It is amazing how ubiquitous the name of Jack the Ripper became, and remained, in the years proceeding the Whitechapel murders of 1888. Indeed, for many years after the notorious East End murder spree, many individuals who looked different, or who appeared out of the ordinary to passers-by, were likely to find themselves accused of being the infamous friend who had sent a wave of terror and panic across the country in 1888.
One such man was making his way through Newcastle on the evening of Thursday, 10th October, 1889, when his attire was “noticed” by a group of boys, who raised an alarm, and, in no time at all, the unfortunate man found himself being pursued by a frenzied mob.
The Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail took up the story in its next day’s edition:-
“JACK THE RIPPER” SCARE AN EXTRAORDINARY SCENE
“An unfortunate individual, dressed a long park coat, and having an air somewhat singular, not to say suspicious, was standing last night near Grey’s Monument in Newcastle, when some imaginative juveniles conceived the idea that he was no less an individual than the notorious “Jack the Ripper.”
A cry to this effect was immediately raised, and a crowd naturally began to collect.
The object of all this suspicious surmise soon became alarmed at all the attention which was being bestowed upon him, and, accordingly, he took to his heels and bolted along Grainger Street, the crowd following him gathering in numbers as it proceeded, and loud exclamations of “Jack the Ripper” were heard on every side.
He passed Newgate Street like a rocket, and then darted away down the bend in Grainger Street West, to the total astonishment of pedestrians, and with the half infuriated mob, firmly convinced now that they had the arch fiend himself at close quarters, following in his wake.
THE CROWD IN PURSUIT
The suppositions “Ripper” turned the corner into Grainger street at the Saving’s Bank, and flew up Westgate Road, on the Assembly Rooms side. Round the corner of Fenkle Street he rushed with a yelling crowd still pursuing him.
Having got into Clayton Street, and finding that his pursuers were increasing in number, the poor fellow appeared completely baffled. Turning to a gentleman who was near him, he exclaimed in terrified accents, “Where shall I go?” “Go into the Journal Office” was the reply, and accordingly he took refuge in the passage of that establishment.
The crowd then gathered outside the office, and, for a long time, the street was completely blocked.
The people remained outside the office in a state of wild excitement, and neither explanation or assurance could satisfy them that they were on the wrong tack.
HE MADE HIS ESCAPE
The Gordian knot, however, was cut by suggesting that the man should remove his objectionable outer coveting, and get away by means of St. Martin’s Court, which leads from Falconar’s Court into Newgate Street.
The unfortunate fellow was anxious to leave the coat which had caused him much trouble with the Journal’s employees, but he was persuaded to take it with him on his arm.
In company with one of the machine men, he left the office unobserved by his late admirers, and, reaching Newgate Street, he ultimately got a tramcar, which conveyed him home.
The man was apparently driven almost frantic by the treatment he was subjected to.
As for the demonstrators, Supt. Campbell and a number policemen eventually got them to move on.”