The extent to which the Whitechapel murders permeated the consciousness of society as a whole is somewhat surprising, to say the least.
Indeed, with the publication of the Dear Boss Jack the Ripper letter, in early October 1888, the murders began impacting all classes of society, many of them in no danger whatsoever from the Whitechapel murderer.
In previous articles, I have covered the stories of people who were actually driven mad by Jack the Ripper, or, at least, by their fear of the unknown miscreant who was carrying out the atrocities. I have also made a YouTube video on this subject.
The Tablet, in its edition of Saturday the 17th of November, 1888, carried the story of a lady who, whilst taking a journey by train, became convinced that she was sharing a carriage with none other than Jack the Ripper himself:-
AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE MURDERER
Living in the heat of a murder mystery which has risen from the ranks of a social crime to the dignity of a national disaster, we are apt on occasions to give our nerves too much allowance, and to imagine murderers and murders as ubiquitous as indefatigable politicians.
A lady, whose emotions on one of these occasions rather outweighed her sense of likelihood, found herself alone in a railway carriage with a young man of sallow complexion and possessed of a “forbidding” black moustache.
Of course, he was the Whitechapel murderer; of that fact she was persuaded at once; no man with a sallow complexion and a black moustache could be anything else.
AGONIES OF EMOTION
The only serious question was whether he would choose to practice his self-chosen profession in a railway carriage.
In her agonies of emotion, she followed his movements through the window pane which formed a looking-glass against the black side of the tunnel.
She saw him distinctly put his hand in his pocket and draw out something long.
PEELING A BANANA!
Summoning up the courage of a Cornelia, she looked at him in his face. He was gently peeling a banana.
At her sudden movement, he looked up amazed; in her relief, she smiled at him; she laughed at him; she almost spoke to him.
He had had his revenge.
If she thought him the Whitechapel murderer, he probably thought her unhinged, and neither could have corrected their opinion, for as soon as the train stopped she opened the door and fled.