The number of people, from all walks of life, who felt able to succeed where the detectives of the Metropolitan Police force had, so evidently, failed is one of the more intriguing aspects of the Jack the Ripper case.
In early October, 1888, reports were coming in from all over the country of spiritualists who had managed to contact the spirits of the victims and who had approached the police with the names and addresses of men whom, according to the spirits of the victims, had carried out the crimes.
During the first two weeks of October 1888, if the spiritualists were to be believed, the spirit of the Berner Street victim, Elizabeth Stride, was particularly active, and there are several newspaper reports of seances being held in various parts of the country at which the spirit of Elizabeth Stride had “come through” to give up “vital” information that might help the police in their endeavours to bring the perpetrator, or perpetrators, of the Whitechapel murders to justice.
The following account of one such seance appeared in The South Wales Echo, on Monday, 8th October, 1888:-
ALLEGED STARTLING DISCOVERY BY SPIRITUALISTS
“An extraordinary Statement has been made to the Cardiff Police, and, for time being, the centre of the interest which is attached to the terrible London tragedies of the past few weeks has been transferred from Whitechapel to Cardiff.
To accomplish this remarkable state of affairs, some occult agency was evidently required – unless, indeed, the murderer himself had turned up in our midst – and this motive power has been supplied by the believers in spiritualism.
A RESPECTABLY DRESSED WOMAN
On Saturday afternoon a respectably dressed middle-aged woman entered the Cardiff Central Police-station amt addressed herself to the officer who happened to be in charge for the moment.
She informed him very seriously that she believed that she had discovered the personality and whereabouts of the Whitechapel murderer, but to his sceptical mind the value of the information was considerably discounted by the fact that she avowed herself to be a Spiritualist, indicating that it was by this means that the momentous disclosure had been made.
THE PITH OF HER STORY
However, here is the pith of her story, which we give for what it is worth.
The previous evening, at the witching hour of the night, when churchyards yawn and graves give up their dead, the informant, together with five friends, assembled in a house in Godfrey-street, Newtown, and gathered around the mystic table.
They placed their twelve hands, with the fingers outstretched, on the table, each of the six persons joining his thumbs and completing the magnetic circuit by touching with his little fingers those of his neighbours 0n either side.
THE SPIRIT OF ELISABETH STRIDE
In solemn silence, they sat, and the leader of the party invoked the spirit of Elisabeth Stride, who was foully done to death in Whitechapel last Sunday morning.
For a time there was no response.
Pale with determination, yet feeling somewhat creepy in their spinal cords, the company persevered, waiting awe stricken for they knew not what.
THE TABLE MOVED
At last, the table gave evident signs of disturbance, and, after a few violent jumps in erratic directions, the magic wood gave forth tho weird knocks which announced the presence of the dead among the living.
“Who art thou?”, queried the spokesman of the spiritualists, in mechanical, yet trembling tones.
Knock, knock, went the table, as it unerringly spelled out the words, “Elizabeth Stride!”
JOHNNY DONNELLEY AND THE MURDER GANG
By whom wert thou murdered was the next question.
Again did the table oscillate and rap out the necessary letters, “B-y-a-m-a-n-n-a-m-e-d-J-o-h-n-n-y D-o-n-n-e-l-l-e-y,” and then warming vindictively to the congenial task of giving up to justice the foul slaughterer, “he lives at number thirteen Commercial Road ,or Street ” – which of the two thoroughfares it was the listeners in their excitement could not positively determine.
Did he commit all the Whitechapel murders? asked the spiritualists.
“No,” rapped the spirit. “He is one of a gang of twelve who have sworn to commit these crimes, and different members of the gang have done the various murders.
THE CURRENT WAS BROKEN
At this juncture the current of magnetism was suddenly broken, nor could it be restored.
Elizabeth Stride had wandered off into the chilly night, and the party separated.
The conversation above given is a verbatim record of the occurrence which was tendered to the police in all seriousness.
There the matter stands.”