With the appearance in the Whitechapel murders of the “Dear Boss” letter, the perpetrator of the crimes became universally known as “Jack the Ripper”, and stories about sightings of him began turning up on an almost daily basis in the newspapers.
It didn’t seem to matter how tenuous the link, the papers were eager to publish as many accounts of the exploits of Jack the Ripper stories as they could, and thus a barrage of bizarre tales of encounters with the ripper was turning up in the press throughout October, and early November, 1888.
The fact that the whole of October passed with no further murders, meant that the journalists were willing to countenance any sighting of the perpetrator, no matter how unbelievable it actually was.
Letters, purporting to come from the murderer, were flooding in and the papers certainly devoted a great deal of space to these; but there were also accounts being reported all over the country from people who swore blind that they had, in one way or another, encountered the perpetrator of the East End atrocities.
A “JACK THE RIPPER” SCARE AT HILLSBRO’
The following account of one such encounter, which ultimately turned out to be a damp squib, appeared in The Long Eaton Advertiser on Saturday, 3rd November, 1888:-
“Some excitement has been created at Hillsbro’ by a “Jack the Ripper” story which got noised abroad.
It appears that on Friday afternoon a stranger called several times at Mr. Hallott’s, hairdresser, where he purchased a walking stick.
He said that he had some very unpleasant business on hand. His wife had come over from Halifax on Tuesday to see a daughter who was at Wadsley Asylum, and on seeing whom his wife was so grief-stricken that she had to be put to bed.
He received a telegram on the Thursday informing him that they were both dead, and he had been over to the Asylum to see and identify them.
He said that he was too late to get a certificate of death that day, and that he would have to stay all night at Sheffield.
A BED FOR THE NIGHT
Inquiring about lodgings, he was offered a spare bed by Mr. Hallott, who believed his story, and sympathised with him.
The man said that he would return in about an hour, but be did not return until half-past ten.
In the meantime, Mr. Hallott’s suspicions were aroused.
HIS WIFE WASN’T DEAD
When the man returned, Mr. Hallott informed him that his wife was not dead at the Asylum, to which he replied, “How could the male attendants know what was going on in the female wards of the Asylum?”
He said that his name was Crossley, but that a young woman of the name of Crossland, from Halifax, had also died in the Asylum.
This somewhat allayed Mr. Hallott’s suspicions, and he showed the man to bed.
HE LOOKED IN HIS HAT
Not feeling quite satisfied, however, Mr. Hallott looked into the man’s hat, and inside the lining found a letter signed “Yours, Jack the Ripper.”
Mrs. Hallott was so alarmed by the discovery that the police were sent for.
THE MAN HAD LIED
Sergeant Hobson arrived at about 12.30. He proceeded upstairs and woke the man, who said, “do you take me for Jack the Ripper?”
He said that he had come to Sheffield to identify his daughter, who had died in the Asylum, but he admitted that he had told a lie about his wife, for he hadn’t one.
HE WAS IDENTIFIED
In answer to the sergeant, he said he knew Ford, who kept the Queen’s Hotel.
He was subsequently identified by Ford as an old acquaintance at Halifax.
A NIGHT AT THE QUEEN’S HOTEL
He was then liberated, the police considering that they had no sufficient grounds for his detention.
It appears that he had engaged a bed at the Queen’s Hotel, and he stayed there till morning.”