THE WOLD-NEWTON

FIELD GUIDE TO RIPPER MURDERS

Part 2


Ripper-geists

I began to wonder whether indeed a devastating shock might not produce a kind of psychic lobotomy, tearing loose part of the mental system and leaving it floating free, like a disembodied entity, but still capable of personality-development, as any autonomous complex would be, though on a different, apparently fourth-dimensional (whatever that may mean) plane of activity.

-- Nandor Fodor, Haunted People

Perhaps a "soul-clone", or a splintered fragment of the original being's personality, can exist independently of a physical body.

Charles Fort, chronicler of unexplainable events, noted "a series of occurrences in New York City, in the winter of 1891-92" in his book Wild Talents. "The reporters told of a 'vanishing man.' The assassin 'disappeared marvelously.'" As of January 14, 1892, five men had been stabbed by an unknown assailant. "There were other attacks." This was not long after the murder of "Old Shakespeare," prostitute Carrie Brown, whose death in New York on April 23 was interpreted by some as the arrival of the Ripper in America.

March 1892 - "The outrages in New York stopped." Then, in March, five people in Vienna, Austria, were stabbed by "an undetected assassin." [1] Certain cases of "invisible assailants" in the following century may be an indication of "Ripper-geists" on the loose, viz:

November 1901, Kiel, Germany - "About eighty persons, openly, in the streets, were stabbed by an uncatchable - an invisible - or, it may be the most fitting description to say that, upon the bodies of people of Kiel, wounds appeared." [2]

February 20, 1925 to June 1, 1928 - The "phantom stabber" of Bridgeport, Connecticut was on the loose. "In the daytime, mostly, though sometimes at night, girls were stabbed: in the streets; in such public places as a department store, and the entrance of a library." (Wild Talents) "Some of these stories are of desperate plays for notoriety," Fort continues. The Ripper certainly likes notoriety. [3]

November 1931 - Bogota, Colombia was visited by an invisible assailant. "In the hospitals were forty-five persons, suffering with stab wounds. 'The police were unable to explain what appeared to be a general attack, but they arrested more than 200 persons.'" (Fort, quoting in turn a news dispatch of 11/12/31.) [4]

Poltergeists usually fade away after a few weeks or months, as do these splinters of Jack. Usually. I wonder if certain poltergeists don't reach a point of self-generation, where they truly exist as independent beings, like the Bell Witch of Tennessee and Lithobolia, the Stone-Throwing Devil of New England. . . But that's an idea for another day.

[1] Fort, Charles. Complete Books of Charles Fort (New York: Dover Publications, 1974 [1932]), p. 889-90.

[2] p. 890-891.

[3] p. 896.

[4] p. 894.


"Ripper-session"

Sometimes a Ripper spirit or mentality takes over a person without any apparent contact with a cursed item. In 1971 some English party-goers decided to hold a sťance and accidentally summoned the spirit of the Ripper, who possessed the owner of the house. ("The Gatecrasher," R. Chetwynd-Hayes) A year later parapsychologist Dr. Michael Rhodes investigated a case of a man possessed by Jack the Ripper. ("With Affection, Jack the Ripper," The Sixth Sense, 1972.)

One noteworthy case nearly spelled doom for humanity:

1963 - A reporter wheedled his way into a missile silo to interview an Army general who happened to be in charge of a "black button" that would send nuclear missiles to Russia. The general owned a huge collection of Ripper books. He believed that "It was the Victorian Age which Jack the Ripper really killed, you know. The age of hypocrisy, of sham gentility, of maudlin morality. When the Ripper rose to carve his way to fame, the Victorian Age was doomed." The general was so fascinated by the idea of one man destroying his whole world that he seemed intent on pushing The Button. The reporter shot him -- only to sit in the underground bunker, contemplating The Button himself. "I was Jack the Ripper, too, and Landru and Crippen and Hitler. . ." ("The Man Who Murdered Tomorrow," Robert Bloch) One officer in a bunker might go nuts like this, but two, and one a complete outsider who just happens to be visiting that day, sounds odd. The fixation on Jack indicates a double case of "ripper-session". Fortunately, World War III did not come about. This incident might have influenced the Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove (1964), in which "General Jack D. Ripper" starts a nuclear war.

