On Friday, 23rd November, 1888, the newspapers were filled with the latest updates and details on the Whitechapel atrocities, as well as with tales of how the crimes were impacting on society at large.
The Stroud News and Gloucestershire Advertiser, on that day, reproduced an article concerning the experiences of two ladies who had dared to discuss the crimes whilst walking in a London park:-
A “JACK THE RIPPER” SCARE IN HYDE PARK
Vanity Fair relates the following incident:-
“A few days since, two ladies, very well known in society, were walking across Hyde Park as evening was rapidly falling. They were engaged in discussing the Whitechapel atrocities, and they expressed to each other pretty freely their desire to be present, if not to assist, at the lynching of the mysterious murderer.
Turning sharply to cross opposite Upper Grosvenor Street, they observed a man close upon their heels; but the fact did not apparently call for notice until the next morning, when each of the ladies at their respective residence, received an ill-written letter signed ‘Jack the Ripper,’ stating that their conversation had been overheard, and that the next time they ventured out alone a very horrible fate would assuredly overtake them.
Eager and excited consultations with various friends and relatives have ensued, and it is almost universally concluded that somebody has perpetrated a very unseemly practical joke.
If this be so, nothing could possibly be more foolish or in worse taste. A great deal of unnecessary and regrettable nervousness and alarm has been created, and ‘somebody’ ought to be very much ashamed of himself.”
JACK THE RIPPER MANIA
The Bridport News carried the story of a servant girl who had used the murders to try and instil discipline in a child under her care:-
“There were no cases which call for particular comment at the County Sessions at Beaminster on Monday, but the “Jack the Ripper” mania seems even to be extending to West Dorset, if we are to take the words used by a witness in a quarrel between neighbours at Toller, as a criterion.
To such an extent has the demoralising effect of these murders impregnated the minds of all classes, that we were informed the other day by an inhabitant of Bridport, that he had to severely reprimand his servant maid for threatening one of the children under her charge that “Jack the Ripper would have him,” a threat which nearly sent the child into fits.
This sort of thing may be passed over by strong-minded people with a sneer, but it is nevertheless a fact that a considerable amount of demoralisation has taken place, and it is increasing with the disability of the police to discover the murderer.
Young people are apt to have a morbid taste for the details of such revolting occurrences, and when such tastes are discovered, they should be very decidedly discouraged.”
ANOTHER MURDER IN WHITECHAPEL?
The same newspaper also carried on article on a possible further attack by the dreaded perpetrator in the East End of London:-
“The news reached us by telegraph on Wednesday morning that another murder had been perpetrated in Whitechapel, but, fortunately, later telegrams proved that although another woman had was attacked, she was not killed but merely wounded.
This is the first of eight victims who have escaped the murderous knife of the fiendish assassin, and, with the aid of the woman’s description of the man, the police should be not long in tracking the murderer.
The universal belief is that the man is Jack the Ripper, a supposition which is borne out by the fact that last week in a letter, purporting to come from that individual, he stated that he would “do another on Tuesday night.”
HE MAY OVERREACH HIMSELF
We sincerely trust that, in attempting to carry out this threat, he may providentially have over-reached himself, and put himself within the clutches of the police.
It is high time these terrible mysteries were cleared up, for unless the perpetrator of the tragedies is now brought to justice life in London will be rendered unbearable, and the panic is fast extending to the country.
It is said by many celebrated criminals that London is the best hiding place in the world, and never perhaps has that fact been brought home more clearly to the police than during the past few months.”
AN ASSAULT ON HARROW ROAD
The Kilburn Times featured the story of an over-enthusiastic, though drunken, vigilante who, for some reason, became convinced that an innocent pedestrain was the East End fiend:-
“James Bunyan, 45, of Kensal Road, was charged with being drunk, disorderly, and assaulting Gersei Somo, of The Avenue.
On Saturday night, the prosecutor was passing along the Harrow Road and he saw the prisoner shouting. Mr Somo walked on towards his home, and directly afterwards found the man following him. To avoid him he crossed the road. The prisoner shouted out several times, “I’ll have you,” and the crowd which followed called out, “He’s Jack the Ripper.”
The prisoner got the prosecutor against the wall and shouted out,”Now I’ve got you,” and a struggle ensued, during which prosecutor’s coat was torn. Mr. Somo tried to get away, and the prisoner followed him, saying, “I’ll have you.”
TAKEN INTO CUSTODY
Police Constable 186X said that he beard the crowd shout out “Jack the Ripper,” and, as he could not get a satisfactory explanation from the prisoner, he took him into custody.
Mr. de Rutzen remarked that the horrible tragedies in Whitechapel seemed to have had an extraordinary effect on people the worse for drink. There were so many instances of this kind that it was scarcely safe to go about the streets.
He sentenced the prisoner to 14 days’ imprisonment, and refused to impose a fine.”
THE UNFORTUNATE MUSICIAN
Meanwhile, The Dublin Evening Mail Friday, of 23rd November, 1888, decided to treat its readers to the frightening occurrence that had befallen a musician from a West End Theatre, who had been strolling though Whitechapel carrying his instrument in a leather case:-
“Hogarth’s “Enraged Musician” finds novel counterpart in the experiences in the East End of London of an unoffending clarionet player at a West End theatre.
This gentleman was walking briskly through the Whitechapel district last evening on his way to the Opera Comique. So to walk is a part of his daily occupation.
Cheerily he trudged along, anticipating nothing to ruffle the even tenor of his way.
In all probability, nothing would have happened, but for the fact that the musician, with a commendable affection for his instrument, is in the habit of carrying it to and from his home and that the clarionet was comfortably ensconced within the padded lining of a black leather case.
AN OBJECT OF SUSPICION
As he tripped merrily along, it gradually dawned upon him that he was, for some inexplicable reason, an object of curiosity to a thin straggling crowd of miserably attired youths and women, who eyed him with apparent fear, others with ill-concealed suspicion.
Wondering, he stopped; the crowd stopped too. He hurried forward, so did the crowd, every moment growing larger in bulk and more formidably threatening. The puzzled musician again stopped, and faced the enemy, demanding indignantly why they followed him.
IT’S JACK THE RIPPER!
At this moment, he had no suspicion of the fact, but he was soon enlightened.
With eyes fixed upon the modest and unoffensive clarionet case, and fingers pointing towards it – some tremblingly, others defiantly – the miserable gathering of tag-rag and bob-tail sent up, with piercing volume, the cry of “Jack the Ripper.”
The musician stood aghast, turned pale, trembled at the danger of his position – as well he might – and gazed helplessly around for a uniformed Robert.
“He wants to escape” shrieked the crowd, as three boisterous females, with courage inspired by the bottle, rushed upon the embarrassed gentleman, as if to lynch him on the spot.
THE POLICE ARRIVE
At this juncture, the police happily put in an appearance, and forcing their way to the rescue, managed to keep off the mob, but not without considerable difficulty.
By this time, the road was completely blocked, and it was not until the distressed bandsman had withdrawn his clarionet from its case and had held it aloft for inspection by the crowd, that he was able to make a yard’s progress, even though assisted by the officials in uniform.
“Never,” says the hero of this adventure, “will I carry my clarionet through Whitechapel again.”