1995), p. 215.

[3] Cullen, Tom. When London Walked in Terror (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965), p. 101.

[4] A to Z, p. 498.

[5] A to Z, p. 368.

Soul-Clones and Artificially Added Personalities

"You mustn't spy on us tonight. It could be dangerous."

"Because someone might be waiting," I said. "The Disciples? . . . What are they, anyway?" I asked.

"Hitler once gave a speech in which he told us they were magical reproductions of his soul. Who knows? They're horrid enough for that to be true."

-- Lucius Shepard, "A Spanish Lesson"

Hitler has them, Dracula has them, so it should come as no surprise that Jack has them too. Why make "soul-clones"? Every living thing feels the need to propagate, but while most people simply raise children, Jack doesn't strike me as the best candidate for family man. Also, many a father has been disappointed when his son does not turn out the spittin' image of himself -- captain of the football team or whatever. How much more p.o.'ed Bad Guys become when their offspring refuse to carry on the family traditions! I fear that if there were a way to "dup off" one's mind, psyche, or even soul into another body, plenty of people would do it -- not just super-villains.

And he almost turned me. . . me. . . into the psychological reincarnation of the Ripper. Lord help me, but it could have been me stalking those streets in Whitechapel right now.

-- Sir Denis Nayland Smith in Master of Kung Fu #100 (May 1981)

The Ripper may not have had the resources that Der Fuhrer or the Voivode of Transylvania possessed. His attempts at "soul-cloning" varied in success, and as outlined in Master of Kung Fu, at least one other villain, Fu Manchu, has tried his hand at creating new Jacks.

A soul-clone would hold the memories of the original entity -- so these neo-Jacks might give details about his (or her) crimes that "only" the killer would know. No wonder so many writers have declared that they have solved the Ripper mystery!

Some of these experiments resulted in a simple Ripper veneer, a minor personality "quirk" that appeared now and again. The English painter Walter Sickert may have been one of these quasi-clones. Late in his life Sickert suffered a "stroke", and, according to his biographer Marjorie Lilly:

After the stroke Sickert would have "Ripper periods" in which he would dress up like the murderer and walk about like that for weeks on end. He would turn down the lights in his studio and literally be Jack the Ripper in word and mood. [1]

Sickert, so far as we know (and despite the claims of Patricia Cornwell), never killed anyone. As in the old adage of hypnotism, the weak Ripper personality could not make him do anything he would not normally do.

In others the secondary personality may have burst like a bubble after a period of stress. I believe this may have happened to Inspector Athelney Jones. On November 9, 1888, Jones is beside himself over the latest killing; on November 11th, according to William Baring-Gould, he attacks Sherlock Holmes, completely enveloped in the Ripper personality; yet he is back on the force (assuming his full name is Peter Athelney Jones) in "The Red-Headed League," in October 1890. The secondary personality must have vanished completely in less than two years. [2]

Then there are those who became, quite literally, mental duplicates of Jack the Ripper. James Maybrick of Liverpool may have been a full-fledged soul-clone.

A surprising number of people have come to believe that the "Diary of Jack the Ripper," which I originally dismissed as a hoax, might be authentic after all. There have been at least three books devoted to it since it came to light in 1992.

The writer refers to himself as Jack the Ripper, but internal evidence indicates that he is supposed to be James Maybrick, a Liverpool cotton-broker whose job took him occasionally to London. Maybrick was central to a murder mystery that had nothing to do with the Ripper: He died of arsenic poisoning on May 11, 1889, and his wife Florence was accused of his murder. This was despite the fact that Maybrick had long used arsenic and other chemicals as stimulants and could have overdosed easily.

Colin Wilson, author of The Outsider and The Occult and life-long Ripperologist, has concluded that the Diary was definitely written by James Maybrick. "That, of course, did not make him Jack the Ripper. But it certainly meant that, for whatever reason, he wanted to believe he was." [3]

From The Diary of Jack the Ripper (New York: Pocket Books, 1994):

I am still thinking of burning St. James's to the ground. I may do so on my next visit. That will give the fools something more to think on. . . Feel like celebrating, the night has been long and I shall award myself with the pleasure of the flesh, but I shall not be cutting ha ha. I will save that thrill for another day.

Florence Maybrick spent fifteen years in prison for the supposed poisoning of her husband. Many authorities today believe she was innocent. If she did poison her husband, perhaps she had good reason.

[1] Marjorie Lilly, quoted in: Knight, Stephen. Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution (New York: David McKay, 1976), p. 253.

[2] Baring-Gould, William. Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street (New York: Popular Library, 1963), pp. 147-157.

[3] Melville Macnaghten, quoted in Rumbelow, p. 135.

[4] Wilson, Colin, "Lifetime in Ripperology." In: Maxim Jakubowski and Nathan Braund, editors. Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1999), p. 441.

