Although it is generally agreed that Mary Kelly – whose body was found in her room in Miller’s Court, off Dorset Street, on the 9th of November, 1888 – was the last of Jack the Ripper’s victims, public unease, not to mention outright terror, about the murders and the murderer continued into 1889 and beyond.
Letters purporting to come from the Whitechapel murderer continued to be received long after the actual murders had ceased, and, it has to be said, it wasn’t just the people of London who were victims of the letter writers.
However, every so often, the newspapers featured stories that, when we read them today, really do make us ponder what on earth the people featured in the cases reported on were thinking!
But, for those on the receiving end of their antics, the results were often anything but funny, and they could even have tragic consequences, as can be seen from this rather distrubing story which appeared in The Cardiff Time And Wales Weekly News on Saturday December 15th, 1888:-
DRIVEN MAD BY “JACK THE RIPPER”
“Not long ago a young lady who lived at Prince’s Gate, London, went to see some friends in Dover Street, and on returning home she noticed that she was being followed by a man whose appearance, to say the least of it, was not attractive.
He spoke to her, whereupon she jumped into a hansom to be driven home.
HE GAVE CHASE
The man also got a hansom and gave chase, and just as she got to her father’s house he got out, and, coming close to her, he whispered in her ear, “This is your first warning. I am Jack the Ripper.”
The poor girl almost fainted, and was only just able to rush up the step and knock at the door.
FOLLOWED BY DETECTIVES
Her father at once gave information at Scotland Yard, and under the advice of the officials the young lady was recommended to go frequently out with a view of seeing the scoundrel again.
On all these occasions she was accompanied by detectives who were in cabs or were on foot, but the man was never seen.
THE BALL AT ALDERSHOT
At length, as the affair was passing out of her mind, she attended a ball at Aldershot, wearing a fur cloak, which was left in the dressing room.
On going to fetch it after the ball she discovered a note pinned to the lining, bearing the words, “This is your second warning, and the last. I am Jack the Ripper.”
CONFINED TO AN ASYLUM
The girl went immediately into hysterics, and has since been completely out of her mind, and she has been removed to an asylum.
A CRUEL PRACTICAL JOKER
The police do not suspect for a moment that the coward is the author of the Whitechapel murders, but they do believe that he is a man who has either some unknown spite against the girl, or he is a cruel practical joker.”
“JACK THE RIPPER”
EXTRAORDINARY IMPOSTURE BY A GIRL
On Friday January the 11th, 1889, The Evening News featured the following story:-
The Watch Committee of the Manchester Corporation have issued a report on a remarkable imposture, which they think may probably suggest an explanation of other cases in which “Jack the Ripper” letters have been received.
The Chief Constable (Mr. C. M. Wood) reported to the Committee that on November 21st last a young woman about 19 years of age (whose name is suppressed) informed the police that she had received a threatening letter signed “Jack the Ripper,” and couched in the usual language. Letters continued to arrive, some by post and others being put under the door.
Nineteen letters in all were received, threatening to take the girl’s life and that of a companion. Some of the letters were stained with blood, and others had coffins rudely drawn upon them.
A SUSPECT DISCOVERED
Whilst the police were trying to discover the sender of the missives some young women who work with the girl pointed out a man as having followed them, and accused him of being the writer of the letters.
The man was spoken to by the police, but turned out to be quite innocent of the affair.
SHE HAD GOT HIM “PINCHED”
Next day, however, the girl received a letter by post purporting to come from Jack the Ripper and saying that she has got him “pinched,” but that he had squared the police, and again threatening to kill her.
A companion of the complainant’s also received two similar letters.
STABBED IN THE YARD
The matter became more serious later on, for on the 21st December the girl reported that she had been stabbed.
She stated that she went into the backyard at home with a jug to empty, and saw a man on the wall with a knife in his hand. He at once struck at her, and in order to save her face she put up her left arm, and received a cut near the wrist. She then screamed, and her father ran out, but could see no one.
She was taken to a surgery, when it was found that her arm was severely cut, and had to be stitched.