Waxing Wroth

It appears that the Ripper -- or a splinter of his personality -- can inhabit and animate wax figures representing him. A few examples:

1915 - A country couple, Mr. and Mrs. Spudd, visited Madame Tussaud's wax museum in London. The figure of Jack the Ripper came to life and attacked them. (Farmer Spudd and his Missus Take a Trip to Town, 1915 film directed by J. V. L. Leigh)

1924 - A young courting couple visiting a German wax museum reported that the figure of Jack the Ripper came to life and chased them. (Das Wachsfigurenkabinett, 1924 film directed by Paul Leni)

Summer 1962 - Museum curator Martin Senescu lost his job when Ferguson's Wax Museum closed. He stored several wax figures in his basement with the idea of opening his own museum. Unfortunately, he found no backers, and the bills piled up. When his wife tried to sabotage the air conditioner (so the figures would melt and Martin would forget this nonsense), the image of Jack the Ripper killed her. The other figures also came to murderous life. ("The New Exhibit," Twilight Zone, 1963)

This theme was also touched upon in The Green Hornet TV series ("Alias the Scarf"), Get Smart ("House of Max"), and further movies like Terror in the Wax Museum (1973) and Waxwork (1988). The idea is so widespread that Ripper imitators have been known to kill people in or near wax museums, so the "Ripper" dummies would be blamed!


Relatives and Descendants

Family tendencies are common in the Wold-Newton Universe. Certainly many a hero or detective takes over for his or her parent.

Saucy Jack, as mentioned above, is a poor candidate for fatherhood, but we have one claim for a child: The notes of pioneer psychologist Dr. John Pritchard, discovered in 1971 by a modern researcher, describe a woman known only as "Anna". "Anna" felt a strange compulsion to murder whenever a) a light flashed in her eyes and b) someone kissed her. Dr. Pritchard became convinced that she was the daughter of Jack the Ripper! (Hands of the Ripper (1971), directed by Peter Sasdy)

Relatives other than direct descendants might carry the same frightening tendencies as Jack. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that H. G. Well's nemesis, Dr. John Leslie Stevenson (Time After Time, (1979)), was a cousin of Robert D'Onston Stephenson, despite the slight alteration in spelling.

(We may have to watch Donald Rumbelow, author of Complete Jack the Ripper. A Swedish edition of The Phantom revealed the Ripper's true name as -- Rumbelow!)


Imitators, Disciples, and Copycats

Certain disturbed minds that learn the details of the Ripper crimes decide of their own free will to become like him. For example, Peter Kurten, the Dusseldorf Ripper of the 1920s, lived with a seriously dysfunctional family and ran away often as a youth. He went to jail for robbery at the age of 14. By his own account, while in jail "I read the tale of Jack the Ripper several times. When I came to think over what I had read, when I was in prison, I thought what pleasure it would give me to do things of that kind once I got out again." [1] He certainly followed up on these thoughts: at one point the police believed that four different homicidal maniacs were loose in the Dusseldorf, Germany area. "They" were all a quiet little man named Peter Kurten.

Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz claimed to have been inspired to some extent by Ripper letters he had seen in a book. The Zodiac Killer and the Yorkshire Ripper also seem to have been conscious imitators of Jack.

Some killers imitate Ripper crimes to throw off the bloodhounds, as it were. In 1910 Hawley Harvey Crippen poisoned his wife, Belle Elmore, and ran off with his lover, Ethel LeNeve. All well and good. But Crippen went to the trouble of dismembering Belle, and, upon the discovery of her mutilated remains, rumors flew for a while that the Ripper was back.

Some killers, I suspect, might even have been surprised to learn that their victims were taken for Ripper victims -- whoever strangled East End prostitute Rose Mylett on December 20, 1888, for instance.

[1] Rumbelow, p. 261.


Gangs

The name Jack the Ripper probably came from the "High Rip" gangs of nineteenth-century London, who demanded protection money from prostitutes. Most likely Margaret Hames (who inspired the story of Fairy Fay) was assaulted and Emma Smith killed by such a gang. Although certainly a bunch of scumbags, High Rip gangs were not of the same mentality as serial killers or black magicians. They wished to intimidate rather than kill, to send a message of fear. A gang that truly emulated the Ripper would be more of a cult.

The Freemason Conspiracy

This interpretation of the Ripper murders is too long and complicated to go into here. It was the subject of the recent movie and graphic novel From Hell; the full story is told in Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, by Stephen Knight. Briefly, this theory states that Sir William Gull, Physician Ordinary to the Queen, was the Ripper, aided by a coachman named John Netley. (The Israel Schwartz sighting is particularly important to this theory.) Gull's brother Masons, many of whom held high positions in the government and in law enforcement (including Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren), were supposedly bound by their oaths to aid and protect even so heinous a fiend as the Ripper. If you're really paranoid about Freemasons, you might look for the works of Michael A. Hoffman II, a conspiracy writer who has blamed the Masons for the President Kennedy assassination and the Son of Sam murders, among other things.