Cursed Items

Perhaps a soul-clone or mentality can be infused into a physical object. Such a "cursed" item might then influence anyone who handled or owned it. Certainly a number of stories written over the years suggest the possibility of cursed items related to the Ripper.

The Knife -- A knife dug up during repair work on the drains of Dorset Street, London, possessed three men, including a police sergeant, and forced them to kill. An Inspector Frayne noted that the knife was found at the site of the Mary Kelly murder, where the ground was being excavated for a sewer pipe. The dagger, of Hindu workmanship and complete with a ruby in the hilt, was one of several weapons used by the Ripper. Its present whereabouts are unknown. ("The Knife," Robert Arthur, 1951)

The Ring -- In The Ripper (1985, directed by Christopher Lewis), a college professor obtains Jack the Ripper's ring. When wearing it, he transforms into Jack, period clothing and all, and attacks women near a small town university.

The Handkerchief -- A curious number of Ripper reports and miscellanea make mention of handkerchiefs. When Annie Chapman's body was discovered on September 8, 1888, "the head had been so nearly severed from the body that the killer had knotted a handkerchief around the neck as though to hold the head to the torso." [1]

George Hutchinson, a friend of Mary Kelly's, met the doomed woman at 2:00 AM on the night/early morning of her death. Kelly asked to borrow sixpence, which he did not have. Kelly was immediately afterwards accosted by a man in a long dark coat. Hutchinson followed the pair to Dorset Street. Kelly exclaimed, "Oh, I've lost my handkerchief," "whereupon the man whipped a red bandanna from his pocket, made a few playful passes with it, as though he were a toreador. Then they disappeared into the court together." [2]

Painter Walter Sicker owned a red handkerchief of which he was peculiarly fond. "Miss Lilly recalled in her book on Sickert that his red handkerchief . . . was closely associated in his mind with two seemingly contradicting ideas -- in some vague way with the Church, and more definitely with murder. And according to Miss Lilly, murder to Sickert meant Jack the Ripper." [3]

Another odd note about a handkerchief comes from November of 1938. During the latter half of that month, a mysterious attacker known as the Halifax Slasher terrified the area around Halifax, West Yorkshire, England. On November 25 "Alice McDonald, walking along a narrow cinder track from Rugby Terrace towards Grove Park, saw a man who seemed to be waving a white handkerchief. Like Mr. Aspinall before her, she stepped aside to let the person pass -- only to have him seize her left arm and slash at her throat." She had turned her collar up against the winter night, an act which saved her from serious injury. [4] Perhaps these handkerchiefs have soaked up blood, and more than blood, part of a Ripper personality.

The Diary -- The aforementioned Diary may be a cursed object. Shirley Harrison writes: "The Diary is and enigmatic, endlessly fascinating discovery. Once handled, it is insidious, impossible to forget. Some say it is evil." [5] Luckily, James Maybrick was not a Primary Ripper, so the Diary doesn't have the power to possess one completely. . . I think.

The Mysterious Card -- If you've ever read "The Mysterious Card" by Cleveland Moffett, you already know it's a bad thing to accept. New York merchant Richard Burwell, on a visit to France, is handed a small white card by a strange woman. The card has an inscription in French written in purple ink. Burwell, not knowing the language, shows the card to various people, all of whom react with disgust. He is kicked out of his hotel, thrown in jail, and ordered to leave the country. His wife leaves him, as does his business partner. At the end of the story he finds the woman who gave him the card, and just as she's about to explain it all, she keels over dead.

In Moffett's sequel, "The Mysterious Card Unveiled" (1896):

"A woman's body had been found a few hours before, shockingly mutilated, on Water Street, one of the dark ways in the swarming region along the river front. It had been found at about two o'clock in the morning by some printers from the office of the Courier des Etats Unis, who, in coming from their work, had heard cried of distress and hurried to the rescue. As they drew near they saw a man spring away from something huddled on the sidewalk. . . The man was Richard Burwell."

A mysterious "tall man with glasses" explains that the Card was a psychic photograph, revealing Burwell's inner evil. I'm suspicious of mysterious strangers who explain things. I suspect the Card carried a Ripper personality that most people (but not the holder) could sense or even see, which brought on automatic disgust and hatred (similar to people's reaction to meeting Edward Hyde). Hold it too long, like Burwell, and the soul-clone takes root. . .

[1] Cullen, p. 50.

[2] Ibid., pp. 201-202.

[3] Knight, p. 252.

[4] Goss Michael. The Halifax Slasher: An Urban Terror in the North of England. Fortean Times Occasional Paper No. 3 (April 1987), pp. 11-12.

[5] Harrison, Shirley, "Diary of Jack the Ripper." In Jakubowski and Braund, p. 227.

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