A Glimpse of the Past

What is it that makes the Jack the Ripper crimes so fascinating that they still intrigue people even though 125 years have passed since the murders took place?

There are several reasons why this particular set of East End Murders are still able to fascinate people all over the world.

Most important amongst the reasons for Jack the Ripper’s enduring ability to tweak interest is the name by which the killer came to be known.

Until September 1888, the murderer was known as Leather Apron, The east End fiend or, most commonly, The Whitechapel Murderer. But then, on 27th September 1888, a letter arrived at the Central news Office in the City of London which would turn five sordid East End murders into an international phenomenon. The letter was written in red ink and was addressed to “The Boss.”

The writer claimed that he was the unknown miscreant who was responsible for the killings that were then taking place in the East End of London. He boasted, in mocking terms, that the police wouldn’t be able to catch him, and he went into gruesome details about what he had done to previous victims and what he would do to future victims.

The letter was signed Jack the Ripper. 

On 29th September the news agency decided that they should pass this missive to the police and it was duly forwarded to Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police.

Within 25 hours of the Police receiving the Jack the Ripper letter, the killer struck again and murdered two women in the early hours of the 30th September 1888.

Desperate for a break through in their investigation, the police released the letter to the public and the name Jack the Ripper was soon circulating around the world and the man responsible for the murders in the East End of London suddenly acquired a name that ensured his legend would live on long after his murder spree came to an end.

Another reason for the continued fascination with these particular crimes is the fact that the killer was never caught. Hence it has provided an endless source of material for writers and documentary makers who, over the years, have added over 200 names to the ever growing list of ripper suspects.

Finally, there is the fact that, thanks to the press reportage of the case, for around a ten week period in the autumn of 1888, the eyes of the world became focussed on the tiny corner of the Victorian Metropolis where the killings were taking place.

Thanks to the thousands of newspaper articles that are still in existence, and which can now be read on the internet, we are able to look back at a specific area an on a particular period in that area’s history, and almost hear the voices of the people who found themselves confronted by the brutal savage who was destined to be elevated into the realms of legend, Jack the Ripper.