Ripper Cults

If the "Black Magician" Jack truly has powers granted by the "Dark Gods", certainly there would arise those who would emulate him. From 1973 onward the "cattle mutilation" scare began in the American Midwest and continued off and on for years. "The most striking nature of the outbreak was the nature of the mutilations. Ears, eyes, lips, udders and tails would be removed and occasionally internal organs were surgically extracted in a purposeful, even ritualistic manner. . . In one case the intestines had been drawn out through a hole in the cow's side and piled neatly by its head (recalling a similar gesture by Jack the Ripper)." [1] UFOs, Satanists, Bigfoot-type monsters, and other odd entities were blamed for the mutilations.

Reporter Christopher O'Brien, in his book The Mysterious Valley, quotes a researcher into unusual phenomena: "What if there existed an organization which dabbled in the headier realms of 'Black Magic?' What if they succeeded in creating a 'thought form,' a very powerful entity brought into being by sheer force of will, couched in ritual and agreement among these occultists, who were impressively powerful and proficient themselves. Perhaps things got a little out of hand when the 'thought form' became too powerful to control and began demanding 'blood sacrifice.'" [2] Such a being could easily be the sort of "dark god" Jack the Ripper worships - or perhaps these hypothetical cultists have focused their worship on Jack himself, adding their power to his! The "cattle mutilations" are like the "invisible assailants" of Charles Fort to the nth degree. If Jack is the cause of these phenomena, we may all be in trouble!

Of course, many authorities believe the animal mutilation phenomenon does not exist, or rather, that ordinary animal deaths are given a veneer of mystery by uninformed locals and tabloid reporters. However, more blatant "cults" have been documented:

May 23, 1981 to November 5, 1982 - "A serial slayer, predictably dubbed 'Jack the Ripper' by newsmen, was stalking young women in Chicago and environs." It was not a single killer but a murder-cannibal cult of four young men, Robin Gecht, brothers Andrew and Tommy Kokoraleis, and Edward Spreitzer. "With their suspects in custody, authorities speculated that the gang might have murdered 18 women in as many months." See The Chicago Rippers web page.

[1] Michell, John, and Robert J. M. Rickard. Phenomena: A Book of Wonders (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977), p. 44.

[2] O'Brien, Christopher. Mysterious Valley (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996), p. 154.


Hoaxers

A case as sensational as the Ripper crimes will always draw out hoaxers, jokers, and doofuses bent on alarming the general public by pretending to be the killer in person or via various media. Certainly most of the hundreds of Ripper letters received by the police were hoaxes. Such characters can waste the time and energy of many a Wold-Newton hero or detective.

One might say that these jokers have questionable taste but are otherwise harmless. However, that is not always the case. "In Kilkeel, County Down, a certain Miss Milligan, just twenty-one years of age, died, supposedly from the effects of shock, a fortnight after a knife-wielding practical joker pounced out at her declaring himself to be Jack the Ripper." [1]

Mistakes

Full-scale Ripper-type slayings have sometimes been compared to attacks and manglings by some monstrous beast. The reverse is also true. Werewolf and other monster attacks have often been mistaken for Ripper-style crimes, as in The Howling. Pathologists, however, can quickly determine whether claws and teeth or knife blades were the cause of death.

Even accidental deaths can be taken for Ripper crimes. Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard counted an East End prostitute as a Ripper victim until Sherlock Holmes demonstrated that the unfortunate woman had been run over by a steam tractor ("Adventure of the Grinder's Whistle," by Howard Waldrop).

[1] Sugden, pp. 280-281.


Time and Space Travelers

The Ripper murders are one of those loci in history, like Amelia Earhart, the Titanic, and the Mary Celeste, that seem to attract time and space travelers. Rippers have time-traveled due to the actions of others ("A Toy for Juliette" by Bloch), by their own machinations (Time After Time), and apparently by accident (Bridge Across Time, 1985). Such time-trippers could conceivably re-appear at any point in history. They seem to adapt speedily to urban surroundings and cause havoc equally swiftly.

Even extraterrestrials seem to find the Ripper crimes interesting: The Vorlons of Babylon 5 "hire" Jack as a tester of souls in the episode "Comes the Inquisitor." Aliens of the WNU might abduct him for unknown reasons as well.

