A genuinely intriguing thing about the Jack the Ripper murders is that they generated a huge amount of interest, not just in Britain, but throughout the entire world.
Indeed, as the murders increased in number and ferocity, newspapers and armchair detectives all over the globe began preferring their opinions on who the perpetrator of the crimes might be and exactly what the motive for his atrocities was.
This interest continued long after what is generally believed to have been the last murder by the Ripper himself, that of Mary Kelly on the 9th of November, 1888.
In early 1890, for example, The New York Evening Sun had the idea to approach the inmates of two American prisons to solicit their opinions on the killer and his, or their, motives.
One of the two prisons was the notorious Sing Sing Correctional Facility, and the reporter who carried out the interviews with the inmates soon discovered that the criminal fraternity was just as intrigued and puzzled by the East End murders as anyone else.
INTERVIEWS WITH THE PRISONERS
The interviews were re-published by several other American newspapers, amongst them The Coronado Mercury, based in the newly founded city of Coronado, in San Diego County, California.
The newspaper’s version of the article appeared in its edition of January 25th, 1890:-
THE CONVICTS IN TWO PRISONS ON THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERS
A General Decision That The Murderer Is A Lunatic All Agree That He Should Be Hanged If Captured If Caught At All It Will Be by Accident.
Reporters of the New York Evening Sun have interviewed several of the convicts at Sing Bing and at the New Jersey state prison, in Trenton, ou the subject of the Whitechapel murders.
ARTHUR WILLIAMSON’S THEORY
At Sing Sing Arthur Williamson, a bright young fellow who is doing a five years’ term for burglary, was the first man seen. He had heard of the murders and his first conclusion was that the man who committed them is undoubtedly crazy.
“Either he has been deceived by a woman,” said Williamson, “or he has received by association with them some deep physical injury. He is probably one of the higher class of people, perhaps a medical student. He is not of the Whitechapel folks, but must be looked for outside.”
A VERY INTELLIGENT ENGLISHMAN
Charles A. Clark, a forger with a sentence of four years and eight months, was a very intelligent Englishman, and almost had a map of Whitechapel in his head.
He spoke of the favorable nature of that district, with its countless courts and alleys, for the commission and concealment of crimes like these.
“If the murderer is caught I am inclined to think it will be by accident,” said Clark.
THINKS HE IS A MEDICAL STUDENT
George Edwards, also an Englishman and a forger, said that the murderer was undoubtedly a crank.
Probably he had been a medical student, as his work was done so skillfully, and he had allowed his studies to lead him the wrong way. He was probably affected by association with the class of women whom he now seeks to remove.
Edwards did not believe that the murderer would stop when he got fifteen victims. He would probably keep right on.
Such a series of crimes would hardly be possible under the American detective system, but were undoubtedly aided in London by the nature of the locality.
“An officer in woman’s clothing might be able to do something,” suggested Edwards, “if he could play his part well.”
JOHN DEAN POSTULATES
John Dean is a ruggedly built fellow serving out a twenty years’ term for manslaughter.
He is an Englishman and has been a sailor.
“My first thought about those murders,” said he, “was that they might have been the work of a revengeful Malay sailor who had been cheated by one of these women and took short voyages between the crimes to elude suspicion.
The objection to that conclusion is that some of the other women would have known of the cheating and would not have kept still about it.
But the final conclusion that I have been forced to is that the murderer, from some cause, is a maniac on that subject – a fanatic.
It is easy enough for him to elude the police in that locality; even if he were covered with blood, it would be nothing unusual, for there are slaughterhouses near, and I myself have seen a man with a bloody knife held in his mouth run out to get a pail of beer and then hurry back.”
A HIGH-CLASS MAN
Steve Raymond is an Englishman, too.
He is in Sing Sing for life, and is the only convict serving such a term as that for forgery. He comes under the amended habitual criminals’ law.
Raymond believed the murderer to be a high class, well-educated man, very cunning, and crazy on that one point.
He did not think that the man accosted Whitechapel women, but that he sauntered through that locality and let himself be led; then, when a suitable place was reached, he would seize his victim after the fashion of the garroter, pull his knife quickly as the woman became limp, and then complete his work.
“He carries, I think,” said Raymond, “some little articles of disguise, perhaps an alpaca coat and gloves, which can be folded up small and put on very quickly.”
All considered that the man comes from the higher class of people, and, being most extraordinary in his character and deeds, will require the most extraordinary means for his capture.
THE NEW JERSEY STATE PRISON
At the New Jersey State Prison, the following opinions were obtained.
Libbie Garrabandt, who, when a young woman, poisoned her old husband to accept the love of a younger man, and who has, in consequence, spent the best years of her life in prison, did not feel disposed to discuss the Whitechapel murders.
She said it made her shudder to hear of such horrible crimes.
She believed that no one but a lunatic could be the guilty man.
AN EX-POLICEMAN’S VIEW.
John Nugent, formerly a New York policeman and who is supposed to have been concerned in the well-remembered Manhattan bank robbery, but who is serving a term here for a different offense, knew more about the London murders than any of the other convicts.
This he accounted for by the fact that Nugent is one of the clerks of the prison library, and, therefore, has more facility for learning the news of the outside world.
“I doubt very much,” said he, “whether it is the one man that is committing all these murders. I don’t believe one man could follow it up so long and not be discovered.
I think there is a band of them, who for some devilish purpose of their own have pledged themselves to each slay one or two of these women of the street.
Either that, or else several men of fiendish souls are acting independently of each other and unknown to each other, one having taken inspiration from the deed of another.”
WHAT OTHER CONVICTS SAID
Some of the other convicts expressed themselves with brevity, and a number had nothing to say.
Here are some of the expressions.
By A Man Who Himself Narrowly Escaped The Gallows:- “If there is one or a dozen of them, they ought to be strung up as soon as found. They don’t need any trial.
By A Hudson County Man Doing Time for Assault;- “It looks like the kind of murders a woman would commit rather than a man.”
By A Burglar:- “If they had the same kind of police in Newark I wouldn’t be in prison now.”
By A Camden Barn Burner:- “If it’s one man that’s doing all these murders he’s crazy as Guiteau was; but that kind of a craziness ought to be punished with hanging every time.