PRAYERS WERE SAID
The matter created great alarm and excitement in the neighbourhood, and at the Roman Catholic chapel, where the complainant and the other girl who had received letters attended, special prayers were offered for their safety, and that the man might soon be brought to justice; and the clergy paid frequent visits to both families.
SHE FINALLY CONFESSED
After the report of the stabbing the police set a close watch on the two houses, and from something recently discovered the district-superintendent of police sent for the complainant and questioned her, and she ultimately confessed that she had written all the letters herself.
As to the alleged attack in the back yard, she stated that she never went into the yard, and never saw any man.
She herself cut her arm with a knife in the scullery, and then set up a scream.
The only explanation of her conduct she could give was that she was “unhappy at home.””
A TRAGIC CASE
Whatever the young girls motives in the previous story were, her case demonstrates that some people could not resist the temptation to align themselves with the perpetrator of the Whitechapel crimes, and many people were, in fact, coming to see the periphery pantomime that was surrounding the case as a huge joke.
However, the antics of some of these Jack the Ripper impersonators could have extremely tragic consequences, as is evidenced by the following brief story that appeared in The Sheffield Daily Telegraph on Thursday January the 10th, 1889:-
“JACK THE RIPPER” JOKE – A GIRL DRIVEN MAD
“A Banbridge correspondent telegraphs that, some time ago, a young girl named Martha McMarrin, of Mullabrack, when in bed, was much horrified at seeing, standing at the bedside, a person dressed as a man, brandishing a weapon, and crying out, “I am Jack the Ripper.”
SHE NEVER RECOVERED
The girl never mentally recovered form the shock, and yesterday the police found it necessary to take the poor creature into custody.
After being medically examined, she was pronounced a dangerous lunatic, and was removed to Downpatrick Asylum.
IT WAS A FRIEND OF HERS!
The perpetrator of the “joke” proved to be a female friend of the unfortunate girl.”
A MAN COMMITS SUICIDE
One cannot help but thinking with friends like that who needs Jack the Ripper when you read the case of poor Martha McMarrin and, sadly, I have been unable to find any record of what happened to the girl who perpetrated the scare that brought on Martha’s insanity.
However, there were other people who became mentally unstable as a direct result of the actual Whitechapel murders.
An example of this “ripper mania” was the subject of the following article that appeared in the Kirkintilloch Herald on Wednesday the 1st of May 1889:-
ROBERT HIRON – DRIVEN MAD BY JACK THE RIPPER
“An inquiry has been held at Edmonton into the circumstances attending the death of Robert Hiron, aged 62, shoemaker, lately living at a common lodging-house in Whitechapel, who committed suicide in a most decided manner on Easter Monday.
Sarah Muench, of 78, Wellington-road, Bow, deposed that the deceased was her brother.
She last saw him alive in the Edmonton Union ten weeks ago.
SUFFERING WITH ACUTE MANIA
He was suffering from acute mania caused by the murders perpetrated by “Jack the Ripper” in Whitechapel, close to where the deceased was living at the time.
These frequent murders, occurring as they did near to the place where he was living, unhinged his mind.
The knife produced belonged to him, and was used in his business.
Besides the murders, there was nothing to account for his madness.
FOUND DYING IN EDMONTON
In November he wandered away from Whitechapel, and was found in a dying condition in a field at Edmonton, whence he was taken to the workhouse.
A police-constable deposed that at three o’clock on the morning of Bank Holiday he was on duty near Union-lane gate when he heard groans, and a little further on he discovered the deceased lying in the road, almost smothered in blood.
The witness called Dr. Jones, who said the man was nearly dead.
An ambulance was procured, but the deceased expired as they got to the union gates.
SUICIDE WHILE TEMPORARILY INSANE
The deceased was known as “Mad Jack.”
Inspector Ainsley deposed to being called by the last witness and finding the deceased lying in the road with a large gash in his throat.
Close to the spot he found a bag of shoemaker’s tools, while in the grass at the side of the road he found a knife covered with blood.
The jury returned a verdict of suicide while temporarily insane.”