The Future

Wold-Newtonite Rick Lai has suggested that the "Dark Gods" will one day reward their bloody worshipper, the Black Magic Ripper, by turning him into an undying gaseous entity that feed on other beings' life-forces -- specifically, the being known on various planets as Kesla, Beratis, and Redjac ("Wolf in the Fold," Star Trek). It is quite possible that some or all of these Dark Gods are entities of the Cthulhu Mythos. Life-force devouring gaseous beings are known in the Mythos, including the alien horror called the Colour Out of Space. Indeed, New England occultist Randolph Carter learned from no less than Yog-Sothoth that, through a manipulation of higher dimensions, "A slight change of angle could turn the student of today into the child of yesterday; could turn Randolph Carter into. . . a four-dimensioned gaseous consciousness in an older space-time continuum" ("Through the Gate of the Silver Key," H. P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffman Price). If this was not the ultimate fate of the immortal Ripper, perhaps "Redjac" was an exceptionally powerful "ripper-geist".


Ripper Miscellanea

Finally, a few other odd items indicate Jack's influence on the world. The spots of the original Ripper murders appear to be haunted, according to ghost hunters like Elliott O'Donnell:

In 1895, when staying in London, I visited Whitechapel and had interesting conversations about the murders with several inhabitants of the district. They told me that in the streets where the murders had been committed appalling screams and groans uttered by no living human being were sometimes heard at night, and that in Bucks Row, a huddled-up figure, like that of a woman, emitting from all over it a ghostly light, was frequently to be seen lying in the gutter. [1]

Michael T. Shoemaker's article "Doubly Damned" demonstrates that there are those who actually want the Ripper back among us:

A bizarre attempted murder in Milwaukee, on May 29, 1989, exhibits "synthetic" cultism (ritualism without any traditional basis). Two women lured a man to their apartment so that a third woman could kill him with a hatchet (he took a blow to the forehead, but lived and escaped). In a curious reversal of the movie Psycho, the hatchet lady hid behind the shower curtain and attacked the man when he came into the bathroom. The two accomplices pled guilty in a plea bargain and gave testimony against the would-be killer. Before striking the blow, the woman chanted "Redrum" ("murder" spelled backwards, taken from Stephen King's novel, The Shining). Her motive was to cannibalize the victim in a ritual intended to bring Jack the Ripper back to life. She believed her son was Jack in a previous life. [2]

If the "Mother of Jack" doesn't disturb you, then perhaps his metaphoric children will. As Donald Rumbelow writes:

. . . in 1978, a fifteen year old boy was acquitted at Nottingham Crown Court of a Jack the Ripper style murder. In court he claimed that his step-father had told him about Jack the Ripper, taken him to see a film about the murderer and that the step-father had a thing about stabbing women and used to stab nude pictures. He further claimed that his step-father had told him to stab the teenage victim 'like Jack the Ripper.'

More recently still the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children warned that warring parents are producing a new breed of mini Rippers. Because of the violence at home innocent children are being turned into potential psychopathic killers. [3]

[1] Elliott O'Donnell, Haunted England (1948), quoted in Underwood, Peter. Jack the Ripper: One Hundred Years of Mystery (London: Javelin Books, 1987), p. 128.

[2] Shoemaker, Michael T. "Doubly Damned." In INFO Journal #77 (Spring 1997), p. 29.

[3] Rumbelow, p. 248.


Conclusion

I wonder if the following scenario has ever taken place in the Wold-Newton Universe:

A writer has been contacted by a detective or adventurer. The writer is given the opportunity, like Maxwell Grant, E. R. Burroughs, Lester Dent, and others, of presenting the hero's exploits in fictional form. But said adventurer/ detective/ investigator says he (or she) has fought and defeated Jack the Ripper, even revealing the killer's real name at last. The writer knows of several other claims of this nature, some of which are more convincing, and decides that the Wold-Newton hero is fantasizing it all. He or she declines, and the amazing tales of an unsung hero are lost forever.

Now we know that Ripper crimes, from the original series in Victorian London to the present and even the future, have a number of solutions, any of which may be true for a specific case. This multiplicity of Jacks makes an already dangerous world seem even more frightening, but for every Black Magician, soul-clone, imitator, and cult there is an occult investigator, detective, two-fisted adventurer and crime-fighting team ready to oppose them.

So if a hero wants to let you in on how he defeated Jack, give him the benefit of the doubt. But don't expect to publish the Absolute, Ultimate, Bloody True Final Solution to the Ripper Mystery.


Field Guide Part 1Fiction and RealityStory Nexus