A Message From Hell

A photo of Mr George Lusk who received the infamous "From Hell" letter.
George Lusk

On 16th October 1888 Mr George Lusk, the head of the Mile End Vigilance Committee received a package in the evening mail.

When he opened it a foul stench assailed his nostrils.  The package contained a letter which bore the address “From Hell.” But it was what was wrapped inside that letter that turned Mr Lusk’s stomach. For it contained a portion of human kidney.

According to the letter’s author, it was a portion of kidney that he had “removed from one women” and which, he claimed, he had “prasarved.” The author then went on to claim that “tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise.”

The meaning of this sick missive was clear. The whoever wrote it was claiming that this was a portion of the kidney that had been removed from the body of the ripper’s fourth victim Catherine Eddowes – who had been murdered on 30th September 1888.

When Mr Lusk showed it to his fellow members of the vigilance committee they persuaded him to take it to a local medic who duly passed it to Dr Openshaw at the London Hospital.

Several newspapers then reported that Openshaw had identified it as a woman’s kidney and suggested that he considered it to have come from the body of Catherine Eddowes.

Since he had emphatically not stated such a thing, Openshaw refuted the claims by telling a newspaper reporter “he couldn’t say whether it was that of a woman, nor how long ago it had been removed from the body, as it had been preserved in spirits.”

Although the general consensus amongst doctors and police officers was that the “From Hell” letter was probably a prank missive perpetrated by a medical student, it is today one of the most debated over of all the Jack the Ripper letters, and its address provided the title for the Johnny Depp film about the murders From Hell.

Read the full story of the letter here.